While I may or may not have had a drinking problem at some point last year (shit got dark guys), I did check into over 1,100 different beers on Untappd. Now, take that for what you will, but, if nothing else, that’s a lot of beers to sift through when it comes down to selecting my favorite beers of the year.
I couldn’t do this alone. In addition to my list, I asked fellow BBLers Scott, Jesse, and Mark, along with Scott from WNY Brews to pitch in their lists. As you might expect, a lot of these lists are comprised of local brews, and with just cause, because 2020 was one of the best years ever for local beer. The argument could be made that it was in fact the best year ever for local beer.
For me personally, so many beers come to mind looking back. Thin Man Tension Breaker Pilsner might be the absolute best beer I drank last year, and I found myself falling in love all over again with Community Beer Works Let’s Go Pils. Price point, accessibility, availability, taste, crushability, it’s all there in spades. Meyer Lemon LGP was my favorite pool beer of the summer and Beer On Purpose Italian-style Pilsner was superb. I also cracked a bottle of CBW’s Swivet Barrel-Aged Belgian-style Sour Quadruple that aged so lovely during a podcast with brewery President Ethan Cox. Fat Rips, a Pressure Drop collab, and their simple Kolsch, were of note. Rad Frank was truly delicious, and their Big Ditch collaboration, Practically Infinite IPL was an all-timer for me.
And more from Thin Man – Fiddle Riddle IPA, Listen Here Pal IPA, which began my love affair with Riwaka hops, Saturation Street, We Decided My Best Interest?, Mortal Wombat, and DDH Galaxy Bliss were sensational IPAs in their own right, and something as simple as their Grapefruit Pils was memorable, all marks of a an exceptionally great year of beer for all of my friends at Thin Man. Mike, Phil, Rudy, Drew, Justin, Hannah and the entire team did excellent work in 2020. I think that, along with Resurgence’s Social Distancing Series (more on that below), the best IPAs in Western New York came from Thin Man’s brewhouse.
So many more make my list – Resurgence’s Social Distancing Series (Social Distancing IPA, Quarantine Heartthrob, Micro-Cluster Busters, Curbside Cowboys) was one of the top standouts from 2020, along with their DDH The Surge IPA, Belt Line x Thin Man Norge Juice IPA, OFW Ward Off IPA, Tree House Brewing Gggreennn! and JJJULIUSSS!, First Line Brewing Yabba Dabba…Duuude IPA and Beasts in the East IPA, Eli Fish x West Shore Nobody Likes Millhouse! IPA and Lisa Likes Nelson DIPA, Big Ditch x Ommegang Helles Superior, 42 North Sif & Stave Barrel-Aged Blonde Ale, Southern Tier Nitro Creme Brulee, Big Ditch BBA The Tower, Prison City Brewing Barrel Aged Wham Whams (Batch 5 Basil Haydens), Pressure Drop Pineapple Sticky, 42 North Halt! Who Gose There?, Caz Kriek, and Snow Stone, Westmalle Trappist Tripel (2014), Cascade Framblanc (2015), Ithaca Luminous (2014), and The Veil Sketchy Transfer. And then there are the staples, Flying Bison Larkin Lager, Pressure Drop Sticky Trees, CBW Frank, and Genesee Cream Ale and Dry Hopped Cream Ale, to name a few.
Man, I did in deed drink a lot of good beer last year. Now, here’s what my fellow BBLers liked the most last year:
Scott McMillan: “My list that comes to mind: The Veil Culminate, Fine Creek Wild Saison with Peaches, Resurgence DDH The Surge, New York Beer Project Brewers Reserve Barrel Aged Sour, Other Half More Nelson Than All Nelson, Eli Fish x West Shore Lisa Loves Nelson DIPA, Lafayette Brewing Don’t Call Me Teddy Baltic Porter, Thin Man Tension Breaker and Spelunkenheimer, OFW Ward Off IPA, Big Ditch Bourbon Barrel Aged Tower Barleywine.”
Jesse Walters: “Ithaca’s 2014 Luminous Golden Wild Ale, Thin Man Coconut Jenkins, Southern Tier Cold Brew Coffee Pumking, 42 North Caz Kriek, Community Beer Works Highly Suspect, Thin Man Spelunkenheimer, 42 North Colonel Maxwell, West Shore x Eli Fish Lisa Likes Nelson IPA, Community Beer Works Let’s Go Pils with Meyer Lemon, Resurgence Brewing Strawberry Shake IPA (Kegs n Eggs), In the Mix Brewing 4 Layer Stout, and Brickyard Brewing Stained Glass #1.”
Mark Jowett: “In no particular order: Resurgence’s entire Social Distancing Series, Pressure Drop Death Lettuce, Buffalo Brewing Pineapple Cream Ale, Big Ditch Rare, Thin Man Coconut Jenkins, Hydraulic Hearth Ein Bier Bitte, Genesee Dry Hopped Cream Ale, CBW Choco Taco Whale, Fifth Frame Rural Minutes Series, Belt Line Brewery A Beer with Nelson.”
Scott Panfil, WNY Brews: “I’m a homer and rarely drink beers from outside Western New York, but a few that stand out this past year include Resurgence’s Social Distancing Series (Homebrew Haircuts and Frustrated Fauci stick out in my memory), Coconut Jenkins by Thin Man (it was amazing and memorable), The Bubble Experience from Pressure Drop (My wife (the sour-head in the house) liked this one even more than I did), Lilly Belle Meads Barrel-Aged Bobby (Bobby on its own is a lovely mead, and the barrel-aged version upped the complexity into a sipper I wanted to share and covet at the same time), and Buffalo Bluegrass from Blackbird Cider Works (My favorite offering from Blackbird has been The Buffalo Bluegrass).”
Bring on 2021. We’ve already started our lists. Have you?
Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).