Take One Down and Pass It Around

All About Beer Magazine - Volume 31, Issue 4
September 1, 2010 By

There sometimes comes a moment in an evening of hospitality when the host recognizes that a guest is especially appreciative of good beer and offers, “I have something set aside that I think you’d enjoy.”

The host vanishes into another room, or reaches into a back shelf, and out comes a bottle that is especially rare. Perhaps the beer is made only in small quantities or during a short season, or its distribution is very restricted. Perhaps its special ingredients are hard to come by. Or it may be that the beer is utterly common in its home market, but nearly unobtainable where the host and guest are sitting.

We asked a pool of beer writers and brewery experts which bottled beers they would consider lugging back home from their travels, and which beers they might save for a special occasion at home because a replacement bottle might not be easy to come by. Forty responded with lists short and long, comments on special brews and their personal takes on procuring, sharing and enjoying remarkable beer. Here are 99 beers any of us would be thrilled to have on our wall.

Brewer’s Reserve Speedway Stout, AleSmith Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA): Contains an impressive quantity of robust coffee for added complexity, and the bourbon barrel-aged edition exhibits elegant, added notes of honey and vanilla. (OO)

Curieux, Allagash Brewing Co. (Portland, ME)

Old Deuteronomy Barley Wine, Alley Cat Brewing (Edmonton, AB, Canada): May be the best barley wine ever brewed in Canada. (SB)

Kentucky Ale, Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. (Lexington, KY):
A mixture of Irish red ale and English pale ale, aged in a bourbon barrel where it acquires a whiskey flavor and an alcoholic punch that’s hidden by its smoothness. (PR, MN)

Exponential Hoppiness, Alpine Beer Co. (Alpine, CA)

O.B.A. (Our Barrel Ale), Anchor Brewery (San Francisco, CA)
Also suggested: Our Special Ale

Edelstoff, Augustiner Bräu (Munich, Germany)

Alt-Bayerisch Dunkel, Brauerei Aying (Aying, Germany)

Xyauyù, Birrificio Le Baladin (Piozzo, Italy): Part of Teo Musso’s repertoire of oxidized beers. He subjects his beer to a closed method with a convection of pure oxygen for a year, then follows with additional aging for a total of two years before bottling. The resulting beer is so stable that it can remain open for a year without changing the flavor profile. Fruity on the tongue, plumlike and bready, with hints of sherry. (CS2)
Also suggested: Open, XFume 2006 Reserva (infused with Lapsand Suochong tea)

Victory at Sea, Ballast Point (San Diego, CA): I’ve only seen this for sale at the brewery, I’m not sure if it gets distributed. A coffee-vanilla imperial porter―if you’ve ever had an affogato at a chi chi cafe, this is the spectacular beer equivalent. (BY)

Racer 5 American IPA, Bear Republic Brewing Co. (Healdsburg, CA)

Expedition Stout, Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, MI): So far, the best beer we’ve found somehow didn’t end up in 1,001 Beers.(SH2)

Singha, Boon Rawd Brewery (Bangkok, Thailand)

Millennium, Boston Beer Co. (Boston, MA)
Also suggested: Utopias

Saison-Brett, Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, MO): It’s a seasonal and not available anywhere. And it ages (not forever). (SH2)

Brakspear Triple, Brakspear Brewing Co. (Witney, Oxfordshire, England): Triple fermented English ale, bottle conditioned, perfumy hops, rich butterscotch and biscuity malt. Heaven! (RP)

Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone brewing companies (Fraserburgh/Cambridge/Escondido, Scotland/MA/CA): I find BrewDog beer to be peculiar. I find Cambridge beer to be good. And I find Stone beer to be great. Black pilsner, or schwarzbier, is one of my favorite beer styles. I’d sure love to try how these great brewers interpreted the style. (DT)
Also suggested: Sink the Bismarck! and Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog, and Stone’s Oak-Aged Double Bastard

Local 1, Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)
Also suggested: Black Chocolate Stout

