A while back the BBC posted a feature titled “50 things to eat before you die” and I thought at the time that this would make a good topic for beer. So in the spirit of adventure and living life to the fullest, etc. etc., I’m coming up with the 50 beers to drink before you die, in ten weekly installments listing five beers each (in no particular order, other than whatever theme I fit them into).
The final installment! Hard to believe it’s been ten weeks already; back when I was first starting this series, it seemed quite a bit more daunting. At any rate, for this final week there’s really no theme at all, other than “The End” or “The Final Five.”
This is a bit of a vanity pick, I admit, but I also think I overlooked Stone Brewing‘s flagship beer the first time around. I actually had it on my list of picks, but just couldn’t find the space for it at the time.
Arrogant Bastard is really the prototypical and overall best example of the newish “American Strong Ale” style of beers: when it was released it really set the stage for the new wave of American beers—the Imperial IPAs, the strong pale ales, the “double” this and “extreme” that, and I’d even venture to say the strong fresh hop beer craze. Arrogant Bastard opened the door for all that, and it’s still one of the best around.
BeerAdvocate score: 90/100, 98%.
Style: Sahti (Finnish)
Sahti is a style of beer rather than a specific beer recommendation, but it’s definitely one of those styles that I think everyone should try. It is a Finnish farmhouse ale, flavored with juniper berries and filtered through juniper branches and fermented (typically) with a Finnish bread yeast. For more on the style, check out BeerAdvocate’s page, Wikipedia, and Michael Jackson’s notes.
There aren’t many opportunities for this style of beer outside of Finland, though recently Otter Creek Brewing released Helsinki Göld in their “World Tour” series of beers (BeerAdvocate link). Otherwise, the other likely source you’ll find for this style is the Finnish brewer Lammin Sahti Oy.
Style: Kvass (Russian)
Another style of Eastern Europe—in fact, the national drink for Russia, its country of origin—that you probably won’t be able to get unless you’re in Europe or somebody brings some back for you. Kvass is a low-alcohol beer generally made from rye (or wheat or barley) bread, often flavored with various herbs and/or fruits, and fermented with bread yeast. It’s so low in alcohol that it is often considered a “soft drink” in Russia and consumed by children.
If you can’t make it to Russia anytime soon, your best best on trying kvass would be of the homebrewed variety. While the steps and methods for doing this are longer than would be appropriate here, that would be a good topic for a future article…
Yep, just “homebrew”. Any homebrew. I’m not going to quibble about style, or presentation, or region, or any of that. (Well, I hope it will at least be good.) But I don’t think anybody can call their beer drinking experience complete without drinking some homebrewed beer.
For many people who are first-time homebrew drinkers, the fact that a quality beer that is as good or better than what they can get commercially can be brewed at home with minimal equipment is a revelation.
And homebrewing can expose many people (newbies and experienced folks alike) to new styles or experimental types of beer (again, hoping they’re good!) that they may not otherwise be able to get. So if someone offers you a chance to try their homebrewed beer, jump on it.
And finally: Your local brewery’s beer
That’s right, the final beer everyone should drink before they die is their local brewery’s (or brewpub’s): because ultimately none of the creativity, availability, and culture of beer would be possible without the support and patronization of the local craft brewery. Not to get too preachy.
So head on down to your local brewpub and have a pint. Or if they bottle their brew, pick some up at the store and enjoy it at home. Either way, whatever your local brewer serves up, do yourself a favor and try some—if you haven’t already.