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Our Favorite Beers

July 25, 2014 by Rick Morris:

Wanna know what the authors like?  Here are the top brews - commercial and microbrews - that we like and recommend...

Chimay

The Belgian monks have it all figured out!  Some of the finest beers in the world.  The Trappist breweries, including the one at Belgium's Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey, entail a total of 7 that are permitted to brew in the "Authentic Trappist Product" style.  This means it has been brewed at one of the Trappist monasteries and controlled by strict monk standards.  Whether it is the Red Cap, Triple, or Blue Cap, we love it!  Watch out for the abv, though!  A bit pricey, but worth it if you are ok with paying $12 for a bottle of abbey goodness every now and then.  Basic wine costs about that, and this beer comes in 750ml bottles - same as wine.  So, why not try one of these with your next meal?  I prefer the Grand Reserve (blue label).  I get them at the Canton Ingles Grocery.  I personally consider it the best beer in the world.

La Trappe Quadrupel

There are few times in life when you can truly say life is complete.  No more is this obvious than the moment you have an authentic Trappistenbier in front of you.  Here is La Trappe's Quadrupel, a seasonal beer brewed at the Koningshoeven monastery in The Netherlands (about 30 miles from where I lived), available around September/October.  It is the strongest of the special beers, at  10% abv, which , like all Trappist beers, doesn't present itself initially (careful!)  This beer comes from one of the two Trappist Abbey's not found in Belgium (the other is in Austria).  It is amber in color and offers a warm flavor that is "malty sweet, slightly burnt, and pleasantly bitter with a sweet aftertaste."  Fermentation continues after bottling so expect plenty of banana, vanilla, almond, and fig aromas.  It is unfiltered, of course, and is brewed with the famous Trappist ale yeast.  Notice the goblet glass.  This is a must style drinking glass whenever enjoying a Belgium Trappist beer.  The wide opening permits better intake of the beautiful aromas.

Brand Pilsener

Can't get it in America, but a trip to the Limburg Province of The Netherlands will not disappoint.  Any of Brand's beers are fascinating and refreshing.  But it's the Brand Pilsener beer that Limburg is proud of!  And so are we.  I drank it for 5 years while stationed at AFCENT in Holland during the 1980s.  My Dutch father-in-law would always serve it alongside a board of the best Dutch cheeses and excellent Italian salami.  Especially if futbol (soccer) was on tv!  God, I wish they would consider exporting it again.  It is a perfectly balanced lager brewed with Saazerhops from the Czech Republic.  All this from a brewery with a tradition that goes back to the year 1340 (nearly 700 years!)  Can be a lawnmower beer if that's what you want to call it.

Bitburger

One of Germany's top 3 best selling beers, Bitburger is a Pilsner with 4.8% abv.  One of the best ways to get this beer in America is via the popular 5-liter mini keg.  Bitte ein Bit!  (Please a Bitburger).  Another easy drinking beer.  I can't count the number of times I ordered a fresh Bitburger brew from the tap in a German guest house (gasthaus)! 

Stella Artois

Did you know there are 9 steps to pouring a Stella?  And, one of them involves the beheading!  This is part of the reason why we love Stella beer.  The tradition of the 600-year-old Leuven's Den Horen (The Horn) brewery is outstanding.  And, you don't drink a Stella from a glass - you drink from a chalice.   STELLA!!!!!

Parkbrau Perminator

A nice German beer from the  region of Germany.  Ja!  Ich bin uber 16 Jahre alt.  Yes! I'm over the age of 16 years.  That's what their website shows, anyway.  To think we Americans have to be 21 years old to drink is almost an insult to our cuisine arts!  Wait.  It is an insult.  I was drinking Parkbrau Pirminators when I was 18 in Germany back in the 1980s.  One of my favorite German beers. A full-bodied, fresh stout.  Their Pils beer is also quality.

Paulaner Oktoberfest

This Oktoberfest is brewed by the German brewery bearing its name.  A somewhat stronger abv of 6% makes it slightly different that ordinary Oktoberfest lager  varieties.  It's well balanced and has a note of sweetness.  A refreshing and true German Oktoberfest!  Only a few breweries carry the official Oktoberfest label, and are permitted to brew the style.  They all operate from the area of Munich.  If you've ever been to the Hoffbrau Haus in Munich during Oktoberfest celebrations, you'll likely get one of these brews.  Expect to pay about 15 Marks (well, 10 Euros today) for the first one, which gets you the big glass mug.  Then, it's about 5 Euros per refill.  You keep your glass at the end of the evening.

Samual Adams Oktoberfest

Munich and Caramel malts and Bavarian Noble hops that deliver a big, rich flavor and a smooth finish make this 25-years-brewed a nice drink!  We love the transition from drinking lighter Pilsner and Kolsch beers in the summer, through the Pumpkin beers of Fall, into the winter drinks.  And, Samual Adams' Oktoberfest is probably the best American produced version by a major brewery.

RJ Rockers Bell Ringer & Son of a Peach

Love the Bell Ringer and Son of a Peach.  This small brewery from Spartanburg, South Carolina is doing about 800,000 gallons a year (as of 2013).  Just enough to keep it real.  We love these guys and their beer.  Be careful with the Bell Ringer, though.  Two or three will make you want to drink 10 more!  Then, you'll know why it gets it's name.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Love the Pumpkin beer.  It's partially the New York water supply we love, but the craftsmanship of this cinnamon and pumpkin spice-noted beer is clear.  Makes us head to the local brew supplies store and pick up a pumpkin beer recipe whenever Fall is in the air.  Plenty of pumpkin ales out there.  Give this one a try.  You'll not be disappointed.

