This week’s #thereisnospoonfriday is thirsty. Thirsty for a great beer. I am not much of a wine guy, but definitely can enjoy a good glass (or several) every now and then. I am definitely not a hard alcohol type either – too many tough nights in college with Tequila or Vodka has kept me away as a whole since. Nope – for me, it is all about beer. I have always loved beer, but up until the past few years I would simply enjoy whatever was available. I wasn’t picky – and if a summer party was offering up Corona? Great. If I was out for dinner and a Sam Adams seasonal was an option I was more than game. However – something changed recently for me that has been both a blessing and a curse. I was introduced to really really really (yes THREE really) good beer. It started with a Belgium beers kick I was on a few years ago. I was a Chimay, Duvel and Leffe guy for a good year or two, and I thought they were amazing. During this period I drank Duvel’s Tripel Hop and my tastes buds woke up from years of beer drinking slumber. It became obvious to me very quickly that I loved hops. The hops were the thing (for me) that made beers so tasty – the more hops the better. This hops discovery led me naturally to IPAs. I started dabbling more with IPAs but found the common ones you can get in stores were average at best. I then met a guy who changed my beer drinking tastes forever and also turned me from a beer lover to an absolute beer dork (side note to readers – I am working on getting him as a guest blogger). This friend introduced me to brewers and beers I had never heard of, but the beers were the best I had ever tasted – by a mile. We laugh now and say that trying these beers is like being bitten by a vampire. You get these new awesome powers (drinking amazing beers and a taste for beer excellence) but you can never go back to who you once were. Never. This is going to make me sound like a major dick, but I just can’t drink “normal” beer now since I have tasted the best. When I go to restaurants, I will check the beer list, but 99% of the time they don’t have anything on this level, so I opt for a Diet Coke. When I go to liquor stores I rarely ever find anything worth buying. I recently was at a Craft Beer store – literally all they sell are craft beers – and I talked with the owner. I told him what beers I had been introduced to and what I was drinking and asked if he had anything similar I would like in his store. To his credit, he told me “nope” – and I could tell a) he was a beer vampire too and b) this fact bummed him out. At parties, I will either bring my own now or have a gin and tonic (or two). As I said – I know this sounds very dick-ish but my tastes have changed forever. This week’s blog comes with a warning – the beers I am going to talk about are GREAT. To all you Stout, Lager and other non-hoppy beer lovers I say this – you are all on crack. This list is strictly for those who love them some hops. Learn from my experience – I beg you. If you drink these you will never look at “normal” beer the same way again. I know there are many more beers I have yet to have that are in this class of beer that I would love to hear about in the comments section – always looking for new ones to try so your comments and suggestions are very welcomed. I also know beer taste is very subjective so spare your venom – this is my list.
Last warning! Drink these beers at your own risk or become a fellow “beer vampire” like me. Here we go – my Top 5 Favorite beers of all time.
5. “Lunch” by The Maine Brewing Company – Such an awesome beer. This one you can actually find for a day or two once every month in some of the better liquor stores in the Northeast. They ship in low quantity, so a lot of liquor stores won’t even put them on display – you need to talk to the employees and ask if they have any in stock. Like a lot of the really great beers, because they insist on freshness they don’t ship a ton, hence liquor stores will limit how much you can buy per visit. I have seen 2 bottle limits a lot, but also seen 1 bottle per customer too. This is hops perfection. Maine Brewing Company has other good beers too that are more common, my second favorite one you could get in stores from them is called “Another One”. Lunch, though, is the one you should get. Unfiltered, delicious, hoppy and always fresh. This beer is rare, but I have seen recently one or two restaurants actually have it on tap. Like the liquor stores – they don’t advertise it though – you need to ask. Also like the liquor stores, they serve you smaller portions because of supply. I don’t care if this stuff was served in paper cups – I would drink every bit I could get, it’s that good. Maine Brewing Company has an even rarer beer than Lunch, called “Dinner”, that I have heard is amazing. Until I try that one, “Lunch” is my choice here.
4. “Stumpy Duck” by Trillium – I was introduced to Trillium about three months ago and it was a game changer for me. They are in Boston on Congress Street, and rarely sell their beers anywhere but in the actual brewery. I have yet to have any beer by Trillium not be anything but outstanding, but Stumpy Duck really stood out to me. I could only get it in growlers when I went, but I hear that they do sell by bottle occasionally too. This beer is hops perfection but with a bit of citrus to it too. From the moment you open it the aroma sucks you in. When you pour it into a glass, you see a beautiful beer as it is supposed to be – unfiltered, dark yellow/orange liquid gold. The taste is out of this world, but unlike #3 on this list, the ABV isn’t high so you can drink several and not be hammered. The experience of going to Trillium is half the fun (more on that in #2) but there is a reason why dudes like me are waiting in line around the corner when Trillium opens their door for business. My last visit they did not have any for sale, but I am always on the lookout for when the do. Stumpy Duck for the win!
