pFriem Family Brewers
Relaxed toastiness, gentle caramelly sweetness, a body that flows with easy elegance: A good Vienna lager really is a thing of beauty. It’s also a rarity, mainly because hardly anyone outside Mexican macro breweries bothers to attempt the style on a regular basis (it’s even scarce in its Austrian birthplace). Thanks to pFriem, a solid, authentic version is now that much easier to find. The Hood River, Oregon-based brewery’s Vienna tastes of liquid toast, caramel apples and hints of toffee; a swallow brings out smooth cashew butter and dried, herbal hops balance the semisweet finish. It’s as perfect an example of the style as you’ll find outside Vienna. Or Mexico. Or wherever.
Foeder Brett Saison
We’ll forgive you for not having Hi-Wire on your short list of world-class wild ale producers just yet—the brewery’s only shipped out a few beers from its Sour & Wild Ale facility in Asheville, North Carolina, since launching the sour program late last year. But if they keep making beers as well-constructed as this oak-fermented, Brettanomyces infused saison, you’re going to have to slide them in there eventually. Brett leads the way in the aroma, dropping huge pineapple notes on top of green apple skin and dry hay. A swirl brings up sweet pear, lemon and honeydew; warm vanilla and lavender can be picked up in the back. A sip draws out a finger-flick of green apple and vinegary acidity not present in the nose, with dried lemon, vanilla custard, underripe strawberry and mown grass surging alongside. Funky Brett exhales give a subtle barnyard impression; this is a wild ale with layers.
Burial Beer Co.
Looking for a beer to drink all day long as you watch the game this weekend? Billows is it. Dry-hopping lends this golden Kolsch a green, grassy character that combines with notes of corn or something like an ear of white corn, green husk and all. Hints of sweet orange juice and melon rind emerge midpalate, while the swallow puts the focus on clean, bready layers of matzo and crisp corn kernels. With a crisp finish and soft-landing bitterness, Billows is a Kolsch that has a lot of character and doesn’t let the hop cones overpower its subtlety.
Want to give your nose a thank-you for all those times it helped you avoid buying bad cologne and blowing up the house because you left the gas on? Treat it to a few whiffs of this Seattle-brewed IPA. This aroma is a damn delight, delivering a football field of fresh, clean grass and chopped white onion sprinkled with caramelized garlic and fresh orange skin. Your tongue is in for a treat, too: The sip kicks off with wheat grass and onion root spiced with a squeeze of juicy tangerine, while the swallow brings out garlic and Ritz crackers. All that herbal, allium-drenched funk would be tough to handle if not for the clean grassy note and velvet-smooth hop bitterness. Rarely have we encountered an IPA so much like a bowl of French onion soup, yet also so pleasant.
Collaboration Without Representation
Deep River Brewing Co.
If the description “bourbon barrel-aged imperial chocolate coffee milk stout” doesn’t already give you the tingles, prepare for some. Oily espresso roast and rich Belgian chocolate envelop the dense aroma, while deeper whiffs reveal sweet peanut, lactose, toffee, brown sugar and soft vanilla—those last three being seamlessly sewn-in bourbon notes. On the tongue, whiskey-cokes swan dive into sticky coffee and dark chocolate. Espresso roast is again huge and mocha-laced; vanilla bean and nougat soften the coffee edges before a sweet finish of chocolate syrup and espresso powder appear in tandem. Calling this “drinkable” would be laughable—it’s a thick, decadent, 12.8% ABV monstrosity—but beers like this have their place, too: as dessert.