B-Craft BlackArcadia (Battle Creek, Mich.)
Black India pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: I love that Arcadia calls this 8.5% abv hop monster a session ale because one man’s session is another’s head-banging evening. Those big chocolate and coffee flavors aren’t subjective, though, and neither is its smooth body that makes this an entirely enjoyable bottle.
Blood Ov The KingsLocal Option (Chicago)
SIXPACK SEZ: A crisp, bubbly wheat beer brewed as a tribute to the bloody, war-mongering King Gustavus Adolphus, known for turning Sweden into a world power. Which means, I suppose, he gets credit for ABBA.
Hop RanchVictory (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: With their intensely floral aroma and juicy flavor, it’s hard to believe the Mosaic and Azaccca hops in this outstanding imperial IPA were raised on some ranch. Surely these are free-range hops that spent their days idly grazing amid the buttercups under bucolic blue skies.
HalcyonThornbridge (Bakewell, U.K.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Even as Downton Abbey's snobby Lord Grantham raises his nose at anything American, he’d have to acknowledge that the Yanks get it right when it comes to IPA. This young U.K. brewery breaks the stodgy Brit mold with an intensely fruity ale flavored with assertive new world Topaz, Galaxy and Chinook hops.
Hop ZombieEpic (Auckland, New Zealand)
SIXPACK SEZ: Yes, this is a Hop Monster of Epic proportions – one that can rival even Pliny. But it sems there was a big mistake at the New Zealand brewery’s R&D lab. The zombies asked for something biter, not bitter!
BromigoThree Heads (Rochester, N.Y.)
Smoked amber ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The smoke and maple in this amber ale go together like Seth and Evan in Superbad or - according to this label - Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Pile up a plate of pancakes, crack open a bottle and download Goose and Maverick on Netflix.
Never Mind the Bollox!Dugges (Landvetter, Sweden)
SIXPACK SEZ: Pretty Vacant.
Chill Wave (formerly Alchemy Hour)Great Lakes (Cleveland, Ohio)
SIXPACK SEZ: Great Lakes throws down with the best of the Pacific Coasters, and not just with this way-hoppy ale whose heavy resins are balanced by honey-like malt. Check out that label: Cleveland surfer dudes can hang five on Lake Erie like it’s Mavericks.
Voodoo Doughnut (Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana)Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon)
SIXPACK SEZ: Here’s a bizarre yet fun assortment of flavors, inspired by Elvis Presley’s favorite, the deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. There’s nothing here that tastes like beer, but you kinda knew that when you got one look at this Pepto-Bismol bottle.
Heelch O'HopsAnderson Valley (Boonville, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: “Heelch” means a “everything,” in the Boonville, Calif. jargon known as Boontling. It’s not a real language – just the kind of gibberish you’d spew after downing a sixpack of this citrusy hammer of an IPA.
Noonan Black IPASmuttynose (Portsmouth, N.H.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Roasty yet not particularly malty, with a hop-forward aroma. Taste it next to Smuttynose’s Robust Porter, and you’ll see why Black IPA is a whole ‘nother thing. A fitting nod to late Vermont brewer Greg Noonan, credited with developing the style.
Yunkin' PunkinManayunk (Philadelphia)
SIXPACK SEZ: Looks like a can of Orange Crush, but there’s no sweetness in this spicy brew. The pumpkin spices are mainly in the nose, which is the way Yunkers like it.
Industrial IPADiamond Knot (Mukiteo, Wash.)
SIXPACK SEZ: In this case, “industrial” does not mean factory swill. Instead, it’s an indication that they used a Caterpillar backhoe during the hop additions.
The Big NastyStoudt's (Adamstown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: What comes after “Imperial” IPA? Stoudt’s very creamy hop monster calls itself “Ultra Imperial,” which, if I’m not mistaken, leaves just one remaining level of extreme hoppiness: Double Secret Probation.
DirtWolfVictory (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Everyone’s scratching his head over the puzzling name that Victory gave this aromatic hop monster made with Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic. DirtWolf? Sounds like a vacuum cleaner.
BakedLancaster (Lancaster, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Apparently unfamiliar with either reefer or UrbanDictionary.com, federal label regulators let yet another drug reference slip past. Or maybe they were just impressed by this beautiful ale’s spicy baked pumpkin pie goodness.
