It's amazing what happens when a beer spends time in a barrel. And Helldorado from Firestone Walker is yet another testament to that. This Blonde Barley Wine was named after an inspirational trip to Tombstone, Arizona, and keeps the line of fantastic barrel aged beers in the Firestone Walker barrel program going strong. At 13.2% ABV, it's made with just one malt and El Dorado hops before aging in the barrels. The results are rich and sweet, with honey and vanilla flavors up front, and toasted malt on the back end.
If it feels early for holiday beers, it's really not, as most are released at the start of November. The best ones, like Our Special Ale from Anchor Brewing, are picked over by the time you're in the holiday spirit, but thankfully no such feelings are necessary to enjoy this time honored brew. The 41st installment of this classic comes once again with a beautiful hand drawn label, unique for 2015. And the beer itself is always a winner. This year's recipe has fewer spices than usual — a nod to earlier recipes when the hop flavors were more pronounced, making it another unique holiday gem that's more than worthy of some of your fridge space.
When it comes to pioneering craft breweries, the conversation usually begins with Bell's Brewing. And after 30 years of delivering some of the best beers we've tasted, their 30th Anniversary Ale is ready to help kick off the party. The beer itself is a 11% ABV Imperial Stout, and not unlike its cousin Expedition Stout, it's dark, rich, boozy, and packed with flavor. It's a stout that actually lives up to the anniversary it was made to celebrate, and worth trying to track down this winter.
Beer drinkers and wine drinkers don't always get along, but Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru from Almanac Beer provides a rare chance for them to play nice. This ode to aromatic white wines was brewed using California-grown Muscat Blanc grapes along with an 10.2% ABV version of Almanac's Farmer's Reserve sour blonde. It was then aged in French oak barrels for more than one year. The result is tart, flavorful, and quite unique, but only available in the state of California.
As most beer lovers are already aware, some of the best beers on the planet are being brewed by Hill Farmstead Brewery in North Greensboro, Vermont. And while the entire line is special, Arthur is a standout Saison. Brewed using American and European hops along with their unique farmhouse yeast, Arthur is naturally carbonated and unlike any farmhouse ale you've tried before. If you aren't local, Hill Farmstead beers like Arthur are incredibly difficult to obtain, but worth every single ounce of effort should you succeed.
Just when you think you've seen every fall seasonal beer, a new one comes along to redefine the category. That's the case with Stone 24 Carrot Golden Ale, a Belgian Golden Ale that somehow manages to taste like a delicious piece of carrot cake. It's the winner of this year's American Homebrewers Association competition, which gives one homebrewer the opportunity to brew on Stone's equipment and be bottled for the masses. Made using a unique blend of carrots, cinnamon, raisins, and vanilla beans, it might change the way you think about fall seasonals.
There's nothing wrong with tipping back a few hard ciders during the fall season, but if you'd rather stick with beer, Big Leaf Maple from Anchor Brewing is as festive as it gets. Inspired by a tree native to California, Big Leaf Maple is a balanced red ale brewed using two caramel malts, pale malts, three additions of Nelson Sauvin hops, and a hint of maple syrup. Available while the leaves are changing, but typically gone by the time they hit the ground.
It's hard to believe that Dogfish Head Brewing is celebrating 20 years of brewing, but the time has come and the celebration begins with Higher Math. The anniversary beer is like a liquid birthday cake, brewed with cocoa nibs and sour cherry juice on top of the golden ale base. It's a fitting party favor from the craft trailblazer, and is sure to get you in a celebratory mood quickly at 17% ABV.
You might be surprised to hear an IPA is the latest release from St. James's Gate and Guinness, but you shouldn't be. Guinness Nitro IPA shouldn't shock you if you recall that Guinness is already one of the best known beer brands on the planet, and just happened to revolutionize the industry with their plastic nitrogen widgets in the 1980s. Nitro IPA is brewed with Irish Malt in Dublin, using the same yeast strains common through the rest of the family and five hop varieties, none of which are overly bitter but instead provide a smooth and balanced mouthfeel and refreshing taste.
