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).
This week’s theme is the European iconic (obvious?) examples of classic styles. Or, as I was thinking of them in my head, the “no duh” choices.
By most accounts, this is one of the world’s best beers. Brewed by Ayinger in Germany, every bottle includes the iconic plastic goat ornament (“bock” being associated with “goat” in its historical origins)—I’m never quite sure what to do with it.
I will, however, back up the assertion that it’s one of the world’s best beers. I reviewed it here. Dark, rich, complex—”amazing” was the word I used. It really is; if you’ve never tried this beer, do yourself a favor and make it the next one you buy.
BeerAdvocate score: 92/100, 100% approval.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen
Paulaner’s Oktoberfest is the gold standard for the style; I wrote: “Outside of Munich, this is the Oktoberfest beer by which all others are judged.” It’s possible I’ll pick another beer or two in the Oktoberfest style, but if nothing else this is the beer to try for the experience.
This lager originated in the early nineteenth century, called “Märzen” (“March”) because March was the last month this beer could be brewed before the hot summer season started. Lagers require cool temperatures to ferment and condition; apocryphally I remember reading once that it was common practice to store the beer in cool caves during the summer (before the onset of mechanized refrigeration), but I can’t swear to this. Makes for a good story, though.
BeerAdvocate score: 87/100, 99% approval.
This is the fruit beer that non-beer drinkers will actually like (my wife does). And it’s a good introduction to the unique Belgian lambic style of ales: wheat beers that are naturally fermented in open containers with a strain of yeast unique only to the region of Belgium that these beers hail from.
Lindemans has several varieties of fruit lambics—including peach, black currant, and apple—but the raspberry is their signature. It’s a perfect dessert beer, and, if you’re into this kind of thing, a great Valentine’s Day beer.
This is such a departure from the “normal” character of beer that if you didn’t know better, you might not think it was beer at all. But in a good way.
BeerAdvocate score: 88/100, 98% approval.
This is the pick that I figure will get some people to quit reading in disgust and/or think I’m a sellout. But you know what? You can’t go wrong with Guinness.
Guinness Draught is often the first stout or “dark beer” that people are exposed to, which is the lower-alcohol, creamy-smooth version that is found on draft in bars or in the can. What makes this version so notable is the fact that it’s injected with nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide (the “nitro draft”) which gives it the extra creamy, extra smooth mouthfeel and famous head. (The can version actually contains a plastic capsule that injects nitrogen into the beer when the can is opened.)
The version I’m highlighting here is the “Extra Stout” version, which is the higher-alcohol original version of the beer. It’s a classic dry Irish stout and for good reason it’s the iconic example of the style.
BeerAdvocate score: 85/100, 95% approval.
According to Michael Jackson in Ultimate Beer,
The term Urquell means “original source” in German… This is the original Pilsner, copied throughout the world, often by lesser, blander beers. Its golden color was a novelty at a time when glass vessels were replacing stoneware steins and pewter tankards, but the beer’s fame was also due to its quality.
The original Pilsner, dating back to 1842. What more do you need to know?
BeerAdvocate score: 83/100, 88% approval.