The Hop Review's Best of 2015

The Hop Review's Best of 2015

Twenty-fifteen was chock-full of firsts, new content, interviews, travels, reviews, festivals and plenty of other beer-y things here at The Hop Review. We released over 25 in-depth interviews (with several more in the hopper), traveled for beer to 5 different countries and a dozen or so states and downed more pints than we can even begin to count. 

We take a quick look back at some of our 'bests' and other favorite moments and items this year in the world of beer–with a decidedly Chicago focus.

The 15 Best Beers We Drank in 2015

Wild X [Penrose], BCBS Coffee [Goose Island], Pinner [Oskar Blues], Spring Tonic [Scratch Brewing], Xocoveza [Stone Brewing], Steeped Emperor Lemon Saison [Moody Tongue], GoneAway IPA [Half Acre], Belt and Suspenders [BuckleDown Brewing], Ryeway to Heaven [Revolution Brewing], Mama APA [Oedipus Brewing, Amsterdam], Double Jungle Boogie [Marz Brewing], Malevolence Chocolate Caliente [Spiteful Brewing], Milkstachio [South Loop Brewing Co./DryHop Brewers], Restless Years [Temperance], The Charlatan [Maplewood Brewing Co.]

 

Best Brewery of 2015

Spiteful Brewing

It's all about fresh beer and no one does it better than Spiteful. From hoppy pale ales to stouts and porters, you can't go wrong with a Spiteful beer in hand; not to mention they cleaned up at this year's FoBAB.

Runner-up: Penrose BrewingShowcasing Belgian style pales better than anyone out there–as well as their amazing Wild series–this Geneva brewery is going to be a force that'll keep growing.

 

Best Beer Event

Goose Island Rare Day

BCBS Rare, aged in 35-yr Heaven Hill Barrels, was well sought after this year. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

BCBS Rare, aged in 35-yr Heaven Hill Barrels, was well sought after this year. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Goose Island's time to shine. A glass of Rare greeted you at the door and the entire 2014, 2015 lineup was just around the corner. GI put on an event that was hearty, well-run and just all around special.

Runner-up: Whirly Ball Battle of the Breweries. The Chicago brewing scene is full of good people ready to help anyone willing to ask, but throw in some bumper cars, bowling balls, and laser tag and all bets are off.

 

Best Beer Festival

Beer Under Glass

After last year's mud bowl and half the greenhouses still under repair, it was amazing to see this event in full glory in '15. This year's Chicago Craft Beer Week kickoff event is held in easily one of the most unique and beautiful venues for a beer fest in the country.

Runner-up: Welles Park Craft Beer Fest. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild knows how to throw a party. The closing event found a spacious new home at Welles Park in Northcenter. Lines were short and the beer was flowing–sure beat the previous few year's CCBW closing event down on crowded Clinton Street.

 

Best Breweries to Enter the Chicago Market

21ST AMENDMENT
AleSmith
Alpine Beer Company
CORONADO BREWING 

21st Amendment's Nico Freccia sits down to discuss entry to the Chicago market. [Photo: Robert Battista]

21st Amendment's Nico Freccia sits down to discuss entry to the Chicago market. [Photo: Robert Battista]

 

Best Collaboration

South Loop Brewing Co & DryHop's Milkstachio

A milk stout brewed with pistachios...now in slickly packaged Dan-Grezca-illustrated green cans. 'Nuff said.

 

Most Creative Brewer

JARED ROUBEN – MOODY TONGUE

Impressive things are happening in Pilsen with Jared Rouben at the helm. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Impressive things are happening in Pilsen with Jared Rouben at the helm. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

This South Side Pilsen brewer is using his technical culinary background to push beer recipes to their limit. We've come across few brewers as skilled as Jared to play up unique ingredients to their full potential. Despite the small beer portfolio, these ales pack a punch. We're looking forward to what he'll toss into his next brew.

Runner-up: Michael Carroll – Band of Bohemia. The Alinea ex-pat and former Half Acre brewer is making waves in Ravenswood. Maitake mushrooms, beets, grilled apples, chicory–any ingredient is fair game under the supervision of Carroll.

