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Beer Mistress's Top 10 Lists
Top 10 Summer Beers
Summer is winding down, but depending on your locality, there is still plenty of warm weather left to be enjoyed. I used to think that summer beers were watery, tasteless, and super low in ABV, but this summer has opened my eyes and tastebuds to a variety of delicious
warm weather beers.
1. Green Flash Trippel – 9.7% ABV
Tripels are my favorite summer style because they’re crisp and refreshing while bringing wave after wave of flavor. Green Flash’s Trippel has powerful flavors of banana, clove, and coriander but isn’t as sweet as some other versions of the style.
2. Saison Dupont – 6.5% ABV
A true classic, Saison Dupont is a Belgian farmhouse ale that withstands the test of time. Unfiltered with a creamy white head, this saison brings to the table well-balanced flavors of pear, apple, yeast, and malt. Coupled with the moderate ABV, it’s perfect for almost any day – but especially a warm summer day.
3. Weyerbacher Merry Monks – 9.3% ABV
Back to tripel – please don’t think that I’m not being inclusive of other styles, I just find tripels to be *just right* this time of year. Merry Monks should be consumed with caution as it’s quite smooth considering the higher alcohol content. Adding to the typical tripel palate, flavors of tropical fruits and a light sweetness, it’s practically a fruity cocktail with brisk effervescence.
4. Lancaster Brewing Company Hefeweizen – 6% ABV
You will have to find LBC’s Hefeweizen on draught somewhere because unfortunately, they do not bottle it, but it’s definitely worth ordering. I love this beer because it’s smooth, easy to drink, rich, cloudy, and satisfying.
5. Gouden Carolus Classic Belgian Strong Dark Ale – 8.5% ABV
Darker than many of the beers on this list, the warm flavors of milk chocolate, caramel and brown sugar abound in conjunction with well balanced notes of bready yeast, pears, and apples. The Classic is very similar to a Belgian Quad but with less dried fruit, and I find this combination more refreshing. I know it sounds complex, but trust me on this one.
6. Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Cider – 6.9% ABV
Cider is great in the heat, but this is cider to the next level. Aged in whisky casks, Thistly Cross has a wonderfully complex flavor of oak, vanilla, and apple. This isn’t your mother’s hard cider, but you may convert her with this dynamic flavor profile.
7. Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted – 7% ABV
An American IPA, there is more to this beer than hops. Full of spicy aromas, apricot, red grapefruit and the bite of lemongrass this is an excellent IPA from a country obsessed with IPA. Available year round, you will probably not want to limit yourself to Two Hearted only in the summer.
8. Petrus Aged Pale – 7.3% ABV
What’s more refreshing than a sour? Flavors of sour fruits, Champagne, green apples, and oak balance into this tart concoction that is surprising but never disappointing. You probably won’t want to drink several of these in a row, but having one when you’re hot and sweaty is perfection.
9. Left Hand Milk Stout – 6% ABV
This is the softest stout you will find. Approachable but rich, low in ABV and my tool for converting many “non-stout” lovers. There is a pleasant sweetness to this milk stout that isn’t overwhelming or heavy – a winner any time.
10. Curious Traveler Shandy – 4.4% ABV
A grown-up Arnold Palmer, this particular Shandy tastes like candy to me. Iced tea, lemonade, and spritzer unite into an indulgent and refreshing (if technically not beer) beverage.
Top 10 Beers in a Can
Just like wine with a twist off cap instead of a sophisticated looking cork (say nothing of a fake cork all together), craft beer in cans has been met with significant resistance among the beer snobs of the world. The truth is, if done right, cans are: portable, easy to open, stackable, less breakable, and keep out damaging light which can lead to skunking. Cans are catching on with brewers and beer lovers alike, and these are my favorites. For some more in-depth and lively commentary on some of the below beers, see Episode 15 of the Beer Mistress’s Microbrew Review for our “Can-Umvirate.”
1. Oskar Blues - Ten Fidy
Two Words: Engine Oil. I know that's not a description which most would find appealing, but the dark beer lovers among you will understand. This beer is heavy, black as night, and extremely viscous. I find it an excellent pairing for a rich chocolate dessert or to cut through the sweetness of my Bourbon Butterscotch cake.
