The year 2016 will go down as a year where the far-out varieties of the past are now indispensable. Wild fermentation and sour farmhouse ales used to be the domain of just a few outfits; now most craft joints will have at least some kind of kettle sour. When it comes to picking the best of 2016, however, the local beer fan can't help but hearken back to what Oregon's known for—really good IPAs, and really good barrel-aged stuff.
Collage 2 (Deschutes)
One could nearly fill this entire list with Deschutes releases. Really, between Hop Slice, Hopzeit, Black Butte Whiskey and everything on the pilot system, there was always some new innovation from them in '16. But their collaboration with Portland's Hair of the Dog seemed to come out of nowhere, taking a long list of ingredient beer and barrel types and mixing them together into something far larger than the sum of its parts.
Hu-Tong Clan (Boneyard)
No one can dare defy Boneyard's regular lineup—and the spring launch of their Bend restaurant/taproom is guaranteed to be one of 2017's top stories—but this collaboration with China's Jing-A Brewing still evokes amazing memories. The mix of Pacific NW hops and spicy ginger in an imperial CDA was far more original than many people gave it credit for upon its original release. If they make another batch, run over post-haste.
Talking of local breweries aiming to expand in '17, Steve Anderson—the mastermind behind Kobold's current garage operation—has quietly been releasing some excellent bitter, heavy ales at select bars around Bend. Oathbreaker is a Baltic porter that's as smooth and approachable as it is eminently warming.
The Broken Truck No. 2 (de Garde)
Playing home to pFriem, Logsdon, and The Ale Apothecary, the hinterlands of Oregon are alive with new wild-beer blending and aging programs. De Garde in Tillamook might have the most advanced program, however, evidenced by beers like these—a lambic made with a mix of three years' worth of barrel-aged base beer. Want to know what Brettanomyces yeast can do to a drink? Welcome to Oregon's best crash course.