Autumn Maple, The Bruery (Placentia, CA): Plenty of seasonals taste like pumpkin pie now, but this aims for candied yams and nails it, thanks to actual yams and maple syrup. And at less than $10 for 750ml, it’s a deal. (BY)
Also suggested: Black Tuesday

Oude Geuze, De Cam Brewery (Goolk, Belgium)
Also suggested: Oude Kriek

St. Lamvinus, Cantillon Brewery (Brussels, Belgium): Cabernet grape lambic, made from time to time on no set schedule. I first tasted the original edition years ago at the brewery and have been captivated by it ever since. (SB)

First Harvest Ale, Cascade Brewery (St. Hobarts, Tasmania, Australia): Cascade maintains their own maltings and each year use three experimental hops, previously unused in a commercially produced beer. Brewed on the day of harvesting, it is a generally well-balanced ale that teases with fresh hop aromas. (MK)

The Vine, Cascade Brewing (Portland, OR): A Northwest sour ale made with wine grapes. (LM)
Also suggested: Cuvée du Jongleur Belgian Blend

Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL): According to Mayan legend, the god Hunahpu created cocoa for the Mayan people. According to almost every maniacal lover of gourmet beer in the Southeast, the brilliant guys at Cigar City concocted one of the most complex and luscious specialty imperial stouts in the world, aged on pasilla and ancho peppers with additions of vanilla, fresh cocoa nibs and cinnamon. (OO)
Also suggested: Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

Russian Imperial Stout, Courage Brewery (Bedford, England)

The Abyss, Deschutes Brewing Co. (Bend, OR): One of the few beers I collect for vertical tastings. The richness of this imperial stout is rarely equaled and never surpassed. (BY)
Also suggested: Jubelale, Black Butte Anniversary Ale

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Desnoes and Geddes, Ltd. (Kingston, Jamaica): When I go to the Caribbean, I still drink (and bring back) Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. A very nice beer we can’t get here (that I know of). Not necessarily an outstanding beer, but always welcomed byh those I share it with. (JH)

120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)

Cervesia, Brasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Belgium): Cervesia purports to harken back to primitive beer. It has a great number of herbs and flowers in it, but also includes hops. It is available solely at the Archéosite d’Aubechies, an Iron Age museum a few kilometers from the brewery. (MS)
Also suggested: Bière de Beloeil, Avec les Bons Voeux

Duvel, Duvel Moortgat Brewery (Breendonk-Puurs, Belgium): Famous golden ale, triple fermented, famous for its Poire William aroma and palate. (RP)

Jenlain Ambrée Farmhouse Ale, Brasserie Duyck (Jenlain, France): Contains three types of French malt and hops, and three varieties of hops grown in Alsace. Unpasteurized so it has an amazing complexity of flavor and aroma, which includes a bit of horse stable and a warm earthiness―the first beer to be bottled in 75 cl bottles with a cork and a wire cage. (LV)

Gratitude Barleywine, East End Brewing Co. (Pittsburgh, PA): I do like brewery-only stuff because it’s a nice reward for making the effort of coming out. (LB)

Jasmine IPA, Elysian Brewing Co. (Seattle, WA): This is a fantastic aromatic ale, made with jasmine flowers, to pair with grilled seafood. (LS)

Faust Pils, Brauhaus Faust (Miltenberg, Germany)

Ferdinand Czech Pilsner, Pivovar Ferdinand (Beneš, Czech Republic)

Firestone Walker 10, 11, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, CA)

1999 Poseidon’s Imperial Stout, Fish Brewing Co. (Olympia, WA): Barrel aged and still wonderfully complex, but also very rare. (AM)
Also suggested: Leviathan Barleywine, Poseidon Imperial Stout

Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewing Co. (Winston-Salem, NC): This massive, cocoa-infused imperial stout sees an annual release in early February. Huge and complex with layers of dark malts, black coffee, caramel, molasses and over-ripe cherries, this jet-black, viscous brew pairs really well with raspberry cheesecake. (OO)

