24 bottles of beer on the wall 

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Naked Lollipop-Buffalo (blue raspberry, strawberry, marshmallow)
Froth Brewing Company
Expletives flew in the CITY newsroom as we poured this beer into a glass. I don’t know what I expected, but the color of murky Windex was certainly not it. Differing from the pulpy sludge that has defined the Liquid Lollipop series, this beer is lighter, with a bit more clarity, and more subdued candy and fruit notes juxtaposed by a bright tartness. Go Bills.
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It Was Written (Berry Pomegranate Sour IPA)
Rising Storm Brewing Company
The sour ale provocateurs from Avon/Penfield have made a name for themselves through the It Was Written series, a lineup of tart IPAs imbued with a revolving roster of fruits. This offering relishes in the complex flavors of pomegranate, allowing for the stony sweetness to rise to the forefront while keeping a healthy sharp bite of tart and bitterness on the finish.
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Berry Naked Black Raspberry Ale
Naked Dove Brewing Company
A pioneering fruited beer from a legendary Canandaigua brewery, Berry Naked is an exercise in restraint that has held up flawlessly over the years. A perfectly balanced amber ale is given a healthy dose of sweet berry flavors culminating in a clean, smooth finish.
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Fall into Grapeness
Young Lion Brewing Company
A celebration of the humble Concord grape, this sour ale from Young Lion embraces the candy sweet nature of the berry while juxtaposing a wine-feel that brings out the more nuanced character beyond the sugars. It’s candy sweet as much as it is acetic, making it a delicate beer ripe with contrast. Moreover, it’s refreshing as hell.
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Big Head Stout
Three Heads Brewing Company
The righteous dudes over at Three Heads have certainly carved out their niche in the local neo-hippie IPA market with the Rochester classic The Kind, and it's almost-too-many derivatives. But it’s really this seasonal stout offering that’s the star of the roster. The reason is simple: it’s a damn-near perfect American stout. Roast-y, malty, and chocolate-y with a faint whiff of coffee, it’s the kind of beer that warms the soul after a day of sledding or a bundled-up walk in the snow.
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Habanero Ale
Keuka Brewing Company
Yes, alright, it sounds like some kind of prank more than it does a serviceable brew. But this blonde ale offering from Keuka is less of an exercise of sadism and more of a parsing of the weak from the strong. The spice intolerant will find this beer to be unbearable. The bolder among us will find a delicate, caramel-accented beer laced with waves of pleasant warmth, its herbal chili notes blending seamlessly with Chinook hops.
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Del’s Shandy
Narragansett Brewing Company
Read the can, buddy — this Rhode Island staple beer is brewed right here in Rochester at a top-secret compound that I certainly would not want to violate any legal agreements to announce. Big place, though. Anyway, this beer is sublime, a truly magical brew. It’s a sweet, easy-drinking beer just pumped with candied lemon and zest undertones. Or overtones. It’s not exactly subtle.
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Highland Lager
Rohrbach Brewing Company
These days, the tap list from Rochester’s original craft brewer has grown from modest, classic offerings to a tapestry of new-age experimentation and trendy brews. But good old Highland Lager maintains its place as an iconic Flower City beer. Simple, easy-drinking, and laced with notes of toast, caramel, and toffee, it is a delight today just as it was 20 years ago.
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East v. West Round 10
Iron Tug Brewing Company
The East v. West series from Iron Tug is a love letter to IPAs. Not quite New England, not quite West Coast, these beers are a divine mashup taking the best of both worlds to create juicy, fruity, and pleasantly bitter concoction. Each edition comes with a fresh new hop edition, with this one highlighting some high-octane West Coast favorites like Simcoe, El Dorado, and Citra.
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Wicker Bins
Fifth Frame Brewing Company
To my mind, Jon Mervine and the St. Paul Street auteurs at Fifth Frame brew the best IPAs in the region. Moreover, they brew a lot of them. This “experimental” offering sets out to create true everyman’s IPA. It’s packed with juicy notes of peach, citrus, stone fruit, and even hints of berry, yet finishes with a crisp, clear bite. At 7.2% alcohol, it’s shockingly mellow, covering up the booze in a way a lesser brewery would struggle in at 5%.
