Kyle Harrop’s (Horus) Top 10 Beers of 2020
Editor’s note: We are please to welcome back Kyle Harrop also known as Horus of Horus Aged Ales and Ferrous Falcon fame, where he shares his top beers of the year. This has become a holiday tradition here at The Full Pint and we hope to continue this on for a long time. Cheers, Danny
2020…not my fondest of years, but there were definitely some bright points…the birth of my son, as well as titles for the Dodgers and Lakers. I drank a lot of IPA this year. Part of the reason behind that was research prior to launching “ferrous falcon.” The other reason is that it was the most accessible style during quarantine. As always, I promised that I would not include any beers on the list that I brewed or was a part of. My two favorite beers I released were my last two releases of the year, Coconut Convergence and Double Dose 2, but I must say that my collaboration with American Solera, Barrel Aged Distraction’s Grasp, was my favorite beer of the year, regardless of any bias. The quality of craft beer is higher than ever across the board, so these lists are getting even more difficult to do. With that said, the following are my favorite ten beers of 2020 in no particular order:
Other Half Brewing “HDHC Green City” New England IPA
After my first sip of this beer, I texted Sam Richardson and told him that this is quite possibly the best Hazy IPA I have ever had. The ability they have to showcase hops while keeping the grain bill front and center is unparalleled. In this case, it was oats and more oats. The beer was bursting with Citra, like no other beer I had tasted. It had amazing notes of Simcoe in both the aroma and the flavor. Then, it had just a hint of bitterness from Centennial that brought everything together into perfect harmony. It looked like fresh orange juice and you could smell the hops from across the room. Unfortunately, the Green City festival was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, but this beer was a great representation of how awesome that fest is and how great the people at Other Half are.
Societe Brewing Company “Agreeable Folk” West Coast IPA
Societe is the first brewery I send people to when they are visiting from out of town. Other than them making some of the best classic San Diego styles, a big reason for this is that they did not package their beer previously and you could only find it on draft, so they better try it while they are here. One of the few highlights of 2020 was when Societe started canning. This particular beer was a new offering from them and it drank more like 5% rather than its 7.5%. Besides being crushable, it has a great balance pine and stonefruit. It was awesome to distinctively taste Comet hops in a beer again, it had been quite some time. Some citrus lingered in the finish with a mild tea-like bitterness. It was a resinous hop bomb with tropical undertones. The case that my wife and I had delivered to the house did not last long at all.
Green Check Beer Company “Hi, Everything’s Great!” New England Triple IPA
After brewing with my buddy Evan Price, he sent me home with six different four packs of cans, this being one of them. I was also told by a friend that this was his favorite beer to ever come out of one of our favorite breweries just a few days prior. I admittedly can usually only handle three or four ounces of any Triple IPA, but I found myself finishing this can without hesitation. I could not believe how well the alcohol was hidden. I cracked another can a few days later to test its drinkability again and it was the same or even easier going down. The combination of the oat and wheat canvas with loads of citrus flavor made this beer incredible. This beer is the definition of dangerous and further pushes what this style can be. Out of all the stronger juice bombs I have tasted to date, this reigns supreme.
Cellarmaker Brewing Company “Hop Survivor” Hazy West Coast IPA
This beer had the best of both worlds. It was juicy but piney, hazy but bitter, a modern take on an older style, or a vintage take on a newer style, however you want to put it. Not to mention, it was a collaboration with another great brewery in Northern California, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. The character that Cellarmaker is able to pull out of hops is like nobody else. This beer is a prime example of that. I got Galaxy and Motueka up front, and then Columbus sticking around in the finish. There is a mellow fruit character mid palate followed by a welcoming bitterness. Rather than a Hazy IPA that ended up just being too bitter, they set out to brew a Hazy version of a West Coast and executed it perfectly. Cohesiveness is the highlight here and it all just works so well together. Full bodied, great balance, and big flavor is what makes this special.
