As we cruise into the start of a brand new year, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reminisce on all the awesome beers we had throughout the year. The local craft beer scene is getting bigger, better, and more creative each and every year and it’s always fun to look back on some of the cool brews that stood out throughout the year.
In this roundup, we polled the Hopped crew and a few of our good beer buds on Instagram to give you the 16 best beers we drank in 2021. Cheers!
Javi Gonazalez, @javibrews
Nachtkrapp Schwarzbier by Ogopogo Brewing
What started as some minor shit-talking between LA breweries over who can make the best German-style black lager, resulted in one of the most magical events I’ve ever been to—the Schwarz-Mas Time Schwarz-Off (say that five times fast). And amongst all the great black lagers pouring at Arts District Brewing that day, this one from Ogopogo Brewing was definitely my favorite. Toasty, roasty, and tasty.. just the way uh-huh uh-huh I like it!
Power Plant Triple IPA by El Segundo Brewing Co
On a February episode of my podcast, The Hop Show (on all podcast platforms! Cheap plug!), I was chatting with Jason Harris from the Four Brewers pod, and we got into an argument about Triple IPAs. Jason says they’re unnecessary…and well, he’s wrong. Why? Because El Segundo Brewing’s Power Plant is delicious and completely necessary (this year’s batch in particular!). While other beer drinkers are waiting in 2-hour long lines for Pliny the Younger, I’m at El Segundo’s taproom enjoying a tulip, line-free.
Cambria Findley-Grubb, @_adulting201_
Nitro La Dame Droom Boon Breakfast Amber by Phantom Carriage
All of your morning Joe fix and in beer form? Count me in! The Nitro La Dame Droom Boon Breakfast Amber with natural Ethiopian Werka coffee, cinnamon, vanilla, and blueberries from Phantom Carriage takes the traditional malt profile of an amber beer and multiplies it tenfold with rolling waves of flavor from the adjuncts. While Phantom Carriage always produces scary good beer, you can bet I am always on the lookout for what is next from the horror hotshots!
Broken Parts West Coast IPA by Lucky Luke Brewing
Filled to the brim with Galaxy, Strata, Belma, and BRU-1 pellet hops as well as Sabro whole cone hops, the Broken Parts West Coast IPA from Lucky Luke packs a punch! The Broken Parts IPA starts out as one packed with tropical flavor, including coconut, guava, and pineapple, but the real danger lies in how dangerously smooth it is. The perfect beer for a night on the couch, or out with friends on the new SCV Lucky Luke Patio.
Mark Smoyler, @labeercats
The Peregrine Double Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout by Highland Park Brewery
It’s no stretch to say Highland Park Brewery consistently puts out some of the best beers in LA, regardless of style. But sometimes you just try something from them that blows your mind yet again. Just a few weeks back was my first time trying their Peregrine on tap, and it is one of the most beautiful, layered, decadent stouts I’ve ever had (yes, we immediately bought a bottle). Aged for 19 months in St. George Whiskey barrels, then 10 months in Eagle Rare 10 yr barrels, maxing out at 15.2%, it’s chewy, off-the-charts thicc. There’s pronounced dark cocoa, a lovely strong but sippable bourbon, and a perfect blend of oak, vanilla, and dark cherry. Even writing this is making me inch over to the beer fridge… I shouldn’t open it just yet…. or should I?
Ostralada Fermented Michelada by HiDef Brewing
I’ve never been able to enjoy micheladas. Nor bloody mary’s for that matter. I love beer, I love spice, I love salty, I love vinegar, I love savory. But I physically recoil from tomato juice. There have been many brunches I’ve sadly been sober for. But Lars and Trevor at HiDef Brewing in DTLA brewed something really special this year with their “fermented michelada”, the Ostralada. Lars chucked in pounds and pounds of oysters into the boil and returned with a pale so indistinguishable from a michelada, it’s more a feat of chemistry than a beer. The liquid equivalent of a mystery airhead, my mouth leapt in shock from the first sip. It looks like a pale ale, but it’s umami, it’s spicy, it’s acidic, and it tastes like Sunday morning with eggs, bacon, and good company.
Gary Magnone, @garyjmag
Welcome to LA West Coast Lager by Firestone Walker
The hoppy lager trend continued to pick up steam in 2021, with dozens of local breweries bombarding their pale lager beer with new school hop additions, creating something akin to a pale modern West Coast IPA. But Firestone Walker’s take on the style, Welcome to LA, really stood out amongst this crowded sea of dry-hopped lagers. What started out as a limited can release out of their Propagator location in Venice, was such a hit that it was then scaled up at their Paso production facility for wide release in 12oz six-packs. Yes, of course, Welcome to LA has a lean malt body, restrained hoppiness, and a super crisp and clean finish. But it’s that hop character that really sets this beer apart, matching an old-world noble bouquet up against new school fruity vibes that comes through uniquely balanced. It’s got that herbal spice AND that floral fruitiness that makes it really fun and easy to drink at the same time. It’s my new go-to beer that hasn’t left my beer fridge since September.