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Swiftwater Brewing Company
If brevity is the soul of wit, this beer is a regular Rodney Dangerfield. Take one look at the can and the name and you know exactly what you’re in for. It’s a damn near perfect and elegant IPA, packed with as much abrasion as it is delicacy.
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Citrus Pils
Genesee Brewing Company
The inexhaustible march of time feeds the bleeding of days into one another. Faces blend together into indistinguishable fleshy masses. Love is had and lost. The wrinkles around your eyes grow deeper, flowing like estuaries into the river of aging. Everything that is familiar and comforting will one day feel foreign and foreboding. But there’s always a new Genesee seasonal — hell yeah.
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Coffee Stout
Abandon Brewing/Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters
We all love a good local mashup and a good 10 a.m. Saturday morning beer. Kill two birds with one stone by drinking this lovely light stout laced with fresh-brewed coffee character. It finishes bitter, roast-y, and warming. A filling and belly-warming beer that, at 4.6% alcohol, will keep you coherent throughout holiday shenanigans.
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Sad Devotion to Ancient Religion
Prison City Brewing Company
I could sit here and talk about the diversity of Prison City, how well tuned those Auburn kids are at doing a crazy wide range of styles; how this German-style Schwarzbier is a masterwork in balancing dark roast with light, refreshing character. I could do all of that, it’s all true. But the star of the show is the absolute banger of a beer name. Just really inspired stuff.
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Scotch Ale
K2 Brothers Brewing
The dudes at K2 have made a name for themselves with their rotating sour ale series. But really, where they shine is brewing traditional, less sexy beers. Case in point, this cocoa and coffee beauty just begs to be sipped by a roaring fire.
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Nectaron Chroma
Other Half Brewing Company
The Chroma series is a native-to-the-Finger-Lakes IPA offering from Other Half which sets out to truly explore the depth and character of single hops in a double dry-hopped IPA. This version captures the character of the new wave hop darling Nectaron, bursting with sweet orange, sharp citrus flavors, and just a hint of candied zest.
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Beer Tree Brewing Company
What the hell is an Alt-Bier, anyway? To the best of my knowledge, it’s a lager brewed with yeast on the top, like an ale, rather than at the bottom, as is tradition. What does that mean? It’s just a bit of a darker lager. Rich in character, light in body. It’s my favorite beer style, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about.
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First Frost
Grow Brewing Company
If Geneva start-up Grow has no devotees, I am no longer alive. Every single beer from them is at worst, very good and at best, absolutely remarkable. This slow-fermented IPA is rich in malt character that provides a perfect juxtaposition to the fruity pebble hop undertones. It’s a delightful beer.
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Signal Hopping
War Horse Brewing Company
War Horse has, over the past five years or so, truly thrown its hat in the ring as one of the region’s better IPA brewers. This one? It’s a modest offering, low in alcohol but exceedingly well-balanced with a mild, refreshing bitterness.
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Defies Logic
Underground Beer Lab
Our only entry giving Syracuse love this year is perhaps the most deserved. Underground Beer Lab is, for my money, the best brewery in the city, and their specialty is, unsurprisingly, great IPAs. This one is no exception. Crisp, juicy, easy drinking, yet nuanced. It, uhhh, well — just read the name.
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Fuggly Sweater
Ithaca Brewing Company
A culinary hill I’ll die on is that many traditional “dessert” spices, particularly cloves, are actually just underused in western savory dishes. The good people at Ithaca Brewing get me. This beer is dry and sessionable, with a modest brown ale composition serving as a venue for the humble clove.
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Mosaic Foundation
Noble Shepherd
The introduction of mosaic hops marked a sea change for beer when they first hit the scene back in 2012; the distinctively tropical character became the must-have of every fledgling brewer in the market. In turn, we got a lot of mediocre IPAs made by those who didn’t know how to use the hops to their full potential. The people at Noble Shepherd do, and they prove it with this delightfully complex, challenging beer.
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Genesee Brewing Company
Good old red eye. The wind beneath my wings. The quiet after a storm. The butter on my bread. I love you.
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Cream Ale
Genesee Brewing Company
This is it. The classic. A Rochester original. A blessing and a blight all in one. It’s a slightly sweetened ale dosed with corn. It’s $6 per six-pack, drinks as smooth as anything out there, and makes being interrogated by your extended family about why you haven’t gotten married yet just a bit easier. Happy holidays !
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Gino Fanelli is a reporter for WXXI/CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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