I've talked of this post for a while now and casually mention it whenever I have a really good beer. (DISCLAIMER: this is an ever fluctuating list and nothing is written in stone with it. It is all personal opinion and probably will change by the time I finish my final edit)
The basis of this list was to create a virual "top ten" list of beers. The concept came about because over my years, I've gleaned a lot of knowledge about the beverage industry and have come to appreciate the finer brews out there. Slowly I realized that this post might become enormous and I would have to split it into seasonal beers there as well because most breweries offer limited release beers that coincide with the seasons that sometimes are better tasting than their flagship offerings. However on the flip side of things, those seasonal offerings are very strong and not always a standard normal drinking beer. That's why I have split out the seasonal section (it will follow in another post). But anyway, without further adieu, here is my rendition of my top-10 all time drinkability beers:
#1 - Unibroue - La Fin Du Monde
Literally translating to "the end of the world", if you have too many of these special beers, you might feel like doomsday is near the next morning. This beer is probably my absolute all time favorite brew. It's brewed by a company in Canada called Unibroue and their offerings are all supreme in my books. All of these beers are bottle fermented which means that when you pour it, the fizzy head is exhorbent and you get a small amount of sediment in the bottom of your glass/bottle. It's sold in 4 packs because the alcohol content is up around 9% ABV and it is a little bit pricey. It's a belgian white beer, so the head is tiny compact bubbles and the appearance is cloudy in nature. To anyone that I tell this well kept secret about, I always tell them it's comparable to a stronger version of Blue Moon or Shock Top (without the overpowering citrus aftertaste to it) All in all, this one tops out my list.
#2 - Ommegang Brewery - Rare Vos
This amazing creation is bottled and brewed right down the Thruway from our hometown here in Rochester in nearby Syracuse at the Ommegang Brewery. A rich amber beer in color, Rare Vos is a middle of the road drinkable beer for me. I originally sampled this for the first time at the Flour City Brewers fest back in 2005 or 2006. It was in Fronteir Field at the time and the guy that was pouring samples at the Ommegang table told me I was going to need a "frequent flyer" card because I was coming back so often for a refill! I thought it would just be a regular amber ale, but there is some distinct characteristic that I can't place my finger on that makes this one special. So it snuck up on my list after years and years of going back and trying it. Rare Vos scores very high on my list and I would recommend it to anyone.
#3 - Lake Placid Brewery - Ubu Ale
Lake Placid holds a special place in my heart as most of you know. Their flagship beer is no different. With a rich malty flavor and an exceptionally dark color, once I was introduced to the "nectar of the gods" as it is referred to in several circles, I was hooked. Combine this beer with the relaxing atmosphere of Lake Placid and the fact that usually when it is consumed, I'm up there doing what I love (training for triathlons, hiking high peaks, etc) this beer has risen to a high ranking on my top ten list. Recently pushing it up into a higher ranking has been my appreciation for this fine concoction during the winter months (typically when real malty beers should be appreciated, but I don't discriminate) after snowshoe races. My rule of thumb is that "the darker the better" for beers and the Brew Pub got it right. Tipping the scales at a stout (no pun intended) 7% ABV, this beer was named after the breweries Chocolate Lab that is depicted on the 6-pack case. Great beer.
#4 Franziskaner - Weissbier
I suppose with all of the talk of hefty malty beers, we should lighten the load a little bit. I definitely don't discriminate between malty or hoppy, but this beer is one that I kind of stumbled upon and grew to love. First off it has a taste kind of like a more dry Blue Moon (only without the fruity overpowering aftertaste) and to boot in most bars that you can find it on draft, it's served in those 22oz glasses as depicted on the left. It's a great drinkable beer that you can have 5 of and still be okay with the taste after you're done.
