On rare occasions, all those years of drinking and making an ass out of oneself in public pay off. Such was the case when the editors of inStash asked me to comprise a list of must-try beers. It wasn’t exactly the kind of assignment where they had to do a lot of arm-twisting.
Over the years, there have been some beauties wash over this blackened liver. While it’s easy to enjoy the staples here in the States—Budweiser, Shiner Bock, Blue Moon—it’s not quite the same as tying one on with the following selections. So without further tomfoolery, inStash presents the Top 10 Beers Every Man Should Try before he kicks off.
Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger (United States)
Currently available in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Younger is a concoction you must taste to believe. With 11 percent ABV, it doesn’t have quite the pickling power of a red wine, but therein lies the genius of it all.
This seasonal ale—available every February at the Russian River pub and for distribution—is like the potato chips of beer. You can’t have just one. Hopped three times more than the standard India pale ale (IPA) from Russian River, the company also dry hops this brew four additional times.
Pliny the Younger goes down easy and receives a perfect score of 100% from the good folks at RateBeer.com. The company itself has no real plans for expansion, so it looks like if you want a taste you better start scheduling your vacation to one of the states mentioned above.
Kiuchi Brewery’s Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout (Japan)
At nearly 200 years of age, the Kiuchi Brewery has seen a lot of history unfold from its nest in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. And it’s at this nest where another kind of nest was born: the Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, which is known widely as Japan’s best beer from a company that is traditionally known for its sake.
In fact, there is a shade of sake brewing methods used for this famous part of the Nest line, which also includes Ginger Ale, Amber Ale, Celebration Ale, Japanese Classic Ale, and White Ale, among others.
Espresso Stout stands out from the pack, however, for the creative use of coffee and chocolate in conjunction with standard stout brewing ingredients of roasted barley, lactose, hops, and wheat. One of the company’s darkest selections, and a perfect fit for those of you expecting a bit more from your beers.
8 Wired Brewing’s HopWired IPA (New Zealand)
The taste of New Zealand is alive and kicking in this patriotic brew from 8 Wired Brewing. Its Hopwired IPA purports to be crafted from New Zealand pale ale malt and to feature 100 percent New Zealand grown hops for a more kiwi friendly taste.
In this highly rated brew you will catch glimpses of Sauvignon Blanc grapes, oranges, limes and passion fruit, to name a few. It has also been compared to gooseberry, which we admit that we’re not that familiar with. What we do know is that it sounds like no beer we’ve ever encountered.
8 Wired also carries four other labels—iStout, Tall Poppy, The Big Smoke, and Rewired—but at 7.3 percent ABV, this is the kind of middle of the road IPA that will appeal to beer drinkers of all tastes and preferences. RateBeer.com gives this one a 97 percent.
Dieu du Ciel’s Peche Mortel (Canada)
It means “Mortal Sin” in French, but the only real sin in our books is if you overlook this winner of a dark ale for one of its more inferior counterparts. Not quite as strong as the Pliny the Younger option from Russian River, the Peche Mortel from Canada’s Dieu du Ciel still boasts 9.5 percent ABV.
We’ll tell you upfront that this bad boy is bitter, so it’s obviously not going to be for everyone. Known as an “imperial coffee stout,” Peche Mortel has a freshly roasted flavor that will impress even the most die-hard coffee drinkers. If Guinness gives you the heebie-jeebies, then you should probably stick with your Bud Light Limes.
Fans of coffee and beer, however, will have a field day as they suck down these 11.5-ounce bottles one after the other. Can’t promise the rest of you will find it quite as fun, though.
Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus’s Westvleteren 12 (Belgium)
Westvleteren 12 from the brewery at St. Sixtus abbey isn’t exactly the kind of place where one would expect to find one of the most powerful dark beers in the world, but that’s exactly what you get with this Belgium Trappist. You may have to hit eBay to find your bottle of this rare brew, but they’re certainly out there.
Featuring a 10.2 percent ABV, it’s one of the more powerful brews on the market, but unlike Guinness, for instance, it has little to no head and goes down surprisingly smooth. Aroma alone makes this one worth the sale as it invokes hints of figs, raisins and an assortment of candied sugars in its wake. The beer also keeps for a very long time.
