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10 special releases to grab this year

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Mark your calendar: These special 2011 releases come with much ado, but get snatched up so quickly, many beer seekers are left out to dry.

Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Dubbel

In the 1930s, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst shipped Santa Maria de Ovila monastery’s chapter house from Spain to California, brick by brick. The house, however, was never reconstructed and the bricks were later awarded to the Abbey of New Clairvaux in California. What does this have to do with Sierra Nevada? Partial proceeds from Abbey Dubbel, one of three beers from this year’s Ovila Abbey Ales line, will help the monks rebuild the structure on abbey grounds. Expected release: March

Russian River Pliny the Younger

This very limited release is available only to those intrepid tickers who track down where the beer will be poured, or to those lucky enough to stumble into a watering hole graced with a keg. Referred to as a triple IPA, Pliny the Younger is hopped three times more than the brewery’s regular IPA, and explodes on the tongue with fresh pine and grapefruit hop flavors. Expected release: February

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

Belgium’s famous for its sweets, so combining the country’s dark chocolate with its fruity yeast is a natural fit. That’s what Ommegang did back in 2007, and this beer’s been on everyone’s seasonal must-have list since. Expected release: October

Three Floyds DarkLord

The annual release of this beer’s so highly anticipated, it’s become a holiday. On DarkLord Day, fanatics fly in from across the country to snatch up the beer at the brewery. Each year the allotment changes according to the brewery’s yield, so cross your fingers for big batches and lots of bottles. Expected release: April

Foothills Sexual Chocolate

Probably North Carolina’s most famous beer, Sexual Chocolate’s yearly appearance is a study in quick reflexes—if you’re slow, you go home thirsty. Released in very limited quantities, this big beer packs enough chocolate punch, you can forget about buying a box of sweets on Valentine’s Day. Expected release: February

 

Bell’s HopSlam Ale

Some call this the Pliny of the Midwest, and while it’s not quite as elusive, this beer’s one of the best imperial IPAs out there. Using a blend of Northwest hops, malts and honey, HopSlam is true to its name: A full arsenal of floral, citrusy hop flavors swell in the mouth. Expected release: January

The Bruery Black Tuesday

With 20% ABV, this imperial stout’s known to draw diehards into four-hour lines during its annual release. It’s a rich, bourbon-spiked stout that woos the tongue with multiple layers, from sweet caramel and chocolate to nuts, oak, vanilla and brown sugar. Expected release: October

Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

Since 2002, Stone’s released a vertical beer one day, one month and one year from the previous year’s date, aptly naming the vintages 02.02.02, 03.03.03, 04.04.04, and so on. While the recipes differ from year to year (styles have ranged from a Kaffir lime pale ale to 2010’s grape-infused tripel), each one’s a must-have. This year is the penultimate offering, as the line comes to an end in 2012. Expected release: November

Surly Darkness

Another big beer with its own popular release day, Darkness is a perfect moniker for this lightless, roasty stout. Silky and chewy at once, this beer’s packed with dark chocolate and creamy coffee. Only about 7,500 bottles are produced, but if you’ve got the money, up to six can be yours. Expected release: October

Portsmouth Kate the Great

As one of the year’s marquee beers, Kate the Great’s release spawns a day-long event at the brewery. Just 900 bottles of this chewy Russian imperial stout will tempt tongues with rich roasted malts, chocolate, espresso, prunes and figs. Expected release: March

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