The GauntletIron Fist (Vista, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This two-fisted hop monster is exactly what you’d imagine Clint Eastwood sucking down before he and Sondra Locke drove that armored bus through a gauntlet of heavily armed cops. Completely over-the-top entertainment.
Heady TopperAlchemist (Waterbury, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: These days, it’s a rare brewery that makes just one beer. But this hard-to-find hoppy ale is the Alchemist’s only one – and what a joy it is. Piney with a sweet malt background, it’s intended to be guzzled straight from the can.
Billy's ChiliesTwisted Pine (Boulder, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This is a morning-after beer, when your stomach is sour from that late-night cheesesteak. Grab a plate of huevos rancheros and a glass of this peppery thirst-quencher that’s just hot enough to remind your gut who’s the boss.
I Beat yoUMikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark)
SIXPACK SEZ: The great IBU arms race has spread to Europe, with the itinerant Danish brewer (this one was made in Scotland) declaring victory with this thick, grassy hop bomb that was bittered, not so ironically, with American-bred Warrior hops.
TBAStone (Escondido, Calif.), with Bear Republic (Calif.) & Fat Head's (Ohio)
Texas brown ale
SIXPACK SEZ: A nod to the hopped-up brown ales from California homebrewers known back in the 1980s as Texas Brown Ale. Sweetened with brown sugar with an unusual fruit-like edge, it’s a collaboration from Stone, Bear Republic and Fat Head’s.
Stone Smoked Porter (Chipotle)Stone (Escondido, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Like those blackened long-hots you carefully char on your Weber, this dark porter presents a challenge. You can’t help savoring the bite, even as you know you’re going to pay for it in the end.
Scythe & SickleBrewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Belgian harvest ale
SIXPACK SEZ: If the allies hadn’t liberated Belgium in 1944, they’d be celebrating Oktoberfest in Brussels' Grand Place. And this is the beer they’d be drinking each autumn: An amber ale whose superb blend of malts provides a full-bodied balance of flavors.
Hop Crisis21st Amendment (San Francisco, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: You’ve gotta admire the balls it takes to mock “the hop syndicate” for hoarding and spiking prices, thus depriving hopheads their right to big-time IPAs. Next time West Coasters try to buy hops for this bitter, oak-aged monster, that skeptical question mark might change into a ohmygod exclamation mark!
Double DOld Dominion (Dover, Del.)
SIXPACK SEZ: In WWII, B-17s were decorated with leggy “bomber girls,” a tradition that goes back to the buxom figureheads of ancient sailing vessels. These days? Maybe drone crews party down with sexy 22oz bombers of this hoppy, somewhat sweet cruise missile of an IPA.
Red ZonePrism (North Wales, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The Red Zone, also known as the place where Mike Vick fumbles the pigskin, is kind of a no-score land for the Eagles these days. The team could spice things up with this smash-mouth Irish red ale, blitzed with ginger, allspice and maple syrup.
Anniversary AlePort (San Marcos, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Like marriage, beer is a union of ingredients whose sum is better than its parts. And, like marriage, not all beers look the same. Yet, who among us would say this strong ale, with its edgy blend of Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe hops, does not deserve to be called a beer? Happy anniversary.
Arctic RhinoMidnight Sun (Anchorage, Alaska)
SIXPACK SEZ: Rarely seen roaming the glaciers of Alaska, the Arctic Rhino is a proud, dark beast with a caffeinated kick. Sadly, it's been hunted into near-extinction by the Palin family.
