Bourbon County Brand Stout, Goose Island Beer Company, Illinois, USA
This stout does not kid around. Rich black in color with a short caramel-colored head. A very strong aroma of bourbon and vanilla with some figs, and chocolate, molasses, and bourbon, and taste to follow, with added chocolate notes.
Paceña Pico de Oro, Cervecería Boliviana Nacional, La Paz, Bolivia
Taking the gold medal at the World Beer Cup 2012 as the best International Lager, this beer is a favorite in its native Bolivia. Clear gold in color and very clean.
Laurentina Preta, Cervejas de Mocambique, Maputo, Mozambique
This beer is a deep, nearly opaque brown, almost black. Molasses and milk chocolate on the nose, medium body, with flavors of malt, chocolate, and caramel. This beer won first place in the inaugural African Beer Awards Dark Beers category and is the best macrobeer made in Africa today.
Brio, Olgerdin Egill Skallagrimsson, Reykjavik, Iceland
When the brewery a beer is crafted in is named after a Viking poet, you know you're in for something excellent. Brewed with Icelandic mountain water, this Icelandic favorite took the European Bronze medal for German Pale Lager at the 2013 World Beer Awards.
Krinitsa Svetlae, OJSC Krinitsa, Minsk, Belarus
A gold medal in the category "European-Style Mild Lager" in the 2013 European Beer Star, a bronze in the London 2013 International Beer Challenge, and three gold stars in the Superior Taste Award 2013 in Brussels, among other honors: this malty brew is sincerely decorated, and with good reason.
Viaemilia, Birrifico del Ducato, Parma, Italy
A bottom-fermented brew that took a silver medal in the 2010 World Beer Cup, this grassy, hoppy beer pairs beautifully with the prosciutto that also hails from this region.
Komes Porter, Browar Fortuna, Miloslaw, Poland
Porters are historically popular and well-crafted in the Baltics, and this one is the best the region has to offer: it took the European Beer Star 2013 Gold Medal for the best beer in the category. Near black, with a light coffee aroma, this beer is rich, with notes of molasses and chocolate.
Alexander Black, Alexander Brewery, I.Z. Emek Hefer, Israel
The best beer to come out of Israel, this took home the 2013 European Beer Star in its category. A garnety black color, this has some liquorice on the nose and some vanilla notes.
Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier, Braueri Heller, Bamberg, Germany
Brown body with a big white head, this beer has a distinct smoked meat aroma that follows through in the taste, which is balanced by a flavor of cinnamon toast and caramel.
Maine Beer Lunch, Maine Beer Company, Maine, USA
A nose of pine and grapefruit, the hops in this brew are beautifully balanced with malt, allowing notes of tropical fruits to come through. Terrifically clean finish.
Oud Beersel Oude Geuze, Brouwerij Oud Beersel, Beersel, Belgium
A classic Belgian ale, this hazy, honey-colored brew has a wine-like flavor, a lemony tartness, and a kick of spice. Tiny bubbles, zingy carbonation.
Fujizakura Heights Rauch, Fujikankokaihatsu Company, Kawaguchiko-cho, Yamanashi-ken, Japan
This Japanese smoked has taken home several World Beer Awards. Amber in color, this beer has a nose almost redolent of bacon, and the smoked pork taste follows through. Lightly hoppy with some caramel.
Nøgne Ø Porter, Nøgne Ø, Grimstad, Norway
An excellent beer from Norway. Jet black, with an aroma of dark chocolate and strong coffee, and an espresso flavor up front followed by caramel. Strong carbonation.
Duchesse De Bourgogne Verhaeghe, Brouwerij Verhaeghe, West Vlaanderen, Belgium
After two fermentation processes, this ale matures in oak casks. Irish setter red in color, there is a floral aroma and one of sour fruits. Tastes of sweet cherries with a hint of sour apples. Complex and medium-bodied.
Zombie Dust, Three Floyds Brewing Company, Indiana, USA
The label alone makes this intense pale ale worth a gander, but if you come for the atypical art, you'll stay for the superiority of the brew. A nose redolent of pine and citrus, with a flavor that evokes grapefruit and honey.
Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn. Kelheim, Germany
"Legend has it that Aventinus barrels froze during transport in cold winter days. Brewers tasted the liquid that had remained unfrozen and were most deligthed," Schneider & Sohn claims, and we can understand why. This beer is legendary, with a nose of bananas and flavors of dark fruit, cocoa, and clove.
