This has been such an insane year, it’s hard to remember every little thing that has impacted the beer industry without having to take a break for another pint. The “Age of Acquisition” was in full-force in 2015 with some shocking (and not-so-shocking) craft beer losses. But as Big Beer came after some of the nation’s strongest and most promising regional breweries, the craft industry as a whole hit major landmarks including exceeding 4,000 breweries; the most number of operating breweries in the U.S. since before Prohibition. To me, it’s important to remember that “craft” is not dead, and settling for “crafty” is not good enough.
As the market evolves, one’s definition of what “craft beer” is may differ from mine. Call me a purist, call me uptight. All I know is that there are an endless amount of independently-owned breweries who you should really be throwing your hard-earned dollars to; brewers who care about building community, creating expressive and unique beers that are representative of their identity, and who are committed to fair business practices and a level playing field. Do these values matter to you? Great! If they don’t, then that’s just too bad. It’s fine if you are the type of consumer who has detached yourself from the business of things – beer is, after all, a consumer product and detachment doesn’t make you a shitty beer fan. But for those who live and breathe this lifestyle, the rarity or quality of the liquid is only one part of the whole package – and for many, buying into a brand (who they are, what they stand for) means more than a good buzz.
On a personal level, 2015 has been a big year for me professionally. The Full Pint turned 8 and I parted ways with my former employers of three years just a month shy of them selling to Big Beer. The timing was impeccable and I have since had the immense fortune and pleasure to serve the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild as their Executive Director. It is not an easy job, but I honestly feel like I thrive in a little chaos. It means so much to me to be part of something meaningful and exciting with such a solid support system of some of the best in the industry. One thing is for certain; those living in the L.A. County area should take pride in our nearly 40 craft breweries and counting – great things are happening here. And to those who live elsewhere, now’s the time to add L.A. to your list of beer destinations.
So what beers left a mark on me this year? I can’t even begin to name all of the strong contenders LABG has seen locally – it’d be like choosing a favorite child. So I’m departing from naming L.A. beer in my top 5 this year to mix it up a little (but I’m happy to chat with you about all things L.A. elsewhere).
Franny Fullpint’s Top 5 of 2015:
In no particular order…
Apropos of Nothing – The Rare Barrel has been on fire since they first hit the scene in 2013, pulling accolades galore and medals at both the 2014 and 2015 Great American Beer Festivals. This Founders Club release earned Bronze this year in the American Sour Ale category, but in my heart it’s golden. Those who know me (and my palate) well won’t be surprised that another lavender beer made this year’s list – what I love about Apropos of Nothing is its nuance amid delicate-yet-assertive funk. Brett & Pedio scented with just enough elderberry and lavender. One of my favorite TRB releases by far.
Mosaic IPA – Brooklyn’s Other Half has been getting a lot of buzz for their IPAs this year. As the west coast exhales from a collective gasp, I must note that this was absolutely one of the most standout brews I had this year. Others will knock me for selecting this single-hopped gem over their stunning triple IPA All Green Everything, but to me, Mosaic was a great expression of the tropical, juicy-fruit notes of this hop when used correctly and served up fresh. Recommended if you dig Lone Pint’s equally stunning Yellow Rose IPA. Have you had a stale Mosaic beer before? It’s unrecognizable compared to beer with higher bitterness that can endure a little age. We may be adding Other Half to the roster of east coast breweries who are defying what an “East Coast IPA” is supposed to be, and to that we say: hell yes.
Velour Soccer Mom – I’ve always had a soft spot for the brews coming from Indiana’s Sun King Brewing. While not available to us in California, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a wide range of their offerings over the years at various festivals and through their collaborations with breweries such as Oskar Blues. I finally got to try Velour Soccer Mom in Denver this year and was blown away by this lovely sour ale aged in oak barrels. Fresh raspberries and hibiscus give this brew a pop of color in addition to a pleasant balance of sweet and tart. Finishes dry with a nice hit of Brett. Did I mention that THEY PUT THIS BEER IN A CAN?!? Unpretentious and fucking badass.
The Heiress – Somewhere out there, someone is cursing my name for picking “the wrong Societe beer.” But here me out. I’ve given Societe a lot of love these past few years and while we all know that The Pupil is probably one of the best beers…uh…ever, and that the small glimmers we’ve tried from their barrel-aged sour program have been top notch, it’s this Czech-style Pilsner that I find myself wishing I had access to more often. So head down there and drink all their beers. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Double Dobis – Cellarmaker gave their popular Dobis Pale Ale the Double IPA treatment bringing to the table a stunning showcase of 100% Citra bursting with citrus, mango, papaya notes and a medium-body that’s remarkably balanced for being an 8.5% brew. Cellarmaker’s been making waves with their hoppy iterations and this one definitely stands in front of the pack.
Did I miss one of your favorites? There were seriously so many memorable ones — too many to name. Tell us what you loved in 2015 in the comments!