(Photo by Jill McNamara)

Big Bend Brewing Co.
Alpine, Texas
5.5% | Hefeweizen

Big Bend’s National Park Hefeweizen has earned the brewery a number of awards, most recently a gold medal at the World Beer Cup this past May. With bubble gum, banana, clove and wheat bread on the nose, this has the aroma of a true-to-style German hefeweizen. Those notes carry through on the palate, yet the beer feels a little thinner and drinks more cleanly than some examples of the style. That’s not a fault; it’s simply to say that Big Bend’s Hefeweizen comes across more as a hybrid between a German hefeweizen and an American wheat. With a high carb and a light body, it’s easy to see why this super refreshing beer has garnered so many awards.

Carton Brewing Co.
Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey
5% | Pale Ale w/ Oats & Lactose

Jer 1 is part of Carton’s new Brewers Board series, through which the brewers get a chance to flex their creativity by exploring new styles, processes and ingredients. Dubbed a “lact-oat pale ale,” Jer 1 is brewed with a range of different malts (pils, wheat, carafoam, acidulated and oats) and hops (Citra, Galaxy, Falconer’s Flight, Amarillo and Cascade). It is fermented with a London III yeast that is traditionally used for British styles, but which has also found favor among brewers of hazy IPAs as of late.

The nose offers up pineapple and grapefruit, as well as green onion and melon rind. Orange peel, dankness and a light wheatiness come through on the palate, and the beer finishes with a firm bitterness. The oats provide the beer with body, leaving you wanting more after each sip.

Elysian Brewing Co.
Seattle, Washington
6% | Pale Ale

This beer, says Elysian, “was brewed to fuse the infamous malt bodies of British ales with the mysteria of Pacific Northwest hops.” Though we’re not sure what British malts did to deserve such notoriety, this beer does not come across as a hybrid of English and American styles, nor does it seem all that pale ale-ish.

But think of this as a hoppy amber ale, and I don’t think you’d be disappointed. A caramel-heavy malt bill is complemented by old-school hops (Cascade, Simcoe, Chinook and Magnum), which contribute sticky, resinous notes of pine and orange peel. It’s a well balanced, refreshing and no doubt food-friendly beer.

Burial Beer Co. & Other Half Brewing Co.
Asheville, North Carolina
8.5% | Double IPA

The tenth collaboration between Asheville’s Burial Beer Co. and Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing Co., Prismatic Visions is double-dry-hopped with Citra, Motueka and Centennial (that last one seems to be making more of a comeback lately). Those hops come through vibrantly, with pineapple and papaya leading the way, melon and juicy orange just behind. Despite the blast of hop flavors and a substantial bitterness, the beer is well balanced. Lactose adds the lightest touch of sweetness on the finish.

Avery Brewing Co.
Boulder, Colorado
8% | Imperial Oktoberfest Lager

A couple years ago, Avery Brewing Co. retired seven of its beers–including The Kaiser, the brewery’s imperial Oktoberfest. The fans apparently voiced their displeasure upon not being able to get their perennial fall favorite last year, however, because the brewery brought the ousted dictator back from the dead. And for the first time, The Kaiser is available in cans.

Avery is known for its bigger beers, and at 8% its version of an Oktoberfest is indeed bigger than most. The heftier malt bill amplifies the traditional Oktoberfest notes of caramel and toasted bread, and also brings in some darker fruit. Yet despite the higher ABV, the beer finishes dry and goes down quickly. Though it is still most reminiscent of an Oktoberfest, it somehow manages to also call to mind two other German styles: the richer doppelbock, and the more refreshing festbier. Let’s hope The Kaiser is here to stay.

Wiley Roots Brewing Co.
Greeley, Colorado
12% | Rye-Whiskey-Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout w/ Vanilla

This imperial stout from Wiley Roots Brewing Co. spent 16 months in rye whiskey barrels from Denver’s A.D. Laws Whiskey House, after which it received an addition of Papua New Guinea vanilla beans at a rate of a pound per barrel.

Vanilla goes a long way in beer, so you can rightly expect  a huge sweetness from this addition. The nose is dominated by it, however there is a subtle tartness present as well that, combined with the vanilla, calls to mind cherry cobbler. It’s a thick and luscious stout, with assertive notes of vanilla, milk chocolate and rye whiskey. Behind those, you’ll find more subtle notes: spice from the wood and whiskey, pecans, and the aforementioned cherry cobbler from the nose manifesting itself more as a cherry almond liqueur on the palate. Sixteen months well spent.

Six to Seek celebrates the best beers we’ve tasted this week. Check out our best beers of weeks past here