My Antonia, Birra del Borgo, Borgorose, Italy
A collaboration between Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione and Leonardo di Vincenzo of his Birra del Borgo brewery, this beer seems to have found itself as the best of both worlds. A coppery gold with honey notes that turn herbal.
Supplication, Russian River Brewing Company, California, USA
This brown ale is aged for about 12 months in used pinot noir barrels from Sonoma County wineries with cherries and yeasts. The result? Bright, sour fruit, some funk, and the pinot noir barrels make their presence known.
The Abyss, Deschutes Brewery, Oregon, USA
Hints of liquorice in the nose, The Abyss is "dry hopped" with cherry bark and vanilla beans and aged in oak barrels. This one took home gold at both the 2013 European Beer Star and the 2013 Brussels Beer Challenge.
Rewired, Wired Brewing, Mayfield, New Zealand
An atypical brown ale, and an exceptional one. This is complex, with a caramel, toffee nose. Hints of milk chocolate and roasted nuts, although balanced with hops, and a fairly high carbonation.
Trappist Westvleteren 12, Westvleteren Brewery, Vleterennull, Belgium
This one clearly belongs in the top 50, and some experts would understandably argue that it deserves the number one spot. A true Trappist beer, brewed by Trappist monks, this is a dark chestnut brown, with a nose of dark fruits and brown sugar. Complex and spicy, with hints of fig, this is full with lively carbonation.
Mornington Russian Imperial Stout, Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Victoria, Australia,
Mahogany dark, nearly black, with a small tan head. Raisin, coffee, and chocolate aroma, with flavors that follow. A rich mouthfeel. This beer was the recipient of an Australian International Beer Award.
AleSmith Speedway Stout, AleSmith Brewing Company, California, USA
Opaque black in color with a dark tan head. Chocolate and liquorice aroma with a smoky roasted coffee flavor. Creamy and lush.
Swan Lake Amber Swan Ale, Hyouko Yashiki No Mori Brewery (Swan Lake),Sasakamimura, Kitakanbara-gun, Niigata-ken, Japan
A bright, copper color, floral aroma, the flavor bitter but cut through with toffee. This received the World's Best Amber at the World Beer Awards in 2013.
Redoak Baltic Porter, Baltic Porter, Sydney, Australia
Ebony black, with some liquorice on the nose. Tastes of roasted malts, caramel, and chocolate. Smooth and roasty. This earned the Asia's Best Strong Porter title at the World Beer Awards in 2013.
Spital Dunkel,St. Katharinenspitalstiftung, Regensburg, Germany
This beer is the recipient of a 2013 European Beer Star Gold Award. Brewed in the tradition German style, meaning it follows laws about beer that have been in place for hundreds of years, this is a darker, maltier ale.
Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout,Three Floyds Brewing Company, Indiana, USA
Dense and caramely, with suggestions of chocolate and coffee in the nose, dried fruit and brown sugar on the palate.
Le Trou de Diable, La Bretteuse Brassin Special, Shawinigan, Canada
A Tripel (strong ale) from Québec, creamy and yeasty, with some suggestion of wood and a touch of herbs, then a dry finish.
Avec les Bons Voeux, Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium
Coppery in color, light in body, dry and tart, a very tasty Belgian farmhouse ale.
Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Unibroue, Quebec, Canada
A cloudy, sweetish, yeasty, floral, medium-high-alcohol Quebecois Tripel (the Low Countries term for strong ale), medium in body but very rich in flavor.
Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany
A traditional-style hefeweissbier (unfiltered wheat beer), medium-bodied, with an earthy, forest aroma, well-balanced, fruity, and dry. Very attractive.
Maison de Brasseur Thou, Maison de Brasseur, Pont d'Ain, France
A French-brewed Belgian-style white beer, winey and citrusy, light but flavorful.
St. Bernardus Abt 12, St. Bernardus Brouwerij, Watou, Belgium
Big, rich, spicy, creamy, malty, potent — like drinking high-proof fruitcake with chocolate and caramel thrown in. A good brew for a stormy day.
Duck Duck Gooze, Lost Abbey, California, USA
Sourish in aroma and flavor, full of apples and citrus, with a crisp, tart finish and just enough sweetness for balance.
Duvel, Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV, Breendonk-Puurs, Belgium
Medium-bodied, frothy, yeasty, and delicious, with plenty of spice and a hint of bitterness.
