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June 06, 2016

The best of what we tasted at the 2016 Great Beer Expo

Standouts from the city's ultimate beer tasting

Beer Festivals
Hoptologist Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The Hoptologist Double IPA, from Knee Deep Brewing Company in Auburn, California.

Philly Beer Week is in full swing, and with it comes the Eighth Annual Great Beer Expo; This year it was held at the Navy Yard on Saturday, June 4. 

After several laps around the Marine Parade Grounds, cruising (and imbibing) the goods of 60 breweries around the country, we jotted down which brews, among the more than 125, were the hop-iest, most inventive and all-around delightful. 

1) Knee Deep Brewing Co.'s Hoptologist Double IPA (pictured above)

ABV: 9 percent

The Taste: In short: A wallop over the head with hops. It's extra-dry with a taste of pine and a dry finish. In a sea of breweries that noticeably brought some of their zaniest flavor combinations (many with success, albeit), this stands out as a reminder that we're ultimately drinking beer, not a grain smoothie. Reminds us of: Victory's DirtWolf Double IPA. 

The Occasion: Your appetizer drink before biting into a juicy burger. 

2) Fat Head's Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry IPA

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale, from Fat Head Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio.

ABV: 5.3 percent 

The Taste: A fruity and light beer with hints of honey upon arrival to the tongue, rounded out with a strong wave of blueberry in its finish. Does not overdo it with the blueberry. Gratefully, no blueberry balloon transformations to be had here.

The Occasion: A midsummer brunch beer, through and through.

3) Star Hill Brewery's Grapefruit Imperial IPA

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

King of Hop Grapefruit Imperial Pale Ale, from Star HIll Brewing Company in Crozet, Virginia.

ABV: 7.5 percent

The Taste: A fairly weighty, aromatic citrus taste throughout that doesn't overpower the hops. Careful, though — it is an imperial ale, with that ABV really shining through.

The Occasion: First drink of the night.

4) Evolution Brewing Company's Pine'Hop'le IPA

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The Pine'Hop'le IPA, from Evolution Brewing Company in Salisbury, Maryland.

ABV: 6.8 percent

The Taste: Deceiving, with a fairly standard summer ale flavor, and certainly a milder IPA, compared to many of the others at the expo — but with a full-force pineapple aftertaste. Hoppy, but not overwhelming. Consider pineapple a welcome addition to the world's growing lineup of fruit-infused ales.

The Occasion: When you want to convert mom into an IPA drinker.

5) Bold Rock Hard Cider's India Pressed Apple

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The India Pressed Apple hard cider, from Bold Rock Hard Ciders in Mills River, North Carolina.

ABV: 4.7 percent

The Taste: Dry-hopped and floral, there's a satisfying blast of red apple flavor throughout, mixed with grapefruit. It's like drinking carbonated apple cider, but with a bite.

The Occasion: Late-summer drinks in the backyard. Or, store some for those unseasonably warm fall days.

6) Highway Manor Brewing Co.'s Mr. Strawberry

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Mr. Strawberry strawberry sour ale, by Highway Manor Brewing Company in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

ABV: 4.8 percent

The Taste: On the fence about sours? This one might make you think twice. It's sour in a way that feels natural, and not like someone in a lab is trying to make you scrunch your eyes when the liquid taps the tongue. There's a sweetness in the aftertaste that offsets its initial sourness. (Bonus points for best label art.)

The Occasion: Mid-afternoon roof deck lounging with lunch.

7) Stable 12 Brewing Co.'s Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Russian Imperial Stout

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The Bourbon Barrel Belgian Russian Imperial Stout, by Stable 12 Brewing Co., in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

ABV: 12.8 percent

The Taste: Ironically, its long name culminates in a pretty straightforward flavor. Aged in bourbon barrels for three months, it comes with an initial taste that's not unlike doing a diluted, foamy shot of Bulleit. Still, other flavors that make up the brew — namely the chocolate — do appear mid-swish, mitigating the heavy blow just a bit. But if you're not a bourbon fan, maybe steer clear.

The Occasion: Dark-room discussions about politics.

8) Free Will Brewing Co.'s Safeword

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Safeword, a mango habanero IPA by Free Will Brewing Company in Perkasie, Bucks County.

ABV: 10.1 percent

The Taste: Up front, the IPA's sweet mango flavors delight you into a state of summer bliss, before a sadistic habanero kicks in at the swallow that leaves you begging for more of that mango — a plus, for anyone disappointed by the endless supply of not-actually-all-that-spicy alcoholic beverages on the market. Accompany it with a glass of water to alleviate the back-of-your-throat spiciness that serves pain as pleasure.

The Occasion: A friendly tap-out competition. 

9) Boaks Brewing Co.'s Two Blind Monks

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Two Blind Monks, a chocolate, coffee and raspberry stout by Boaks Brewing Company in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.

ABV: 7 percent

The Taste: A well-balanced blend of chocolate, coffee and raspberry in a Belgian dubbel — a unique occasion of infused flavors only complementing each other in a darker beer, rather than stumbling into hot mess turf. (Looking at you, Sweet Baby Jesus.) Get it while you can: Boaks closes for good on June 30.

The Occasion: Dessert.

10) Roy Pitz Brewing Co.'s Mind Your P's and Q's

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

Mind Your P's and Q's Belgian tripel, from Roy Pitz Brewing Company in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

ABV: 7.5 percent

The Taste: Don't let the color fool you: This golden Belgian tripel's creamy, spicy, frothy and candy-like, thanks to the addition of Belgian candi sugar. It's also surprisingly drinkable, at 7.5 percent.

The Occasion: When you crave a root beer float down the Shore, but remember you're lactose intolerant.