Beers of the Year

The best locally brewed craft beers of Palm Beach County

Our craft beer scene

Palm Beach County is brewing too much good beer.

By that I mean it’s almost impossible to have tasted every variety of every beer brewed at each of the county’s nine breweries — and that’s a good problem to have.
The craft beer boom led to us to launch The Palm Beach Post’s TAPPED craft beer social hub, to try to cover the beer scene.

These Beers of the Year — and my choice for Brewery of the Year, which is Copperpoint Brewery in Boynton Beach — are a nod to the best locally brewed craft beer I sipped this year. Cheers!

Beer of the Year

(Photo courtesy of Due South Brewing)

Bourbon barrel-aged Mariana Trench by Due South Brewing

Due South started with one of its most complex beers, Mariana Trench imperial stout, deep and dark in color like the eponymous Pacific Ocean trench, which they brew only once a year, every January. Then, they go a step further: They age the beer for nearly a year in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. Due South sent one of its employees to Kentucky to pick up the 17 premium barrels in an old pickup truck and rumble back down to Boynton Beach with them in tow. Aging the beer in the barrels gives Mariana Trench a bourbon kick, along with intensified and complex cocoa and vanilla flavors.

Where to get it: Due South aged less than 500 gallons of Mariana Trench, and bottled about 1,300, which it sold exclusively at its brewery (2900 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach). The beer is usually on tap at the brewery and select local restaurants in the weeks following the release in the fall, and for special events at the brewery.

Best one-off brew

(Photo courtesy of Funky Buddha Brewery)

Rye barrel-aged Snowed In imperial porter by Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery

The little brewery (and music lounge) in Boca Raton is still the flavor incubator for their bigger brewery in Oakland Park. They took a porter that tastes like liquid Mounds bars, Funky Buddha’s Last Snow, and aged it in a rye whiskey barrel. The beer drank like a fine cognac. It was high in alcohol content, rich in coconut and coffee flavors, with a bite from the rye bourbon barrels.

Where to get it: The lounge is releasing this beer in small batches, for special occasions. Check their Facebook page.

Best IPA

(Photo courtesy of Due South Brewing)

Category 5 Imperial IPA by Due South Brewing

If there’s one beer to measure a brewery by it’s their India Pale Ale. And no one in Palm Beach County is brewing a better IPA than Due South’s Cat 5. The Category 5, like the hurricane designation, is a stronger version of the Category 3 IPA — but it also has infinitely more flavor. It is for proven beer lovers who appreciate floral hops, silky smooth malts and the kick of 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Where to get it: It’s available at the brewery (2900 High Ridge Rd., Boynton Beach) and most major beer and wine retailers such as Total Wine & More and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.

Most surprising brew

(Photo by Joe Forzano/The Palm Beach Post)

Golden Stout by Tequesta Brewing Co.

Poured into a pint, this beer looks like a standard, yellow lager with a thick, creamy head — until you bring it to your nose. Then you get an overwhelming scent of coffee you expect in a stout. Your eyes, nose and brain are all on different pages until you take your first sip and are greeted by what tastes like the most decadent glass of cold-pressed gourmet coffee.

Where to get it: Tequesta brews this beer once a year, the last time was in late August. The best way to know when you can have it next is to follow TBC’s Facebook page. It’s a beer worth chasing.

Best Sour

(Photo courtesy of Barrel of Monks)

S’Tart sour ale by Barrel of Monks

No style of beer has been more popular in the last few years than the sour, a beer made intentionally tart with lactobacillus bacteria to create a beer low in alcohol, high in pucker and infinitely refreshing on a hot, summer day. So it’s no surprise the months-old Barrel of Monks had an instant hit when they started brewing their S’Tart sour ale. It’s perfect balance between tart and sweet, with complex fruit flavors and aromas of apricots, peaches and passion fruit.

Where to get it: The beer is regularly available at the brewery (1141 S. Rogers Circle, #5, Boca Raton) and is occasionally found at local bars such as Coffee District in Delray and the Brass Tap in Boynton Beach.

Best Gamble

(Photo courtesy of Twisted Trunk Brewing)

Watermelon saison by Twisted Trunk Brewing

Conventional wisdom says you want the very first beer you brew to be safe: an accessible beer that tells the public about your brewing philosophy without scaring them off. But Twisted Trunk, and brewers Fran Andrewlevich and Matt Webster don’t do safe. This 10-month-old brewery went out on a limb by making this so-called farmhouse beer with funky-fruity Belgian notes the first to come out of Twisted Trunk’s brewing tanks. But what a hit! It is fruity and crisp, a perfect South Florida offering.

Where to get it: The beer is brewed regularly at the brewery (2000 PGA Blvd., North Palm Beach)

Best Collaboration

(Photo by Libby Volgyes/Special to the Palm Beach Post)

Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout by Tequesta Brewing and Coppertail Brewing

Breweries often combine their talents to create fantastic limited beers. That was the case with longtime friends Fran Andrewlevich, co-owner of Tequesta Brewing, and Casey Hughes, of Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing, who revisited a beer they made a year ago: a stout brewed with stone crab claws in the initial boil, in the style of a traditional oyster stout. The briny flavor from the crab — but not the flavor of crab itself — draws out a stout’s natural coffee notes. The result was a crisp, dry stout that went perfectly with Joe’s Stone Crab claws.

Where to get it: No word on whether the two will collaborate on this beer for a third straight year, but they did produce twice the amount this year and were able to distribute it in 750 ml bottles. My guess is it’s too good not to repeat.

Beer with the best heart

(Photo by Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

Sea Cow Milk Stout by Saltwater Brewery

You have to admire a brewery that builds giving into its mission statement. Saltwater Brewery holds monthly fundraisers for featured charities. Proceeds from their Sea Cow Milk Stout went to the Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Growl, whose mission is to protect and restore sea grass habitats where manatees live. It’s a beer that makes you feel good about drinking it on several levels.

Where to get it: The beer is available at the brewery (1701 W Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach) and part of Saltwater’s regular offerings at local restaurants and bars.