 

Best Suburban Brewery

Penrose Brewing

A Belgian-inspired P2 Pale Ale sits at the ready in Penrose's Geneva taproom. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

A Belgian-inspired P2 Pale Ale sits at the ready in Penrose's Geneva taproom. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

As we mentioned above: Showcasing Belgian style pales better than anyone out there–as well as their amazing Wild series–this Geneva brewery is going to be a force that'll keep growing.

Runner-up: Temperance Brewing. A great lineup of beers paired with an amazing taproom make Evanston's lead brewer hard to beat.

 

Best Taproom

REVOLUTION BREWING - KEDZIE  

Belly up to the huge bar for one of the many taproom only beers, or grab a spot at the shuffleboard table in the one of more unique settings in the city.

Runners-up: DryHop Brewers – Maybe because it's in the neighborhood, or maybe because of its ever changing tap list, or maybe because the burger is so damn good; all add up to a friendly, cozy spot to have several pints.

Begyle Brewing – A laid back atmosphere tucked down a neighborhood street off of Ravenswood Avenue, there is always something new on tap here. Check out the cider options from Broken Nose while you're there, too.

 

Beer Style of the year

Gose

For a beer style few enthusiasts were really aware of a year ago, let alone familiar with, the gose had a banner year. Noted for it's sour meets salty characteristics, this beer is the equivalent to the corner bar popcorn basket: it leaves you still slightly parched, and craving just one more beer. No, this isn't a style for the masses. But, those who are gose-backers are passionate about it.

Runner-up: The Traditional Lager. Fading away are the punch-you-in-the-mouth hop forward beers. Folks are itching to ease up on their palate and their reaching for more sessionable, crisp pours. Enter: the lager. It's back in full force as more craft brewers are trying their hand at their own take on the mass appeal big-brewer style.

 

best rebranded brewery

GREAT LAKES BREWING CO.

Cleveland got a bit more visually pleasing with the Great Lakes refresh. [Image provided by GLBC]

Cleveland got a bit more visually pleasing with the Great Lakes refresh. [Image provided by GLBC]

Cleveland's pioneer brewer has been crafting quality ales since 1988. That's about the last time their brand had been addressed, too. There were few breweries that needed to reapproach their look as much as GLBC, and we're sure glad they did. With tightened up typography and thoughtful illustrations, the new Great Lakes is finally headed in the right direction visually.

Runners-up: Brewdog [Ellon, Scotland], Great Dane Brewpub [Madison, WI]. It seemed that the best redesigns in craft beer this year happened outside of Chicago. Both the UK's Brewdog and Wisconsin's Great Dane got solid brand and packaging refreshes. Again, both with extremely detailed and thoughtful approaches.

 

BEST PACKAGING DESIGN

FORT POINT BEER CO.

Who wouldn't like a black and bronze can design? [Image provided by Fort Point Beer Co.]

Who wouldn't like a black and bronze can design? [Image provided by Fort Point Beer Co.]

Again, another non-Chicago brewer–but there's no denying these cans. They are bold, smart and aesthetically appropriate for this under-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge brewery in San Francisco. Plus, this is the first time we've seen a can with a matte finish–or in any of these colors, which we dig.

Runner-up: Penrose Brewing Co. The Geneva brewery makes another appearance on our list, and deservedly so. They also incorporate a matte finish on their bottle's labels, alongside punches of metallic. Their Wild Series really shines on the shelves.

 

Beer Trends We enjoyed in '15

Anything on nitro, wild ales, craft lagers, moving from bottles to cans, on-/off-premise bottle shops, the Crowler, 750 mLs, expanded BYOBs, craft beer + bowling, brewery crawls, beer-focused travel.

 

Beer Trends THAT WERE OVERDONE IN '15

Hard Root Beer, Barrel-aging everything, naming your new brewery "_____ Brewing Co.", monolinear packaging design, beer arcades, ridiculously ambiguous beer names, shock value beer names...all around bad beer names, 4-packs, hype machine breweries, hard to access beer events.

