For many, 2022 was time to get back out to drink in person. We sure did—here are our favorites from nearly 800 beers sampled this year.
To many of us, 2022 was the Year of Getting Out. It was a chance not only to hug long-distance loved ones, but also to venture back into large, anonymous crowds at concerts, sporting events and festivals. And whether the occasion was splitting a bomber of barleywine with a couple of old college roommates or striking up a conversation with a stranger at an airport bar, beer fueled and lubricated many reintroductions to the wild.
For me that also meant getting back to beer bars and breweries: politely declining virtual beer tastings and festivals (OK, I still did one or two Zoom-’n’-brews), closing my laptop and getting back on the road. I used my phone not for placing online beer orders and calling in curbside pickups, but for hailing Ubers from the airport to the brewpub to the hotel and back again and checking out new beers from places other than Untappd at Home.
Thankfully, there was still a robust world of craft beer to return to. Alcohol might be recession-proof, but craft beer was only able to weather the last two years with a hard pivot to packaging and self-distribution as thousands of taprooms were at limited capacity or sat empty altogether. That quickly changed in 2022: While the Brewers Association said that retail scan data showed total beer volume sales were down 6.5% in the first half of the year, the craft beer trade group also reported that on-premise sales and draught numbers were trending upward.
I didn’t need a line graph to illustrate the return to the tap—I saw it myself. This year, I tried almost 800 beers, at least one from each of the Lower 48, 20 of which I visited for at least one homegrown beer. I also attended the first in-person Great American Beer Festival since 2019. But it wasn’t just the taprooms, bars and convention halls that were buzzing again. Everywhere I went, from family gatherings to community picnics and fairs, there were revelers clanging their cups and cans together and toasting life, one another and their newly regained freedom.
Here are just a few of my personal favorites for each occasion, classified by season, from my year of getting back out on the beer trail.
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