People ask me all of the time, "what is your favorite beer?" This is a very tough question to answer as my taste in beer is extremely broad and depends on a lot of factors like the weather, my mood, as well as what food will be served with said brew. To be honest the best beer for me is the freshest one that is in my hand at the time. I look for certain styles or brewers offerings from various breweries that are different or special but not necessarily rare per se. I especially like ordering styles that I don't see very often. That being said, here are a list of my top ten beer styles that I enjoy. This list was done very quickly off the top of my head and, for the record, I love all beer styles (even new age hazy beers). I want to thank my friend Joel Clark for being the inspiration behind this list.
If you ever need a ride around Asheville or Western North Carolina, Roll with Joel is a fabulous option. Click here to check out his website. Take a ride with Joel while visiting me on Beer City Brewery Tours. Book today to experience Asheville's best brewery tour.
1. Wild Ale
Wild ales are the reason why I still travel for beer. These beers taste and smell more like a wine not like a beer and that is purposeful. Wild ales are just that, wild. They use ambient bacteria from spontaneous fermentation or house wild yeast strain or strains to impart complex aromas and flavors.They are typically aged in oak for up to 1-4 years but it all depends on the brewery as to how long they age them. I love the versions that are funky, fruity, complex, oaky with balanced acidity. Wild ales are not quick to make however. Some of them take several years to be rested in oak then possibly blended with other vintages. These special occasion beers remind me of the wine making process as well as having wine-like flavor profiles in many ways. If you ever want to try a wild ale, do it! They are all around you in Beer City and beyond. Check out the current cuvee (or blend of several vintages) from Burial Beer Company called Symptom of Progeny. This blend of three years of golden sour base brewed by spontaneous outdoor bacteria under their peach tree at the brewery also uses aged hops to produce a beautifully balanced fruity, tart, oaky, slightly funky and nicely acidic blend. This is a stunning blend of three different vintages. Wild ales are special brews that keep me sipping and searching in my beer travels. Try one today on BEER CITY BREWERY TOURS!
2. Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
From the oak barrel to the bourbon barrel, which are American oak. Barrel aged stouts are typically inky, black, viscous stouts brewed with ale yeast then rested in once used wet bourbon barrels from Kentucky, or wherever the brewer can source them. Imperial stouts have some nostalgia for me as they were born in Chicago (Goose Island's Bourbon County) where I lived for a good portion of my life. I used to consume all of these big abv beers whenever I could get my hands on them in order to warm up during those long Chicago winters. These beautiful, warming (sometimes over 15% abv), black beers typically use a base beer of at least 10% imperial stout added to a bourbon barrel (or other spirit barrel) and aged for months or years to pick up on all of that stunning wood character. BA Stouts are warming, roasty, chocolatey, vanilla-like, rich, decadent, luscious, spirit-forward, and special. I am so happy that someone thought to combine bourbon and beer.
3. Vienna Lager
The first lager on the list is one that I absolutely adore. Vienna lager is a moderate strength amber lager that has stunning dry drinkability. Every time that I see a Vienna Lager on a menu I order it hoping for those malty smooth toasty notes with just enough bitterness to balance the experience perfectly. At 5% ABV this beer style will be enjoyed in liter form all day long. I consider this the truest form of liquid bread but in the best possible way. There are Vienna malt toasted notes and lager crispness with just enough bitterness to balance this underappreciated style. We pour this style on Beer City Brewery Tours whenever we see it offered.
Is it a lager or an ale? This pale brew from Cologne, Germany uses ale yeast with the best German malts and hops to provide a devastatingly quaffable offering. Afterwards the beer is conditioned at a very cold temperature for at least a month. Served in a tall glass called a stange, this top fermenting pale beer toes the line of ale and lager with its crisp, clean, balanced and refreshing disposition with a hint of hops and fruit. Drink this one as fresh as possible for the best possible experience. Should we book our flights to Germany now? Prost!