 

BEER CITY TO WATCH IN 2016

PITTSBURGH

With standouts like Roundabout Brewing, VooDoo, Draai Laag, Grist House, Full Pint Brewing and Church Brew Works, Pennsylvania's western metropolis has plenty of solid craft options. Add some really well-planned bottle shops and impressive restaurants, and you definitely have a city to watch as far as beer goes. Although not quite east coast, the 'east coast' IPA style is being perfected here and sours are all the rage at specialty brewers like Draai Laag.

Runners-up: Louisville, KY & Tucson, AZ. With the recent expansion of big players like Louisville's Against the Grain and Tucson's Dragoon Brewery, these two cities are definitely worth keeping an eye on in '16. 

 

BREWERY TO WATCH IN 2016

HUBBARD'S CAVE/UNE ANNEE

While not technically it's own brewery, the new brand from the creator of Une Annee has released two fantastic stouts so far, and we're looking forward to what's next. That, and news that Une Annee is ready to sign the lease on a new space makes us anxious to see what's next for the French/Belgian focused brewery.

Runner-up: Hopewell Brewing Co. This under-the-radar outpost in Logan Square is just about set to open their doors on an overlooked stretch of Milwaukee Avenue. We can't wait to see their fresh airy space, serving up lager-focused brews.

 

Some of our favorite visuals from this year at THR

Chicago's hidden gem, at Binny's Lincoln Park tasting room. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Chicago's hidden gem, at Binny's Lincoln Park tasting room. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Goose Island's Fulton taproom opened to much fanfare in May. [Photo by Matt Tanaka for THR]

Goose Island's Fulton taproom opened to much fanfare in May. [Photo by Matt Tanaka for THR]

Justin Maynard slings pints at Revolution Brewing's taproom. [Photo: Robert Battista]

Justin Maynard slings pints at Revolution Brewing's taproom. [Photo: Robert Battista]

THR's 50th interview, at Eataly's Birreria, with Tyler Prokop. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

THR's 50th interview, at Eataly's Birreria, with Tyler Prokop. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

South Loop Brewing Co. is still in search of a brewspace on the South Side. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

South Loop Brewing Co. is still in search of a brewspace on the South Side. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Maui Brewing is one of Hawaii's fastest growing craft operation in 2015. [Photo by Nate Azark for THR]

Maui Brewing is one of Hawaii's fastest growing craft operation in 2015. [Photo by Nate Azark for THR]

Fountainhead's Chef Cleetus Friedman talks collaboration brews. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Fountainhead's Chef Cleetus Friedman talks collaboration brews. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Jacob Sembrano & Jon Naghski keep things brewing at Goose Island Clybourn. [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Jacob Sembrano & Jon Naghski keep things brewing at Goose Island Clybourn. [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Publican's beverage coordinator, Rebekah Graham, talks beer and wine.  [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Publican's beverage coordinator, Rebekah Graham, talks beer and wine.  [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Logan Square's Hopewell Brewing founders keep things light.  [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Logan Square's Hopewell Brewing founders keep things light.  [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Paul Leamon's Beermiscuous in Lakeview offers quite the Chicago beer menu.  [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Paul Leamon's Beermiscuous in Lakeview offers quite the Chicago beer menu.  [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Over at Goose Island's Clybourn brewpub, sours are still respected and sought. [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Over at Goose Island's Clybourn brewpub, sours are still respected and sought. [Photo: Melinda Myers]

Meticulous brewing reaps great reward at Pilsen's Moody Tongue. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Meticulous brewing reaps great reward at Pilsen's Moody Tongue. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Founders' Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki eyes his creations at Timothy O'Toole's. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

Founders' Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki eyes his creations at Timothy O'Toole's. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

A pint of farmhouse ale awaits final construction at Southport's Corridor. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

A pint of farmhouse ale awaits final construction at Southport's Corridor. [Photo: Jack Muldowney]

A Fountainhead/Transient collaboration awaits purchase in Ravenswood.  [Photo: Robert Battista]

A Fountainhead/Transient collaboration awaits purchase in Ravenswood.  [Photo: Robert Battista]



A solid year for beer. Here's to even better in '16. Cheers!