CVIndependent

Tue08202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Whether you’re new to craft beer or are already familiar with some of the best and brightest brewers across our 50 states, this non-comprehensive and unofficial list of 25 great craft beers is a good start.

Keep in mind there are now more than 5,000 breweries nationwide, so this is just a taste of all the amazing beers available. In no particular order:

1. AleSmith Old Numbskull: American Barleywine (11 percent ABV)

This barleywine has won three Great American Beer Festival awards and two World Beer Cup medals. It’s extremely well-balanced and full-bodied, and can be paired with anything from roasted meats and stews to a variety of pungent cheeses.

2. Allagash White: Witbier (5 percent ABV)

Spiced with a special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel, this Belgian-style wheat beer has won numerous awards, including gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015, and gold at the World Beer Cup in 1998, 2010 and 2012. Clove, banana and orange notes dominate the taste, but in a deliciously balanced and subtle way.

3. Allagash Black Ale: Belgian-Style Stout (7.5 percent ABV)

Allagash brews some of the most delicious craft beers on the market. Technically, there is no such thing as a traditional Belgian stout, but the good folks at Allagash don’t always necessarily follow the rules. This beer is a little easier to drink than some regular stouts and finishes clean.

4. Bell’s Expedition Stout: Russian Imperial Stout (10.5 percent ABV)

Chocolate, dark fruits, coffee and molasses come together in this warming, super-smooth and complex beer. This is one of the best Russian imperial stouts on the market, and one that gets even better with age.

5. Brauerei Aying Ayinger Celebrator: Dark Doppelbock (6.7 percent ABV)

This is a full-bodied beer showing off notes of caramel and toasted malts, and mild notes of dark fruit. Touches of alcohol warmth give it a gorgeous, long finish.

6. Cigar City Guava Grove: Farmhouse Ale (8 percent ABV)

This award-winning brewery brews Guava Grove in tribute to Tampa, Fla.’s fruity nickname. It’s made with a French strain of Saison yeast, with a secondary fermentation with pink guava puree. With this beer, experience barnyard flavors, carbonation, guava (of course), pepper, citrus, watermelon, clove and wheat.

7. Deschutes The Abyss: American Double/Imperial Stout (11 percent ABV)

You’ll want to dive into The Abyss at least once, thanks to its nearly immeasurable depth and complexity. This is barrel-aged for 12 months in bourbon, Oregon oak and pinot noir barrels.

8. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA: India Pale Ale (9 percent ABV)

It’s named after the amount of time it’s continuously hopped, providing smack-you-in-the-face hop bitterness, while a good amount of malt sweetness provides balance. Notes of pine, pineapple and honey lend to its drinkability.

9. Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA: American IPA (7.5 percent ABV)

This is pretty darn close to a perfect beer, in my book. The bouquet is crammed with Pacific Northwest hops. Notes of lemon, pineapple, papaya and pine give it a juicy and resinous quality.

10. Founders KBS: Imperial Stout (12.4 percent ABV)

This world-class beer is available starting this month (April), so mark your calendars. Take your time to fully taste all of the layers: coffee, brown sugar, chocolate, vanilla, licorice, charred nuttiness and bourbon. After sitting in oak bourbon barrels for a year, KBS emerges with a boozy sweet bourbon profile.

11. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout: Imperial Stout (13.8 percent ABV)

From the bottle: “The original bourbon barrel aged Stout”; “Since 1992”; “Stout aged in bourbon barrels.” It smells like a bourbon dessert with sweet caramel up front. The complex notes include plums, figs and milk chocolate. This is decadence in a glass.

12. Green Flash Palate Wrecker: Double IPA (9.5 percent ABV)

The appropriately named Imperial IPA has thick, sticky, chunky lacing and pistol-blazing intense bitterness. The pineapple, mango and grapefruit sweetness perfectly balance with the insanely high number of IBUs.

13. Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela: Pumpkin Ale (5.9 percent ABV)

This is a perfect fall beer (that’s also good now!) with notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, chocolate, caramel, lemon zest, sour cherries and toast. This isn’t your average pumpkin ale, as it finishes with a refreshing tart sourness.

14. Kern River Brewing Citra: Imperial IPA (8 percent ABV)

This citrus-forward beer is almost faultless. There are lingering notes of lemon cake, candied mango and chocolate-covered strawberries. Citra is bright and fresh with a creamy mouth-feel.

15. Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale: Pale Ale (7.5 percent ABV)

The balance between malt and hop makes this wheat ale outstanding. With grapefruit, pine, mandarin and a hint of wheat malt sweetness, the flavor is bright and clean, with an excellent harmony of citrus hops and sweet malts.

16. Pizza Port/Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme: American Wild Ale (11 percent ABV)

The brewery made famous for brewing amazing Belgian-style beers decided to brew an unconventional sour brown ale in 1999. Made from four fermentable sugars, it is fully fermented before being placed in bourbon barrels, where it ages for one year with sour cherries. Think cherry, oak, vanilla, bourbon and brown sugar.

17. Russian River Pliny the Elder: Double IPA (8 percent ABV)

Beer-drinkers have been known to stand in line to enjoy this limited-supply double IPA. This is the easiest IPA to imbibe. It’s powerful, fragrant and amazingly complex, yet very smooth and clean. It’s worth the hype.

18. Saison Dupont: Saison (6.5 percent ABV)

This must-try beer is a top fermentation beer, with re-fermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed at La Brasserie Dupont’s farm-brewery. Hints of banana, pineapple, tropical fruit, pear and black pepperfinish with a German hop flavor. In the background hangs a light screen of barnyard funk.

19. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: American Pale Ale (5.6 percent ABV)

This is a homebrewer’s dream that turned into one of the most iconic beers in the craft-beer world. A generous amount of premium Cascade hops give the pale ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor. Its piny and citrus-hop aroma comes with a slightly dry finish.

20. Stone Brewing: Imperial Russian Stout (10.6 percent ABV)

Go ahead and enjoy this decadent, black-as-night beer now, or age at cellar temperature. Or buy two and do both! This is heavy on dark fruits, molasses, chocolate, coffee and licorice, with a hint of alcohol burn.

21. The Alchemist Heady Topper: Double IPA (8 percent ABV)

Brewed out of Vermont, this is a world-class beer. The scent is a burst of tropical hops like pineapple, mango, grapefruit and peach. A hoppy start flexes and finishes into a malty finish, while staying incredibly smooth.

22. The Bruery Black Tuesday: Imperial Stout (19.2 percent ABV)

Released on the final Tuesday of October every year, this beer is The Bruery’s take on a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout. The nose is typically all dark chocolate, roasted coffee, toasted oak and bourbon. Despite its decadence and booziness, it’s wonderfully smooth.

23. 3 Floyds Zombie Dust: Pale Ale (6.2 percent ABV)

This intensely hopped undead pale ale pours peachy gold and gives off big aromas of citrus and tropical fruits. The taste is toasty buttered breadiness, and ripe tropical fruitiness. This is an exceptional beer.

24. 3 Floyds Dark Lord: Russian Imperial Stout (15 percent AB)

This RIS is brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla and Indian sugar. Not for the faint of heart, Dark Lord is among the most opaque and black stouts on the market. What you smell is delivered in the taste—dark chocolate, cherries, plums, caramel, roasted malt and burnt sugar.

25. Victory Prima Pils: German Pilsner (5.3 percent ABV)

This signature pils is brewed with heaps of whole flower European hops and fine German malts. You may notice grass, cracker and pepper notes on the nose, and pear, white grape and hoppy bitterness in the taste. Enjoy it alone or with seafood or burgers.

Published in Beer

I like my beer like I like my men: tall, dark and handsome. And what is the darkest beer of them all?

Well, hello, stout!

Stout originally meant “proud” or “brave,” but morphed into “strong” after the 14th century—and this handsome, brave and strong beer now has its own day of celebration.

