Ratebeer Best 2016

Ratebeer Best 2016 Roundup: The Midwestern Winners

In Beer News by Karl

Our Midwestern-centric recap of your Ratebeer Best 2016 winners.

Ratebeer Best 2016

As in years past, we kept our eyes westward recently as the Ratebeer team unveiled their annual awards in sunny California, celebrating the many beers, bars, breweries and more that topped their lists over the last 12 months or so.

Rather than make you fish through all their links for the winners from around these here parts, we’ve handily wrapped a few of them up with a bow for you here. You can also find our coverage from last year here, from 2015 here and 2014 here.

You can poke through the various best brewpub/bar/store lists yourselves — they’re fairly consistent year over year — but the rest of our Ratebeer Best 2016 Roundup with all your Great Lakes and Midwestern winners commences now:

Best New Brewers in the World

Not a single one from the Midwest. That’s a bummer.

However, if you look a little further out, the closest one to the Midwest was in…Tulsa? Yes, American Solera took the #2 spot, which means that OK drinkers must really, really like the barrel-aged and spontaneous-fermented beers from brewer Chase Healey.

Makes sense, since Healey was also the founder of Prairie Artisan Ales as well and Solera is technically his “side project.”

Best Beer, Brewer, New Brewery by Subregion

Pretty damn good week for Jerry Nelson of Une Annee and Hubbard’s Cave — in the past 7 days he opened his taproom in Niles, and also won for the state’s Best New Brewer.

Here are the full Midwestern winners for Best Beer, Best Brewery and Best New Brewery from each state:

  • Illinois: Goose BCS, Pipeworks, Hubbard’s Cave
  • Indiana: FFF’s Dark Lord (Bourbon Vanilla variant), Three Floyds, Deviate Brewing
  • Iowa: Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight, Toppling Goliath, Pulpit Rock
  • Michigan: Bell’s Black Note, Bell’s, Roak Brewing Co.
  • Minnesota: Surly Darkness, Surly, Forager Brewing Company
  • Missouri: Side Project Anabasis, Side Project, Narrow Gauge
  • Ohio: Jackie O’s Iced Coffee Apparition, Jackie O’s, Little Fish
  • Wisconsin: Central Waters Ardea Insignis, New Glarus, Third Space Brewing

Interesting to see Pulpit Rock in Iowa listed — could this be a bit of a halo effect from Toppling Goliath? Since they’re in the same town — almost exactly across the stree from each other — perhaps roadtrippers (us included when we went to the KBBS release) stop by after a TG visit and find lots to like. Also impressive: In a year full of Milwaukee brewery openings, Third Space only opened in September, and already rocketed to the top of the Ratebeer list.

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One sadder side note: The winner of the Best New Brewer in Illinois award for 2013, Ale Syndicate, shuttered recently. Would be interesting to see if anyone else who’s earned that nod in the last five years has also closed.

Best Places for Beer By Subregion

You’re on your own for this one. Ctrl+F is your friend. Three notes: Northdown Cafe has to have some quite passionate fans on the Ratebeer board, and who the hell loves Sergio’s in Louisville so much? Nice to see Tremont Tap House in Cleveland getting some appreciation, though — we loved it on our trip a few years ago.

The Best Beers In The World

Impressively enough for a US-focused site, RateBeer actually dedicated a full quarter of their list of Best Beers in the World to beers actually from around the world — Belgium mostly, but also places like Poland, Scotland, Italy and Sweden.

But who cares about those! I can’t drive to Sweden in a day! But I can get to these beers from Midwestern states (sorry, Ohio, none for you):

  • Illinois: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island BCS Rare 2015
  • Indiana: Three Floyds Dark Lord, Three Floyds Zombie Dust
  • Iowa: Toppling Goliath King Sue, Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight
  • Michigan: Bell’s Black Note Stout, Bell’s Expedition Stout, Bell’s Hopslam, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Founders KBS
  • Minnesota: Surly Darkness
  • Missouri: Side Project Pulling Nails Blend #4
  • Wisconsin: Central Waters Ardea Insignis Imperial Stout

Best By Style

An exhaustive category with hundreds of entries and we’re glad to see that a full 36 of the world’s best-rated beers and meads are from around here.

If you want a Fruit Beer, you once again definitely want to be in Wisconsin — New Glarus unsurprisingly killed it in the Specialty field including the world’s #1 fruit beer, Serendipity. And the world’s #1 pale ale is, once again, Zombie Dust. #industwetrust #dustorbust 

The Midwest also typically does very well in the Strong Stout category, and while we’re down from last year, Midwestern breweries make six of the top 15 Imperial Stouts in the world. (If you can find them.) Elsewhere, Ratebeer apparently doesn’t know there are other breweries in Indiana than FFF — Iowa is similarly basically nothing but Toppling Goliath.

