MY FAVORITE beer of 2013? You're going to have to wait a week till I make that announcement. In the meantime, there were lots of other notable newcomers throughout the year.
BEST CANNED BEER: Grisette.
Named after the drab factory-class women of 17th-century France, this lemony wheat beer from Sly Fox might be considered "saison light." Thirst-quenching with a bit of peppery yeast, it's the perfect can to pop on the beach or at a barbecue.
Runners-up: St. Feuillien Saison and Manayunk Dreamin'.
BEST NAME: Sweet Baby Jesus.
It's easy to see how a chocolate peanut-butter porter could go terribly wrong, but on draft or in bottles, this one from Maryland's DuClaw Brewing is praiseworthy (if not a tiny bit blasphemous).
Runners-up: Braaaiins! (Spring House Brewing), That's What She Said (Dock Street).
BEST BEER WITH THE WORST NAME: DirtWolf.
This strong, mango-like double IPA is the best new beer from Victory since Summer Love, in 2010. But DirtWolf? Sounds more like a vacuum cleaner.
BEST EVIDENCE THAT A CORPORATE TAKEOVER IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD: Sofie Paradisi.
Whatever you think of Anheuser-Busch's acquisition of Goose Island, you can't deny that the Chicago brewery is still putting out exceptional beer.
Its Bourbon County series is a wallop upside the head, but for pure artistry, this grapefruit-flavored version of its highly regarded Sofie saison is hard to beat. As crisp and complex as a white Burgundy.
BEST EVIDENCE THAT MEGA-BREWERS STILL DON'T HAVE A CLUE: Beck's Sapphire.
Tasteless, watered-down, faux Euro-swill.
Runner-up: The upcoming limited-edition rerelease of the original Miller Lite can.
BEST EVIDENCE THAT CRAFT BREWERS DON'T HAVE A CLUE, EITHER: Straubator Doppelbock.
The Brewers Association declared that, because Pennsylvania's tiny Straub Brewery uses adjunct ingredients, including corn, it isn't "traditional" enough to qualify as a true craft brewery. Which means this solid, full-flavored lager is . . . what? Not real beer?
Note to the Colorado-based B.A.: The 141-year-old Straub Brewery was making beer before your state was admitted to the Union.
BEST LAGER: Pilsner IPA.
A hybrid from the new Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, in Lafayette Hill, with the light, refreshing body of a pilsner and the fresh, hoppy aroma of an India pale ale.
BEST LABEL: Manneken Penn.
OK, I'm decidedly impartial, because it was designed as Philly Beer Week's annual Belgian collaboration while I still led that organization. But Brasserie De La Senne's artwork of Brussels' famed Manneken Pis statue whizzing off the top of City Hall wasn't just a symbol of Philly's love affair with all things Belgium. It was T-shirt worthy. The light-bodied dubbel was perfect in hot, hot, hot June.
BEST BEER YOU NEVER TASTED: Splinter Brown.
A sour mash and oak barrel aging gave this sour brown ale a complex flavor I'd compare to Rodenbach. Unfortunately, because a bit of over-carbonation turned bottles into cork cannons, the limited release could be tasted only under adult supervision at Troegs' own brewpub, in Hershey.
BEST BEER DOWN THE SHORE: Cape May Pale Ale.
The Garden State's southernmost brewery seems ready for great things, stepping up both production and quality. Its single-hop pale ale might actually be hoppier than its IPA, with a long-lingering finish that is both dry and refreshing.
BEST PUMPKIN BEER: Warlock.
Imagine the flavor of Southern Tier's highly regarded Pumking in a rich stout. Lots of vanilla with dark-roasted malt.
BEST NEW BEER IN THE PHILLY MARKET: Jubelale.
Deschutes Brewing is a longtime favorite from the Pacific Northwest that came east with a big bang. While its core brands (Black Butte, Mirror Pond, Inversion) are all well-made, this malty, full-bodied winter warmer is top-rung. It's a Christmas beer for people who don't like spice.