There's never been a better time to be a craft beer fan in Northeast Ohio. While past years have seen some amazing local, distributed and imported beers make their way through area shelves and tap handles, the best new craft beers of 2013 seem to elevate the entire concept of what beer can be. Picking the highlights from a year with so many great debut offerings was difficult, but winnowing that list down to just 10 standouts was nearly impossible. After much deliberation, here are the 10 best new craft beers that debuted in the Cleveland market in 2013.
Three floyds permanent funeral double ipa
The extremely limited Permanent Funeral took a silver medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. Pine, tropical and grapefruit dance atop a malty backbone. Hopefully Three Floyds will keep making this hoppy home run and send more to Ohio!
Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion Black IPA
What does the nation's second biggest craft brewery do when its homegrown barley crop goes belly up? Sierra Nevada flipped the script on its Estate ale, substituted dark specialty malts along with its own organic hops to create Estate's alter ego, a piney, black IPA with just enough roast.
Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Porter (Bourbon Barrel Aged)
Gypsy brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø creates some solid beers along with some overpriced gimmicks within his Evil Twin label. While this particular beer sounds like the latter, the interplay between the almond, chocolate, cookie and bourbon barrel notes makes this a perfect companion to dark chocolate desserts.
Revolution Bean Gene Imperial Porter
Chicago's Revolution expanded to the Ohio market in late 2012, and it didn't wait long to send in the "good stuff." This Imperial Porter starts with a beefed-up version of Eugene Porter, adds coffee beans and then sits for eight months in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels to create a coffee (and beer) lover's dream.
Rodenbach Caractère Rouge Flanders Red Ale
This Flanders red ale did the impossible, improving on the already classic Rodenbach approach to sour, acetic beer. The base beer mellows in barrels with a fresh cherry, raspberry and cranberry maceration. Fruity notes combine with sweet malt, oak and sour vinegar to create a beer for the ages.
Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. Bairille Aois Imperial Stout
Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. is a perfect candidate for whiskey barrel aging. With Bairille Aois, Irish whiskey barrels are used to impart a delicate, buttery whiskey flavor atop notes of chocolate, vanilla and caramel. The silky finish and thick mouthfeel make this a legendary spin on B.O.R.I.S.
BFM Square Root of 225 Saison
This amazing saison debuted stateside in 2013. Delicious herbal complexity dissipates into straw and fruit. Light tartness makes every sip invigorating. Time spent aging in the brewery's Saint Bon-Chien barrels lends delicate oak and sophisticated depth from vinous elements.
Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Double IPA
Alchemy Hour was a magical time for Great Lakes in 2013. The combination of Nugget and Cascade hops along with the juicy new Mosaic hop strain yields a lush, tropical double IPA that had GLBC fanatics raving. Thankfully, this delicious beer returns in March 2014 as Chillwave IPA.
Thirsty Dog Barrel Aged Wulver Wee Heavy
Thirsty Dog brewer Tim Rastetter created a masterpiece with Wulver, a "wee heavy" aged in oak barrels that previously held premium bourbon. Whiskey, vanilla, caramel and wood make the taste as decadent as the nose, and a sweet, butterscotch finish puts this in the upper-echelon of barrel aged beers.
Fat Head's IBUsive IPA
Mosaic easily was the "new hop of the year" in 2013. IBUsive showcases the juicy new brewer's darling with the signature Fat Head's approach to hops. Incredible notes of mango and pineapple fade into pine, grapefruit and a perfect touch of malt sweetness. Perhaps the best IPA ever made in Ohio.