Draught Diversions: Favorite Beers of 2022

As has been tradition in January here at the Tap Takeover for the previous five years, I present the annual roundup of my favorite new to me beers of the previous calendar year. Why a “12-pack?” Well, everybody does a top 10 list and beer is generally sold in quantities of 6 and 12 packs. This Favorite of the Year 12-pack will feature the highest rated beers I’ve had the previous year. Of the twelve beers, there was only one beer I rated below 4.5 bottle caps on untappd, which is to say that I had some high-quality beers in 2022. This 12-pack is what I deemed  as “Best” beers of the 349 unique beers I checked into untappd in 2022, from 126 different breweries.  I think in previous years, a few beers I rated at 4.25 bottle caps made the list. According to untappd, I tried 105 different styles of beer, but what probably shouldn’t be a surprise at this point is the style I checked in the most: Pilsner – Czech.

2022_ Favorites

As always, for the purposes of this post New means “New to Me” because a some beers on this list have been around for many, many years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2023.

Before diving into the list, here’s another plug for my old Blog o’ Stuff, which is where I write, rant, and rave about Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction books. I brought it back to life this year with a few reviews and a monthly reading wrap up, not too dissimilar to the monthly six packs here at the Triple T.

Back to our regularly scheduled beer programming…

While I had more beers from NJ breweries this year than probably any other year, only 5 of them make the top 12, which still comprises the dominant State. Again, as in past years, the annual 12-pack could have easily been comprised of 3 or 4 breweries, but the one rule I’ll stick to from past years is allowing only one beer per brewery to appear. That rule made it difficult to whittle down some breweries from whom I’ve had upwards of 10 beers in 2022.

If I’ve done a full review of the beer here at The Tap Takeover, the beer name links to that review, otherwise the beer name links to my untappd check-in for the beer. For the beers that I’ve reviewed, I’ve provided a truncated blurb of my beer review.

Here’s the style breakdown for the 12 beers below:

  • 4 Lagers
    • 2 Pilsners
    • 1 Baltic Porter
    • 1 Dark Lager / Schwarzbier
  • 2 Stouts
    • 1 Imperial / Double Oatmeal
    • 1 Imperial / Double
  • 2 Barleywines
  • 1 Old Ale
  • 1 IPA
  • 1 Pumpkin Beer
  • 1 Farmhouse Ale (Grisette)

Without further adieu, here are the 12 best beers I drank in 2022:

12. John | Bradley Brew Project | Pilsner – German | 4.25 bottle caps

BradleyBeach_John

This is the third beer (at the time) I had from Bradley Brew Project and it might be the best one. A clean, crisp, extremely well-crafted interpretation of a German Pilsner. This beer does just about everything correct for the style. There’s a slight lemon/lime presence on the finish, but overall, an excellent beer.

11. Wolfe’s Neck | Maine Beer Company | IPA –American | 4.5 bottle caps

MainBeerCo_WolfCreek

Maine Beer Company makes outstanding IPAs and Wolfe’s Neck is another delicious example. A fantastic blend of hops with a dialed-in hop flavor, great malt character, and and overall, perfectly balanced and elegant profile. This is one of the cleanest IPAs I’ve ever had. Despite Mosaic being one of the main hops in this beer, I still enjoyed this beer quite a lot. The El Dorado and Sabro hops balance out what is normally an unpleasant aftertaste in beers with Mosaic hops for me.

10. Scythe | The Drowned Lands Brewery I Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 4.50 Bottle Caps

DrownedLands_ScythePump

Pumpkin beers dominate the shelves from August through October/November to a very overwhelming level. This has; unfortunately, set something of a mark against the style… With Scythe, The Drowned Lands may have crafted an ideal Pumpkin Beer. It has near perfect balance of all the elements, lives up to the “pumpkin pie in a glass” moniker, but is still most certainly a beer. If I’m making a Mount Rushmore of Pumpkin Beers, Scythe would very likely find itself on that mount.

9. Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment | Cigar City Brewing | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.5 bottle caps

CigarCity_ MarshalZ_DoubleE

Marshal Zhukov’s is Cigar City’s flagship Stout …and blend two versions, the rum barrel-aged and sherry barrel-aged to create something unique… Since this is an 11.8% stout, I take my time with the beer. Being in a cool bar with a good friend and good food on the way, I was real happy to just relax and enjoy this complex beer…The barrel elements blend into one, dynamic flavor adjunct that is extremely pleasing, the sweetness from the rum barrel is complemented by some of the dried fruit elements in the sherry character. This beer is one of the more unique barrel-aged stouts I’ve ever had…well-worth seeking out.

8. Dew Drop | Oakflower Brewing Company | Farmhouse Ale – Grisette | 4.50 bottle caps

Oakflower_DewDrop

Not many breweries are making Grisettes, let alone making it as one of their first beers available to the public…For a beer to have so much flavor at such a low ABV is very impressive. Even more impressive is that Oakflower was open for just a week when I visited and this beer was on draught. Head brewer/owner Colin McDonough was brewing in small batches for a few years under the Lamington River Brewing banner so he’s got some experience. That said, it often can take time for a brewer to adjust to newer, larger scale equipment and the learning curve here seems non-existent. Dew Drop is the kind of beer I’d expect from a brewery that’s been open a few years, not a couple of weeks.

