, celebrating the hundreds independent brewers in the US. To paraphrase Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams Brewing Company, these guys make less beer in a year than Anheuser-Busch spills in a day. But their passion comes through in the incredible colors, aromas and flavors of their brews.
I asked two top craft beer experts for their 12 favorite American craft beers. The first 12 are from Neil Burton, and avid craft beer drinker and aficionado living in Richmond, Virginia. The second twelve are from a well-known beer writer who asked that his name not be used. (He doesn't want his readers to know he actually has favorites.)
The list below is the resulting 24 selections, in no particular order. Think of it as a dream case. Some are regional only, some are just brewed seasonally. But they're craft beers and that's part of the charm. I guarantee once you try them you might not go back to drinking that watery yellow stuff they advertise on TV.
|Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA - Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, DE - A big beer with a great malt backbone brewed to be savored from a snifter.||Victory V12 - Victory Brewing Company, PA - Belgian-style specialty ale. Subtle with hints of pear and apricot.|
|Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale - Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, CA - A deep, reddish-brown traditional barleywine style ale with a fruity bouquet. Balanced between an almost overpowering maltiness and a bittersweet hoppiness.||Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye Ale - Bear Republic Brewing Company, CA - A strong American IPA made with 20% rye malt.|
|Stone Imperial Russian Stout - Stone Brewing Company, CA - Meant to be served warm, at about 55F, this thick, black brew has notes of anise, black currants, and coffee.Stone Imperial Russian Stout - Stone Brewing Company, CA - Meant to be served warm, at about 55F, this thick, black brew has notes of anise, black currants, and coffee.||Ommegang - Brewery Ommegang, NY - Belgian-style Abbey ale, full of clove, licorice, fig, honey, toffee, chocolate and dark dried fruit.|
|Arrogant Bastard Ale - Stone Brewing Company, CA - According to the arrogant bastards themselves: This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.||Dogfish Head Immort Ale - Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, DE - Brewed with peat-smoked barley, organic juniper berries, vanilla & maple syrup.|
|Anchor Liberty Ale - Anchor Brewing, CA - This heavily hopped ale was first brewed on April 18, 1975 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere's ride.||Victory Prima Pils - Victory Brewing Company, PA - This dry pilsner has an herbal bite and smooth malt flavor.|
|Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - Goose Island Beer Company, IL - A malt-filled stout aged in bourbon barrels making it dark and dense, with a mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke.||Legend Golden IPA - Legend Brewing Company, VA - Golden in color, not heavily hopped, but is full bodied and very high in alcohol.|
|Live Oak Pilz - Live Oak Brewing Company, TX - When they said "crisp, clean and refreshing" they were talking about this pilsner.||Anchor Steam - Anchor Brewing, CA - Deep amber color, thick creamy head, and rich flavor.|
|Pliny the Elder Double IPA - Russian River Brewing, CA - Named for the Roman naturalist who created the botanical name for hops, "lupus Salictarius", (meaning wolf among scrubs) this brew has 40% more malt and twice the hops of the brewery's regular IPA.||Alaskan Smoked Porter - Alaskan Brewing Company, AK - For the more adventurous beer drinker this smoked malt porter has a dark, robust body and an intense smoky flavor.|
|Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - Great Divide Brewing Company, CO - Aging on a blend of French and toasted oak chips infuses a subtle oak and vanilla character into its intense chocolate, roasted coffee malt flavor.||Rogue Old Crustacean - Rogue Ales, OR - Designed for sipping, this Barleywine beer is unfiltered, intense, malty and dark. The cognac of beers.|
|Three Floyds Alpha King - Three Floyds Brew Pub, IN - Big pale ale with a citrusy aroma.||New Holland Black Tulip Trippel - New Holland Brewing Company, MI - Golden in color with Belgian ale yeast and candy sugar giving it a slightly sweet body.|
|New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red - New Glarus Brewing Company, WI - Over a pound of Door County Cherries goes into every bottle giving this medium-bodied, ruby-red brew an intense cherry flavor.||Cuvée de Tomme - Lost Abbey, Port Brewing Company, CA - A very complex and unique beer, it is a brown ale made from our fermentable sugars including Malted Barley, Raisins, Candi Sugar and Sour Cherries. It is then fully fermented before being placed in Bourbon barrels where the beer ages for one year with the Sour Cherries and wild Brettanomyces yeast.|
|St. Boisterous Hellerbock - Victory Brewing, PA - A very full-bodied lager from German malts and hops. Smooth and malty.||Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold - Great Lakes Brewing Company, OH - A smooth lager balanced between sweet malt and dry hop.|