Mother’s Brewing Co.
Springfield, Missouri-based Mother’s doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves when it comes to imperial stouts. That could be because its best one, brewed with cocoa nibs and raisins before aging in rum, sherry, bourbon, brandy and whiskey barrels, is called MILF. Tough to take seriously a beer named after an American Pie joke. But: It’s really good and widely available. The same can be said for Rated R, an imperial wheat stout infused with Askinosie Honduras cocoa nibs, Burundi cold brew coffee and vanilla beans. The coffee is the star in both the aroma and the flavor, layering rich, oily notes of chocolate-covered acai berries atop natural cocoa (the beans, nutty and dry, not the chocolate they become), dusty hazelnut, coconut shavings and Graham cracker crumbles. Each sip is like a bite of German chocolate cake with coffee icing. Let the bottle warm some before attempting it; the vanilla (hand-scraped, according to the brewery) only emerges near room temperature and is essential to balance the shot-of-espresso bite.
Land-Grant Brewing Co.
Remember that Simpson’s episode in which Homer put a plutonium rod in the ground near the tobacco and tomato plants and inadvertently created tomacco? This imperial IPA is like that, but with onions and tangerine. Imagine, if you will, a Walla Walla onion wrapped in tangerine skin; you bite through the sunny zest and pith to get to the sweet allium inside. Those onions become caramelized and merge with mown grass mid-sip, while the finish shifts back toward sunny tangerine and powerful, drying bitterness that scrapes the sides of the tongue long after the beer’s departed. You can feel every bit of the 8% ABV, but the simple malt character and dry finish make for a clean, quick dram.
The Lost Abbey
Goddamn, the color on this beer. It’s as if the emotion of raw desire was given physical form. That blistering pink hue is thanks to raspberries, which were added to a blonde sour ale base after it was aged for more than a year on French oak. It smells just as fiercely fruity, packed with pressed raspberries—ultra-juicy, blood red, earthy and seedy—with hints of soil and poppyseed. Below the intense fruit is a base of vanilla custard, hay bales and just the faintest whiff of horsey funk. The raspberry character is unreal, but the additional notes that support it while staying out of the way are equally impressive. The palate, likewise, pops with earthy raspberries that seem picked and eaten right off the bush, with a leaf thrown in here and there. Acidity is restrained—what you’d get from eating the fruit, and nothing more—and there’s a slight tannic bite like you’d find in a fruity red wine. Dried vanilla and green apple skin provide a soft, soothing base for the berries, while a dry finish and bright bubbles give this the character of a champagne. It’s at once intense and delicate, conveying the true nature of raspberry while avoiding becoming juice. Lost Abbey head brewer Tomme Arthur says it’s the most intense fruited sour he’s put out since 2011, and we believe it.
Fleur de Masumoto
Cellador Ales / Homage Brewing
Ever since our first sip of the Prunus Persica peach sour last September, we’ve been craving more from Cellador, and now that the brewery’s taproom in North Hills, California, is finally open, we have our chance. Fleur de Masumoto is a collaboration with Homage Brewing in Pomona, California; it’s a wild ale with nectarines, brewed and aged separately at Cellador and Homage’s facilities then blended back together at a 50/50 ratio. You might expect some degree of disjointedness from that process, but you’d be wrong in this case: Fleur de Masumoto is an incredibly cohesive beer that would earn its way onto this list based on aroma alone. Farmer’s market-fresh nectarine aromas meld with a pronounced mint/almond character—as if the pits were ripped from the fruits and plugged, still dripping nectarine juice, right up your nostrils—while strawberry custard and rich French vanilla ice cream dance alongside. This is all present at the front of the sip as well, though tongue-tugging tartness grabs hold at the swallow and doesn’t let go. The acidity is intense and saliva-inducing; expert-level sour drinkers only need apply. Oak chips and granny smith apple emerge post sip, accenting the ever-present acid. While we’d like to see that tartness a little lower, the nectarine character alone is enough to catapult this beer to the top lists of fruited lambics.
We Ded Mon
The Veil Brewing Co.
Most triple IPAs are either ridiculously sweet, ridiculously bitter or both. This one is not. The finale of The Veil’s “Broz” series (it kicks off with the 4.8% ABV Broz Day Off IPA, leads into the 9% Broz Night Out double IPA and ends with the 11% We Ded Mon), it has a nose that’s at once fruity (peach juice, pineapple, grapefruit zest), oniony and incredibly resinous—we’ve smelled bags of weed that were less dank. A shot of smoothie-shop wheat grass kicks off each sip; pineapple, nectarines and grapefruit juice combined with a squishy no-glaze donut base conclude it. Astonishingly drinkable for the intensity the aroma, flavor, alcohol and chewy body, it just might be the most balanced triple IPA we’ve ever had. And the fact that The Veil’s brewers were able to wrest all that character from just one hop—Citra—makes the feat all the more impressive.