To pick Colorado’s top craft beers and breweries in 2016, the Denver Post surveyed more than two dozen brewers and experts to reflect on the year in beer and look forward to 2017.
The latest installment in the 6th annual Beer in Review series features Ryan Kilpatrick from Fiction Beer Co. in Denver.
In December, Fiction started selling beer in cans — adding to the 22-ounce bottles of its seasonal beers and Feely Effects Stout. The first release is Logic is Relative, a hazy IPA and the brewery’s No. 1 seller since its release earlier this year. The brewery’s beer names are inspired by books.
Here are Ryan Kilpatrick’s picks for 2016:
Favorite Colorado beer of the year: So many beers and so little time. As a brewery owner, it is surprising how few beers we get to try; we are always working on our own!
However, this year I stopped into Our Mutual Friend one random night while in the area and had a chance to taste their Thanatoid Russian imperial stout and it was amazing. Smooth, dark, rich and drinkable. A great Russian imperial stout is difficult to make as they are often overly hopped or have excessive astringency from roasted malts. When these attributes are in balance, it is pure bliss. Another great beer from OMF.
Favorite Colorado brewery of the year: In Colorado there are a lot of great breweries and I am a fan of most. Last year, time and again I was continually impressed by the offerings from Strange Craft Beer Company. The beers coming out of this five-year veteran are thoughtful, tasty, balanced and impressive.
The people at Strange are among the friendliest in the industry, and nothing makes a beer taste better than the great people serving you. I can’t always get to the other side of town, but I can get to a liquor store when I crave some Strange. The expansion of their bomber lineup has been fantastic. I am able to get more of my favorites now.
Favorite new Colorado brewery: Out of the many amazing new breweries, it is no surprise to me that one stands out: Spangalang Brewery. The owners have a solid brewing heritage and bring that experience to the table when creating their amazing lineup of beers.
I find the styles they brew to be similar to what I enjoy making: unique IPAs, memorable Belgians, refreshing sours and interesting fruited options. The one-off beers they make vary in style greatly, which means there is almost always something new and interesting to taste. All of the beers I have had are complex, well-balanced, flavorful and drinkable, which is everything I look for in a beer.
Colorado brewery to watch in 2017: I had been a fan of Former Future Brewing from when they first opened. The theme drew me in (I am a pilot and really wanted to see their Cessna wing bar top) and the beers kept me coming back for more. Then they started their spontaneous Black Project program, which immediately intrigued me — I love sour beers.
The beers coming out of Black Project Brewing were so amazing that last year the team over there decided to put Former Future Brewing aside and focus solely on their spontaneous beers from Black Project. The move was bold but gives them the freedom to make more variations of their spontaneous beers without having to keep up with their clean beer lineup. I applaud them for this move and am very excited for what is going to come from Black Project in the year to come.
Most notable craft beer trend in 2016: The beer trend in Colorado that stood out to me was the proliferation of the New England IPA style. Fiction began brewing versions of this style shortly after we opened in 2014. At the time, our customers indicated they liked the beer, but there was no real buzz or conversation around it. In late 2015 we put a New England Style imperial IPA on tap as a house beer and shortly thereafter we noticed a considerable increase in the amount of conversation around the style.
Around the same time, several other breweries launched similar style IPAs and the trend began to grow. As of now, at the end of 2016, I know of at least a dozen other local breweries making this style, and many others plan to brew one soon. We are looking forward to trying all the variations of these juice-bomb IPAs.
Craft beer trend to watch in 2017: A trend that has been slowly growing in the local and national beer community is the increasing number of sessionable sour beers. Everything from gose and Berliner weiss to table sours and pale ales.
Sour beer in general has seen a huge increase in the last five years thanks to brewers like Crooked Stave, Trinity, Rare Barrel and Black Project taking chances and helping to spread their knowledge. However, recently more breweries have embarked on the task of making more of these sessionable sours, which may not be as complex and mouth-puckering as the barrel-aged variants but still satisfy.