In case you weren’t paying attention, 2016 required some heavy drinking. Luckily, we were happy to oblige. We consumed our fair share of good beers around the Cool Material office this year. We knocked back IPAs, stouts, dry-hopped pale ales conditioned on fresh fruit purees, and many more. Some of it was good; some of it was less than good. Some beers, however, were damn near perfect. Those are the ones we’re presenting to you here. These are the best new beers we drank in 2016.

sole-artisan-ales-simcoe-nerd

Søle Artisan Ales Simcoe Nerd

Søle Artisan Ales is a brewery you’ll be hearing a lot about in 2017. The 1-year-old gypsy brewery—meaning they currently brew on someone else’s setup—made waves this year, releasing a string of standout beers. Our pick of the litter is Simcoe Nerd, the Simcoe hop version of their Nerd series. Simcoe Nerd, as the name suggests, is dry-hopped with Simcoe, and it puts that hop on display better than any beer we’ve ever had. Imagine a glass of liquid gummy beers and you’d be pretty close to what Simcoe Nerd is. You get some pine and some lemon, but what we really love is the candy-like sweetness you pick up and that lingers on your tongue. Søle is poised for a big year, recently kicking off a membership club and announcing the future opening of a bar. If you’re in the Easton, Pennsylvania, area, a stop will be in order in the next calendar year. Link

 

Style: Double IPA / ABV: 7.50%
firestone-walker-luponic-distortion

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion

Firestone Walker is one of those breweries that can do no wrong. This year, the Cali-based brewery introduced us to a new IPA series designed to highlight different hop combos. We’ve been graced with four iterations of Luponic Distortion, with each, at least in our opinion, slightly better than the last. So, if we had to pick one for this list, it would be the most recent, Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 004, which boasts seven different hops and a strong tropical nose. At 5.9% ABV, it’s highly crushable and, when consumed fresh, as the can suggests, is crazy flavorful. Link

 

Style: IPA / ABV: 5.90%
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Bottle Logic Space Trace

When it comes to big, flavorful stouts, no one had the kind of year that Bottle Logic did. Their Imperial Stouts dominated trade forums, consistently pulling the best of the best and more for one bottle. Clearly we couldn’t try all of them—Fundamental Observation might be the whale of whales right now—but we were lucky enough to try Space Trace. It blew or damn mind. Space Trace is an Imperial Stout brewed with cacao nibs and coconut and aged in bourbon barrels. And we’re not talking fake coconut syrup flavoring; we’re talking you can actually see bits of coconut floating in your beer. The whole thing is smooth and loaded with more flavor than a Mounds bar. A pilgrimage to Anaheim is on our calendar for 2017. Link

 

Style: Imperial Stout / ABV: 11.10%
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Troegs Nimble Giant

For quite some time, Troegs has released experimental beers as part of the “Scratch” program. These beers often pop up and disappear without too much fanfare. Once in a while, however, one of these Scratch beers stands out. Sometimes it really stands out. Such is the case with Nimble Giant, a beer that began life as a Scratch offering before becoming a new seasonal release from the Hershey, PA, brewery. Nimble Giant is a bold Double IPA brewed with Mosaic hops. It has plenty of tropical notes and offers a stiff malt backbone. Don’t miss it when it returns in 2017. Link

 

Style: Double IPA / ABV: 9%
carton-cafe-y-churro

Carton Café Y' Churro

Carton’s Regular Coffee is cemented on our favorite beers list. The NJ-based brewery wanted to brew a beer inspired by the Jersey-ism “a regular coffee,” meaning it has milk and two sugars in it. They knocked that one out of the park. Earlier this year, they put a new spin on it, going after a post siesta cup of bitter coffee and scalded milk that’s seen a churro stirred in it. That beer is Café Y’ Churro, and it’s unlike anything we’ve ever had. As long as Augie Carton and company continue to push beer boundaries, we’ll be there to drink the results. Link

 

Style: Cream Ale / ABV: 12%
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Prairie Artisan Ales Birthday Bomb!

What we love about Bomb! is the fact that it’s a chili pepper beer whose taste leans more toward fresh green peppers than straight up spice. Earlier this year, we saw the release of Birthday Bomb!, a new take on the flavorful stout. For Birthday Bomb!, Prairie Artisan Ales mixed in a dose of house-made caramel sauce. The result is a beer a little less heavy on the fresh peppers and a little more candy sweet. And you know what? It’s just as awesome. It drinks way easier than most 13% beers and packs a load of flavor. We respect when a slightly unique beer is done this well. Link

 

Style: Imperial Stout / ABV: 13%
westbrook-key-lime-pie-gose

Westbrook Key Lime Pie Gose

Westbrook’s Gose is an absolute winner in our book, as it’s often our go-to beer when we feel like crushing something light, salty, and flavorful. This year, the South Carolina brewery gave us another stellar option for times like those in the way of Key Lime Pie Gose. While attempting to mimic something as sweet and tangy as key lime pie, many breweries fall flat on their face, serving up a glass of something that’s a cloying mess. Westbrook’s Key Lime Pie Gose is so far from that it’s funny. You get a ton of fresh lime that mixes wonderfully with the inherent tartness of the gose. Add to that a bit of a malt backbone to mimic the crust and you have something exceptional. It’s a summer seasonal—as a gose should be—and should 100% be on your radar for the hotter months of 2017. Link

 

Style: Gose / ABV: 4%
sixpoint-puff

Sixpoint Puff

As much as we love getting our hands on rarities and ticking whalez, sometimes the best beer is the one you can easily find. That’s why we were such big fans of Puff, a readily available release this past year from New York’s Sixpoint. Puff is an unfiltered, extra hopped version of the brewery’s classic Double IPA Resin. While we like Resin, we love Puff. The bitterness present in Resin is really balanced out by the additional citrus notes in Puff. We imagine you’ll see it again in the new year, as the reception to its release in March was fairly strong. Link

 

Style: Double IPA / ABV: 9.8%
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Omnipollo Noa Pecan Mud Cake - Double Barrel

The first thing that draws you toward a bottle of beer from Omnipollo is the distinct and awesome artwork. While we’d normally urge you not to judge a book by its cover, the books from Omnipollo are incredible delicious. None was finer this year than their double barrel version of Noa Pecan Mud Cake. The barrel aging has taken all the notes present in the original version of the beer—sweet chocolate, pecans, marshmallows—and brought them more into balance. The original was good; this is better. Link

 

Style: Imperial Stout / ABV: 11%
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Monkish Haazee Guizz

For the past few years, Northeast-style IPAs have been made—shockingly!—almost entirely in the Northeast. But as East Coasters gobbled up case after case from Tree House, Trillium, and Tired Hands, something similar was brewing out in LA. Monkish burst onto the scene to give West Coasters some hazy, juicy magic of their own. We haven’t tried a ton of beers from Monkish, but everything we have tried has been exceptional. None stood out to us more than Haazee Guizz, their recently released collab with The Veil that’s basically a can of orange juice. The Double IPA is packed with pineapple and citrus notes and drinks like something you’d serve a child for breakfast. 2017 is gonna be huge for these guys. Link

 

Style: Double IPA / ABV: 9.30%