Trying to agree on the best craft beers is like trying to agree on who is the best superhero: A battle royale is sure to ensue.
Here is our Justice League (or Avengers) of beers.
RELATED: The 10 most popular beers in America
Beer: Pliny the Elder
Brewer: Russian River Brewery, Amarillo, Calif.
Pliny was one of the most important figures in beer history – a Roman naturalist and scholar, who, among many other things, was one of the people who created a botanical name for hops. “Lupus Salictarius,” meaning wolf among scrubs, was given because hops grew wild among willow trees. (It was later changed to “humulus Lupulus”). The brewer says it is best enjoyed fresh, which is why it is made in such a limited supply. Russian River even prints the bottling date on each bottle.
Beer: Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
Brewer: Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
When more than 1,000 people show up to your beer unveiling, you know you’ve tapped into something good. This seasonal imperial stout is brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates. It’s then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure the bourbon undertones come through in the finish.
Beer: Going to the Sun IPA
Brewer: Great Northern Brewing Company, Whitefish, Mont.
This beer might not have the name recognition of some of the others on this list, but after a day of hiking around Glacier National Park, I can report it goes down very, very smoothly. It is a true IPA that is designed to be more drinkable and refreshing than IPAs typical of the Northwestern United States. Citrus cascade flavors dominate the palate, but don’t overwhelm.
Beer: AleSmith Speedway Stout (Barrel Aged)
Brewer: AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
Supplies of this fine beverage are kept quite limited – so limited that tickets are sold to buy bottles, and only four bottles are sold at a time. The complex beer includes notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon to its massive coffee, chocolate, and roasted malt flavored profile.
Beer: Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch
Brewer: Toppling Goliath Brewing, Decorah, Iowa
How good is this beer? It’s good enough to have inspired a counterfeiting scandal in 2014. Only 300 to 400 bottles are released each year, with the word being passed through social media. It is the second-highest rated beer on BeerAdvocate, just ahead of another beer from the same brewer, Mornin’ Delight.
Beer: Grassroots Brewing Brother Soigné
Brewer: Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro, Vt.
One of the highest rated saisons on the market, it includes a mix of lime, hibiscus, and blood orange. At 5% ABV, this brew is well carbonated with a medium body. It was made in collaboration with Luc “Bim” Lafontaine, a well-known brewer who is responsible for some of the world’s-highest rated beers.
Beer: What Is Enlightenment?
Brewer: Hill Farmstead Brewing, Greensboro, Vt.
Another Hill Farmstead product, this American pale ale hopped with simcoe and amarillo hops. Orange and citrus aromas define this mild bodied beer with a 5.4% ABV. Fresh, clean and easy – possibly too easy – to drink (gulp).
Brewer: New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, Wis.
Sometimes accidents can have wonderful results. With a drought leaving him short of the cherries he normally used to make the very popular Wisconsin Belgian Red, the brewmater added apples and cranberries in a sour brown ale to create Serendipity – also called a “Happy Accident Fruit Ale.”
Beer: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter
Brewer: Funky Buddha Brewery, Oakland Park, Fla.
Sometimes, you need to start the day with hair of the dog. This porter includes that hair, plus breakfast. It’s a novelty beer, granted, but starting with a smell of waffles covered in butter and syrup is a good start. At 6.4% ABV, it finishes sticky, rich, and sweet.
Beer: Allagash White
Brewer: Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, Maine
Good things can occasionally become victims of their own popularity, especially if someone well-known finds about it. Well-known NFL writer and beer explorer Peter King regularly includes his appreciation for Allagash White in his column, which has drawn some blowback from beer fans. It shouldn’t diminish the quality of Allagash White, a Belgian beer that has spread across the country.