Homage Brewing “Purple Robots” Saison
Nobody is incorporating elements of wine into beer better at the moment. This also features strawberry, which is a notoriously hard fruit to work with. The marriage of that and grapes was a first for me and I do not know if it will ever be topped. This beer had bright strawberry flavor up front, that fades into Zinfandel skins with a dry and funky finish. The vinuous character coupled with sweet fruit keeps you coming back for more. I drank this while sitting in a fruit orchard and that just added to the experience. This beer represents the great fruit we have access to here in California. It has the signature Homage softeness with just the right amount of barrel. The effervescence was accentuated with the beautiful presentation in a clear bottle. This beer inspired me to make “Out Of Sight” and further explore the beer and grape relationship.
Mortalis Brewing Company “All Together Hydra” Fruited Sour
During quarantine, I swapped cases with several breweries across the world. The instance I did this with Mortalis resulted in the most diverse twelve beers I got in return, everything from barrel aged Barleywines in waxed bottles to crowlers of fruit bombs. I am admittedly not a big “smoothie” beer fan, but this stuff was outrageously good. I do not think this will ever be outdone for the style. Seven berries, cherries, marshmallow, and marshmallow fluff make up this 7% beer that you cannot even tell has alcohol in it. This beer is the definition of what beer can be or what it has become and everybody I had try this had the same wowed response. Not to mention, this was brewed for a great cause put on my Other Half, which I was also honored to be a part of, along with several hundred breweries across the world.
Homes Brewery “Doozie Coconut” Imperial Stout
I met these great people while pouring next to them at the Festival of Funk in Vermont a few years back. They excelled in the barrel aged saison and sour spectrum. I had no idea they were even barrel aging clean beers until this showed up at my front door. For being one of their first cracks at this style, it was ridiculously tasty. You can taste the time and effort that went into this one. I can relate to the intensive labor fun of doing triple mashes. Along with a full day long boil, aging this in both Rye and maple Bourbon barrels, then filling it to the brim with adjuncts, this beer was as decadent and rich as they get. The fact that you could distinctly taste the base, taste the barrels, and taste the adjuncts is a huge accomplishment. I am very excited to see what other Stouts these Michigan magicians put out in the future.
Highland Park Brewery “Standing In The Sun” West Coast IPA
Bob and company continue to make some of the best hoppy beer on the planet. This particular beer really showcases how great Strata can be, especially when it is paired with a tropical hop. There is a very cool stonefruit and berry aroma. The flavor is citrus, white grapes, and lingering bitterness. It had a lager-esque crispness to it. This was a perfect beer on a hot Fall day. This beer made me even more excited to get my hands on an Indie Hops Strata contract this year. It is the beer I have tasted with Strata in it and reminded me how diverse the West Coast IPA style can be. Think traditional true to style bitterness but simultaneously biting into a fresh peach you just picked from a tree. This beer would make both traditionalists and the modern IPA drinkers happy with its mix of old and new profiles along with showcasing a great hop.
Anchorage Brewing Company “Wendigo” Barleywine
I do not think it is any secret that “A Deal With The Devil” is my favorite beer or series of beers in existence. This is not that beer, but it definitely shares some of the same characteristics. Originally brewed as part of a collaboration with the awesome folks at Omnipollo, it was double barrel aged in two different kinds of Bourbon barrels. The main differences with this and ADWTD is that this is darker, it is sweeter, thicker, and there has more of a dark fruit profile versus caramel and toffee. The glow in the dark wax is a very cool touch. You can tell the base beer was quite sweet before it rested in oak. Gabe has now brewed three of my all-time five favorite Barleywines, including “M.” I also drank this while watching the Dodgers win their first World Series in 32 years, so this was always be a nostalgic beer for me now.
Other Half Brewing “Lime Snaps” Rice Lager
This marks the first time I have featured the same brewery twice in the same year with two different beers. This beer was simply amazing. It is a very simple beer from an ingredient perspective, Pils malt, rice, Saaz hops, and lime, but it was executed immaculately. I shared this with several people and they all had the same response of where they can buy it immediately. This pairs great with several kinds of food, drinks easy on a hot Summer day, and is both crispy and citrusy. I’m shocked not many brewers have tried to brew this combination in the past because the ingredients work so well together, but at the same time, they have their work cut out for them when put against this because it will be very hard to top. Simplicity, perfect execution, and dynamic nature make this a beer I will never forget.