A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Company, California, USA
A smooth, crisp, pale wheat ale with a thin head, tropical fruit on the palate, and a hoppy finish.
Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Brauerei Aying, Aying, Germany
The outlier of German styles, the doppelbock is a heavier, maltier beer with the touches of fruit one comes to expect from german yeasts. Ayinger’s Celebrator is a dark, malty beer with a frothy head, aged for half a year and best served shared with friends or family.
Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrovaný, Plzensky Prazdroj, Plzen, Czech Republic
Pilsner Urquell seems to dominate the market for traditional pilsners, and rightly so. But this unfiltered version of their flagship pilsner offers a smoother, more bitter variation on the tradition founded with Pilsner Urquell.
Parabola, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, California, USA
Firestone’s Parabola is the imperial stout that’s talked about like a fine wine. Don’t be surprised to hear someone mention hints of tobacco and oak, or dark coffee and vanilla. A truly complex imperial stout, sweet and bitter, and often incredibly difficult to find.
Left Hand Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Company, Colorado, USA
In the family of stouts, Milk Stouts are the middle ground, oft overlooked in favor of something small and dry or something big and sweet. Left Hand made the middle ground someplace considerably more interesting with their Milk Stout, a sweet, creamy ale meant to be sipped at a leisurely pace. Look for it on nitro for a true understanding of how nitro improves upon a beer.
Guinness Draught, St. James’s Gate, Dublin, Ireland
The definitive dry Irish stout, this dark beer is neither heavy nor overly bitter. It is the stout by which all other stouts are compared, the beer that created the persistent "did you know they serve it at room temperature in Ireland?" claim from that kid you knew in college who spent a semester in Dublin. Guinness was the beer that defined "beer snobbery" in the 1990’s, and continues to be held in the highest regard by beer lovers around the world.
Bells Hopslam, Bells Brewery, Michigan, USA
A double IPA brewed with Northwest hop varietals may not seem like much to write home about. Perhaps its the elusive nature of Hopslam, causing frantic calls to every beer store in town on just the faintest hint of the rumor they obtained five six-packs. No, it’s probably the touch of honey that permeates each sip, both as the start and the finish on the palette. Or the brilliant hopping schedule, creating a beer citrusy, crisp, bitter, and aromatic. No, it’s probably the honey.
Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company, Michigan, USA
Taking its incredibly popular Breakfast Stout to the next level may have seemed an impossible task for Founders. Cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels you say? Yeah, that’ll do it. An imperial stout in a class of its own, brewed with chocolate and coffee, the KBS is truly for the breakfast aficionado who demands a touch of bourbon with their breakfast beer.
Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, Brasserie Cantillon, Anderlecht, Belgium
Pale golden in color, with a nose both floral and citric, a balanced tartness with hints of green apple and a mild carbonation. This beer has been compared to rieslings and champagnes.
Heady Topper,The Alchemist, Vermont, USA
Incredibly difficult to procure (unless you live within 20 miles of the brewery), this Vermont double IPA is beloved by beer enthusiasts around the world. Award-winning and elusive, this beer sells out the minute it hits the shelves — though rumor is it may soon be available for wider distribution.
Rochefort Trappistes 10, Brasserie Rochefort, Rochefort, Belgium
A traditional Belgian Quadrupel, the Rochefort "Blue Cap" is one of the few true Trappist beers, brewed at a monastery, the process watched over by monks. At 11.3%, this beer is malty and dark, with hints of plum and apricot at colder temperatures, and a complexity that only expands the closer this beer gets to true cellar temperature. A slow-sipping beer with the complexity of a fine scotch or wine.
Orval, Brasserie d'Orval, Florenville, Belgium
An orange, coppery body with a gigantic white head, the smell full of yeast, lemons, and a light — not overpowering — funk. Floral, citric, and complex, this is a medium-bodied, dry beer.
Enjoy by IPA, Stone Brewing, California, USA
Clear golden amber, bright tropical fruits in the nose. Exceptionally sweet for a double IPA with grapefruit flavors with a medium carbonation.
Saison DuPont, Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium
A hazy amber, this beer pours a large white head and has an aroma of fresh baked bread and pear notes. Fresh, dry, and spicy, with a light body, this beer is considered exemplary of a saison.
Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company, California, USA
Hazy, coppery gold in color with an aroma of pine and tropical fruits. Crisp, with perfectly balanced hops and a taste of fresh grapefruit. This beer has taken the gold medal in the World Beer Cup and The Great American Beer Festival.