International Stout Day will be celebrated for the third year on Friday, Nov. 8. How did this boozy holiday come to be? I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of celebrating a beer style or locale. Just like vineyards and the resulting wines tell the story of the people, the weather and the land behind them, beer also tells a story about its creation. In 2011, I reached out to other beer bloggers and breweries—and the day was born.

The first stouts were produced in the 1730s. The Russian imperial stout was inspired by brewers in the 1800s to win over the czar. “Imperial porter” came before “imperial stout”; the earliest noted use of “imperial” to describe a beer comes from the Caledonian Mercury of February 1821, when a coffeehouse in Edinburgh was advertising “Edinburgh Ales, London Double Brown Stout and Imperial Porter, well worth the attention of Families.”

Guinness has been brewing porters since about 1780 and is famous for its dry or Irish stout. Oatmeal stout beer is one of the sweeter and smoother stouts—and the fact that we today have oyster stout and chocolate stout is proof that society is ever-evolving. (The first known use of oysters as part of the stout-brewing process actually happened way back in 1929, in New Zealand.)

Thanks to today’s craft-beer revolution, you’ll find an amazing array of stouts—perfect not only for a chilly day, but for pairing with gourmet meals. Thankfully, Coachella Valley breweries and bars are celebrating on Nov. 8 with a variety of special beers and special events.

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-346-8738) will have two specialty stouts on tap: Anderson Valley’s Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, and AleSmith Speedway Stout

To make the Bourbon Barrel Stout, the folks at Anderson Valley take their Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and age it in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for three months. Anderson Valley has an exclusive deal to get the barrels fresh from Wild Turkey’s “dumping room.” This ensures consistency and freshness in the barrel—and eventually, the beer. Despite the use of liquor barrels, the beer is on the lower side of the alcohol scale.

Alternatively, weighing in with an impressive 12 percent alcohol volume, the San Diego-born Speedway Stout starts with strong coffee and dark-chocolate sensations. Alongside sweet notes of molasses are alcohol heat and dark fruit undertones; this is a delicious beer.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. (30640 Gunther St., Thousand Palms; 760-343-5973) will have Condition Black on tap. The black IPA is a marriage of stout and IPA styles—featuring the malt complexity of a stout, and the hop bitterness of an IPA. Using multiple dark-roasted malts like midnight wheat, barley, two dark crystal malts and chocolate malts, this Cascadian dark beer is a new style in and of itself. It’s not technically a stout—these beers typically lacks the roasted taste and body of a strong stout, but are much maltier than a typical IPA.

While Eureka! Burger (74985 Highway 111, Indian Wells; 760-834-7700) may be the new kid on the local restaurant block, the Indian Wells location of the Southern California chain is no stranger to craft beer and will join the festivities with stouts and barrel-aged stouts from breweries throughout the U.S. Stouts are always a tasty accompaniment to a juicy burger!

Stouts also make for a decadent pairing with a fine cigar, so visit Mel and the rest of the gang at Fame Lounge (155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-320-2752) for a stout and cigar; they almost always have at least one on tap.

The craft-beer advocates over at Schmidy’s Tavern (72286 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-837-3800) in Palm Desert will be offering some savory stouts as well; their selection had yet to be announced as of our deadline.

While visiting these fine establishments, make sure you share your stout with your friends! Are you a member of Untappd? Log in and post what beer you’re drinking—and get the 2013 specialty Stout Day badge!

What other stouts should you look for and enjoy?

Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout was released at the end of September and is available on draft and in 750-milliliter bottles. This stout is full of midnight wheat, roasted barley, Northern Brewer hops and chocolate malt. Check out the Ommegang website and click “find a beer” to see where it’s available.

• Founders Brewing can do no wrong. The world-class Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an imperial brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year. The alcohol volume is 11.2 percent, so take your time, and savor this big beer. Smell the succulent scent of rich dark chocolate, plums, vanilla-cream, cherry, coffee and bourbon. The more you sip it, the more this perfectly aged beer will warm and reveal notes of bourbon and oak.

