A while back we recommended you should drink more beer, advice so good we’re sure the Nobel committee is only delaying while they decide how many prizes to give us. Drinking at random is great way of finding new beers (and all sorts of other new things you’ll enjoy), and it’s easy to hunt new beers (their hunting grounds are much more accessible than most game preserves, and a lot more relaxing), but it never hurts to know a few names to aim for. These aren’t the most popular beers in the world, but they’re not rare elixirs found only in remote Shaolin monasteries either, so there’s a good chance you’ll see one – and you should order it immediately.
Dogfish Head have built a time machine out of hops. Their core Imperial Pale Ales (IPA) are named for how long they spend relentlessly hopped, and the result is an eduction in humulus lupulus. The 60 minute is an essay on the subject, the 90 a doctoral thesis, and 120 a liquid crystal of pure hoptinite. And these incredible substances have powered more adventures through history than Doctor Who’s phonebox. Dogfish Head is what happens when Indiana Jones grows up in a bar instead of a museum. They’ve unleashed more spirits from ancient temples than The Mummy movies, and also unlike the Mummy movies they make things better for people and are actually good. Translating Egyptian hieroglyphics, chemical analysis of ancient urns, investigating royal tombs, they’ve used more unbelievable techniques than CSI: Atlantis and with more spectacular results. Whether it’s an ancient brew brought into the modern world, or merely one of the best beers already there, Dogfish Head is always worth ordering.
Dieu du Ciel
This Montreal microbrewery has named itself “God of Heaven”, in French, and anyone who thinks that’s a little grandiose simply hasn’t drunk any. Those who have will agree that the name is actually a little understated, because god only likes a little bloodwine or mead (depending on your religion) while these guys pour much more. And better. While Dogfish Head are the archaeologists of alcohol, Dieu du Ciel are the artists, brewing beauty in a vat instead of on a canvas. Because most museums don’t let you use your tongue on the masterpieces. Big beers stick a bit of lime (flavored concentrate) in at the end and call it a new drink. Dieu du Ciel brew with hibiscus and peppercorns, chocolate and cinnamon, and they’re not gimmicks: each beer is crafted around the theme so that they taste like the only ingredients possible for that beer.
Brew Dog are the world’s last true punks, because they understand that punk is about doing things that kick ass and damning convention, not pretending that refusing to clean your room is a lifestyle. The result is rapid expansion and the most widely drunk six-year-old in the world. Which is also pretty punk. The Scottish brewery pours pure passion into every bottle, and have launched entire product lines for challenges most people wouldn’t even tweet about.
When criticized for releasing what was the strongest beer in the world (Tactical Nuclear Penguin, 32% ABV) they released Nanny State, 1.1% and still tasting good. Because they might screw around with their haters but they’d never skimp on the beer. When German brewery Schorschbrau took the title with 40% Schorschbock, Brew Dog fired back with Sink the Bismarck, 41%, and followed up with The End Of History, 55% ABV and sold in the hollowed out corpses of dead animals. That is not a joke, and it is the punkest thing you can hear without being deafened by a spiked mohawk in a moshpit. So we should probably be worried about Schorchbrau, who took the title back with a 57% beer. The only stronger and punker thing Brew Dog could deliver would be a lit Molotov cocktail, and they’re the only brewers who’d consider just adding some hops and selling it. We can’t wait.
Sierra Nevada drinks the stereotype of weak American beer under the table. It was a small operation born in the USA, survived some hard times, and now it makes its way around every bar it can find and gets stronger for the experiences. That isn’t just a beer, it’s what Disney would film if they made movies about alcohol. As one of the oldest and most successful of the homebrewing success stories, they survived the 80s’ drought of draughts and went on to become one of the biggest independent brewers on the continent. Despite this, many people see Sierra Nevada in their local and simply don’t try it. That’s madness. Seeing a beer and then not drinking it? We’re not sure what’s wrong with these people, but we do know there’s a cure. Bars sell it in bottles.
Innis & Gunn
You can’t trust most beer articles because the author doesn’t tell you their favorite. They might whine about being objective, but if you can be objective about beer then you’re not using it properly. Which is why I’ll tell you Innis & Gunn is my favorite beer. It was discovered by accident, like penicillin, and is well on the way to improving more lives.
A whisky distillery working on an ale-tinted scotch needed a beer which could make whisky and wooden barrels even better. This impossibility was achieved, meaning this beer started more miraculously than most religious shrines. The beer soaked into the whisky barrels, adding to their flavor, and in the true spirit of having drinks together they returned the favor. The brewery workers noticed, by drinking it, and approved, by taking it home to drink more. When even Scottish distillery workers decide to take their work home with them you know you’re onto a winner. The man responsible for the beer was informed, and very smart, because he immediately returned to start sharing this joy with the world.
Innis & Gunn is already the best selling UK beer in Canada and Sweden: it’s unstoppably spreading out from Scotland across the seas. I’m an Irishman recommending a Scottish beer. Unless you’re Valhalla’s barman you’re not qualified to disagree. So try some. In fact, try all them, and let me know what else you find on the way. Cheers!
Luke McKinney writes about games, drink, science, and everything else that makes life amazing. He’s a columnist on Cracked and writes for several beer magazines. He’s also available for hire. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter @lukemckinney.
Luke McKinney knows booze & video games. His recent attempts to find the hottest food in the world led him to eat Murder Spice, which gave him the ability to melt through porcelain. The next day. In the bathroom. Follow him on Tumblr.