So this is the first of many article I hope to write for the site exclusively. I wanted to compile a list of beers that are fairly easy to get that I think everyone should try at least once. All of the beers on this list are available year round and 4 out of the 5 should be available through out the country. While the super rare beers like Pliny the Younger and Westy 12 get a lot of press they remain hard to actually get a hold of. Being East Coast based I feel the pain especially from breweries like Alesmith and Russian River. So I thought I would compile a list of beers that are fairly easy to get. Some are a bit harder to find then others but I promise all of them are excellent beers. Let me know what you guys have on your lists.
5) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – This beer is really the beer that made Sierra Nevada famous. It is a crisp, clean pale ale that finished with just enough of a malt back bone to keep you interested. The hop profile on this one is classic West Coast and arguably could be the beer that defined the “West Coast” taste. It comes in at 5.6% ABV so it is also a great session beer. Any craft beer drinker who enjoys hops absolutely must have this beer and honestly anyone who considers them self a craft beer enthusiast cannot really consider themselves that until they have had this.
4)North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin – This is an absolute must drink for anyone who is looking to expand their palate into the “imperial” style of beers. This beer is considered a Russian Imperial Stout. This style of beer was originally brewed by the English to be shipped over to the Russian Czars. In order to make the journey by sea they needed to be absolutely huge beers that were high in alcohol content in order to remain fresh. Old Rasputin is no exception. A perfect blend of smooth roasted coffee notes and a slight hop bitterness makes this a joy to drink. Do yourself a favor and let the beer warm up to around 50F to really get more of the smooth chocolate notes that start to make themselves present. The beer does come in at 9% so it is not exactly the most drinkable beer for a 4 pack of this can be found almost anywhere fro around $11. Making this one an absolute bargain in the realm of imperial stouts. Also be sure to check out the full Beer Geek Nation Video Review for Old Rasputin.
3)Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale – Love it or hate it this beer is a cornerstone in the craft brewing world. Easily one of the most influential beers to date, this beer set a standard of branding and popularity that few breweries have managed to match. A big mysterious hop bomb of a beer that really defies style classifications. Some will call it an American Strong Ale other wills call it and Imperial Red all call it a must try. Im not saying that you will love this beer at first, I know it was one of the first craft beers I tried and I did not like it at first, but trust me one day when enjoying a pint of this you will suddenly look down and say, “wow, where have you been all my life”. This beer pours a gorgeous dark copper color and has a giant West Coast hop profile mixed with one of the largest malt back bones in any beer make this beer a complex masterpiece that really can only be described by each individual drinker. This beer comes in at a warming 7.2% ABV and also comes in an oaked variety as well as a Double Bastard variant that is released in January each year. “Submit to the bastard and you will be set free”.
2)Chimay Première (Red) – One of the most accessible and perfect examples of a Belgian style dubbel available. The dubbel belgian style beer sits in between a Belgian pale and and a Belgian style Triple. Deep,dark, caramel and fruit notes accent an amazing aroma created by the 200 year old Chimay yeast strain. Chimay is the largest of the trappist monasteries so this beer is widely available to almost anyone in the world. This is also one of the only bottle conditioned beers on this list which will add another dimension to the experience of the beer. Expect the beer to change taste profiles as it warms up as well as how it will taste based on what kind of glass you are using. I highly reccomend picking up a tulip or goblet style glass to enjoy Belgian beers with. Once you can learn to appreciate a beer like Chimay Première it will kick open a whole new world of Belgian beer tasting.
1)Russian River Brewing Pliny The Elder – I am really hesitant to put this as the number one spot due to it being a fairly hard beer to get since it has a very limited distribution. But with that said, if you are diligent you can usually nail down a bottle or two from trades on Beer Advocate or Ratebeer. And as a last resort you can always get a bottle off of eBay but expect to pay a premium, between $10-$15 per bottle! East Coasters can get a lot of beers that fellow beer geeks on the West Coast can’t get so a trade is usually pretty quick and painless. Now that I have that out of the way lets talk about the beer itself. This is probably one of the most perfect examples of an IPA you will ever taste. This beer must be had as fresh as you can get it as the hop aroma and bitterness due start to slip even after as little as three weeks. Once the cap is opened on this one the room is flooded with a huge aroma of a citrus grove mixed with fresh pines and a slight malt back bone. You really will not find a fresher smelling beer. Its really does taste like taking a bite out of the freshest piece of grapefruit you will ever have. After the initial hop shock is out of the way you are treated to a slightly sweet caramel back bone with a perfect West Coast IPA dry finish. Coming in at 8.0% ABV this beer is not the most drinkable but honestly you would never know that it was that big of a beer. Again the lack of mid country/east coast distribution of this beer does hurt its “beer karma” but it is a year round offering and easily one of the best beers on the planet. Pliny the Elder has almost a mythical status amongst beer geeks and rightfully so. Russian River has crafted an absolutely perfect IPA that few brewers will ever even come close to matching. Check out the full Beer Geek Nation Pliny the Elder video review.