5. Czech Pale Lager (světlé výčepní pivo)
A beer trend that I have been loving recently is the resurgence, or the addition, of Czech lagers to the lineup of beers at breweries nationally. As much as I love the richness of Czech Dark Lager, the Czech Pale Lager is my go to on a beer board. Czech Pale lagers have a lighter-bodied, rich, refreshing, hoppy, bitter, familiar flavor of the stronger Czech Premium Pale Lager beer but in a lower alcohol (3-4%), lighter-bodied and beautifully carbonated form. Typically these beers are decocted, or part of the mash is boiled then re-added to the mash to provide a richness and complexity that is unmatched. If you would like to try a fabulous pale, Czech version of the German Pilsner order one of these on LUKR side pull taps all over Beer City USA.
BOOK HERE TO JOIN BEER CITY BREWERY TOURS AND LEARN MORE ABOUT SERVING BEER.
In my opinion the Helles might be the worlds most perfect beer style in its balance of malt, hops, water and yeast. I love Helles for its approachability at 5-ish% with stunning malt complexity, balanced bitterness and a clean dry lager finish. This is a refreshingly delicious malt driven German lager that actually means pale or light in the mother tongue. Do not miss out on this crusher whenever you are at any brewery that offers this drinkable offering.
7.American Pale Ale
What no IPA on this list?! It seems like a crime. Let's get one thing straight. I absolutely adore hops. So much so that I grow Centennial, Cascade and Columbus hops at my house for the last 5 or so years. I love the approachability of the little brother of IPA, the American Pale Ale. Using a fairly simple malt bill and with a plethora of American or other punchy or dank New World hops to play with, the Pale Ale is a treat. I love that I can drink several of these beers at no more than 6% abv. I enjoy the lighter mouthfeel of the American malt character coupled with the almost limitless range of hop aromas and flavors such as tropical, resin, dank, pine, stone fruit, berry, and spice. It is certainly a showcase of American and New World hops in this average strength offering.
DO YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ASHEVILLE BREWERIES. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.
Isn't this just the Vienna lager from earlier? Although they are very close to each other Marzen is a stronger and a richer malt version of the Vienna lager mentioned earlier. This "March" beer was the beer of Oktoberfest for over 100 years, Marzen is a malty, toasty, bready German lager that used to be stored in cold caves in Munich from March to September then opened up in for the big celebration of the wedding from almost 200 years ago. If you want to treat yourself during the fall season pick up a Paulaner or a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest. They never disappoint.
When traveling through Belgium years back my wife and I found ourselves always ordering this Belgian, spicy, pale colored, highly carbonated ale whenever we were out exploring this stunning beer country. The tripel is a wonderfully yeast forward offering from Belgium with notes of banana, orange and pepper and/or clove spice stemming from the Belgian yeast. The tripel is a remarkably dry beer and has a subtle 9% alcohol. This style is dangerously smooth and does not drink like a 9% beer, nor is it sweet. Tripels are perfectly balanced with simple Belgian malt character coupled with citrus, banana, or pear as well as peppery spice of the yeast profile. The candied sugar that the Belgians like to use in the brewing process to bump up the abv adds to the drying finish in order to lure us back for another sip. I feel that the harmonious relationship between all of the ingredients, highlighting the yeast character, make this style of the most unique beer styles in the world. Try a classic example and buy the original by Westmalle.
I think that I have a trend going on here as I picked my third darker lager for my final selection of this list. Meaning double bock (bocks are stronger lagers) this dark lager was brewed originally for the monks in Munich by the monks for sustenance during their "fasting" period in the 1700s. This "liquid bread"that we see brewed and imported in the USA is typically dark, copper, ruby and/or garnet colored and has all of the drinkability of a crisp lager cloaked in a darker malt garb. It proves once again that lagers can be dark as long as the brewer uses darker malts in the mash. Decoction is essential to really bring out those deep, rich colors and flavors in the style. The aromas and flavors are rich, dark fruit such as plums and/or grapes but without a harsh bitter roasted note. You can always point out a doppelbock by the suffix -ator on the label.
HERE IS A BLOG POST ABOUT AN ASHEVILLE DOPPELBOCK COLLAB HERE
Thanks for reading everyone. This was a fun one to write. I hope to see you soon on Beer City Brewery Tours.