7. Scotch Double Barrel-Aged Picture in Reverse | Kane Brewing Company | Old Ale | 4.5 Bottle Caps

20220708_201103

Old Ales aren’t the most common style   of beers, they sit somewhere between Barleywine and an aged Imperial Stout. Beers in this style typically undergo an aging process, sometimes for years, lending a very rich character similar to wine. This particular version from Kane is a blend of Barleywines aged in Willett Bourbon barrels then aged again in Scotch barrels. This is the second release of “Picture in Reverse” I’ve had and it was stunning. There’s a sweetness and boozy element with some heat in the back with the scotch presence pleasantly noticeable on the finish. A complex and delicious ale, one of many beers that proves to me nobody does barrel aging better than Kane.

6. Life Unravaled | Icarus Brewing Company | Barleywine – American | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Icarus_Unraveled

One of the kinds of beer Icarus is best known for are dark beers/stouts, particularly their barrel-aged beers. This is their first bottled Barleywine and it was fantastic. Aged in bourbon barrels, the sweetness from the barrel plays wonderfully with the Maris Otter Barley and balances out the hops very nicely. I would love to see more Barleywines from Icarus in the future if this is any indication of what they can do with the style.

5. Schwarzbier Black Lager | Chilton Mill Brewing Company | Lager – Dark / Schwarzbier | 4.5 bottle caps

ChiltonMill_Schwarzbier

I am very pleased with my first taste of this beer. There’s a very nice roast character, which is a hallmark of the style. It isn’t overpowering to the point that it is a smoked beer, but just enough to make that element of flavor’s presence known. On my second quaff of the beer, I get something unexpected, yet pleasant – some kind of sweet fruit element. Not sure what specifically, but that element likely comes from the Noble hops. But that sweetness is a great level of complexity in this beer… What I like about the beer is how elegant, well-crafted, and balanced the beer is. I have a very strong appreciation for the level of complexity especially considering the beer is only 5.6% ABV.

4. Lagerness Monster | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Porter – Imperial Double Baltic | 4.75 bottle caps

JacksAbby_LagernessMonster
A sleeping Dusty makes a cameo in the background

I like the beer quite a bit from that first taste and I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this 500ml bottle over the next hour or so. Moments later, I have a second sip and it is stellar. I start to get a pleasant tingly feeling in my belly when the beer hits, a familiar feeling I associate with good beer… What impresses me the most is the balance in this beer… the more I thought about it, the more I realized the beer had almost no flaws.

3.Straight Jacket | Revolution Brewing Company | Barleywine – English | 4.75 bottle caps

Revolution_StraightJacket

The first word that comes to mind for this beer is smooth…everything about it is delightfully, sinfully, sumptuous, and smooth… The bourbon elements could easily overpower the entire beer and drown out the malt and hops, but here in Straight Jacket the name of the game is accentuation. Each flavor element (hops, malt, barrel) enhances the other elements to a wonderful and delightful degree. I only wish that Revolution distributed this beer (and their other barrel-aged beers) into New Jersey.

2. 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout | Czig Meister | Stout – Imperial / Double Oatmeal | 4.75 bottle caps

CzigMeister_6thAnniv

As I take further sips, that silky smooth character envelopes my palate like a luxurious blanket. The barrel character emerges more prominently, but *perfectly* accentuates the roasted malts of the beer rather than overpowers the flavor profile. Those elements by themselves would make this a world-class Imperial Stout, but then the Vanuatu Vanilla emerges…. I was totally blown away by this beer.

1. Tenner | Notch Brewing Company | Pilsner – Czech | 5 bottle caps

Notch_TennerDraft

The pour….is perfection in a mug. Look at that picture above, just a beautiful beer with a thick head atop a bright yellow-gold beer. Tenner was poured just as you’d expect in Plzeň (Pilsen to us Americans) in the Czech Republic… First sip is pure heaven. I get a little bit of foam in that first sip, but the beer itself is everything I could hope to have in a Pilsner beer… without hesitation, I can say this is the best Pilsner (or Pale Lager as our friends in the Czech Republic and Notch might say), I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Some other notes:

While I visited several breweries in 2022, the list of new-to-me breweries I visited wasn’t quite as lengthy as past years. While many new breweries opened in NJ in 2022, some aren’t exactly close. Additionally, for example, I visited the localest brewery a half dozen times (Readington Brewery), I made 5 trips to Icarus Brewing, I visited the seven breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and the six breweries on the Skylands Ale Trail. For both of those Beer Trails, I’d visited most of the breweries for the first time in years past and multiple times at that. My favorite brewery that I visited for the first time in 2022 was Notch Brewing’s Brighton, MA taproom. A complete focus on German and Czech Lagers and Ales…right up my alley. That said, here are the breweries I visited for the first time in 2022:

Breweries whose beer I checked in/enjoyed the most according to untappd, which should be a shock to nobody reading this blog. This is not new beers exclusively, but overall:

  • Icarus Brewing: 34 different
  • Kane Brewing Company: 14 different beers
  • Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company: 13 different beers
  • Readington Brewery & Hop Farm: 12 different beers
  • Czig Meister: 12 different beers

So there it is, the 12 “New to Me” beers I enjoyed the most in 2022.

2022_ Favorites

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