Natty Greene's Southern Pale Ale Beer

Natty Greene's Southern Pale Ale

If you are an pale ale person then this is one beer you'll probably enjoy!  I was actually looking for another 6-pack of Post Road Pumpkin Ale at Ingles Grocery when a gentleman suggested this one.  It wasn't there, nor was my preferred pumpkin beer.  So, I went to Food Lion and still couldn't find the Post Road.  But, I did find Natty Greene's Southern Pale Ale.  This is not a true IPA, but something interesting is definitely going on with this one. 

After getting home and trying it, I drank the whole 6-pack.  At first, the very hoppy and piney/citrus flavors were interestingly different in this deep golden ale.  But, the more I drank, the better it tasted!  I've grown fond of this North Carolina beer for it's Munich malt, dry Cascade hops, and Magnum aroma.  The 35 IBU's make it quite bitter, but you can tell it is professionally hopped.  Better get 2 6-packs when you get yours!  That is, if there are any remaining.  We usually buy 4 or 5 sixers each week. BeerAdvocate.com shows a rating of about 3.4 so it's a decent beer.  If you are in the Greensboro/Raleigh, NC areas, stop by one of their brew pubs and have a couple.  Tell them Rick sent you.  It will confuse the Hell out of them!

A glass of Sweetwater LowRyeDer IPA beer.

Sweetwater LowRyeDer IPA

Now if you like to have a more pronounced grapefruit, orange, lemon and piney aromas, this is a beer for you.  And, it's brewed in good ole Hotlanter!  I was amazed at how tasty the LowRyeDer is.  I had previously tried a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye (my first every rye beer) and it was just too overpowering on the rye.  This Sweetwater IPA is perfect.  25% rye malt and a perfect dry-hopping Mt. Hood and Centennial hops really bring out the flavor and aromas in this one.  It was a bronze medal winner at the Great American Beer festival.  6.2% abv, and 45 IBUs.  The spicy peppery notes that come from the rye is perfect for me - not to little, and certainly not to much.  I enjoy opening all IPA's and smelling the initial oranges growing on pine trees, but this one is almost... well, orgasmic! 

Boulevard - Single Wide IPA

Boulevard Single Wide IPA

Very nice IPA, this Single Wide IPA by Boulevard Brewing, out of Kansas City, Missouri delivers their best in this refreshing style to the east coast.  We got ours at Ingles Grocery in Canton, NC for less than $8 for the 6-pack.  First impressions included the nice piney/citrus aroma.  It has clearly been dry-hopped.  In fact, six different hops were used in this beer.  With a bitter factor of 57 (from the website) to 59 (printed on the box), there is a fantastic, perfectly balanced flavor (for an IPA).  This one succeeds where others have failed when it comes to perfecting the heavy hopiness with a nice balance.  Also of note, Single Wide IPA receives a bit of yeast during bottling, conditioning and promoting the complex flavors and maturity.  The 5.7% abv is appropriate.  This beer is based on the famous 18th century English style delivered to the East Indies.  That's when/where IPA's truly originated. Available year round - hopefully in a store near you - Boulevard Single Wide IPA is a fantastic drink.  Asheville, NC (where I live and one of the beer capitals of America) is going to love it - even though there is plenty of local brew to choose from!  The more you drink, the more you want it. Oh, and did we mention the box?  What a cool-ass box these beers come in!  Two Monks Brewing members Levi and Rick, who have been steadily grabbing 6-pack after 6-pack of Natty Greene's and Red Hook for the past year, have found a new one here.  Just don't kill us with a $4 per 6-pack price increase when this outstanding IPA becomes popular, Boulevard!

Update - March 25, 2014: Price increase to $9.50 per 6-pack.  Come on, Boulevard!!!  It's probably worth that in Seattle, but not here in the South.  I know a large portion of cost is involved in getting the beer from KC to Asheville, but damn!  Are you forgetting this is the Beer Capital of the East Coast?  There are so many great IPA's being brewed right here in the city.  May need to start looking for another favorite.  Like Red Hook's Long Hammer IPA, at $12 per 12-pack for the past two years.  And, they ship from Washington, Oregon, and New Hampshire to NC.   I'll buy Single Wide all day long at $8 per 6-pack.  But, if the price stays higher for much longer, I'll wager my group of 4 or 5 local fans, and readers of our hobby site will boycott it.

Another Update - March 25, 2014: So, after further research, we have learned that it's not the brewer who sets prices; rather, it's the local distributor and/or store.  It's clearly a supply and demand issue and shelf space is limited.  Hopefully, the distributors will hear our call and be considerate.  Seems we have been driving the price higher ourselves!

Another, Another Update - June 17, 2014:  It's been three months since I've bought a six-pack of Singlewide IPA.  Why? Because the fuckers won't bring the price down.  I'm not paying $10 for a quality IPA when I can brew something very similar for less than half that.  Too bad, Boulevard.  As well as we promote you on HowBrewBeer.com, we can also demote you.  Too, too bad.  Red Hook's IPA is fantastic and I've been steadily buying 12-packs for $11.97.  That's fair.

         
 

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