What’s Your Favorite Beer? 2014 Edition
One of the best things about being a beer aficionado is that there’s a near-endless supply of different craft and speciality brews to sample and explore and experiment with. During last year’s Beer Week series we asked five local beer fans (who have contributed regularly to our 85+ page messageboard discussion on the topic) to share with us their top three favorite picks of the year.
This year we asked them for an update on their favorite beers so far this summer. Here’s their picks:
Oberon Ale by Bells Brewery
A lot of beers are marketed towards the summer months but, for me, there is only one truly perfect summer season beer and that is Oberon Ale. Oberon is a non-flitered American Pale Wheat Ale that is very light, very refreshing, and almost like drinking a wheat beer orange juice with a hoppy finish. That might sound slightly weird, but trust me – it works. I bought a kegerator off of Craigslist a couple months ago and it’s been pouring Oberon ever since. If you don’t like this beer, we can’t be friends.
Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing
Back in March, by brother Simon and I took a beer geek pilgrimage to Grand Rapids, Michigan to get our hands on the “high acclaimed” Founders KBS. If you’re a beer geek, you have most definitely heard of it, but even if you’re not inflicted with the craft suds bug, you still might have seen people lining up around town looking for this extremely hard to find beer. KBS is a black as night stout brewed with chocolate and coffee, then aged in bourbon barrels for a year. The hype around this beer is almost unmatched in the industry and let me tell you: it delivers on all fronts. Huge coffee flavor, huge bitter chocolate taste, and warm heat at the finish from the bourbon barrel. It’s a taste bud experience.
Musk of the Minotaur IPA by Hoof Hearted Brewing
I couldn’t make a “top beer list” without at least one IPA and this one is a locally-brewed contestant that I have been guzzling down any chance I get. Musk of the Minotaur is just the style of IPA I like; strong grapefruit taste on the front and enough bite and piney notes on the finish to keep it crisp and not too sweet. With the nano-brewery boom going on in Columbus right now, there are a lot of locally brewed IPAs, but this is my clear cut favorite by a large margin.
Honorable Mention: Truth by Rhinegeist Brewing
If you haven’t made the 100 mile trip south to Cincinnati recently, you need to get in your car and go now because you are missing out on not drinking this beer. In my opinion, it’s another IPA that, just like the Musk of the Minotaur, takes the IPA game in Ohio to the next level. Rhinegeist is canning this beer, but trust me, you’re going to want to drink one in their brewpub. It’s a amazing place.
White Rajah from The Brew Kettle in Strongsville Ohio
This is a great summer time IPA. The hops used provide a nice citrusy punch that quenches your thirst. But don’t be fooled, this is not session beer by any measure, which means you won’t fill up on beer. Brew Kettle is just a short ride north and summer is a great time to visit them as their kitchen serves up fresh lake Erie Perch that, by itself, is worth the trip.
Mystic Mama by Jackie O’s in Athens Ohio
Jackie O’s has made a name for themselves as purveyors of fine brews due, in part, to the popularity of this IPA in a can. This brew is packed with “copious amounts of pungent hops” and it shows. This beer pours a nice light golden yellow which tells you right away the malt (barely roasted) is going to take a back seat to the hops on this ride.
Hop JuJu from Fat Head’s in Middleburg Heights Ohio
This beer won Gold at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival and once you have one you’ll know why. The flavor can only be described as intense. First thing that hits you is the dank aromas of pine and citrus then the big flavor of tropical fruits and grapefruit and just a hint of sweet malt. For me this is the perfect beer.
Stiegl Radler for Brunch
Yes, beer for “breakfast.” Nothing you’d catch a buzz from at 2.5% but extremely refreshing. The Stiegl Radler – a grapefruit Radler in this case – reminds you of an American Hefewiezen. The effervescence combined with the tart of the grapefruit makes this a perfect pairing with your crepe or belgian waffle.
Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale for Lunch
Pairing well with a variety of food, Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale delivers a smile to any palate. Pouring a hazy golden with lasting white head the mellow citrus wheat flavor cuts clean with a rye finish. Easy to session until the 6% reminds you of that one saying about “moderation” … how does that go again?
