All About Beer Magazine - Volume 24, Issue 3
July 1, 2003 By

If you love beer, this is a glorious time. Some of the best beer ever made is being made now, and because our world is becoming a global community, you have a chance—wherever you live—to experience more of that diversity than ever before. Beer can travel, information can travel, you can travel, and a dedicated beer lover can encounter more styles and flavors than previous generations could imagine, let alone have a chance to taste.

Which led us to ask: with all this opportunity, which beers should all beer lovers be sure to try? We asked thirty beer professionals to name their “must-taste” beers: both the beers that are so unusual, outstanding or strange that they stand out, and the reliable, day-to-day gems that are too easily taken for granted.

What emerged was a “life list” of beers you owe it to yourself to experience, not because they’re award winners (although many are), or because they are the perfect expressions of their styles (although many are), or because they are incredibly obscure (although there are bragging rights involved in even laying your hands on some of these brands). If you are a person who loves beer in all its flavorful, eccentric, history-packed variety, then here is a list of beers that will stretch your palate.

Not every recommendation came with a note, but we’ve included some of the comments to give you an idea why the individual thought the beer stood out.


Liberty Ale, Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA (For thirst-quenching hop appeal.)

Alaskan Smoked Porter, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK (Great with smoked salmon—Alaskan.)

Belk’s ESB, Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Boonville, CA (Drink it and learn to speak Boontling.)

Avery India Pale Ale, Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO

Hop Rod Rye, Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg, CA

Monster Barleywine, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

Blonde Doppelbock, Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI (Masterful German-style brewing.)

Bohemian Pilsener, Cleveland Chophouse, Cleveland, OH

Traditional Lager, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Pottsville, PA (From the country’s oldest brewery.)

Hampshire Special Ale, D.L. Geary Brewing Co., Portland, ME (“…available while the weather sucks.”)

Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR

90-Minute IPA, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE (New American IPA; amphetamine-like hop levels.)

World Wide Stout, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE

Perseus Porter, Elysian Brewing, Seattle, WA

Imperial Eclipse Stout, Flossmoor Station Brewing, Flossmoor, IL

Crooked River ESB, Frederick Brewing Co., Frederick, MD

Imperial Porter, Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River, OR

Eliott Ness, Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH

Gritty’s Best Bitter, Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Co., Portland, ME (I’m a sucker for unfiltered, hand-pulled and well-hopped New England ales.)

Adam, Hair of the Dog Brewing Co., Portland, OR

Bells Two-Hearted Ale, Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Kalamazoo, MI

Live Oak Pilz, Live Oak Brewing Co., Austin, TX (The finest U.S.-brewed pilsner? Perhaps.)

Indica India Pale Ale, Lost Coast Brewery & Café, Eureka, CA

Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, CA

Duck’s Breath Bitter, McNeill’s Pub & Brewery, Brattleboro, VT

Moylan’s Double IPA, Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant, Novato, CA

La Folie, New Belgium Brewing Co., Ft. Collins, CO (Only from the brewery, and worth the trip.)

Wisconsin Belgian Red, New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, WI (A stunning flavor of cherries—this is the beer for anyone who thinks they don’t like fruit beer.)

Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, North Coast Brewing Co., Ft. Bragg, CA (Good during a Russian winter.)

Red Seal Ale, North Coast Brewing Co., Ft. Bragg, CA

Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale, Old Dominion Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA

Stovepipe Porter, Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury VT

XXXXX Stout, Pike Brewing Co., Seattle, WA

Cuvee de Tomme, Pizza Port Brewing Co., Solana Beach, CA

Old Crustacean Barleywine, Rogue Ales, Newport, OR (Rogue, pushing the envelope again.)

Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Chico, CA (It really is the benchmark.)

Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA

Tabernash Weiss, Tabernash Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Hoppy Hour IPA, The Mash House Restaurant & Brewery, Fayetteville, NC

Hop Devil Ale, Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA (I like my hops.)

Raspberry Imperial Stout, Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Easton, PA


Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock, Privatbrauerei G Schneider & Sohn, Kelheim

Leipziger Gose, Bayerische Bahnhof, Leipzig (Like a cross between a Belgian wit and a Berliner weisse. There is a spicy taste from coriander, and a sour twang in the finish, but also a hard, mineral-like taste from the use of salt…a very unusual ingredient in beer!)

Celebrator Dopplebock, Brauerei Ayinger, Aying

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen, Brauerei Heller-Trum, Bamberg (Its intoxicatingly smokey aroma [often overpowering to first-timers] belies a clean, drinkable and spectacularly crafted German lager.)

Berliner Weisse, Brauerei Kindl, Berlin

EKU 28, Erste Kulmbacher Actienbrauerei, Kulmbach (The strongest beer in the world—once.)

EKU Rubin, Erste Kulmbacher Actienbrauerei, Kulmbach

Maisel’s Weisse, Maisel Brothers, Nuremberg (For me, the definitive hefeweizen.)

Salvator, Paulaner, Munich (The first “liquid bread” Lenten beer; does that make the rest Imitators?)

Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Staatliches Hofbräuhaus, Munich

Hefeweizen, Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising (The world’s oldest brewery—1040!)