Brigantino Italian-Style Pilsner by 14 Cannons collab w/ Enegren Brewing
I guess 2021 really was the year of the lager, huh? At the top of my list is the highlight of another lager trend that hit SoCal this year—Italian-Style Pilsner. Brigantino was a delightful collaboration between 14 Cannons in Westlake Village and Enegren Brewing in Moorpark and was released at the absolute perfect time, mid-summer in Los Angeles. While some people might brush Italian-style Pilsner as just another overly hopped lager, brewers Nic Bortolin and Chris Enegren approached this particular beer with precise intention. Dry-hopped with European hops and brewed with imported Italian malt, Brigantino brought bold spicy and herbal flavors, some light floral notes, and a subtle doughy malt character. It drank as crisp and clean as you’d expect it to, but with an additional bitter sharpness that’s aggressive for a Pilsner but not anywhere near what you get in most IPAs. This beer brought the best of both worlds — a lager beer that’s light and crisp and refreshing, with the kind of hop aromas and flavors that keep it engaging from the first sip to the last.
Chuy Franco, @papahoppy72
8 1/2 IPA – 100% Strata Edition by Brouwerij West
I feel that 2021 was the year of the Strata hop as many breweries featured beers with this specific hop in mind, and we got to taste various single-hopped IPAs with this hop. For me, I feel that Brouwerij West really showed what this hop is all about in their 8 1/2 single hop series edition which featured Strata. This 7.0% ABV hazy showcased the tropical fruit characteristics of the beer on the front taste with a nice grapefruit dankness on the finish. It is a great blend of tropical and dank and one that I really enjoyed. I am a huge fan of single-hopped beers as they allow you to see if you enjoy a particular hop and this one made me look out for more Strata in my beers. Let’s see what hop will be the go-to hop in 2022.
F 2020 X3 Triple Black IPA by BeerAdvocate, Beer Thug Life, and Crowns & Hops
The beer that started off 2021, by saying a proper heartfelt good-bye to the year that was 2020. This 10% ABV collaboration beer that was brewed out of Indie Brewing Company, combined Citra, Mandarina, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops to produce a memorable beer. I am a huge fan of Black IPAs as I feel that they combine the hop flavors of an IPA with the malt roast of an Amber and this beer did this right. To me the nose showcased the West Coast aromas of citrus and pine. On the taste, the grapefruit and orange came through on the front with the amber malt flavor as a finish. This is a beer that I consider Dangerously Delicious as you do not get any of the ABV burn. It is great to see Black IPAs, especially in the winter months. I have been seeing Cold IPAs more recently, who knows if that might be the new IPA trend for 2022.
Brett Keating, @brettkeating
Ocean Pale Ale by Highland Park Brewery
Labeled as a “hazy West Coast pale ale” – a combination of words you rarely see together – Ocean was a beautifully hopped pale ale that Highland Park Brewery first brewed back in March. HPB has really made a name for itself with these excellent dry hopped varieties of traditionally less-hoppy beer (Timbo Pils being the most well-known). But this grapefruit-forward, subtly sweet and very clean pale ale stood out to me as the most memorable, even in a year when Highland Park made some true bangers.
Chenille Nectarine Farmhouse Ale by Cellador Ales
This variety of Cellador’s Chenille – a saison with honey and apple cider must – was made with local apricots, and is one of the most outstanding and unique beers I’ve ever tasted. It’s a can-conditioned beer that is shockingly light – clocking in at just 7.5% – but it drinks like a deep and complex natural wine. I’ll go very far out of my way (i.e. from my home in Silver Lake to Cellador’s North Hills location) for something this aromatic and bright. Stonefruit sours can be hit or miss for me, but this beer is an absolute grand slam.
Ernesto Argueta, @erniegun87
M9.1 Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout by Monkish Brewing Co
M9.1 was a big 15% barrel-aged stout released for Monkish’s 9-year anniversary back in March. Aged in bourbon barrels for 26 months and conditioned on coffee, Madagascar and Ugandan vanilla beans, and coconut, this beer was perfect in every way. Every sip had all of the adjuncts on it and the bourbon coming out on the finish. It was one of those beers that just blew your mind because you tasted everything that was in it. I can’t remember a beer that blew me away like this.
MT Ultra: Coconut Edition Imperial Stout by Modern Times
MT Ultra: Coconut Edition is a BBA Stout loaded with raw coconut, macaroon cut coconut, and toasted coconut. This beer was perfect, and they used just the right amount of coconut. The taste was smooth, rich, and sweet. I loved how you still got that bourbon with all the coconut in it. It’s one of those stouts you could drink a whole bottle of. Tasted just like an Almond Joy candy bar, which sealed it for me as one of the best beers I drank this year.
James Abbott, @bottman70
Hoptical Telescope West Coast Double IPA by Beachwood Brewing
Hoptical Telescope was released back in July to commemorate Beachwood’s 10-year anniversary! This West Coast Double IPA featured cosmically impossible amounts of double dry hopping w/ Strata, Mosaic, Idaho 7, Ekuanot, & Sultana. A malt backbone that is not overly sweet and supports a spot-on, dank, and slightly tropical (grapefruit) hop profile. At 10%, the booziness is not hidden so there are no surprises. All around an excellent West Coast Double IPA.
N.A.P. Barrel-Fermented Wild Ale by Cellador Ales
N.A.P. is a barrel-fermented wild ale that Cellador Ales released back in October as part of their fifth-anniversary celebration. This delicious fruity and tart aged hop saison features Nectarines, Apricots and Peaches from the exquisite Masumoto Family Farm. This beer drinks with really well-balanced sweet and sour notes complemented by incredibly bright stone fruit flavor.
What Was YOUR Favorite Beer of 2021?
Did you have any standout favorite local beers this year? Whether it’s an IPA, a sour, a stout, pilsner, or anything in between, we wanna hear your personal favorites. Drop a comment here or on Instagram and let us know!