Our 2023 “Best Beer” and “Best Beer Experience” Roundup

In Beer Reviews by The Guys

Lists are always too long, aren’t they? This year we challenged ourselves to come up with just one beer and a single beer-drinking experience that we’ll look back on long after 2023 is in the rear view. Here’s what we Guys (Eric, Steve and Karl) Drinking Beer came up with.

Our Best Beers:

Gnosis Brewing just opened last year, but the Merrillville, Ind. brewery continues to turn heads, release after release. They’ve knocked it out of the park with new favorites like their crisp Helles lager, triple New England hazy and a refreshing pale ale. But it’s their pastry stouts that have generated the most buzz and Double Brittle Nocte is the one that led me to a “how’d they do that?!” reaction. Resting their base stout on roasted peanuts, vanilla and cacao nibs, they delivered a liquid version of peanut brittle that defies logic. Caramel, chocolate, nuts, toffee – somehow, it’s all there, in every sip, with no artificial taste. It’s a thick, decadent, slow-sipping, stupid good stout. I still don’t know how they did it, but I didn’t taste anything else like it in 2023.” ~Steve Patterson

“A popular trend in barrel-aged beer is the store pick. A bottle shop gets a group of regulars together, they visit a brewery and sample several barrels. Then they put it to a vote and the store buys the winning barrel. The Open Bottle in Tinley Park did just that for its 8th anniversary in January. The group’s pick was Revolution Brewing Straight Jacket aged in a Willett Bourbon barrel for 14 months. Before it went in the barrel, the barleywine was aged on French oak cubes in the fermenter. The result was an amazing variant of Straight Jacket, one that approaches the elite Double Barrel VSOJ. Caramel, dried raisins and the barrel. Open Bottle puts Bomber Jacket on tap for special occasions. Runner up was ‘Oumuamua by Brothership Brewing. No adjuncts, this BA stout was aged in a single bourbon barrel and finished in a single rye whiskey barrel for 20 months total in the lumber. It was available at FOBAB, and bottles quickly sold out at the Mokena brewery. The chocolate and rye spice were terrific.” ~Eric Krol

“Honestly, I was struggling to come up with a single best beer of the year. Not because I drank poorly in 2023, but because I found myself returning to what worked and didn’t do a whole ton of exploration. So I drank a lot of lager. I drank a number of familiar and pleasant IPAs and pale ales and saisons from breweries I trusted. I returned to amber ales. And I also drank more than a few cans of stuff I didn’t love and didn’t earn any space in my memory circuits.

More From GDB:  IL March 2015 Beer Labels (27)

That said, after scrolling through this year’s repository of Google photos, I realized that I’d already written about my happiest single beer moment of flavor. It was following a trip to Munising in the UP where I wandered into a local brewery and had my palate blown back by an amaretto brown ale from East Channel Brewing Company. Here are my tasting notes from after that visit:

“Rich with almond-marzipan depth and cherry syrup sweetness in perfect balance, starting off almost like candy and developing as it warmed into a flavor akin to a delightful cherry cola hovering atop a roasty Mounds bar. It was awesome. Also it was called “Johnny Toughnuts” which is super fun to order. And it reminded me, not for the first time but for the first time in a while, that great beers can be found everywhere. And when you find one, it reminds you why you keep hunting them down.

If you can still recall a flavor months after tasting it, it’s made a real impression. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make a return trip in hopes of trying it again.” ~Karl Klockars

Our Best Beer Experiences:

“I had some great brewery visits this year, but my visit to Finland this summer stands head and above everything else as the best beer experience of this year and probably the last few years as well. While beers weren’t the primary reason I went abroad with my family, it was fascinating to see a culture that has gravitated to a lot of the same tastes in beer as America, just through a prism that’s a few years behind ours. It was a little like time travel. Tasting a variety of hazy IPAs from breweries still feeling out the flavors and their processes was pretty illuminating, and sipping smoked stouts and West Coast IPAs from a floating taproom on an inland lake was a real memorable moment. Oh, and while it’s not beer, it’s also where I learned to love Long Drinks: the original RTD. I was just craving a blueberry one a few days ago.” ~KK

Phase Three has been one of the best, most consistent and most popular craft breweries in the Chicago area since it started in Lake Zurich nearly five years ago. I was eager to see what they’d do with a kitchen/taproom in Elmhurst. Guy Drinking Beer Steve and I visited during opening weekend in late August, and I’ve been back a bunch. The lumpia (pork-filled spring rolls) and corn ribs are great appetizers, the double smash burgers are incredibly good and the double dipped fried chicken is a tasty sandwich. You’re probably already familiar with the beer thanks to the hazy IPA craze, but Elmhurst also offers beers off the lukr faucet and an engine. I go mostly for what only gets released to members and through Oznr. In just four months, I’ve happily tried Eunoias 14 (big cinnamon fan so this was a hit), 15 (a bit sweet) and 16 (apple brandy BA stout that I loved), and Arches (again with the great cinnamon). Bonus: Bottle Theory Elmhurst is just a short walk away, and the tap list is usually great.” ~EK

“My best beer experience of 2023 was a father-son road trip from Austin to Indianapolis and the brewery and barbecue map he created to guide our journey. From a Lone Star at Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin to flights at Turning Point near Dallas, waiting out an Oklahoma tornado at Prairie Artisan Ales to pilsners at BKS before a Kansas City Royals game (and a visit to Arthur Bryant’s BBQ after), freshly tapped Budweiser at the source in St. Louis to sharing a bottle of Side Project BBT, the Father’s Day weekend trip was a reminder that beer is as much about moments and the people you’re sharing them with as it is the product.” ~SP

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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