Saturday, May 31, 2008

16 Top Beers

I was raised to believe that alcohol was bad. Later I found out that there is a long history of addiction to sundry substances on my mother's side of my family. This may explain why most of my mother's relatives never touched a drop and why I grew up suppressing the desire to offer them a snifter--just to ease their pain.

In my early 30's I met and married Kerri. Her father is a retired fighter pilot who spent the late 60's and early 70's turning over tables in officers' clubs across North America and southeast Asia. Her mother is a former nurse from Pennsylvania who is the kind of woman who can keep up with a pickled fighter pilot. Somehow they both made it into the 21st century in pretty good shape. Kerri has the healthiest attitude toward alcohol of anybody I've ever met. "Enjoy it but be smart." Lots of people say that but she really gets it.

A few years ago tossed together a little guide to where sake is available in Iowa as part of In this case s-a-k-e is a Japanese drink made from rice, not "the purpose or interest of a person or thing." It is hard and expensive to get here in Iowa (and the rest of the Midwest, I imagine). Although the situation seems to be getting better we still have some educating to do. I had a server try to sell me a shot of sake last week. Maybe I should have asked if I could have a shot of merlot in stead. Part of what was weird about this is that sake is often considered a wine even though it is brewed, like beer. In terms of potency, this makes sense as sake's alcohol content hovers around that of wine. Still, neither beer nor wine is typically sold by the shot, is it?

Although I know enough about sake to not order the ricey terps served hot in Chinese buffet chains I also gave up on becoming a sake connoisseur. There are simply too many varieties of sake and by the time a special order bottle is shipped to Iowa (from Japan, via California) it is so expensive it's hard to enjoy.

I'm indifferent to the taste of most wines and if I drink more than one glass I get sick. This leaves hard liquor and beer. I do enjoy some tequilas and whiskeys but you can't beat beer for fun.

For one thing there is a hell of a lot of good beer brewed right here in the mid-western US. That means we get selection and reasonable prices on the good stuff, even as transportation costs pierce the ionosphere. Thus, I can afford to investigate and find more of the good stuff.

Here are my current favorite beers, by brewery.

  1. Schell Pale Ale (Minnesota) Full flavored hoppy ale
  2. Schell Fire Brick (Minnesota) One of the only malty beers I really like
  3. Goose Island India Pale Ale (Illinois) Very, very good, bitter, strong flavored IPA
  4. Goose Island Honker's Ale (Illinois) Like their IPA but less intense
  5. Goose Island Oatmeal Stout (Illinois)
  6. Flying Dog Snake Dog India Pale Ale (Maryland)
  7. Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale (Maryland)
  8. Flying Dog Road Dog Porter (Maryland)
  9. Boulevard Pale Ale (Missouri) Like other pale ales but more so
  10. Sierra Nevada Wheat (California) Like other wheats, but with a strong hop bite
  11. Sierra Nevada Stout (California)
  12. Summit Extra Pale Ale (Minnesota)
  13. Summit Extra Special Bitter (Minnesota) I don't understand it. I just like it.
  14. Summit India Pale Ale (Minnesota)
  15. New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale (Colorado) Again, something special I can't put my finger on
  16. Mackeson Triple Stout (Ohio) Lovely, heavy, sweet, creamy, rich and bitter. If you like your beers light and clean Mackeson XXX will only make you sad as it is surely the bastard spawn of Guinness Extra Stout and mu shu plum sauce. It's like the brewmaster knows me better than I know myself. I like it that much.

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