Editorial Dept.'s picture

The Best Breweries of the Year (Issue 28)

The brewers of 2016's highest rated beers.
Breweries of the Year Awards
Breweries of the Year Awards

2016 was a big year for craft beer. The torrid growth of the industry continues unabated and with it comes new ideas, new hot beer commodities as well as new breweries.

To celebrate the year that was, we've put together our list of Top 100 Beers of 2016 -- featuring a whopping 34 beers that scored a 96 or above, The Beer in Review -- compiling some of our most populous styles for the past year and, last but not least, our 2016 Breweries of the Year.

How We Award
We look at the top three highest-scoring beers (as rated by our judging panel) for each brewery in the calendar year.

We then consider how many of the three fall into the 100 to 96: World Class category and the 95 to 91: Exceptional category.

The brewery with the most world-class beers followed by the most exceptional beers is awarded the Brewery of the Year.

If two or more breweries have the same number of world-class and exceptional beers, then the brewery with the highest point total wins.

In the event of a tie, a fourth reviewed beer is counted as a tiebreaker.

Without further ado,
here are the 2016 Breweries of the Year.

Brewery of the Year
pFriem Family Brewers

Two World Class Beers & One Exceptional Beer
Total Score: 291
Highest-scoring beers: Frambozen -- 99, pFriem Wit -- 97, pFriem Pilsner -- 95


We are thrilled to announce that pFriem Family Brewers of Hood River, Oregon was awarded two world-class beer reviews, including a coveted and exceedingly rare score of 99 (only 1 of 4 scores of 99 in our history), making it our 2016 Brewery of the Year!

Speaking of history, pFriem will certainly go down as purveyors of delightful and delicate craft brews, painstakingly created with the love and care that only a family can bestow. As our first-ever Brewery of the Year, pFriem pulled ahead of the competition with an impressive collection of masterfully executed beer styles, including its 99-scoring raspberry Lambic, Frambozen, which was an aromatic tour-de-force of subtlety, nuance and mouthfeel -- as close to perfection as one could find. 

Falling in behind Frambozen's excellence were pFriem Wit, a flawless representation of the classic Belgian Witbier style and pFriem Pilsner, an expertly crafted German Pils.

It goes to show just how amazing our craft beer scene is when you can have 3 different beers with wildly disparate, globe-trekking styles, all made by the same small brewery in the Pacific Northwest. What a time to be alive.


First Runner Up
Jester King Brewery
Two World Class Beers & One Exceptional Beer
Total Score: 289
Highest-scoring beers: Ol' Oi -- 97, Boxer's Revenge -- 97, Atrial Rubicite -- 95


Jester King in Austin, Texas is widely regarded as one of the best breweries around when it comes to wild and sour beers. With a massive, frequently employed coolship collection and a vast array of stylistic experiments, Jester King keeps its nerdy brethren gasping for limited-release 750 mL bottles as if they would never drink again.

Coming in at #2 for our 2016 Brewery of the Year, Jester King had a pair of high-scoring sours: Ol' Oi -- an amazing Oud Bruin made with Jester King's local microflora -- and Boxer's Revenge -- an American Wild with a Bretty kick. Both of these beers scored a 97.

To round out the brewery's high-scorers is one of its most popular and sought after beers, Atrial Rubicite. This Wild Specialty Beer was a titillating blend of funk, sour and fruit, and the smaller bottle sizes only added to its mystique. Never stop being you, Jester King.


Second Runner Up
Avery Brewing Co.

Two World Class Beers & One Exceptional Beer
Total Score: 287
Highest-scoring beers: Vanilla Bean Stout -- 96, Expletus -- 96, Twenty Three -- 95


Our final Brewery of the Year for 2016 is Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colorado. As a mainstay of the craft beer scene for over two decades, Avery has carved itself a notable niche for crafting a solid range of year-round brews while also employing one of the most experimental and boundary-pushing barrel-aging programs in the U.S. As evidence, our two highest-rated beers from Avery were both products of the barrel-aging department: Vanilla Bean Stout and Expletus, which both scored a 96.

Vanilla Bean Stout is a boozy and round Imperial Stout with a velvety mouthfeel and just the perfect traces of vanilla and barrel character. Expletus, on the other hand, is a wacky, tequila barrel-aged cherry sour that has a zesty, tangy blend of flavors that will bring zing to any drinking session.

Rounding out Avery's high-scorers was its most recent anniversary beer, Twenty Three, celebrating the eponymous anniversary with a fascinating dark Brett Beer featuring a full mouthfeel and hefty malt bill.

As is its wont, I'm sure 2017 will bring many more fascinating creations for Boulder's premier barrel herders.


2016 Honorable Mentions

Prairie Artisan Ales
One World Class Beer & Two Exceptional Beers
Total Score: 288
Highest-scoring beers: Bomb! -- 98, Funky Gold Simcoe -- 95, Coffee Okie -- 95

Bear Republic Brewing Co.
One World Class Beer & Two Exceptional Beers
Total Score: 286
Highest-scoring beers: Mach 10 -- 96, Apex -- 95, Pace Car Racer -- 95

Great Divide Brewing Co.
One World Class Beer & Two Exceptional Beers
Total Score: 286
Highest-scoring beers: Espresso Oak Aged Yeti -- 97, Barrel Aged Hibernation -- 95, Yeti Imperial Stout -- 94