#5 Warsteiner - Dunkel
I came across this beer when at a trail race in Hell, Michigan many many moons ago. Well not exactly the Warsteiner brand of beer, but the Dunkel brewing style was discovered for me then. Something about it just clicked with me as a solid drinkable everyday beer. We were at a local brewery outside of some town in the southeast quadrant of Michigan and were tasting flights of beer and a dunkel came up in the flight and it was hands down the best beer we had out of the bunch. There are a lot of other brands of dunkel-beer that have been brewed recently including varieties from larger breweries such as Michelob down to the small town guys such as the Genesee Brewery here in Rochester that just came out with their own JW Dundees Dunkel. Not a bad dark brown ale to have around the house, a little more malty in flavor, but with a good balance of hops on it as well. Overall a dunkel variety will always make my top ten list.
#6 Troegs - Dreamweaver Wheat Normally I don't buy beer because of the labels, but when walking down the aisles of a local beer distribution store (B.O.T.W. - for those of you who are reading in Rochester) but this one, I couldn't resist. Most of you that know me, know I have an affinity for trees. Hell, I cultivate bonsais and have a tree tattooed on my back. So upon seeing a label as such and the name dreamweaver just caught my eye, I had to try it. Turns out it was a good choice. A little pricier than most beers (around $12 per 6 pack) but definitely worth the cost, dreamweaver is an unfiltered goodness in a bottle. A hefeweissen by category, this one has a faint citrus aftertaste, but overall a solid brew. One that can definitely be drank over and over thru the day. Not overly hoppy, Troegs does a great job at perfecting their beers for the niche craft market
#7 Guinness brewing company - Guinness Stout
It's about time we had a stout added to the list, eh? Brewed at the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, Arthur Guinness had the great idea many years ago to roast the barley that is used to brew this beer. This gave it the essential dark color and malty aroma. I became a big fan of Guinness in college when we used to play open mic nights at the Idle Hour and get absolutely hammered on the $2/pint specials of Guinness. That combination only strengthened my resolve towards loving the malty characteristics that make up this fine nectar. It also gave me the confidence to get on stage and sing and play some original songs for people that probably didn't care what I was playing anyway. Overall a great brew!
#8 Samuel Adams – Imperial Pilsner
Now many of you can probably come up with better ideas on a solid “hoppy” beer for this list, but since this is my list and it looks like I’m a big fan of dark brown beers and Hefeweissen’s. The Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner has a delicate but not overpowering bitterness that is balanced quite nicely with the smooth barley and malt to form a solid pilsner style beer. It’s smooth, but not overly sharp and has a nice clear and aromatic flavor.
#9 Leffe – Brown Ale
This beer was first discovered by me at Acme Bar located on Monroe Ave in Rochester, NY. Obviously the lesser known of the Leffe family of beers (most folks are at least familiar with Leffe blond) It was discovered one night while having pizza in the bar (yes they make pizza and serve it in the bar…it’s amazing) that this one is a generally good solid brown ale. Comparable to Ithaca Brewing Company’s Nut Brown, I haven’t come across a Leffe Brown that I haven’t enjoyed.
#10 Dogfish Head – Miles Davis Bitches Brew
No list could be complete without some type of offering from the wonderful craft brewers at Dogfish Head brewery. The first brand I tried from them was their aprihop and while I do not generally enjoy overpowering fruity beers, this one wasn’t bad. So when recently a bunch of friends were out at a local tavern and we (whilst intoxicated) noticed this sitting on the shelf, felt compelled to give it a try. I was just stoked because it had Miles Davis on it! This one poured as dark as they come and had a nice chocolate aroma on the head. It dissipated quickly, but then again, so did my drink. It was delish. It was a prime example of a solid stout that held some chocolate characteristics to it as well. A fine example.
So there you have it, since it’s off season, go grab yourself an assorted 6-pack and sit on the couch relishing your past accomplishments this year. I know my season’s been extra long and I could use a rest too, so kick back for a few weeks, enjoy some choice drinks that you normally wouldn’t have, indulge yourself and I’ll be back to report on my favorite seasonal brands and varieties in the near future. (Because some of those seasonal one’s almost made it onto the top ten! – the only reason I didn’t include them in the top ten is because you can’t get them year round!!) But this is a good time for beer friends. My top three seasons are either upon us or will be soon, (Autumn, Winter and Spring) so get out there, grab a cold one and relax, you’ve earned it. Cheers!