Zum Uerige Sticke, Zum Uerige Hausbrauerei, Düsseldorf (Bock-strength version of Uerige’s altbier. Very intense maltyness balanced with a generous addition of hops in the kettle and dry hopped.)

Bitburger Pils, Bitburger Brauerei Theo Simon, Bitburg

Pikantus, Erdinger Weissbräu, Erding, Bavaria (This weizenbock is a liquid version of Bananas Foster.)

Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei, Bad Köstritz (The black beer that Goethe drank.)

Dunkel Eisbock, Schloss Eggenberg Brewery, Eggenberg


Orval, Brasserie d’Orval, Villers-devant-Orval (Triple-styleTrappist beer with intense, grapefruit-like hop aroma and bitterness.)

Saison Dupont, Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes-Leuze (A perfect saison.)

Tripel Karmeliet, Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout

Gueuze Lambic, Cantillon Brewery, Brussels (Dry, fruity, with a sharp sourness, it is never the less, a surprising thirst quencher.)

Rosé de Gambrinus, Cantillon Brewery, Brussels

Chimay Grand Reserve, Chimay Trappist Monastery, Scourmont Abbey, Forges

Stille Nacht, De Dolle Brouwers, Esen (Strong, dark artisanal ale, quite sweet when young fruity and chocolatey when older.)

Brugs Tarwebier, De Gouden Boom, Brugge (Belgian-style witbier with delicate spiciness.)

Malheur Brute Reserve, De Landtsheer, Buggenhout (Belgian champagne beer.)

Gueuze, Drei Fonteinen, Beersel (A tiny lambic blender bottling at last.)

Duvel, Moortgat Brewery, Puurs

Oud Kriek Lambic, Hanssens Artisanaal, Dworp

Gouden Carolus Noel, Het Anker, Mechelen (Christmas beer.)

Hoegaarden, Brouwerij De Kluis, Hoegaarden (The white ale from 1445.)

Cuvee Rene, Lindemans, Vlezenbeek

Rochefort 10 Trappist, Rochefort

Grand Cru, Brouwerij Rodenbach, Roeselare

Westvleteren 12, Saint Sixtus Trappist Brewery, Westvleteren (Specifically enjoyed at the In de Vrede Café alongside a Coupe Westvleteren, a decadent ice cream sundae made with the beer.)

Abt 12, St. Bernardus, Watou

Duchesse de Bourgogne, Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Vichte (The ultimate Flemish red ale. Accompanies almost any meat dish.)

Westmalle Tripel, Westmalle Trappist Brewery, Westmalle


Belhaven Scottish Ale, Belhaven Brewery, Dunbar, Scotland (The peat that can’t be beat.)

Bluebird Bitter, W.H. Brakspear & Sons, Henley on Thames, England (Champion Beer of Britain a couple of years back.)

London Pride, Fuller, Smith & Turner Brewery, Chiswick, England (My everyday pint.)

Olde Suffolk Vintage Ale, Greene King Brewery, Bury St. Edmunds, England (Graham Greene’s family brewery.)

A. Le Coq Imperial Stout, Harvey’s & Son, Lewes, England (18th century recipe, conditioned for two years.)

Fraoch Heather Ale, Heather Ale Ltd., Strathaven, Scotland (Try this beer with Maryland crab cakes.)

Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, England

Landlord, Timothy Taylor & Co., Keighly, Yorkshire (Twice Champion Beer of Britain, aromatic hop complexity simply not found any more in the majority of sticky [sickly] brown British ales.)

Double Chocolate Stout, Young & Co.’s The Ram Brewery, London, England (A stout with a distinctive chocolate flavor, smooth and velvety finish.)


Moretti La Rossa, Birra Moretti, Udine (An Italian interpretation of doppelbock.)


Okocim Porter, Okocim Brewery, Brzesko (No longer in production, so taste it now!)


Victoria Bitter, Carlton & United, Sydney, NSW.


Draught Guinness Stout, Arthur Guinness & Son, Dublin (It’s one of the world’s great food products, a dark ale that has spread to all corners of a golden lager world.)

Murphy’s Irish Stout, Brewery, Cork (Too easy to miss, in the long shadow of Guinness.)


Jenlain, Brasserie Duyck, Jenlain

3 Monts, Brasserie de St. Sylvestre, St. Sylvestre-Cappel (It’s about time it was recognized that the French brew some excellent beers. This excellent bière de garde is certainly one of them.)


Lammin Sahti, Lammi (Finnish homebrew-style with flavors of bananas and licorice.)

Sinebrychoff Porter, Sinebrychoff Brewery, Kerava


La Fin du Monde, Unibroue Microbrewery, Chambly, Quebec

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewery, Montréal, Québec (Why is it that this, one of the world’s finest oatmeal stouts—arguably the finest—is consistently ignored by the North American beer community?)


U Fleku, Pivovar U Fleku, Prague (Close in style to the Franconian braunbier, this is the archetypal central European beer.)

Pilsner Urquell, Plzensky Prazdroj, Plzen (The more or less “original” pilsner, more full bodied [and with a hint of diactyl] than the German style.)

Budvar, Budweiser Budvar, Ceske Budejovice (David to the American Goliath, and the subject of countless court cases.)