5. Pilsner. Wildcard. I can’t say that I love pilsner’s, but I certainly don’t hate them. I did feel that lagers didn’t get any love on anyone’s list, so maybe that’s why I’m including it. Pilsners get a bad rap, mostly because of the over-abundance of “light” beers masquerading as pilsners. A true pilsner actually has flavor to it, though it’s not nearly as intense as the other varieties on my list. Even so, on some hot summer days the cool sweetness of pilsner can really hit the spot. Rather than ever drinking a Mike’s Hard Lemonade on such a day, why not throw back an Oscar Blue’s Mama’s Little Yella Pils.
4. IPA. I can’t deny the fact that I drink more IPAs than any other variety. I do like them. A great IPA has more than just a bunch of hops. I’ve had those beers, and they’re terrible. No, a great IPA has just the right amount of hops, and just the right combination of the different types of hops. I’m not such a hop-head that I know my favorite type of hop (Cascade or Fuggle or Mount Hood–who knows?). I do know, however, than when I find the right combination of piney and citrusy with just the right malty foundation, my mouth is happy.
3. Saison. I like to imagine the wild yeasts used in these Belgium ales were harvested from the under some large stone in the middle of a tulip covered field. Maybe they came from the dark recesses of a laughter and pipe-smoke filled barn somewhere near that field of tulips. More likely they came from some laboratory near a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Wherever they came from, they give the saison a fruity, flowery aromatic that is just delightful. I do like the Colette that Blake mentioned on Monday, but my favorite has to be Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. It has a stronger malt profile that balances the floral notes. Balanced. That’s the key, and Tank 7 nails it.
2. Scotch Ale. This is partly in honor of my friend Brad, who has a Scottish heritage and enjoys most things Scottish, including this type of beer. One of the few times I homebrewed I brewed a Scotch Ale that turned out really good. Not to brag (though that’s exactly what I’m doing), it was even better the Great Divide’s Claymore Scotch Ale, and the Claymore is pretty fantastic. The maltiness of these ales give it a nice warm, earthy character that’s almost like Scotch whisky (imagine that). They’ll warm you up am make you feel like traipsing across a rocky mountainside in a kilt (though who really needs motivation to do that?).
1. Imperial Stout. These are more than just a type beer–they’re an experience. If you ever tasted a Great Divide Yeti or an Oscar Blue’s Ten Fidy you know what I’m talking about. Stouts like these have more flavor than 30 Bud Lights (or anything from Budweiser for that matter). They demonstrate that there is a difference between lots of flavor and really intense flavor. These fall into the later category. You get hints of rich caramel and chocolate topped with the wonderful toasted notes that makes a stout a stout. Along with my previous pick, you probably don’t want to drink this in the summer, and you certainly don’t want to do any strenuous labor after drinking one. These are for sipping as you relax around the fireplace on a cold December evening, and then falling asleep immediately after.