3. “Heady Topper” by The Alchemist – The Holy Grail of beers. One of the toughest beers to get in the world, and consistently ranked by Beer Advocate as one of the best beers in the world – currently with a perfect 100 score. There is a reason people from all over the world travel to a 30 mile radius of the Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. This beer is awesome. Yes – there is some marketing genius behind this beer but great marketing or no, the actual product is still fantastic. They too, like all the beers on this list, insist on freshness, so the supply is extremely limited. The freshness is the reason they only sell within such a short vicinity of the brewery. Any store selling it will limit you to a 4 pack per customer, so what lunatics like me do is go to Twitter account like @headyspotter to get delivery schedules and stores that have it in stock. The fanaticism for this beer is so great that even if you know the schedule for delivery and get in line for the trucks (yes – we wait in line for the delivery trucks – I feel ashamed just writing that) it still will sell out in hours. While this may seem like a huge hassle for a beer, when you open one of these up you understand why – immediately.
2. “Summer Street” by Trillium – Yep- another Trillium offering on this list. Their brewery is just THAT good in my mind. I recently went with someone from out of town, and it was a real joy for me to watch him experience the whole scene there as we went to stock up on this great beer. The brewery is practically hidden off the street, yet you see it from blocks away because there is a line of people with coolers and large bags already there waiting to get their hands on this beer. As the doors open to the brewery, the aroma comes billowing out. Honestly – it smells like the tastiest food is being cooked in that place – but it is not food you are smelling. It is some of the greatest beer I have ever tasted. Not unlike the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld – this experience is not about customer service. There is no bar and there is no restaurant. There are two lines – one for growlers and one for bottles. They update last minute on their site what is available that day, and you best be prepared to order when your turn comes up. They are not rude by any means – but to many, if not all of the people in that line this is serious business. Yes – you can get Trillium glasses, T shirts and hats, but this is purely a “get my beers and get out” thing. Summer Street is the best beer I have had at Trillium – and as I mentioned I have loved every single damn one of them. If you are in Boston and see they are selling it, my advice is to get there that day and buy as much as they allow you to get. You won’t regret it for a second. #truth.
1. “Susan” by Hill Farmstead – You simply cannot get this beer in stores – or many places for that matter. I was introduced to this beer by my “Vampire” maker I mentioned earlier who introduced me to these next level beers. For those not living in MA, there is a city in the center of MA called Worcester. Worcester is definitely NOT Boston and not a destination place for anyone really. Yet – he recommended – nay insisted – we go to Worcester to a restaurant called Armsby Abbey. This was going to be a couples date night with our wives, so I asked if the food was any good. He said yes but that the food would be secondary because they had “Susan” on tap. I had not heard of this beer, but his excitement that they had it got me pumped. This dude knows great beer. My other friend who was coming with us had gone with him prior there and could not stop talking about Susan since – so I quickly agreed to head to Armsby Abbey. As we entered the restaurant I noticed that almost everyone in the place had the same glass and same looking beer on their tables. Yes – it was Susan. These people also traveled from all around because they had heard it was there on tap. Fast forward to me ordering it and drinking it. Mind. Blown. Best beer I have ever had and honestly not sure any beer could ever top it. To my knowledge, Armsby Abbey is the only place in MA that gets it – occasionally. To get this beer you have to travel to the Hill Farmstead brewery in Greensboro Bend, Vermont. What is with Vermont having all these amazing beers? You can bet this will be a trip I will be making. Soon.
There it is – my Top 5 Beers I have ever had. What are your favorites? Have you ever had any of these? Let me know in your comments! Until next week – there is no spoon.
Ed my brother… So much to say here so let me dig in…
First about the list. NAILED IT from the limited experience I (we) have in this brave new world. So happy to see the Stumpy Duck on that list. It would be far too easy for that beer to get overshadowed next to the other giants mentioned, but it is a great, solid beer. To that end, I cannot fathom how you were able to shave down to just Summer Street by Trillium. I think in terms of Congress Street, Fort Point, Vicinity IPA, Sleeper Street, the list goes on – not to mention all of the double dry hopped versions of the same. Talk about a brewery that just “gets it.”
Next, on the vampire analogy… You left out the best part! Once you are “bitten” you must continue to drink this nectar of the Gods to survive and simply nothing else will suffice. It is unfair that these beers are in such limited quantity; hence, in the absence of having one of these nectars, us vampires are forced to subside on “common” beer. This makes us (from the vampire perspective) view these nectar class beers as “humans” and common beers as “rats.” –> Think in terms of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in the movie Interview with a Vampire surviving on vermin when they couldn’t drink the blood of a yummy person!
Ok, moving on… You missed the mention of the people you know who have been bitten and what it has done to their lives. Think of our friend from New York who was bitten during his visit and doesn’t have access to said nectars. That man lives on rats now! Think of the fact that he, I and you have all independently had nightmare level dreams about not being able to get or drink this beer… What about our friend from London who spent the better part of two decades drinking room temperature red ales and stouts because it’s the English way. (I believe the English expression “stiff upper lip” was derived having had to drink that stuff.) Oh the tragedy left in the wake of this magic elixir. We can all sit back and blame the great and wise Sensi for doing this to us, but damn it – I really don’t miss the sun that much and have found sleeping in my casket quite comfortable really…
The last point Ed is that you have used your powers for evil here. You clearly understand the scope of your social outreach abilities and have just woken up droves of future vampires… The line at Trillium wasn’t long enough already?! I see rats in our future…
Great post bro!
Jerry – quite possibly the greatest comment of all time. Well done. You are right – I should have taken the vampire analogy further!