5 vor 12, Forstner Biere (Kalsdorf bei Graz, Austria): Maybe the most daring brewery in Austria. While all their specialties earn high praises in many publications, Gerhard Forstner’s brewery is far too small to do any significant shipping of their beers. There are only 400 bottles of each brew of 5 vor 12, and Gerhard only brews one batch per year. (CS1)
Also suggested: Brewsecco

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI): A stout with both chocolate and vanilla flavors that spends a year inside a bourbon barrel. To get your hands on bottles of KBS, you’ll have to show up at the release party in mid-March. (PR/MN)

Old Boardhead (1998, 2001), Full Sail Brewing Co. (Hood River, OR)

Gale’s Prize Old Ale 2007, Fuller, Smith & Turner (London, England): This 2007 vintage differs markedly from all previous vintages (that were brewed and bottled at Gale’s before the brewery closed) and also from the 2008 vintage. Fuller’s allowed the natural acidity of the beer full rein in the 2007, but have been forced by market conditions to blend it mostly out in the 2008 (and future) brews. The U.K. equivalent of Rodenbach Grand Cru, it’s really not to be missed, but likely to be a one off. (JE)

Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse, Georg Schneider & Sohn (Kelheim, Germany): The German version, well handled (even though it is strong, I’ve had bottles that tasted like they were stored warm for too long). Love those German hops, so even though it’s a hefty beer, I’d suggest drinking it as fresh as possible. (SH2)

Girardin Kriek, Brouwerij Girardin (Sint Ulriks-Kapelle, Belgium)

Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL): I loved this beer so much that I decided to go to Chicago to celebrate my 50th birthday at Goose Island. (CS1)

Yeti Series, Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver, CO): Any time I am in Colorado, the ones we can’t get all the time, like the Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti and the Barrel-Aged Yeti, go into my suitcase. (LM)

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH): Limited distribution of this wonderful porter: I buy some every time I get to Ohio. (SW)

Old 5X, Greene King Brewery (Bury St Edmunds, England): Not a commercial brew, but occasionally released as samples in tiny bottles. This is an aged beer that is blended with young beer to produce Strong Suffolk―oak, sherry, tannin dryness. (JE)

Dave, Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. (Portland, OR): Named for Dave Keene, made eisbock-style, bourbon barrel aged, 29 percent ABV―probably too rare now. (AM)
Also suggested: Doggie Claws

Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose, Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf (Hartmannsdorf, Germany): I’m not sure anybody can say, “This is what a gose should taste like.” But at times the style, which is pretty much unique to Leipzig, was described as more sour than Berliner weisse. So the more lactic of the two versions available today in Leipzig seems like a good reference point. (SH2)

Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout, Harvey & Sons (Lewes, East Sussex, England): When I am overcome by somber melancholy because I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, there is no more fitting consolation. (HD)

Old Dubh, Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Scotland)

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weiss, Brauerei Heller (Bamberg, Germany)

Gouden Carolus, Brouwerij Het Anker (Mechelen, Belgium): A strong amber ale named after the gold coin that commemorated the rule of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, who lived in Mechelen. A sumptuous bittersweet beer full of rich fruit, malt and spicy hops. (RP)

Secession Black IPA, Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland, OR)

Mort Subite Oude Gueuze, Brouwerij De Keersmaeker (Kobbegem, Belgium)
Also suggested: Oude Kriek

La Trappe Isid’or, Bierbrouwerij de Koningshoeven (Berkel-Enschot, The Netherlands): I have been fortunate enough to have tasted all of the Trappist beers (including those reserved for the monks and not for sale to the public), except for this one. I don’t know that it is good or bad, but I want to have it just because I can no longer say that I’ve tasted all of the Trappist beers. (DT)

Koutska Desitka, Pivovar Kout na Šumavě(Kout na Šumavě, Czech Republic): I think this is in bottles (we had it on draft). Must be drunk fresh. (SH2)

