With the weather threatening to break soon and the cold temperatures waving goodbye, it's time to continue drinking great beer, but with more choices for your surroundings. To put it simply, it's time to drink outside. Stone Brewing, already known for fresh, fantastic IPAs, has a new offering this spring, Go To IPA. It's not only perfect for an outdoor drinking session, but is also ideal when you want to drink more than one. It packs all of the dry, bitter, hop flavors and aromas into a very manageable 4.5% ABV package — ensuring you won't have any trouble making it back to the fridge for another round.
The Swedes may not be known for making great IPAs, but Nebuchadnezzar from Omnipollo is quickly changing those preconceptions. It's a double IPA that was originally a home brew recipe and due to demand has been scaled up to reach a wider audience. Within the beautiful bottle is a citrus forward IPA that weighs in at 8.5%, with some subtle but important Belgian yeasts to balance things out. It's won just about every 'best of' award in Sweden, and is now beginning to make its way to US shores.
A staple of the rising craft beer culture are release events for special beers, done once a year and many times at the brewery only. KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) from Founders Brewing might be the best of these releases, and you can find it outside of the brewery walls as well. KBS is an imperial stout brewed with an ungodly amount of chocolate and coffee, and then aged in bourbon barrels for a full year. The other bourbon barrel coffee stouts are imitators, while KBS is the innovator. Don't pass up a chance to try this highly acclaimed beer this spring.
There is something special about a fresh IPA from the West Coast, and there is something even more special about one from Beachwood Brewing. Melrose IPA is a fantastic representation of a true West Coast IPA, brimming with fresh, sticky, hop resins. The aromatic value alone fills your senses and the taste delivers as well, with loads of tropical fruit and more sticky hops. And it finishes as clean and refreshing as a dip in the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
In a world where double IPAs are now suddenly the norm, there are plenty that are being churned out that just don't measure up. But Hopothermia from Alaskan Brewing Company is not one that has trouble making the grade, and it's probably one of the best double IPA's you've never heard of. This year-round offering features some of the most floral hops around, giving off aromas like grapefruit and mango. It measures up taste-wise too, sweet and piney with a tough malty backbone that won't leave your palate suffering. You may not be in Alaska, but a couple of these should help get you through any winter night.
Get your insulin shots ready, because Evil Twin Brewing has a brand new beer for those with a sweet tooth. Imperial Doughnut Break is the brainchild of Evil Twin head brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who stuffed whole donuts into a keg of Imperial Biscotti Break and tapped it for a special event. It was so well received that they decided to team up with Westbrook Brewing to get it in 22oz bottles, and into your hands. It's a coffee doughnut porter, tips the scales at 11.5% ABV, and despite the description, isn't diabetes in a bottle. It's sweet, but balanced, making it a fine candidate for breakfast or dessert.
If you were to make a dream list of ingredients for a beer to make dudes drool, it's tough to imagine the description being any more appetizing than Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. You read that right, maple syrup, coffee, and bacon all play vital roles in this incredibly balanced porter. None of the flavors overwhelm, but all of them get along amazingly well in this beer that transports us to a greasy spoon diner for a little hair of the dog after a night of carousing. It's even better than it sounds, and for the first time ever, can be found in 22 oz bottles Funky Buddha Brewery.
If there is one thing that is consistent throughout drinking history, it's the desire most of us have for stronger drinks. The barley wine style of beer was introduced for this specific reason in the late 18th century, and not many have mastered the style as effectively as Firestone Walker Brewing with their annual release, Sucaba. Brewed since 2006, but only bottled since 2010, the annual release of this bourbon barrel aged barely wine is one that beer geeks look forward to acquiring, hoarding and of course, drinking. Those fortunate enough to unlock a bottle are rewarded with hints of chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, and a warming 13.5% ABV.
It's that time of year, the time when beer drinkers who crave large amounts of hops in their beverages rejoice, because Bell's Hopslam Ale is hitting store shelves. Released every January, Hopslam is a double IPA with a demand that continues to grow. Hopslam starts with six different hop varietals, each selected in large part due to the aromatic qualities they possess. After a big dry-hop addition at the end, Bell's adds a helping of honey to balance out the bite and give this 10% ABV hop bomb the balance that makes it special.
When it comes to great, hoppy beers, the West Coast has no shortage of choices. So when a new brewery pops up on the coast with the promise of hoppy beers, they have our attention. Modern Times Brewing started last year in San Diego, and one of the hop bombs they are canning is an amber IPA called Blazing World ($11). It's packed with plenty of sticky, aromatic Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops that will satisfy those that crave a dry IBU punch. And the light, malty backbone that provides the amber hue helps balance things out nicely. To top it all off, it comes in a super sharp, well designed can.
Christmas is over, but that doesn't mean you can't still indulge in some of the treats that the holidays provide. One worth quaffing well into the winter is Noel de Calabaza ($15) from Jolly Pumpkin Brewing. It's a Belgian style Christmas ale that is aged in oak barrels with a deep mahogany appearance and a light, slightly tart zing. Add in some sugar plums and fig and along with a 9% ABV sticker you can make the holidays last long into the new year.
We are all for some variety when it comes barrel aged beers, and so are the folks at Widmer Brewing. They've expanded on their already successful annual release of Barrel Aged Brrrbon Ale to include a Ginger Barrel Aged Brrrbon ($10) in 2013. This limited edition treat came about when fresh chopped ginger was added to a few select Kentucky bourbon barrels of Barrel Aged Brrrbon. The outcome is a very interesting and unique winter warmer, with notes of oak, vanilla, caramel, but most importantly, tons of ginger.