2. DC Brau- On the Wings of Armageddon
DC Brau is the best thing to come out of our nation's capital since the Washington Monument. All of their beer is ahead of the curve, inventive, and excellently crafted, but I am partial to On the Wings of Armageddon. An Imperial IPA, this 9.2%ABV world class beer is the whole package. There is a strong malt backbone with a citrus complexity and a bitter aftertaste, all with a thick, lingering head. The flavor changes with each sip- you'll never accuse Armageddon of being boring or watery- in fact, it's one the of the best DIPA's I've found.
3. Sixpoint Brewery- Resin
Called New York ’s answer to Heady Topper, Resin pours clean and golden with a thick, creamy head. Located in Brooklyn , NY and founded in 2004, Sixpoint takes their beer and branding seriously. Sixpoint’s slogan is, “Beer is Culture” and one sip of their Resin reminds you that you’re tasting thousands of years of brewing history. The sweet tropical aroma, pine character, and bitter finish make this an awesome IPA.
4. 21st Amendment- Hop Crisis
21st Amendment embodies almost every fun and trendy aspect of microbreweries: creative beer, witty names, great artwork, and they’re embracing the can ahead of the curve. This Imperial IPA is sweet and boozey, but is full of flavors beyond hop bitterness. Citrus hops, orange, pineapple, and grapefruit make this a refreshing option, but caramel, vanilla, and oak add a welcome complexity.
5. The Alchemist- Heady Topper
Ok, I'll admit it - I have never had this beer, but any Internet search revealing discussions amongst beer geeks will quickly show how popular and polarizing this beer can be. The debate rages over whether this beer is good because The Alchemist made magic or because Heady Topper is so hard to find. Since I cannot judge for myself, I put it in the middle of my list, but encourage you to pick up a can if you have the opportunity... then tell me how it is.
6. Maui Brewing Company- Coconut Porter
This beer is not highly rated on beer review sites, but I have to admit that I quite enjoy it. Though initially skeptical about coconut in beer, I trust that Maui Brewing is the perfect place to find your tropical flavors. I appreciate the subtlety of the coconut and the light richness of the porter. These flavors combined with the low ABV are nice and refreshing on a hot day. A beer lovers' colada for a relaxing afternoon by the pool.
7. Sierra Nevada- Torpedo
I like Sierra Nevada but I do not typically consider them a microbrewery. Like Sam Adams, I think that they have outgrown the label. That being said, Torpedo really brings Sierra Nevada's A Game to the party. Strong, hoppy, affordable and reasonably easy to find, Torpedo won't disappoint. This American IPA is a smooth 7.2%ABV with an excellent balance of hops and malt. Even people who don't consider themselves hops lovers will likely find this APA approachable. Torpedo is a solid choice every time.
8. New Belgium- Shift Pale Lager
New Belgium isn't one of my favorite breweries but every once in awhile they come through with something that surprises me. I appreciate the bready sweetness and carbonation of this lager. It's adaptable for many food and cheese pairing options because there aren't any strong, overwhelming flavors - it's just a well crafted lager. To me, it tastes like America. Quite a feat for a style of beer we stole from the Germans.
9. Anderson Valley - Summer Solstice
It's no secret that I am not generally a lover of summer beers, and Summer Solstice is undoubtedly a summer beer but without falling into the trap of being boring or overly hopsy. It's smooth, creamy, and has a crisp orange creamsicle finish. I've had Summer Solstice in both a bottle and a can, and can definitively say that the can does not affect this beer's unique and refreshing flavor.
10. Young's - Double Chocolate Stout
This sweet, milk stout from England is definitely one of the lower ABV beers on the list (5.2%) but it still packs a flavor punch. To me, this beer is dessert: the dark chocolate (which your tastebuds anticipate after seeing the warm, brown head), the caramel, the vanilla. It's almost like chocolate flan with less calories! I've been drinking this beer for years and it always satisfies, is remarkably consistent, and I actually PREFER it out of a can.
**Honorable Mention** Guinness Draught
Because no canned beer list would be complete without a shout out to Guinness - the standard by which we judge all canned beer - and maybe all beer in general. Guinness is the best flavor for the calorie beer that you will find, and the innovators in Dublin created the widget that allows the canned Guinness to taste like the original draught stout. Soft, thick, smooth, and consistently delicious, Guinness is at its best when it isn't ice cold. Trust me, you'll taste more if it that way. Stay classy, Guinness. The world is watching, and we like what we see.
