2019’s Completely Subjective Favorite Beers List

another airport loungeI spent much of 2019 on planes, which was both lovely and exhausting; perhaps, in response, some of my favorite beers of 2019 were very straightforward, perfectly-brewed ‘basics’ – there’s a lot of pale ale:
Flying Bike Tangled Webb English Amber, 5%
Flying Bike is our local co-operative brewery, and, full disclosure, my charming and erudite spouse is on the board of directors (which sounds and is cool, but is also very much a volunteer gig with a lot of heavy lifting). They regularly brew recipes, albeit modified for scale, chosen by the members, from home-brewed beers entered by the members, though I believe this came about through the more usual ‘the brewer wanted to do it’ means. It was really a bitter, and it was great.  We’ll miss them when we move.
If I see a Matchless can or beer on the taplist, I automatically order it – they are wildly consistent, and while sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s far from it; their beers are fantastic, whether they are great pale ales, like this one, or excellent bitters, milds, porters – they are one of the few breweries whose hazy IPAs still taste like beer. Alas, we never made it to the brewery in Tumwater, WA, but they are very much available around Seattle, so they have become a constant in our beer fridge – in the best way.
Maui Brewing Company Puelo Pale Ale, 5.6%
While this beer is great in cans, which is how I usually find it, having it fresh on tap, in Hawai’i, with the scents, sounds and feel of the islands around you, takes it to another level. It’s an absolutely outstanding, perfectly-crafted pale ale, and enjoying it in a bar that’s open to the sea on one side and a television showing surfing competitions, something about which I have zero understanding but find oddly soothing, on the other, is bliss. I need to make it to their main location on Maui some day…
WIZARDRYPhillips Brewing Black Magic, 5.3%
I’d somewhat overlooked this beer on previous visits to Victoria, but having having it on tap at the taproom, once again, fresh from a properly-cleaned tap line, I’m convinced this may be one of the best beers in Canada. They leave its description somewhat ambiguous – it’s just a ‘dark ale’ – but I’d put it firmly in my ‘excellent dark mild’ category. Also, the taproom has an amazing little printer that outputs your custom flight, complete with descriptions. This hit me in all the metadata and structured-content feels.
Wild Card Brewery Table Beer, 2.7%
Many, many years ago, I lived briefly in Walthamstow, back when that part of London was far from approaching gentrification; I even had a creepy landlord who would let himself in, unannounced, to check that the mostly-female house-sharers ‘didn’t have boyfriends around’ – I later moved further out to East Ham, where I still had a tiny bedsit, but had normal landlords and easy access to The Who Shop, which has long since moved – but I digress. I made a quick weekend trip to London to see Company, and, having heard good things about Wild Card and being curious about what Walthamstow was like now, made the trek out to see it. Brewer Jaega Wise was on hand and was incredibly welcoming, as was everyone on the staff. I think I made it through most of their offerings at the time, and it was all wonderful, but I especially loved the flavor and freshness they managed to get out of such a low-key beer. Highly recommended.
Flying Bike Zwickel Especial Mexican Lager, 5.5%
Yes, another from Flying Bike – I did spend a lot of time there when not flying elsewhere – and another beer that was simply delightful. Imagine a zwickelbier with a bit more of a Vienna Lager character and you’ve got it; fresh, clean, but with a bit more of a toasty take – it was absolutely glorious with the mediocre Mexican food available in Seattle. I imagine it would be even better with good food, but there you are…
Cloudburst Brewing Hi Bill Hiii, 4.3%
Machine House Brewery makes the best cask ales anywhere in the area, hands down, and their dark mild is fantastic. Cloudburst makes amazing IPAs and a lot of unusual things, and they are always excellent – and so, they made a dark mild, calling out Bill, Machine House’s owner/brewer, with love. I had this one at Machine House, where it was a welcome guest ale, and all was well. Delightful.
Kennett Brewing Company Wee Wobbly Scottish 100 Schilling, 6.3%
We made it back to Philly! This was our first visit to Kennett Brewing Company, and everything was wonderful. I’ve already written about their relevant-to-my-interests hop-skeleton branding and subterranean taproom, but this beer was at the top of my list; definitely planning to head back on future visits.
Matchless Brewing Old School, 5.6%
Yes, more Matchless, and yes, another pale ale – but one very much worth your time if you are ever in the area. It was brewed for a local pizza place in Olympia, WA, and while we’ve only ever driven through Olympia, I can confirm it goes well with pizza – perfect for this use case.
Noble Ale Works Man's Milk Stout, 6.1%
Noble Ale Works makes fantastic IPAs, which you already know, but I had to give my ‘favorite’ crown to the milk stout. We’ll be back in Anaheim next summer for Star Wars Celebration, and I hope to pop in again to try even more. Also, there is actual good Mexican food available for delivery to the taproom. Bonus points all around.
Honorable Mentions
Gamorrean Ale at Oga's Cantina, 5.8%
Yes, this again. New Belgium brews it, it’s perfectly solid, but it’s all about the atmosphere in Oga’s Cantina. I can’t wait to get back to Batuu to FLY THE MILLENNIUM FALCON again. And again. And again…
Stoup Equal Play Equal Pay IPA, 7%
I first saw the USWNT play live in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Megan Rapinoe (and the rest of the Seattle Reign, the local professional women’s team) all train at my erstwhile gym – I had to cancel my membership in preparation for moving – and I’ve nearly stepped on her in the sauna multiple times, because I am clumsy, but she’s always been great about it. Given the local connections and support for the team, it was only right that Stoup Brewing created a beer to go along with their call for equal pay, though anyone who has watch them play vs having to watch the USMNT play knows the women deserve far more. Drink up.
So, that’s the list – happy 2020, and I’ll see you in Dublin…

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