This rum barrel-aged imperial stout was screaming hot when it first hit shelves in late 2014, but time has cooled the fire, and the full force of its 18.8% ABV can now hardly be felt. Its aromas and flavors have merged beautifully as well: Chocolate, graham cracker, vanilla, dark rum and molasses arrive in procession before the finish dries out with lingering peanut shell and ashy espresso. Crack a bottle now if you have one aging, but maybe share the love with a friend or two—this thing’s still almost 40-proof.
Lay Down: The Beast Grand Cru
Alcohol pummels the nostrils upon first whiff of this Belgian-style brew; every bit of its 16.8% ABV is noticeable as it hovers menacingly above a base of oak, vanilla, marshmallow and sticky raisin. Intense fruity sweetness and palate-wrecking booze embody The Beast when fresh, so stash it away to remove the alcohol’s teeth, mellow the sugars and allow smooth date and sherry flavors to come to the fore. We suggest two years minimum, but you could go longer—bottles of the first batch of Beast, released in 2004, are showing very few signs of degradation.