The proliferation of the age of craft beer means that there is now a beer for every occasion, including very special ones. While it will cost you, these four splurge beers are worth every penny.
NEBRASKA BREWING'S HOP GOD RESERVE SERIES is a beer that has been creating quite a buzz in the craft beer community. This little brewer has succeeded by selling limited quantities across the country at exclusive prices (a 750 ml bottle retails for $23). Having been aged for six months in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels, this IPA has a decidedly Belgian bend to it. Hop God colored my oversized wine glass a glowing orange and coated it with sticky lacing. Aroma is spicy and offers up a smorgasbord of fruity hops: citrus, grapefruit, pineapple, and peach all cross the nose.
Flavor is hoppy, but six months in the barrel plus time on the shelf definitely allowed the hops mellow. Instead, it is the wine barrels that really shine, imparting notes of tart white grapes and oak throughout. I wouldn't have guessed anywhere near the 10.0% ABV on this one. Mouthfeel is both textured and smooth, dry and acidic. A fascinatingly complex beer — Double IPA meets white wine.
SIERRA NEVADA'S FRITZ & KEN'S ALE is an Imperial Stout that was collaboratively brewed with Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing for Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Series. Jet black pour and bold smell of coffee and burnt malt impress senses first. Malts in flavor are thankfully more roasted than charred and accompanied by notes of espresso, molasses, and chocolate. There is also a bitter current running throughout with predominantly piney hops. For a full-bodied beer, it has a nice silky mouthfeel and is very easy to drink. While it's no pushover at 9.2% ABV, this is the rare imperial stout that resists going over the top.
CISCO'S MONOMOY KRIEK comes from this Nantucket brewer's Woods Series. All of these Wild Ales are aged on wood, with the Kriek sitting for two years before being aged for ten more months on sour cherries. While alcohol is only 6.7% ABV, most of these Flanders-style Red Ales are sipping beers so I broke out the flute glass. Pours a dark, hazy red while a heavy dose of cherries in the aroma hints at what is awaiting you.
Extremely tart cherries and an unmistakable oakiness dominate the flavor. This is a pretty straight-forward beer with sourness strong enough to border on puckering. Drinkability is surprisingly good as I had no trouble drinking the lion's share of this 22-ounce bottle. I've seen these bottles go for as much as $25, so it almost felt like a bargain for $19 at Nikki's Liquors. I hesitated to endorse this beer since this is an acquired taste that some will hate. However, if you appreciate sour beers, this is one of America's finest.