Before you dive into a list of my favorite craft beers that I’ve had the opportunity to try and would easily drink on a regular basis there’s something you should know. Even as I double checked the list i was hyper aware that the list is a bit thin and missing beers from breweries that are putting out incredible releases. The problem is I am limited to what is readily available and limited in other aspects as well, but I get out and try as much as I can when I can. In all honesty the other issue is that I’ve only really been turned on to hopping around and trying every beer in site over the last couple of years so I still have a lot of ground to cover.
In essence even as I’ve already tried a lot of different beers I still have a long way to go and you all can take the journey with me. Before I get too mushy, I need to remember this is all about beer so let’s just jump into my list of favorite craft beers.
10. New Belgium Brewing Company’s Red Hoptober – I have two things to confess- one, it would have been a lot easier to make a top five list and two, I have not had many New Belgium beers that I really love. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t “hated” anything in particular I just haven’t fallen head over heals for any of their releases. Red Hoptober is about as close as it comes and I will say that it was even closes to love when I had it out of a tap as opposed to the bottle. You’ll notice I usually have a thing for seasonals and that’s my dilemma most of the time. As a fall release it’s nice to break the slew of pumpkin beer releases with something a little hoppier and less pumpkiny.
9. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Ruthless Rye IPA – I only got to try this one recently and I’m not at all shy about including it on this list already. I’m also becomming more and more obsessed with IPAs and this is one of my favorites of the ones I’ve had as of late. It’s hoppy, with a bit of a bite, but it’s also not all that heavy to drink. Sierra Nevada doesn’t appear to be short on fans, but in all honesty this is the first one that I tried that I can’t wait to drink again.
8. Lucky Bucket Brewing Company’s Kriek – I could not resist sneaking in some local flavor on my list and as much as Lucky Bucket continues to grow on me I can’t say that any of their year round bottled releases have hooked me. I will say though that each time they release a small batch that you can try at the brewery or at local bars I always find myself going back for more. Such is the case with their sour cherry kreik that I first tried on a night out with some friends and may be my absolute favorite of their small batch releases. I look forward to seeing some of these find their way to a bottle for storage purposes or just so that I can enjoy them from the comfort of my home on a weeknight after a long day at work and don’t feel like venturing out to a large crowded bar.
7. Boulder Beer Company’s Hazed & Infused – In the last couple years I’ve attempted to try as many beers as possible whenever possible in order to expand my knowledge of beer in general, but also expose my senses to the craft of beer. I’m still working on it to this day no matter how many beers I try, but Boulder’s Hazed & Infused was one of my first forays to the liquor store in the first of many mix and match 6 packs I buy in order to try as many beers as I do and on first taste I knew this was something I really wanted to keep doing. One of the hoppier beers of the first batch I opened myself up to compared to the beers I had been drinking before is still one I pass by at the store and consider drinking again instead of sifting through for something new. I will always remember this one fondly as one that really opened up my mind to trying new beer and helped start me on my way to discovering craft beer and the many different tastes involved.
6. Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Creme Brulee Stout – Of every stout I’ve tried none have come close to the sweetness of Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. Two others I considered for the list that rank among my favorites are Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout and Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout- both of which I only tried recently and I wasn’t really prepared to add them to the list just yet. I’ve also never had Southern Tier’s Chokolat, so obviously it couldn’t be considered until that moment, but this particular choice really surprised me.
5. Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Hop Stoopid – I am new to everything that is Lagunitas as they’ve only just become available locally to me and this was my very first choice when I saw it on the shelf. There’s nothing fancy about the look, but who needs fancy when what’s inside the bottle is so deliciously hoppy and complex. It sort of took me back a bit at first, but as I continued to drink it I started liking it more and more. At this point I’ve tried every other style available here (Sucks, IPA, Pils, Cappuccino Stout, Little Sumpin Wild Ale and Little Sumpin Sumpin and Maximus) and Hop Stoopid remains my favorite of the bunch, though I am fully on board the Lagunitas bandwagon.
4. Tallgrass Brewing Company’s 8-Bit Pale Ale – When I first started picking beers on my regular trips to the store I passed the line of Tallgrass releases several times, almost always wanting to pick it up but holding off each time. The day finally came that I caved in and picked up the 8-Bit and I devoured the 4 pack way faster than I probably should have. The 8-Bit Pale Ale has a delicious hop character that’s got its bitterness, but is mellowed by what I perceive as a very subtle citrus taste. This is the type of beer that makes me embarrassed that I wasted so much of my early 20’s on tasteless domestic beers.
3. Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Ale – I feel that there’s a bit of an unfair view on beer infused with any sort of fruit- that they are targeted more for female drinkers due to the sweetness and the fact that the majority have lower alcohol content therefore aren’t as “hardcore.” To am extent I agree they may not be the type of beer that puts hair on your chest, but sweetness in a beer doesn’t alone make it the wine cooler of craft beer. I’ve had several strawberry beers and all have their value, but Samuel Smith’s has a lineup of really tasty fruit infused beers and the Organic Strawberry Ale is particularly great. Friends I know that enjoy fruit beers believe this to be too sweet and prefer something like the Früli over this, but for my money Samuel Smith’s gives you way more bang for your buck.
2. Wells and Young’s Brewing Company’s Banana Bread Beer – In my spare time I also have taken up homebrewing and I am particularly obsessed with experimenting with adding bananas to a beer, but can’t quite settle on a style. Well’s Banana Bread Beer is what I can only hope my final project turns out as once I get it done and if I tastes even close to this I will be stock piling every last bottle for myself. The brilliance of this beer to me cannot be understated as when you first sip it the taste is much darker and has the characteristics of a nut brown ale, but finishes with a delicious banana aftertaste, thus earning its name Banana Bread Beer. Of these last two choices if I was forced to drink nothing but for the rest of my life, I would indeed die as one happy beer lover.
1. Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Imperial Pumking – I mentioned before how Southern Tier’s wonderful lineup of great craft beers are not available locally to me, but surrounding areas do and though it tends to be inconvenient to travel just for beer, I’m happy to do so for the Pumking. This is the beer that made me believe in love at first sip as as soon as I enjoyed my first drink of this delightful seasonal release I was hooked. I had only picked up two just in case it didn’t live up to its reputation, but when I finished the first and looked at the lone remaining bottle I was hesitant to waste it. I’ve since made one other trip during its seasonal release and along with a friend dropped almost $300 just on bottles of Pumking in one fell swoop. I have no doubt there are plenty of people who have thrown down way more than that for their favorite beer (and by all means I want to hear your stories), but since I rarely seem to buy the same beer twice anymore so I can keep trying new stuff, that was quite the commitment. Needless to say, this August I already have started making plans to do it all over again.