American beer drinkers used to spend their time trying to choose between a few not-so-different lagers made by the handful of massive companies that dominated the American beer market. Now, with more than 6,000 craft breweries operating in the United States, there’s the opposite problem: sorting through the myriad available sours, stouts, saisons, and schwarzbiers to find a brew that’s worth the price of admission. Unless you have hours to spend refining your palette, you could probably use some help making an educated decision instead of picking at random from your local beer case. That’s why we asked nine beer experts from around the country to recommend the new craft beers that worthy of your attention. Track them down if you can.
Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout
This special edition of the Kalamazoo-based brewery’s seasonal imperial stout is aged in spent bourbon barrels, which adds notes of oak and bourbon spices. Matthew Stock, beer specialist for the Brass Tap, recommended it, saying that its rich flavor and 10.5 percent ABV make it the “perfect accompaniment to any chilly winter evening.”
Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Co. Mountain Man Scotch Ale
Beer writer Ryan Newhouse literally authored the book on Montana’s beer scene, so it makes sense that his recommendation comes from Big Sky Country. This Great Falls-based brewer’s scotch ale incorporates local barley and honey and, he says, is malty with toffee, dark chocolate, caramel, and molasses notes. There’s also some cherry smoke in there for a smooth finish.
Ommegang Beekman 1802 Goat Milk Stout
Cooperstown is known for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it’s also home to Ommegang, the Belgian-focused brewery behind some of the industries most beloved beers. This subtly sweet, chocolate- and coffee-tinged take on a milk stout, recommended by David Nilsen, beer journalist and certified Cicerone, is a collaboration with the brewery and Beekman 1802, a neighboring farm,
NOLA Brewing Hoppyright Infringement
Davy Ambrogio works with Glassblower Ben, a, well, glassblower in New Orleans that specializes in handmade bar glasses. His pick from the NOLA beer scene is this imperial IPA, which he says has a light tropical aroma, citric sweetness, and firm bitterness.
Finback Brewery Light Sensitive
Brewed in New York is a staple of public television across New York state, and co-host Matt Archambault is an authority of beers from the Empire State. His recommendation? This 7.6 percent ABV double dry hopped IPA, a hazy beer with, he says, “huge fruit notes from the hops” balanced by “restrained bitterness.”
Charles Towne Fermentory Distant Fog IPA
There are Pour Taprooms in cities around the South, each of which has a rotating selection of excellent local craft beers. So, yeah, owner Nate Tomforde is up to speed on the latest and greatest from the region. His recommendation: the Distant Fog IPA, which he describes as “incredibly soft, but not exactly quiet.” This just-released beer has flavors of peach, honeydew, citrus, and a pleasant, light bitterness.
Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion #11
Certified master beer judge and Cicerone Dave Clark recommends the latest beer in this series from the Paso Robles, California-based brewery. For each version, the base remains the same but the brewers switch up the hops, often using those that are brand new to the market. Number 11 features hops from three different continents that together, Clark says, “exude the essence of pineapple, guava and lemon, all coming naturally from the hops.”
Hill Farmstead Brewery Damon
Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark Patterson are both PhDs and authors of The National Geographic Atlas of Beer. Their craft beer pick is this hearty, heavy bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. It’s a limited release that inspired beer-loving New Englanders to wait in the snow, so you can be sure it’ll warm you up no matter how far the temperature drops.
Outer Range In the Steep Citra New England Style IPA
The folks at brewpub chain Growler USA are currently high on this Frisco, Colorado-brewed beer, which is made with oats and wheat. It’s super fruity, with pineapple and orange being the most forward flavors, and has a soft texture that they swear goes down smooth.