In case you haven’t noticed, there are some truly special things happening in Buffalo beer right now. There are so many excellent brews dropping weekly that it’s nearly impossible to try them all. Trust me, I speak from experience. But I, along with the rest of the Buffalo Beer League, tried most of the latest releases our beloved breweries graced us with this past year. And to be honest, we are better beer drinkers because of it.
Perhaps not surprisingly, our list is riddled with haze and hops, though we didn’t exclusively prefer juice bombs these past 365 days. A handful of sours cracked the list, as did a few stouts. But for another year, IPA’s dominated our year-end list (not that there is anything wrong with that). 2018 was also a special year for Buffalo beer because there were so many memorable collaborations that made this list. And if you know anything about us, you know we love and appreciate it when local breweries team up.
Therefore, here are Buffalo Beer League’s favorite beers of 2018. Myself, along with fellow BBL co-founder Scott McMillan and BBL generals Jesse Walters and Mark Jowett, joined forces recently to hash this list out. This was by no means an easy process, because when we say there are special things happening in Buffalo beer right now, we aren’t just blowing smoke or being homers – there’s a lot of really good beer being brewed here.
12 Gates Brewing Ancient Chaos Tropical Stout – It was a close call between this guy or 2018 Grave Concerns. It stood out at a BBL bottle share with notes of vanilla, coffee, marshmallow and chocolate. Too bad these were pretty limited or else I’d love to try and age a bottle.
42 North Brewing Halt, Who Gose There? – Seeing as how this was one of the best beers we’ve ever had from the East Aurora outfit, I’d be hard-pressed to leave this one off. 42 North had a great year in terms of producing delicious liquid (Pre-Emption IPA, True Line IPA, Meridian Myth IPA), but none blew us away like this gose. This was literal fruit juice. Blackberry, blueberry, raspberry. All the berries.
Big Ditch Brewing Double Dry Hopped Hayburner IPA – Soft hops and massive citrus made for yet another Big Ditch banger. This might have been the best beer to touch our lips in 2018, which is saying something because of the other bangers to come out of Big Ditch this year – Passionfruit Hayburner, Canvass, etc. We miss this beer.
Brickyard Brewing / West Shore Brewing Das Blep New England IPA – Speaking of true bangers, Das Blep fits the bill for sure. Northtowners Brickyard and West Shore collabed on a killer hazy bomb here – tropical fruit aromas with a soft fruit cocktail of peach, papaya and pineapple. Just fantastic. I’d like to thank John Paul Meeter and Josh Dziomba’s cats for making this beer happen.
Community Beer Works / Big Ditch Power Ballad IPA – This was an early frontrunner for beer of the year in our books. Resinous hops and big pineapple with soft and creamy tropical fruit that rounded out nicely after a few weeks. I’d like to join everyone else asking CBW and Big Ditch to brew this one again.
Western New York Brewery Collab Mr. Goodbar 50th Anniversary Hazy IPA – When nearly every brewery in WNY teams up on a special beer for one of our favorite bars, it has to make this list, right? It also helped that the beer, Mr. Goodbar 50th Anniversary Hazy IPA, kicked ass – a creamy combo of pineapple, citrus and mango with a touch of the bitter.
New York Beer Project Funky Zombie #4 – One of our favorite beers from this past Brewers Invitational. So much going on in this beer. A blend of 58% mixed fermentation red sour aged for nearly 13 months in Cabernet Sauvignon Oak barrels from J. Lohr and 42% fresh Blonde Farmhouse Ale, brewed with French Saison yeast and 168 lbs. of apricot. I don’t know about you, but those are all pretty nice words.
Old First Ward Brewing #Smashtag – What kind of year-end beer list would this be without #Smashtag? One of the preeminent hazebombs of Buffalo with its soft, creamy waves of peach and pineapple and such. The Double Dry Hopped version was nearly just as good. With their Heisenberg Imperial Hefeweizen and First Ward Problems (Thin Man collab), OFW Brewing is one to watch in 2019.
Resurgence Brewing Black Currant Kettle Sour – This could actually be any number of Resurgence beers – CitMo 2.0 and Head in the Clouds Double IPA among them, but we decided on the Black Currant Kettle Sour because it might just be the best sour Resurgence has ever brewed. Sweet currants up front followed by a tart pucker. Finishes like a dry red wine that keeps you coming back.
Rusty Nickel Brewing Ben & Gared’s Paczki Milk Stout – We’ve had a lot of underwhelming donut beers before, but this stout was not one of them. In fact, this strawberry jelly filled treat (bonus points for being served on nitro), was easily the best Rusty Nickel beer we’ve had.
SATO Brewpub / Pressure Drop Brewing Mortys Killing Mortys NEIPA – Pressure Drop’s Karl Kolbe and SATO’s Drew Hardin took the best of each coast to give us maximum haze, maximum fruit and maximum Rick & Morty references on Mortys Killing Mortys. This hazy brew was all the citrus and stone fruit you’d want in a glass with enough West Coast bitter to back it up. Just more proof that collaborations are king!
Thin Man Brewery Fresh Fruited Minkey Boodle – There was so much fruit in this Fresh Fruited Minkey Boodle, hence the name. Easily one of the best sours we had in 2018, one that was on par with any Joose that The Answer is currently producing, which is saying something. Thin Man had a nice year beer-wise, which should be no small secret to anyone who drinks their beer, and Trial By Wombat IPA and their 2nd Anniversary New England IPA are also worth mentioning here.
For as banner a year that 2018 was for our beer scene, 2019 might just be the best year ever for this scene. Flagship events like the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Invitational (January 27, New York Beer Project), Farm to Pint Week and the Buffalo Brewers Festival (June 22, Canalside) return, this year will also see the debut of the Canadian-American Beer Festival (April 13, Conference and Events Center in Niagara Falls, USA). Resurgence will also open their massive new location in the Old First Ward, Rusty Nickel and Woodcock will open their second locations, and a handful of new breweries should open their doors, including Froth Brewing, Prosper Brewing and Beltline Brewing. So, in other words, buckle up.
Now is a great time to be a fan of Buffalo beer. We just hope that you’ll sit back and come along for the ride. We’ll save you a seat.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, 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), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.