Old Gnarlywine (2006, 2008), Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Lagunitas, CA)

Lammin Sahti, Lammin Sahti Oy (Lammi, Finland)

La Wépionnaise, Brasserie Lefebvre (Quenast, Belgium): Deep in French-speaking Belgium, south of Namur, the small town of Wépion grows strawberries, so they contracted to have a beer made with strawberries. It is something of a novelty, but really quite enjoyable. (MS)

Imperial Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co. (Longmont, CO): We can’t get them in Portland (hint, hint) but I grab some when I cross the mighty Columbia River and do some beer shopping in Washington. (LM)
Also suggested: Milk Stout

Cuvée de Tomme, The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA): I could list a bunch of Lost Abbey beers because some days one is a favorite and others another. But I sure as heck want to make sure this one isn’t left off your list. (SH2)
Also suggested: Angel’s Share, Cable Car

Arctic Devil Barley Wine, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. (Anchorage, AK): One of the first, and best, barrel-aged big brews. (AM)
Also suggested: Monk’s Mistress Special Dark Ale, The Obliteration Series

Beer Geek Brunch, Mikkeller (København, Denmark): This is the infamous beer brewed with the special coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet. It’s a tasty beer, very intense, but chocolaty, without much of the bitterness associated with black coffee. The coffee is rare and expensive and Mikkeller uses a significant percentage of the world’s supply each time he does a batch. (GK)

Murray’s Anniversary Ale, Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. (Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia): While there are many excellent one-offs produced each year, the Anniversary Ale from Murray’s is an annual worth waiting for. A barley wine suitable for aging, this beer offers a fresh twist to the base recipe every year. (MK)

Anniversary X, North Coast Brewing Co. (Ft. Bragg, CA)
Also suggested: Oak-Aged Rasputin Imperial Stout

Whiskey Barrel Aged Smoked Porter, O’Fallon Brewery (O’Fallon, MO): The wax-dipped bomber of this bourbon-aged version of their GABF-gold winning Smoked Porter has passed my lips twice at rare beer tasting parties and each time came away as my favorite. (BY)

Thomas Hardy’s Ale, O’Hanlon’s Brewing Co. (Whiple, Devon, England)

Good King Henry Special Reserve, Old Chimneys Brewery (Market Weston, Suffolk, England): From a tiny brewery in East Anglia that produces a fine range of always very good beers, this is the pick of the crop. A Russian stout aged over oak chips. (JE)

Three Philosophers, Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY): Just the sort of elixir that makes you feel in harmony with the universe. (HD)

Orval Trappist Ale, Brasserie d’Orval (Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium)

Kilt Lifter, Pike Brewing Co. (Seattle, WA): A truly wonderful wee heavy ale to pair with aged cheddars. (LS)

Pinkus Honig Malz, Brauerei Pinkus Müller (Münster, Germany): An organic low-alcohol beer brewed with honey. This type of beer is traditional for kids and expectant mothers, but is delicious for everyone, no matter their age or condition. Because it is a little higher in alcohol than 0.5 percent it can’t be sold in America as a non-alcoholic beer―damn. (CF)

Kate the Great, Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth, NH)

Palmator, Brauerei Prösslbräu (Adlersberg, Germany): A dark doppelbock, available year round, but rarely found outside the walls of a former cloister that surrounds the brewery and its beer garden. Visit the brewery and pick up a few bottles if you ever find yourself on the motorway between Passau and Nürnberg. (CS1)

Snow Cap Ale, Pyramid Breweries (Seattle, WA)

Old Crustacean (2005), Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)

Temptation, Russian River Brewing Co. (Santa Rosa, CA): It’s becoming more easily available, but is still my favorite of the Russian River barrel beers. (SH2)
Also suggested: Pliny the Elder and Younger, Toronado 20th Anniversary Ale