For maximum effect, the brewery recommends you store it in an upright position away from the light at a temperature of 12 to 16 degrees Celsius.
De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Barrel (Netherlands)
Brouwerij de Molen’s Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Barrel is the Netherlands’ finest brew. A real man’s beer, this will remind you of a barrel aged stout as you struggle to come to terms with its 13 percent—that’s right, 13!—ABV rating. You’ve got to get up early to beat Pliny the Younger in this area, and by jove, the Wild Turkey Barrel answers the alarm.
Our friends at RateBeer.com grant this one a rare perfect score, and once you get a taste of this brew, which combines oak, vanilla, and chocolate, into one delicious contraption, you will see why. De Molen’s most celebrated product pours with a slight brown head and contains equally small traces of carbonation.
If one were comparing this one to country music legends, it’s a lot less Kenny Chesney and a lot more Johnny Paycheck. Take this beer and drink it!
Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn’s Schneider Aventinus (Germany)
Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn—bonus points for saying that ten times really fast—is responsible for the Schneider Aventinus, a ruby colored dark beer that pours a fine head that dissipates quickly, allowing you to get down to the business of drinking. The 8.2 percent ABV is lighter and accessible without succumbing to light beer status.
Men and women alike should be able to appreciate the full-bodied taste that is evenly balanced and contains notes of banana, caramel, and clove. Brewed in the Weizen Bock style of dark and strong wheat beers, this one stands out with greater amounts of malt and alcohol than what one can expect from its peers.
Schneider Aventinus originates from the region of Kelheim, Germany, but its popularity has spread to Spain, New Zealand, and the US. Check the official website for availability in your area as well as further details on others of the brewery’s products.
Brauerei Aying’s Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock (Germany)
Brauerei Aying of Aying, Germany, has extended its hand across the globe to offer the Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. This beer is a tremendously popular import here in the US, and you’ll have a hard time finding imperfections with its full-bodied velvety goodness that invokes tastes of both brown sugar and caramel even as it harbors a fruitful tinge of red grapes and plums.
The Celebrator Doppelbock is a pretty heavy brew, but nothing compared to some of the others on this list. For instance, the Wild Turkey Barrel from De Molen almost doubles its 6.7 percent ABV content. Nevertheless, if given the option, it is difficult not to have one of these in your hands at all times, so the bite can sneak up on you.
You may have to look closely for this one, but it’s sold throughout the US. Check with your favorite liquor store about ordering, or try to drudge up a bottle online. Totally worth it!
Old Chimney’s Good King Henry Special Reserve (England)
It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it’s bitter, it’s dark. It’s a force to be reckoned with and it hails from jolly old England’s Old Chimney’s Brewery. It’s called the Good King Henry Special Reserve, and it boasts an ABV rating of 11 percent.
This top of the line product from the popular brewery has much in common with De Molen’s Wild Turkey Barrel presenting traces of oak, vanilla, and chocolate in its final flavors, though it doesn’t quite trump the exorbitant alcohol content of the Netherlands’ heavier brew. Also follows the whole dark fruit vibe of the Celebrator Doppelbock.
The bottles keep very well as there is almost no head and no carbonation to deal with. This is the kind of beer that you can buy and save for a rainy day, if drinking extremely powerful beer is what you consider a worthwhile indoor activity in a downpour.
Närke Kulturbryggeri’s Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter (Sweden)
While the most current line of Stormaktsporter is not quite as strong as the 2006, it still delivers 9.5 percent ABV, which is more than most on this list of the top 10 beers every man should try. An imperial stout, Swedish brewery Närke Kulturbryggeri’s pride and joy was released in 2005, perhaps the youngest entrant on this list.
It’s hard to pigeonhole the unique combination of flavors that Närke Kulturbryggeri pulls out for this selection. You’ll taste hints of wood, bourbon, vanilla, honey, and even coconut. The finish is bitter, dry, and roasted. And we would be out of line if we didn’t tell you about the strong spiced orange overtones that come out while throwing one back.
As imperial stouts go, the color of this one comes out almost pitch black and leaves a heavy lacing on the glass.