Even if you're burned out on pumpkin beers, Rumpkin from Avery Brewing is worth your time and attention. Avery took a gigantic pumpkin ale, brewed with roasted pumpkins from a farm in nearby Boulder, Colorado, and then added spiced nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. They then aged it in fresh rum barrels to add an incredibly unique, sweet, and oaky flavor that you won't find in any run of the mill pumpkin beers. It also clocks in at 15-18% ABV, making it great for sharing or for your own personal fall festival.
Plenty of winners have come out of the Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment batches at Brooklyn Brewery, but their Intensified Coffee Porter might be the best one yet. Using coffee beans harvested in El Salvador that were then roasted by the good folks at Blue Bottle Coffee, Brooklyn created a system that worked as a giant French press to produce loads of cold brew coffee porter. As if that isn't enough to make your mouth water, the beer was also aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, adding a sweet, boozy finish that tips the scales at 11.8%.
Although it might not be part of a balanced breakfast, Hefe Wheaties is sure to bring to mind the classic cereal. Brewed by Fulton Beer out of Minneapolis, this isn't some knockoff, but is a true partnership between the brewers and General Mills. The American wheat beer will be available in four-pack, 16oz cans for a limited time in the Twin Cities, and could see a wider release if enough people drink their Wheaties.
Before you probably cared about craft beer, Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana broke the mold with Alpha Kong. The Belgian style sextuple was first released 10 years ago, and this beast of a beer was not only gigantic and delicious, but it was almost as hard to get your hands on as King Kong himself. Back from the dead in 22oz bottles, the new release is your opportunity to get a taste of a craft beer pioneer.
Every year the most anticipated beer release gets a little better, and this year is no exception with the release of Rare Bourbon County Stout. The entire Bourbon County line is being upgraded to these new, great looking bottles, but only Rare was aged in barrels from Heaven Hill Distilleries that held bourbon for more than 30 years. Those barrels were filled with Bourbon County Stout and aged for 2 additional years before being bottled. As fantastic as the whole line of Bourbon County beers are, this one is a true standout worth hunting down.
It's cause for celebration when a brewery has been around as long as Great Divide has. And Great Divide 21st Anniversary Ale is not only an attempt to cheer on the brewery that helped lay the groundwork for many others in Colorado and beyond, but it's also the first sour ale they've ever bottled. It kicks off what should be a robust sour program and was aged for 9 months in wine barrels before bottling. The result is a tart, but approachable sour from a brewery that many continue to try and emulate.
The dog days of summer call for plenty of beer drinking, and if you're smart, you'll reach for a session IPA rather than something that will weigh you down or knock you out. Citra Sunshine Slacker is a one of the latest entrants into the increasingly crowded field of low ABV IPAs, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve to help it stand out. A collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewing, Citra Slacker keeps things light and easy at 4.5%, while providing loads of taste thanks in part to one of the most aromatic hops around, Citra. Grab a 4-pack of pints and sip the suffocating temperatures away.
It's not as easy to enjoy a rich coffee stout during the warm summer months. Calm Before The Storm from Ballast Point Brewing is a great solution for beer and coffee lovers alike, and is a perfect fit this summer. It's a golden cream ale infused with cold brewed Caffé Calabria coffee and a hint of vanilla. A fantastic warm weather alternative to the equally delicious Victory At Sea Porter that is a standout in the Ballast Point line.
What was once reserved for private tastings and brewery tours is finally being bottled and is available for everyone. Brooklyn Brewery Wild Streak is a funky creation that begins as a Belgian-inspired golden ale. It is then aged in second-use bourbon barrels for months, which balances all the flavors. It's then bottled flat and re-fermented using priming sugar, Champagne yeast, and wild yeasts. It gains carbonation as the yeasts and sugars mingle, and ends up as a refreshing, earthy and funky beer that tastes great now, but will also benefit from aging.
Just in time for Independence Day comes Double Liberty from Anchor Brewing. The original Liberty Ale was introduced 40 years ago, so it's a fitting time for a new, hopped up version of a classic. Using the same whole cone Cascade hops that helped make the original famous, Double Liberty is twice as nice, with double the hops and the IBUs. The amped up version clocks in at 8.2% ABV, and despite the extra everything, is incredibly smooth and palatable.