I’d Tap That – 50 Beers, 1 Year!

Apparently I have a thing for lists. I stumbled across GQ’s 50 Greatest Beers. Now I’m determined to try them, after all it goes hand in hand with my #99. Try 50 different beers.

At the moment, I just got back from the grocery store and I picked up Anchor Steam, which I have yet to crack open a bottle. I also grabbed one not on their list – Dogfish Head Aprihop. “A serious India Pale Ale brewed with real apricots.” According to Playboy it has “Over-The-Top Smoothness!” I will agree that it is smooth, I am enjoying the not-so-subtle apricot flavor. However, it is a more bitter, strong flavor than I am used to. However, this is why I have set out to try more beer. It’s nice for a change not to be grabbing the typical Corona Light.

Without further adue – THE LIST!

1. Allagash White
The Portland, Maine-based Allagash makes a lot of excellent, wheat-heavy Belgian beers, and this is their flagship: light and bubbly with a beguiling spice mix no one has been able to guess.

2. Anchor Christmas Ale
Anchor has changed their Christmas Ale recipe every season since 1975 (along with their label design), but they hew pretty close to a classic, festive cold-weather brew: rich and fruity with subtle spice. Last year’s had notes of vanilla and cinnamon.

3. Anchor Steam
The one and only true example of this unique style, Anchor’s Steam Beer is a lager in name only. Fermented at higher temperatures than your typical lager, it keeps the style’s crisp dryness but adds fruity esters and extra hops.

4. BrewDog Smokehead
The two Scots behind BrewDog look outside their homeland’s long but languid beer traditions for the inspiration here, storing a pitch-black stout in smokey Scotch barrels to give it an outrageously salty, earthy tang.

5. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Dark stouts usually have hints of cocoa to them already, so the trick with chocolate beers is subtlety. Brooklyn nails it: Not too sweet, not too bitter, but chocolatey enough to make it special.

6. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
Drink this one for its story, as much as for its taste: Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione traveled to the wilds of Paraguay to find one of the hardest, heaviest woods on earth and used it in a tank built to age just this beer. The dark, extra-strong brown ale gets an added kick of vanilla from the wood’s unique oils.

7. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse
Fritz Briem’s is Berlin’s take on wheat beer: yeasty and super-carbonated but with a uniquely tart, bright finish, making it the perfect summer beer (with no need for a pansy-ass lemon slice).

8. Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
Richer, hoppier, and maltier than standard American lagers—or even German ones—but crisp enough to be your new go-to session beer. (Note to non-beer nerds, a session beer is usually one that’s light in alcohol, allowing you to drink several different ones during the course of an evening. Or day.) Dortmunders are tough to find even in the homeland, but thankfully craft breweries like Great Lakes are making them common fare around here.

9. Hitachino Lacto Stout
Skip Hitachino’s more common lemonade-y wheat beer and seek out this harder-to-find stout, made with milk sugar for extra creaminess and a slightly sour, Hershey-bar-like kick.

10. Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
One of the best examples of a notoriously tricky style, this one tastes more like the foam of a cappuccino than the espresso, which is to say light, smooth, and just sweet enough to balance the stout’s natural bitterness.

11. Leelanau Whaleback White
Leelanau is the side project of Ron Jeffries, who also brews at Jolly Pumpkin. Their wheat beer is cidery, sour, fruity, and extra dry, thanks to aging with wild yeasts in French oak barrels.

12. Lion Stout
If you only have one Sri Lankan stout before you kick, make it this one. Creamy and bittersweet, with a rich tan head and notes of fruit. Plus, it comes in cans—perfect for spicing up your next barbecue.

13. Ommegang Hennepin
Earthy yeast plus lemon and clove in a supremely drinkable amber body. This is the best American saison there is.

14. Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale
Packed with tons of citrus from a heavy dose of American hops—it smells like weed—this is the quintessential stateside IPA.

15. Oskar Blues Old Chub
Thick, sweet, and insanely malty; ruby-red, light on the hops, and heavy on the toffee notes. Old Chub outdoes all other Scottish Ales, even though it’s made 4,000 miles from Glasgow.

16. Picobrouwerij Alvinne Melchior
Melchior is a solid English-style barleywine—strong, sweet, and malty, with notes of rich, dark fruit—but the extra kick from an infusion of mustard seeds pushes it into mad-science territory. It’s so crazy, it has to work.