Top 10 Beers Worth the Splurge
Great craft beer can be expensive, so before you splurge on just anything, take a look at my
Top 10 below to get an idea of what the Beer Mistress thinks is worth the extra cash.
1. Firestone 16 - Anniversary Ale
American Strong Ale, Firestone Walker, CA, USA. This may be the closest thing to a perfect (to my palate) beer I have ever tasted. I mixture of 8 different kinds of beer aged in barrels ranging from bourbon to brandy to tequila, Firestone Walker can likely never recreate this masterpiece. I feel privileged to have tried it, even for the dent it put in my wallet.
2. HopSlam Imperial IPA, Bell ’s Brewery, MI, USA
A double IPA feels like such a stereotypical American answer, but this particular beer is fantastic. It’s well crafted, got a citrus hops kick, but a lingering flavor that continues during the aftertaste. Hard to come by, and only distributed to parts of the US, if you can find this beer, try it. If you can find it on draught… buy it for me.
3. Tripel Karmeliet
It’s time I stop trying to deny it. This is the one beer I can never pass up. It isn’t unfiltered, as I profess to adore, and it isn’t dark and foreboding. It is, simply put, an amazingly crafted beer. It works year round for me: light, crisp, and refreshing in the summer but then bright and festive in the winter. The price is right for any occasion.
4. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch WEASEL
I’ve only had it 3-4 times because it’s so hard to track down, and I would be remiss if I did not specify the WEASEL variety of this beer has that something extra. It’s black, cloudy, and full of tasty debris that makes this 10.9% ABV beer a brunch in a bottle. Best shared with friends, or with some greasy bacon, even non-breakfast eaters will see the bright side of brunch.
5. The Bruery Saison
Buying this beer was a happy accident, but it made me look so smart. This unfiltered, farmhouse saison was a perfect pairing for an adventurous cheese course, but it also adds a fulfilling dynamic to a hot, summer day. Consistently rated 95 and above, this beer is spicy, delicious and affordable.
6. Allagash Curieux
Bourbon Barrel Aged Tripel, ME, USA. This beer never disappoints: if I pull it out at a dinner party, as a podcast feature, or bring it as a hostess gift. Allagash’s Belgian strengths are complemented by the barrel aging and year after year, the results are a magnificent mix of warm oakiness and quality ingredients. Enjoying Curieux makes my winters less blustery and chills my hot summer days.
7. Weyerbacher Riserva
American Wild Ale, PA, USA. I do not like sour beers, but I trust Weyerbacher implicitly and bought this beer on the recommendation of a client. Wow. Magnificently crafted with an attention to detail and respecting both the beer and the berries, Riserva is exquisite. It is difficult to pair with food, though is an excellent complement to several varieties of cheese, Riserva is so refreshing and light, that the 11.4%ABV will likely sneak up on you.
8. Bourbon County Brand Stout
Imperial Stout, Goose Island Beer Co. IL, USA. The only thing that I can imagine improving this beer is age. Luckily, I scored a case of it, so ask me in a few years how much more amazing it becomes. The rich, warm, indulgent flavors of stout and bourbon barrel aging make this a perfect beer for any dark beer lover. For the bourbon lovers amongst, you, I suspect you’ll appreciate that the bourbon flavor comes through more in this beer than almost any other barrel aged beer I’ve tried.
9. St. Bernardus ABT 12
I under appreciate this beer, and I know it, but this Belgian Quad is truly world-class. It’s expertly crafted, well balanced, and reassuringly consistent. It rings in at 10.5%BV, has a stereotypical Belgian taste and aroma, and is full of dark fruits and spices. I frequently pair it with melty cheeses and robust meats.
10. Monk's Café Flemish Sour Ale
Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. Belgium. This complex, sour ale has aromas similar to a lambic, which remain part of the flavor profile with some nutty and cherry characteristics. The carbonated mouthfeel delivers sweet, tart, and sour flavors with a cherry/apple essence. Sour beers are not my favorite, but this is an excellent example of one, and Monk’s café is a legend. A killer combination.