Yorkshire Stingo, Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery (Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England): A rare bottle-conditioned offering from the reclusive Sam Smith’s brewery, aged in oak too. (JE)

Schönramer Pils, Private Landbrauerei Schönram (Schönram, Germany): Available in the States, but this is another beer that really needs to be drunk fresh. (SH2)

Koff Porter, Sinebrychoff (Kerava, Finland)

Abt 12, St. Bernardus Brewery (Watou, Belgium): This week (month), I can’t seem to find St. Bernardus Abt 12―just when I’m wanting to cook with it! (RD)

Aardmonnik-Earthmonk, Struise Brouwers-De (De Panne, Belgium): A regular product in such demand that it ships to many different countries when available. (CC)

Black Damnation IV-Coffee Club, De Struise Brouwers (De Panne, Belgium): Black Albert aged in rum barrels, 14 percent ABV, with flavors of dark malt, black African cacao, Uruguayan coffee, vanilla, voodoo magic, honey, tobacco and fruitiness. (CS2)
Also suggested: Black Albert Imperial Stout

Wöllnitzer Weisse, Gasthausbrauerei Talschänke (Jena, Germany): Very similar to Berliner weisse although slightly less acidic―very low in hop bitterness and only 2.5 percent ABV. The most interesting beer from any German brewpub; the ideal pairing for any fish and seafood dish, and due to its acidity it keeps for years. (CS1)

Rye Squared, Terrapin Beer Co. (Athens, GA): When Georgia raised its alcohol limit on beer to 14 percent in 2004, the trailblazers at Terrapin decided to concoct a double-strength version of their popular Rye Pale Ale. Part of Terrapin’s Monster Beer Tour, Rye Squared usually hits the shelves in February each year. (OO)

St Petersburg Imperial Stout, Thornbridge Brewery (Bakewell, Derbyshire, England): Most innovative of Britain’s craft brewers, the beer is stored in oak casks and different versions are matured in whisky casks and Cognac barriques. (RP)
Also suggested: Bracia, Jaipur India Pale Ale

Dark Lord, Three Floyds Brewing Co. (Munster, IN): Try as I might to ignore hype, it’s pretty much impossible. I might never get to try Dark Lord, so if the opportunity ever presented itself, I would have to jump all over it. (DT)

Surfing Hop, Birra Toccalmatto (Fidenza, Parma, Italy): Strong ale with an Italian twist to them (sometimes owed to a Belgian yeast strain). (CS1)
Also suggested: Skizoid

Traquair House Ale, Traquair House Brewery (Innerleithen, Scotland): History in a bottle. Produced in the original estate brewery located under the chapel―fabulous warm or cool with notes of fruitcake, dark fruit and spices. Yes, I said fruitcake―in its only edible form. (LV)

Trumer Pils, Trumer Brauerei (Salzburg, Austria)

Uerige Doppelsticke, Hausbrauerei Uerige (Düsseldorf, Germany): Usually not available in Europe at all, it’s fairly easy to find in the U.S. market. (CS1)

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale, by Unibroue (Chambly, QC, Canada)
Also suggested: Unibroue 15

Gose, Upright Brewing Co. (Portland, OR): A refreshing seasonal German beer style with a 300-year history, brewed with salt. (LM)
Also suggested: Upright Brewing’s numbered French-inspired beers

Waldhaus Pils, Waldhaus Brewery (Waldhaus, Baden-Württember, Germany): Arguably the most aromatic pilsner in Germany―the nice little brewery is in the southernmost part of the Black Forest. (CS1)

Westmalle Extra, Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle (Westmalle, Belgium)

Worthington’s White Shield, White Shield Brewery (Burton-upon-Trent, England): Now being produced in slightly greater quantities in Burton-upon-Trent, but still not at all widely available―a textbook bottle-conditioned ale. (SB)

Zyviec Porter, Zyviec Brewery (Zyviec, Poland): Actually a black lager, matured for 90 days, it’s now a rare example of a Baltic porter. (RP)