17. Pretty Things Jack D’Or
They call this one a “Saison Americain” thanks to a heavy dose of citrusy, west-coast hops. Belgian yeasts give it a sour kick and a blend of oats and barley smooth it out.

18. Rodenbach Grand Cru
The classic Flemish red: funky, vinegary, and dark. A blend of one part young and two parts barrel-aged beers makes it deliciously sour with notes of boozy fruit.

19. Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Rogue’s Dead Guy is a strong, German-style maibock—full of hearty malts with a bit of spice from Saaz hops.

20. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
The classic oatmeal stout: soft and creamy, with just a touch of roasted bitterness, like the soft poke of feathers in a down pillow.

21. Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale
Sierra’s Harvest Ale marked a new trend for west-coast brewers when it debuted in 1996, and it’s still the best of the (slightly-bigger-these-days) bunch: wet hopping, in which hops go straight from the vine to the brew kettle without being dried. They use cascade and centennial, grade-A west-coast citrus bombs, with extra earthy, grassy flavors unique to hops picked and brewed right at their prime.

22. Sixpoint Sweet Action
Sweet and very hoppy, with a little grass and citrus thrown in. It’s mellowed a bit from the original recipe—their Double Sweet Action is closer to the roots, but harder to find.

23. Smuttynose Barleywine
This is one of the best barleywines around, but a bit challenging to get into. It’s heavy on the caramel, and thick as syrup, like a sherry. Drink it like one, too: This is a perfect dessert beer.

24. Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Heavy, thick, and midnight black. Imperial is an understatement—this is a meal in a bottle. If you can find it, try it barrel-aged for an extra level of bourbony, syrupy goodness.

25. Stone Old Guardian
Old Guardian is a perfect entry-level barleywine. Not heavy and thick, like the more intense varieties, and with extra hops to balance the boozy, fruity malts.

26. Trumer Pils
Forget Pilsner Urquell—that watered-down swill has nothing on Trumer. Started in Salzburg 400 years ago but now made in the Berkeley hills, it’s a radically flavorful pils, bitter and bubbly and extra dry with slight floral notes from heavy hopping.

27. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Cloudy, spicy, crisp, and tart, this might be the perfect wheat beer, and a summertime staple.

28. AleSmith Speedway Stout
This artisanal San Diego brewery boasts a line-up that is high in quality, and often in ABV. Speedway Stout just barely edges out their other offerings with its coffee infused richness that opens up more flavors as the beer warms.

29. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
This brewery’s expansion may be built on the deserved growth of Racer 5 IPA, but you’ll be greatly rewarded for tracking this down. Everything is on overdrive with huge hops, caramel malts ,and spicy rye, but the balance it maintains makes for an impressive brew.

30. The Bruery Saison Rue
The awards and accolades just keep coming for these young brewers. The line-up is always adventurous, but perfectly restrained rather than overt. Saison Rue is a farmhouse-style beer with hints of rye and wild yeast strains that make for a deliciously complex drink.

31. Cantillon Iris
The Iris is the flower of Brussels, and this annual brew is barrel-aged for two years. While it is spontaneously fermented like other Cantillon lambics, it differs in that it contains only pale malts and a portion of fresh hops (versus wheat and dried hops). It is tart but complex. Substitute this for sparkling wine and your guests will be glad you did.

32. De Struise Pannepot
A vintage-released Belgian Quadruple Ale that is sent forth into the world at least two years after it was brewed. The combination of flavors is compelling and rich while the carbonation keeps the heft of the beer from crushing the palate—which makes for a surprisingly easy drinking 10% ABV. An oak-aged 2008 batch is soon to be released.

33. Dieu du Ciel Route des Epices
This Montreal brewery is single-handedly raising the craft-brewing profile of Canada. This selection may not be their best known but it is probably their most intriguing, with its use of peppercorn. The flavoring is unmistakable, and pairs incredibly well with smoked meats.

34. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
What can we say? If the West Coast Style IPA (arguably) became the USA’s contribution to the beer world and is itself an exaggerated version of the English IPA, what is the next level? How about a version boasting 18% alcohol and 120 International Bitterness Units? (Note to non-beer nerds: That’s crazy bitter.) Be careful with that 12-oz. bottle.

35. Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
Visitors to this Dexter, Michigan, brewery could be forgiven for mistaking it for a winery. Ron Jeffries barrel-ages every release. Most batches are then blended to provide consistency, but all have wonderful tart elements that the used barrels help to impart. La Roja is a delicious sour brown ale in a line-up of excellent brews.

36. Marin Brewing Company IPA
In our minds, this is the quintessential interpretation of the West Coast Style IPA. The aroma, color, malt balance, and bittering are perfect and eminently drinkable. There isn’t an element that overshadows another, and it’s an excellent baseline by which to enjoy other IPAs.

37. Orval
Only one beer is made at this Trappist brewery, but that is more than enough. Orval is a worldwide classic Belgian Ale. Proprietary yeasts imparted during secondary fermentation give Orval its subtle and distinctive sourness.

38. Port Brewing Shark Attack Red
What started as (and still is) a small pizza chain is now a full-fledged and high-quality craft brewery. Port Brewing is also responsible for the Lost Abbey line; Shark Attack Red is their Imperial Red Ale. It’s wonderfully rich and balanced by intense hopping.

39. Russian River Pliny the Elder
Perhaps the most well known and sought out double IPA on the planet. The reputation is well earned, as the brewers have found the magic spot between huge flavors and drinkability. This is a hop head’s dream.

40. Saison Dupont
The style has been making a welcome comeback, and this one is probably the best known progenitor. Saisons are traditionally delicate but flavorful, complex but not overt. They are excellent beers for food pairing, and Saison Dupont is the perfect match for a huge range of flavors.

41. Schneider Aventinus
Consistently recognized as one of the top beers in the world, Aventinus is a wheat doppelbock with flavors of bread, caramel, and fruit, and a slightly bitter finish. And the carbonation level makes it a very drinkable 8%. A classic.

42. Westvleteren Abt 12
This Trappist beer is available only at the source and there are strict limits as to how much one can purchase. The monks only make enough to run the monastery. Its difficulty to obtain aside (but not discounted), “Westy” 12 is widely considered one of the best in the world, and is often aged for several years.

43. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil
Yep, it’s the color of old engine oil. (Is there not a manlier name for a beer?) And, while we haven’t actually tasted old engine oil, we’re going to say that it tastes nothing like it. A perfect balance of roasted coffee flavor and chocolate, with a slightly bitter finish. For a heavy beer it’s surprisingly drinkable.

44. Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
This medium- to full-bodied brew first hits you with a huge toasty espresso taste and then with a bitter, hoppy finish. The Colorado-based Great Divide recommends drinking it for breakfast, but with a cloying high 9.5% ABV you’ll need to take a nap for lunch. (Also note the great divide wild raspberry.)

45. Double Mountain Black Irish Stout
Why do we import Guinness when we have this right here? Brewed in Oregon, this has that creaminess you love in Guinness, but with real flavor—pleasantly roasty, with a hint of dark-chocolate bitterness.

46. Samuel Adams Utopias
It’s hard to call this a beer because it has no carbonation, has the consistency of brandy, is best sipped from a nosing glass, and, oh yeah, it costs $150 for a 24-oz. bottle. But it’s worth a taste if you come across it at a bar: complexly sweet, like a port.

47. Founders KBS
A couple other breweries have been messing around with old bourbon (and wine and scotch and sherry…) barrels lately, but Founders is tops: their thick-as-molasses Breakfast Stout, made with coffee and chocolate, is the perfect match for the intense warming, fruity flavors imparted by the barrels it rests in for a full year.

48. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
We can’t pronounce it either, but don’t let that keep you from drinking it. Simply ask for it at your finer beer store or bar as “that German Smoke Beer,” and they’ll most likely bring you this: a beer made with malt toasted over an open fire that gives it a pleasantly smoky flavor—like liquid BBQ.

49. Russian River Valley Brewing Co. Beatification
Perhaps the wildest American Wild Ale out there. Mouth-puckeringly sour, funky like a barnyard, with a little bit of oak (it’s aged in barrels). Beatification is a super-intense beer that you will either hate or become addicted to.

50. Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale
This is like drinking a Sour Patch Kid. Light, with a pleasant, palate-cleansing sourness, it’s the perfect partner to a pile of Belgian frites and mussels. Or anything you want to eat a whole bucket of.

And some cheap beers worthy of their mention:
1. Magic Hat #9
2. Red
3. Yuengling


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