Continental ale styles in all of their myriad manifestations can be some of the most inspiring and inspired beers in the world. Whether they originate in religious or secular traditions of sustenance or solace, they have become guiding lights for the imagination and artistry of generations of brewers around the globe. Every year we dip our toes (and tongues) into this ocean of fermented wonderment and see what new taste treasures have washed ashore.

On the Belgian and would-be Belgian front, we were pleased to be introduced to the clever beers from Belgium’s Belgoo brand: Magus (91 points), Arboo (91 points) and Luppo (89points). These are a good examples of the kind of creative, cross-continental cross-breeding that is going on in Europe as open minded brewers experiment with American hops, while retaining distinctive Belgian malt and yeast character in their brews. Craft pioneer Boston Beer unveiled the first three beers from their new Barrel Room Collection of oak-aged beers: Samuel Adams Stony Brooks Red (94 points), Samuel Adams American Kriek, and New World Tripel (89 points). They caught our interest in our blind tasting room with their vivid dimensional flavors, and afterwards with their unique 750 ml cork-finished packaging, somewhat reminiscent of antique juggling pins.

Chicago’s craft beer powerhouse Goose Island impressed us with their 2010 vintage offerings of Pere Jacques (94 points), Sofie (93 points), Demolition (92 points) and Matilda (92 points); as did Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1 (94 points) and Local 2 (90 points) and the new (to our tasting room) Schmaltz Brewing Co.’s 2009 He’Brew Rejewvenator Ale (93 points). And, in what has become something of a tradition, Canadian craft legends Unibroue maintained serve with their remarkable La Fin du Monde (97 points), Anniversary 17 (97 points), Maudite (93 points), Terrible (93 points), Noir de Chambly (91 points) and Trois Pistoles (89 points).

Also reviewed in this round of our World Beer Championships was the seasonal lager style, maibock. Hofbrauhaus München Maibock (95 points) revealed itself as the maibock to beat, a paragon of classic Bavarian style and drinkability. Domestic craft contenders in this challenging lager arena included Full Sail LTD 02 (92 points), Capital Brewery Maibock (91 points) and Rogue Ales Dead Guy Ale (90 points).

So, enough words, a memorable continental-styled adventure now awaits and you don’t even need tickets or a passport. Explore and enjoy.