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—roughly—American East Coast. Again, tough choices; I suppose if there’s one brewery I left off of this list, it would be Dogfish Head—but since I covered them (twice even!) in Part 3 (extreme beers), I figured I’m covered.
Samuel Adams Boston Lager
I’ve seen ambivalence and negative reactions towards Samuel Adams and their beers, which I don’t think is entirely warranted. Known more properly as the Boston Beer Company, they were one of the early comers to the craft beer revival in the U.S. with their Boston Lager, which has become their flagship beer.
Introduced in 1985, the beer followed the recipe the great-great-grandfather of Jim Koch, the brewer and founder of the company. It’s a good recipe. Malty and sweet, hoppy, flavorful, and moderate in alcohol (4.9% by volume), it’s a perfect session beer and an American classic.
BeerAdvocate score: 85/100, 97% approval.
When you think of New York, you don’t generally think “craft beer.” The Brooklyn Brewery has been doing quite a bit to change that impression.
Going from a moderate session beer like Boston Lager to an Imperial stout like this one is quite a leap; this ale is a whopping 10.1% alcohol, brewed during the winter season. What’s doubly remarkable about this beer is that the rich chocolate flavor comes entirely from the malts—there is no actual chocolate added.
This is a beer you can age for years, and it will only get better.
BeerAdvocate score: 90/100, 98% approval.
Prima Pils is another beer (like the Saison Dupont I mentioned last week) that has been considered one of the world’s best. (They even say, “This, friends, is what beer should taste like.”) There’s no doubt about it, this is a classic, award-winning beer.
Look for dominating hops here; Michael Jackson writes of this beer in Ultimate Beer:
It has a “fresh sea air” aroma of Saaz hops; almost gritty hop flavors; a lean malt background; and a firm, bitter finish.
BeerAdvocate score: 88/100, 98% approval.
Black Radish Dark Lager
This beer from Weeping Radish Brewery in North Carolina—like all their beers—is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law of 1516. That is, only malt, hops, yeast and water are allowed. Weeping Radish has been brewing German-style beers in this tradition since 1986.
Black Radish is a great example of the Munich Dunkel style—dark, complex, rich, but without the heavy and strong characteristics found in beers like stouts. According to this All About Beer article on Dunkels, Black Radish
has a deep mahogany hue and a slightly more substantial dark malt character than most dunkels. Perfect in palate, texture, balance, and overall character when compared to German varieties. Slightly sweet and malty with a light molasses-like finish. Perfect for watching the waves lick the shore.
BeerAdvocate score: 83/100, 98% approval.
I know Great Lakes Brewing in Ohio isn’t exactly the American east coast, but their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter earns such high marks that I figured I’d call it “close enough” and include it on the list.
By all accounts—and by the large number of awards this beer has earned—this is an outstanding beer, perhaps one of the best American porters being brewed today.
BeerAdvocate score: 91/100, 100% approval.