Anderson Valley’s Heelch O’Hops Double IPA for Dinner
While typically not a fan of the now all too pedestrian IPA market, this Double IPA is a standout for me. It’s vigorous malt groundwork followed by peppery and fruity notes are the perfect chase to anything from lamb chops to spicy pad thai.
When summer hits, I think Saison. Bright, crisp, clean & refreshing, yet packing tons of complexity, Saisons satisfy in a big way during the warmer months. While the style isn’t overly ubiquitous, there are certainly a lot of great Saisons out there, even fantastic ones produced from local breweries like Rockmill & Seventh Son. That said, I tend to always go back to the OG of the style: Saison Dupont. This beer is pretty much the prototype for what a Saison should be. Added bonus: You won’t have to look too hard to find some here in Columbus.
Founders All Day IPA
The past few years has seen a significant rise in “session IPA’s” hitting the market. These are usually below-5% ABV brews that give you plenty of the hop lovin’ you crave, without knocking you on your ass in the process. I certainly have a few favorites lately, and it was pretty hard for me to choose between Stone’s “Go-To-IPA” and “All Day”, but Founders got the edge because I’ve been able to find it available in 15-pack cans here locally. The flavor is rich & authentic, full of piney, hoppy goodness, yet only clocks in at 4.7% ABV. Delish.
An absolute classic, courtesy of the oldest brewery in the world. Since we just celebrated the 4th of July, just think that this brewery was making beer 736 years before the United States declared independence. Their experience certainly shows with this absolute gem. It’s no surprise that wheat beers, such as hefewizens, are popular during the Summer months due to their light & refreshing character. Weihenstephaner’s offering shines with hints of lemon, clove and banana. If you’re a fan of wheat beers, look no further than this best-in-class mainstay. Not only one of the best wheat beers I’ve ever tasted, it’s one of the best overall brews I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing over the years.
Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze – Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen (Belgium)
I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes I’m not really in a “beer mood.” Sometimes I’m in the mood for something bubbly and sour and acidic and citrusy. As much as I love an IPA, I love a sour even more. When I feel like making a little splurge and spending $22 on a bottle, this is the one I go for. It drinks more like champagne than beer, yet it’s nothing like the “champagne of beers.” It makes my mouth feel like I’ve eaten a really, really tart granny smith apple. It makes me happy.
35k – Against the Grain Brewing (Louisville, KY)
Against the Grain is probably my favorite brewery. I’d venture to say that I like their offerings overall even better than 3 Floyds. Gasp. So I was pretty excited to find that they’re recently distributing in Ohio, and I was even more excited to find some bottles of 35k around town. Milk stouts are probably my favorite of all the darker beer styles, and this one managed to oust my old fave Left Hand Milk Stout from it’s long-held #1 spot. It tastes a whole lot like coffee, which is one of my favorite things to drink when I’m not drinking beer. Like most milk stouts, it’s sweet, so I can’t drink a bunch, but splitting a bomber or two of this with a friend is just right.
Truth – Rhinegeist (Cincinnati, OH)
In case you don’t know, Rhinegeist is making great beer just south of us in Cincinnati. And even though they aren’t distributing in Columbus just yet, they are canning, and I find that those beautiful little blue and green cans manage make the northern trek to my fridge delightfully often. It’s become a go-to IPA for me. It’s bitter and not for the faint of hops (see what I did there?), but it’s well balanced with nice citrusy notes and maybe a little bit of tropical goodness once it warms up in the tulip glass I like to pour it into. I get sad when I run out, but I’m always happy for an excuse to visit The Queen City to grab more.
All photos by Logan Miller of www.LCMphoto.org.
Columbus Underground is showcasing the local beer scene with Beer Week! From July 7th to July 13th, we’ll be sharing stories on homebrewing, guides to beer-centric bars, tasting beer how-to, cooking with beer, and more, sponsored by our friends at The Short North Pint House & Beer Garden. Every Wednesday, The Pint House brings in a different brewery to take over their taps featuring a diverse lineup of the best brews for you to try. Oftentimes, these brews are very rare or limited edition so come enjoy them while they have them! Every draft purchase is served in the brewery’s custom beer glass which is yours to keep while supplies last! For more information visit ShortNorthPintHouse.com.