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Looking Back: A Recap of 2023

We’ve closed out another year at Crusin’ for Booze and it has been quite a year.  Not only were we hitting up different libation stations all over Wisconsin but we were also testing out some of the competition in North Carolina and even got a chance to taste some in the non-contiguous states!  It was a massive year for travel, and did you hear, we have new swag now?  We launched our new swag this fall and if you haven’t picked yours up, you should!  We always appreciate the support of our readers and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.  As we have in the past years, we’ve picked out some of our favorite spots when looking back at 2023!  Check them out!

Best Beer of 2023

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Year in Review
Best Beer of 2023: Footjoy Farm and Brewing

It’s always tough picking out a favorite beer out of the hundreds we try each year - and as we go back through our yearly review, we rely heavily on our notes, no matter how excellent a particular beer is.  It’s also tough to name one, or even two beers that stand above all the rest because we could easily name our top 5 in just about any style you could throw at us.  For this year though, we each picked two that we really enjoyed tasting this past year. 

 For my part, an easy pick was the “Classic Steve Pilsner” out of Footjoy Farm and Brewing.  This was a (Czech) Pilsner I lauded at the time and was very impressed with, meeting, if not exceeding the criteria in its style.  Straightforward, delicious beer that was essentially a textbook interpretation and then some - this was such a refreshing thing to taste amidst the myriad of fruited sours, pastry stouts, and adjective-heavy IPAs.  

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023
Lion's Tail Brewing Company Wauwatosa

My second pick is the “King Kula Rum Barrel” - A Rum Barrel-Aged Imperial Golden Wheat Ale from Lion’s Tail Brewing Company.  An adjective-heavy beer with a heavy 11.4% ABV that was hitting some fantastic deep rum notes, with aged fruit complexity, pineapple, and barrel notes.  This was my guilty spend of $10 per 12 oz. can.  Worth every penny in this instance.  

Hannah had her own to choices, and it should be no surprise that the Queen of Sours picked “Seis Seis Seis - the Marg of the Beast”.  A Margarita-inspired sour from the every-groovy Oliphant Brewing Company had the sourness that she loves and imitates one of her favorite summer drinks.  Her second pick was “Dinámica Dolores”, a Chile Rauchbier out of the newly opened Torzala Brewing Company - with lots of smoke and spice - this is a beer that Hannah still talks about months later.

Best Brewery of 2023

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
Best Brewery of 2023: Pitchfork Brewing

Our favorite brewery this year that we visited in terms of beer was easily Pitchfork Brewing Company in Hudson, WI.  A brewery where the head brewer, Mike has been home brewing and beer judging for years - this brewery has a very solid line-up of beers.  This is a brewer that knows what he’s doing and while he does stray into a bit of wild territory with a French Toast Ale, you’re not going to find any sours on their taps (you can read why in the blog post!).  We tried a large line-up of beers here and Mike was just fantastic as a host; teaching, critiquing, and debating with us throughout an afternoon of beer tasting.  

Of course, an honorable mention goes out to Oliphant Brewing in Somerset Wisconsin.  If you are looking for funky sours, and sours that are made well.  Oliphant is really synonymous with some out-there sours and they are consistently producing some of Hannah’s favorite sours in the state, year in and year out.  So much so that they are one of the first breweries to come to mind when someone asks “Who makes the best sours?”.  

Best Distillery of 2023

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
Best Distillery of 2023: Awildan Distilling

We hit a few really solid distilleries this year and this was an instance where Hannah and I had to talk about more than one in this section.  We have bottles from each of these distilleries on the Crusin’ for Booze home bar and and we plan on keeping them stocked for the foreseeable future.

For my money, I am most excited about Awildan Distilling in Sun Prairie.  As you know, the Crusin' For Booze team helped design the most recent iteration of their cocktail menu, with one of my all-time favorite cocktails “It’s about Ducking Thyme”  an original cocktail featuring the robust Progress Report Whiskey made my Awildan.  Other than our obvious ties to the distillery, Jeff, the head distiller, is doing some exciting things each and every month and has been doing beer collabs with local breweries at the same time as pushing out spirits that expand your horizons - like Genever.  It’s always a fantastic evening of hanging out at the distillery - filled with spirit tastings, cocktails, and usually some form of music.  We are so excited to be working with Awildan, and are very excited to see what the future brings them!

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
J. Henry & Sons, 2023 Runner up

That’s not to say the others don’t have strong offerings.  J. Henry & Sons, for our money, is all but authoring the book on heritage Wisconsin bourbon.  They put out a fantastic product and they are really paving their own road here in the Wisconsin Bourbon game.  We also have to mention Twisted Path Distillery, our honorable mention distillery who is putting out some neat offerings such as Chai Liqueur and Bloody Mary Vodka, both of which are on the home bar.  They are over there putting out some creative spirits that have definitely won a spot in Hannah’s cocktail repertoire.  

Best Imbibery of 2023

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
Best Imbibery of 2023: Mead King

We ended up coming up a little short on wineries this year, completely unintentionally!  But, we did have a great time at some spots that offer up mead and cider.  For my part, Mead King, that I toured this year with the Thirsty Troll is serving up amazing meads, great tasting deals, and has a space that I have seen transform and it continues to do so.  In a close second place though, and a spot that has finally won Hannah over on select varieties of mead, Mixed Meadia Meadery has come out of the gate swinging at a chance pop-up that we attended and Hannah’s favorite in this category!

Best Outdoor Space of 2023

You know we are just as much about the vibe as we are about the imbibement wherever we go.  For outdoor space, it is hands down Cocoon Brewing Company in De Pere, WI.  They went absolutely all-out with their outdoor space - private huts to rent to watch the game, complete with wait service, lawn games, a stage, walk-up bar window, fire-pits, and tons of various seating.  To me, they are at the forefront of what outdoor spaces could be for breweries community or privacy - however you see yourself spending a summer Saturday at a brewery.  Board games and a movie on a rainy day?  You can do it there.  Watch the game with the guys in fall and then head out to the fire? You can do it there.  How about just catch some local tunes with some pizza?  All there!

Favorite Indoor Space

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
Best Indoor Space of 2023: Heart of the North Brewery

If you read last week’s article, then you know our winner this year was a bit of a shoe in for being one of only three in the nation.  Heart of The North Brewing was a fantastic surprise on a snowy up north Saturday that gave us one of the most  unique brewery spaces we have seen yet!  A full on brewery in a greenhouse with plenty of natural light, coziness, and brews even in the middle of some mid-November snow.  This is a spot that really took us by surprise and is going to set a pretty high bar going forward!

Most Viewed Article

In a bit of a surprise to us, our most viewed article this year, much like last year, is one of the spots we actually weren’t the biggest fans of, but all of our readers could not seem to get enough.  You can read all about Mel’s Micro and our experience and see if you agree with what we found!

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- 2023 Best of Awards
Thank you from the Crusin' For Booze!

It was quite the year for us, and we wanted to thank all of you, our readers, for sticking with us.  Each time one of you tells us the blog helped you, says hello to us, buys us a beer, or buys swag, know that you’re supporting a small Wisconsin business that truly loves our great state.  We appreciate each and every one of you.  2024 has even more in store for us!  We can’t wait.

We are going to keep on Crusin’ and you know we won’t stop boozin’!

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