Pineapple Thai Basil Petite Golden Sour
The Collective Brewing Project
Since its debut in 2015, there have been nearly a dozen different variants of The Collective’s Petite Golden Sour, including versions made with apricot, raspberry, blueberry and plum as well as several dry-hopped editions and one iteration aged in whiskey barrels with mangoes. This rendition, released in May, is the first we’d say is a must-try. The aroma is basil, forever and ever; while dried pineapple, saltine crackers and cracked pepper make appearances, the herb is the star, and it’s high-quality stuff, seemingly just-plucked. A surge of pineapple rises to meet the basil on the palate, and the two flavors connect in a beautiful swirling dance, with the herb standing in for the fruit’s peel and lingering on the palate long after the sip has dissipated, adding interest to the moderate, snappy acidity. The tartness is clean, not funky, and that tidiness allows the pineapple and basil to shine. Plus, “petite” isn’t just a name; the beer’s only 4.5% ABV, making it all too easy to polish off a bottle.
Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Mexican Spice Cake
New Holland Brewing Co.
We’ve argued in the past that most “Mexican stouts” don’t benefit from barrel-aging; their bold flavors of chili peppers, cocoa, vanilla beans and cinnamon seem to lose their edge when whiskey’s added to the mix. But when we make that contention, we’re talking about beers that existed first as spiced stouts, then were barrel-aged later. What if the process was reversed? What if a beer was already an established, delicious bourbon-aged stout before brewers ever had the idea to spice it up? Such is the case with this tweak on New Holland’s existing (and excellent) Dragon’s Milk imperial stout with toasted chiles, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and cinnamon added to the bourbon barrels in which the beer customarily slumbers for three months. Cinnamon graham crackers and dark chocolate squares with a hint of cherry ply the tongue before maple syrup and coconut (courtesy of the mild whiskey) arrive. The chilies appear at the swallow with soft, chipotlelike smokiness and a heat that’s present but not punishing. The base stout is a little thin, but it carries the added ingredients well; we actually appreciate that it’s lighter, as it makes the beer more drinkable and belies its 11% ABV. Kudos to the brewery for balancing all the aspects of the stout so deftly.
Noble Ale Works
We’ve done it; we’ve hit peak hop smoothness. We honestly can’t tell when the bitterness arrives in this Galaxy-, Nelson-, Citra- and Simcoe-hopped double IPA; we know it’s there because we can feel lupulin glomming onto the back of our tongues, but the hops slide in so effortlessly it’s impossible to tell when it actually hits. The general creaminess carries through to every aspect of the beer, from its thick, juicy appearance—resembling pineapple juice with a head like stiff peaks on whipped egg whites—to its velvet-soft body and effortless flavor that vacillates between earthy-herbal (think onions, parsley and marjoram pulled fresh from the garden and still speckled with wet soil) and fruity (huge leaner-style peaches with splashes of pineapple and fresh strawberry). Extra surges of grapefruit peel and mown grass toward the back of the sip have the beer dunking on the palate at will, and while alcohol flavor is noticeable, even that is softened by the body: It’s like getting punched in the mouth with cotton ball fists.
Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA
Southern Prohibition Brewing
A session New England IPA wasn’t something we thought we needed, but Devil’s Harvest proved us wrong. Crafted with flaked oats in the boil and a heavy Citra dry-hop, the IPA has a rich malt character to its aroma, like Grape Nuts and dried vanilla, while hops provide a mild grassy character, plus honeydew and mango puree. The actual malt flavor is as large as the nose would suggest, but hops again provide grassy bitterness and notes of tangerine, mango and melon; sips are like spoonfuls of oatmeal coated with hop dust. It drinks bigger than its 4.9% ABV but retains balance and crushability sip after sip after sip.
New Glarus Brewing Co.
New Glarus head brewer Dan Carey works in fruit the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It is his true medium; he’s a master. His Wisconsin Belgian Red and Serendipity are two of the best fruit beers on the planet, and Strawberry Rhubarb makes a strong case that it also belongs on that list. The color and shininess of a decade-old penny, the beer emits a sweet aroma of squeezed strawberries and a hint of earthy rhubarb; there isn’t much else to it, but not much else is necessary. The two ingredients likewise shine in the flavor, with the rhubarb’s tartness deftly balancing the strawberry’s sugars. Swallows of the silky medium-light body lead to a flash of underripe strawberry right at the finish. Juicelike in feel and flavor, this brew is just what it purports to be: strawberry, rhubarb and alcohol. What else do you need?