Top Craft Beer's To Try in 2015: The Brewmaster Edition

This month's craft beer highlight comes from our resident brewmaster, Josh Ratliff, so you know this list is going to be good. When we asked Josh what his favorite craft beers are, it took him over an hour to come back with a response, and it's an extensive one. In his own words, his favorite beers list is longer than Santa's naughty list.

Actually, when we first asked him what his favorite craft beers are, his response was Budweiser and Heineken. Don't believe us? Here is photo proof:

pasted_image_at_2015_04_15_09_06_amBut don't worry, it was only a joke. Check out Josh's favorite craft beers from around the country, and get that craft beer bucket list going!

Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing

IMG_3799-pliny-the-younger-and-elder (1)Photo by BeerSurfing.com

Josh stated that these two beers were his favorite, but he loves any beer from Russian River.

Pliny the Elder is a Double IPA brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Pliny the Younger is a Triple IPA is almost a true Triple IPA with triple the amount of hops as a regular IPA, and is very full-bodied and deceptively smooth. However, due to the cost to brew Pliney the Younger, he is a limited time beer that you have to be lucky enough to enjoy.

Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) was originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, California and was founded on their historic and beautiful property amidst vineyards and redwoods near the Russian River. As of 2012, RRBC employs over 60 part-time and full-time employees, and gives back to their community via charitable events such as their month-long Breast Cancer Fundraiser in October. The pub has become a community gathering place as well as a beer tourism destination. They also support local bands by hosting free live shows at the pub every weekend.

The Kimmie, The Yink and the Holy Gose from Anderson Valley Brewing Company

With a bright, golden color and tight creamy head, the earthy wood undertones in the Gose develop into a light mineral aroma with a hint of lemon zest and tropical fruit. Before boiling, the wort is kettle soured with lactobacillus, imparting an initial refreshing tartness that gives way to a subtle fullness. Flavors of guava and peach are followed by a slight sea salt dryness and lemon sourness that is enhanced by coriander and post-fermentation additions of salt. The finish is dry, effervescent, and lemon tangy, reminiscent of a fresh sea breeze.

Founded in 1987, the Anderson Valley Brewing Company brewed out of a 10-barrel brewhouse, located in the lower level of its brewpub, The Buckhorn Saloon. In 1998, construction began on a state-of-the-art, three-story Bavarian-style brewhouse. The centerpieces of the brewhouse are gleaming 100- and 85- barrel copper brew kettles rescued by Ken Allen from a defunct German breweries during a trip to Europe in 1995. The new brewhouse went online in August of 2000.

Sculler's IPA from Skagit River Brewing Company

Sculler's IPA has strong citrus & grapefruit characteristics from Northern Brewed & Chinook Hop, which cut through a healthy malt body for strong yet refreshing flavor. Many craft beer lovers are picky about their IPAs, which is one of the most popular beers to brew at the moment, but this Sculler IPA really stands out from the competitors.

The Skagit River Brewery, located in Mount Vernon, WA, was founded on the idea that everyone should enjoy their beer. They select the finest ingredients to brew a broad selection of ales and lagers, as well as a delicious house Root Beer. They use solely Yakima Valley hops, northwest grown barley and wheat, which have proven to produce high-quality beers that truley are enjoyed by everyone.

Autumnal Mole Stout from Ska Brewing Company

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Photo by The Daily Meal

Inspired by the Mexican and New Mexican cuisine Ska's Southern Colorado knows so well, the Autumnal Molé Stout is brewed with cocoa nibs, spices, and three varieties of chile peppers: Ancho, Guajillo and Hatch green chiles. The aroma in this beer is all about the peppers. The first drink really reveals the chocolate. Cinnamon, cumin, cloves and a subtle heat all add to the complexity, but in the end it's the residual sweetness that brings these diverse ingredients together and makes them play nice with your palate.

Ska Brewing is located in Durango, CO. This music-inspired brewery is a wind-powered facility, and hosts weekly BBQs as well as a beer garden. The fun, funky environment of this brewery makes it a place you won't want to miss on your next trip to Colorado.

Union Jack and Wookey Jack from Firestone Walker

Union Jack, a Silver medal winner at the 2013 GABF, is an aggressively hopped West Coast-style IPA.  Union Jack showcases exceptional dry hop character with stunning pineapple, citrus and piney aromas on the nose accompanied by honey-like malt aromatics. Wookey Jack, a Gold medal winner at the 2013 GABF, is a unique twist on the Cascadian Dark Ale style. Wookey Jack offers true hop aroma to rival most IPAs, with pungent citrus and herbal hop nuances, a hint of peppery rye and earthiness on the nose. This beer is a unique IPA for dark beer lovers.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company brewed its first beer in 1996  in a small  facility rented from the Firestone Vineyard estate in Santa Barbara County.  In 2001 owners Adam Firestone and David Walker purchased the SLO Brewing Company located in Paso Robles, CA. Firestone Walker's ales are selectively fermented in the Firestone Union oak barrel brewing system. They also won Brewer of the Year 4 years in a row at GABF thanks to their Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson.

Ovila Abbey Quad from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company 

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Photo by Lukas Wine & Spirits 

Ovila Abbey Quad is heady with aromas of caramel, rich malt, and dark fruit balanced by the spiciness and delicate fruity notes of a traditional Belgian yeast. This complex beer is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. It features sugar plums grown on the grounds of the Abbey and harvested by the monks in Vina.

Harvest Single Hop IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Complex fruity aromas of orange and apricot mesh with hints of black tea-like character and a pleasant fresh herbal bouquet in this Harvest Single Hop IPA. Sierra Nevada's Harvest Series showcases the brewery's favorite ingredient (hops) by exploring a range of hopping methods: single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop. By working directly with breeders and growers, they recreate this series each year using rare hops early in their development. The 2015 hop, Idaho 7, is from an innovative hop grower in western Idaho who is working with a handful of new and interesting varietals.

Sierra Nevada Brewery is located in Chico, CA. Inspired by the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains, they design their beers to be "as bold, wild and unwavering as those storied granite peaks." With respect to tradition and an unbridled passion for innovation, Sierra Nevada beers are inspired by the philosophy that anything is possible.

La Folie - A Lips of Faith Series from New Belgium 

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Photo by Beer Chatter

La Folie, French for "the folly," is a beer steeped in New Belgium brewing tradition. This wood-aged, sour brown spends one to three years in big, oak barrels, known as foeders. And when the beer finally hits the glass, La Folie is sharp and sour, full of green apple, cherry, and plum-skin notes. Pouring a deep mahogany, the mouthfeel will get you puckering while the smooth finish will get you smiling.

New Belgium Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Fort Collins, Colorado. It opened in 1991 after Jeff Lebesch, the brewery's founder, took his homebrewing passion to the next level and opened his own brewery. In 2011, New Belgium Brewing produced 712,800 barrels of delicious beer, and as of 2012, it was the third-largest craft brewery in the United States.