Firestone Walker Brewing’s Parabola is a whopping 13-percent-alcohol Russian imperial stout. Pouring a dark caramel-brown color, this delicately smooth stout has flavors of sweet malts, charred barrel notes, coconut, vanilla, bourbon spiciness and chocolate. The immense complexity is nothing short of artful. Watch for their “bottled on” dates—located on the necks or bottom left corner of the label. Buy a couple, and age one in a dark place to drink on next year’s Stout Day. It will take a little edge off the bourbon and round off the flavors. You won’t be disappointed.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is brewed every winter, and the imperial stout has won numerous awards. What makes it special? The addition of wheat and specialty malts, and the use of three mashes. Beginning with cocoa, caramel malt and dark fruit, the beer features roasted bitterness, and finishes with pleasing alcohol warmth—as the chocolate continues to send ribbons of its bouquet to the palate. This is a wonderful stout.

Southern Tier Crème Brulee is an imperial stout brewed with vanilla coffee beans. Yes, please! You’ll find vanilla, custard and brown sugar in the nose. Serve this in a tulip glass, snifter or oversized wine glass. Want to really dive into dreamy decadence? Enjoy this with bananas foster or over vanilla ice cream.

Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout gets the Beer Goddess award for the coolest name. The famed imperial stout has been brewed since 2007; the original Sexual Chocolate contains nine different malts and four different hop varietals, in addition to its “chocolate”—organic Peruvian cocoa nibs. Foothills Brewing has been awarded seven Great American Beer Fest medals since 2006; three of those went to Sexual Chocolate, as did a World Beer Cup medal in 2010. Because this is a limited release, you may not find it in time for this year’s Stout Day—so keep an eye out for the new version that will become available for next Stout Day!

• The 2013 Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is part of Stone’s “Odd Beers for Odd Years” program, which began in 2011; the series introduces new, or “odd,” versions of Stone Imperial Russian Stout in tandem with the classic version during odd-numbered years. Stone Imperial Russian Stout is one of the highest-rated Stone beers and has a “world class” score on BeerAdvocate.com. The beer features espresso beans from San Diego’s Ryan Bros. Coffee; Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele notes that the coffee enhances the perception of the chocolate. The taste is substantial, yet balanced. The 11 percent alcohol volume is just slightly noticeable. Pair it with a flavored cigar like Java Robusto or Camacho Triple Maduro.

• Deschutes’ The Abyss American Imperial Stout pours an obsidian black, after being aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with licorice and molasses. The 11-percent-alcohol beer has barrel-aged character, but it’s never overpowering. Light nuances of oak, vanilla and bourbon give it great complexity. It’s definitely on par with a fine dark rum or bourbon as a mature sipper.

• The 2013 version of Allagash Fluxus has citrus notes. The beer is brewed differently every year to commemorate Allagash’s anniversary, and this year’s Fluxus is a porter brewed with a blend of 2-row, coffee and chocolate malts, as well as blood-orange pulp and zest. Yes, I’m including a porter on the list. I won’t go off on a craft-beer-style lecture, but I will say that “stout” has typically meant a stronger version of porter. So, close enough.

Three Floyds Brewing’s Dark Lord Imperial Stout is like chocolate mousse in a glass. Wonderful for aging, Dark Lord boasts an alcohol volume of 15 percent. Sweet molasses, coffee bitterness, caramel notes and dark fruit come in waves, all while offering a nice sweetness and a velvety mouth feel. All bow before the Dark Lord! This is a phenomenal beer.

Ten Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter is a chocolaty, higher-alcohol porter that’s a perfect collaboration beer for Stout Day. Tonya Cornett from Bend, Ore.’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company wanted a beer she could put in the cellar and enjoy for years to come. So, pick up a couple of bottles; enjoy one on Nov. 8; and tuck one away for Stout Day 2014. The sturdy yet velvety base of imperial porter holds up beautifully with the addition of the avocado honey, jasmine and calendula flowers.

Cheers!

Published in Beer