If you can find any of these beers, drink ’em:

  • Illinois:  Goose Island BCS (#3 Imperial Stout), Marz Jungle Boogie (#15 Wheat Ale), Scratch Spring Tonic (#10 Traditional Ale)
  • Indiana: Three Floyds Zombie Dust (#1 American Amber/Pale Ale), Three Floyds Dark Lord Bourbon Vanilla Bean (#5 Imperial Stout)
  • Iowa: Toppling Goliath pseudoSue (#6 American Amber/Pale Ale), Toppling Goliath King Sue (#3 Imperial IPA), Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight (#8 Imperial Stout)
  • Michigan: Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock (#6 Fruit Beer), Bell’s Hopslam (#11 Imperial IPA), Founders KBS (#9 Imperial Stout), Bell’s Black Note (#14 Imperial Stout), Perrin No Rules Vietnamese Porter (#10 Imperial Porter), Founders Porter (#2 Porter), The Livery BBA Wheat Trippelbock (#12 Weizen Bock), Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere and Saison X (#5 and #6 Saison), and Schramm’s basically owned the Mead category — six different medals for them there.
  • Minnesota: Summit 30th Anniversary Keller Pils (#3 Zwickel), Surly Xtra-Citra (#9 English Pale Ale), Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter (#11 Porter)
  • Missouri: Side Project Pulling Nails Blend #4 (#13 Sour/Wild Ale), Side Project Saison du Fermier from Pinot Noir Puncheons (#7 Saison), Side Project Biere du Pays (#12 Saison)
  • Ohio: Hoppin Frog Tower Tuesday Infusion A (#13 Porter)
  • Wisconsin: New Glarus Serendipity, Raspberry Tart, Wisconsin Belgian Red and Cran-Bic Ale (#1-3 and #9 Fruit Beers, respectively; Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart also won #4-5 for Low Alcohol beers), Central Waters Ardea Insignis
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Best New Beers

What are RateBeer’s top new releases of 2016? And more importantly, which ones came from around here?  Good luck trying to find the Central Waters Ardea Insignis Imperial Stout (more on that shortly).

You might have better luck (probably not) stumbling into Side Project’s Pulling Nails Blend #4, Bleuet du Fermier and Saison du Fermier from Pinot Noir Puncheons.

Best Beers, Brewers, New Brewers By Country


If you’ve made it this far down the page, you’ve seen this entry more than a few times: Central Waters Ardea Insignis Imperial Stout.

This beer from Amherst, Wisconsin, was just named the top beer in America this year.

It’s unlikely that you’ll get your hands on a bottle, though — Central Waters calls it “the rarest heron in the world.” Released in April, Central Waters randonly selected only 250 people via lottery to purchase up to 4 bottles of this imperial stout “aged for over 3 years in 25 year old bourbon barrels.” (Sound familiar? Sound…Rare?)

So, to any of our friends in Wisconsin that have this sitting in their cellar…hi! How’s it been? Hey, it’s been a while, we should probably hang out. You can find our coverage of Central Waters through the years here.

Other “bests”from this category that we’d love to stumble into just for the name alone: Bereta Juicebag (Romania’s best beer), Ailyak Mosaic Хмел IPA (Bulgaria), and Boatrocker Ramjet Whisky Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (Australia).

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Top 100 Brewers in the World

Drumroll, please…

Do you love Three Floyds? Have you rated them extremely highly in the last year or so? Then you’ve helped contribute to them being named one of the Top 10 Breweries in the world. They’re the only Midwestern entry, a sizable drop from last year when Side Project and Bells both earned Top 10 placement.

Rounding out the top 100 mostly reads like a greatest-hits list, with a few interesting entries. Notably not on the list of Top Brewers is the maker of the top beer of the year, Central Waters — they did get a Top 100 nod in 2015 (a year where New Glarus didn’t make the cut). Also dropping out of the top 100 from last years list are Flossmoor Station, Odd Side, and Tyranina.

You also might have expected to see Fair State Brewing from Minnesota on this list, since they earned a nod as one of the Top New Brewers in the World last year. But nope.

This year’s top 100 Brewers in the World that based in the Midwest are:

  • Illinois: Goose Island (which earned slots for the brewery AND the brewpubs), Half Acre, Pipeworks, Revolution
  • Indiana: Three Floyds
  • Iowa: Toppling Goliath
  • Michigan: Bell’s, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Kuhnhenn, Schramm’s Mead and Short’s
  • Minnesota: Surly, Town Hall
  • Missouri: Boulevard, Perennial, St. Louis Brewery (aka Schlafly), Side Project
  • Ohio: Hoppin’ Frog, Jackie O’s
  • Wisconsin: New Glarus

Lagunitas makes the list also, listed as a California brewery, but we know how big they are here in the Midwest as well.

Congrats to all the victors, and once again, this list of awards reminds us that the Midwest is just a fantastic place for finding and drinking some of the best beers in the world.

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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers. If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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