DogzillaLaughing Dog (Ponderay, Idaho)
SIXPACK SEZ: Did you ever notice that Godzilla spelled backwards is Dogzilla? Or maybe that’s just a typical bit of confusion after getting bit by this decidedly hoppy black ale. In any case, I am humbled in the presence of the giant lizard dog! -jan 2011
Monk's Blood21st Amendment (San Francisco)
SIXPACK SEZ: Possibly the most complex beer you’ll ever find in a can, this dark, abbey-style ale is brewed with cinnamon, vanilla beans and black mission figs, and aged on oak chips. Deeply malty and layered with rich fruit and caramel notes, it belongs in a chalice. (feb 2011)
Fleur de LehighPhiladelphia Brewing (Philadelphia)
Spiced pale ale/saison
SIXPACK SEZ: I can still see the broad expanse of the green, green grass of old, departed Connie Mack Stadium at 21st and Lehigh. And when I open a bottle of this wonderfully named pale ale – spiked with ginger, lemon grass and rose hips – I can smell it, too. Play ball! (feb 2011)
A Little Sumpin' Sumpin'Lagunitas (Petaluma, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This thoroughly refreshing California beer boasts every hop variety that begins with the letter “C,” as in, Cascades, Chinook, Centennial and C, I told you an American brewery could make a decent wheat beer. (april 2011)
Oatmeal Milk StoutRiver Horse (Lambertville, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The brewery's web site is circa 1997, they can’t put their labels on straight and I highly doubt that hippos drink beer. But who cares? River Horse’s creamy, richly roasted stout is liquid gold – easy to quaff and deeply satisfying. (april 2011)
Belvedere Big IPARock Art (Morrisville, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: In an age when some are urging brewers to tone it down, this double IPA makes no apologies for being EXTREEEEEME! Its big-time Cascades hops profile, though, is actually well balanced with honey-like malts, making it an easy-drinking SESSSSSSSION beer. (may 2011)
DreadnaughtThree Floyds (Munster, Indiana)
SIXPACK SEZ: It takes a fearless person – a "dreadnaught" – to dip into this bottle. The typically bizarro 3F label pictures a crazed Brit sitting on a barrel of ale, holding a severed hand while getting stabbed by a Punjabi. I’m sure it all makes sense after a glass of this juicy hop monster or three. (july 2011)
MatacabrasDave's Brew Farm (Wilson, Wis.)
Belgian-style dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This hard-to-categorize beer tastes like a cross between a malty abbey dubbel and a spicy dunkelweizen. The name, by the way, is a Spanish word for “a wind that kills goats.” In a bottle, it brings them back to life. (August 2011)
Hipp-o-LanternRiver Horse (Lambertville, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: River Horse’s Brewers Reserve series continues to impress me with this very imperial pumpkin ale sweetened with molasses. They nailed the nutmeg and cinnamon, and there’s a nice underlying earthy body. Fear not: No hippos were harmed in the brewing of this beer. (aug. 2011)
HexMagic Hat (Burlington, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: What do you do for Oktoberfest when you don’t really brew lagers? At Magic Hat, they add a bit more roasted malt to a pale ale and call the smooth, toffee-like fall beer “Ourtoberfest.” (Aug. 2011)
Double JackFirestone Walker (Paso Robles, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: California doubled down on England’s tepid IPAs and produced a solidly hopped ale with complex aroma and layers of malty flavor that are a bittersweet reminder of why the British empire collapsed. That’s the fact, Jack. (Oct. 2011)
The Great Imperial Pumpkin AleIron Hill (Maple Shade, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Grab this one quick, because it’s only a matter of time till the folks who own the Peanuts trademark go after beer makers for commercializing Linus’s imaginary Great Pumpkin. This one is brewed with molasses and Belgian candi sugar and, like its redundant name claims, it’s both “great” and “imperial.” (Oct. 2011)
Perc E BustFull Pint (North Versailles, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Given the bazooms on the “perky” label babe, I’m tempted to launch into deeper exploration of the luscious mouth-feel of this full-bodied coffee-flavored porter. Instead, like I explained to Mrs. Sixpack, I’m just lookin’. (Nov. 2011)
OttoVictory Brewing (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: You can’t help but worry when uncorking this bottle because Belgium was overrun by Germany once before, and we all know how that turned out. But Otto is a peaceful resolution of Bamberg’s intensely smokey rauchbier and the sweet, full-bodied caramel malt of a Belgian dubbel. (Oct. 2011)
Twilight Summer AleDeschutes (Bend, Oregon)
SIXPACK SEZ: Like the sky’s illumination itself during twilight, the source of the thoroughly satisfying flavor in this easy sipper is hard to pinpoint. A solid, but not overpowering malt base is lightly tempered with rich yet hardly bitter Amarillo hops. Ineffably sublime.
Dobbel DramHaandBryggeriet (Drammen, Norway)
SIXPACK SEZ: Surprisingly malty with a touch of juicy hops, this is a Norwegian version of an American interpretation of a classic English style originally brewed for India. The Germans are mortified. (feb. 2010)
HopslamBell's Brewery (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A “hop slam” is when beret-wearing beer freaks challenge each other to spontaneous poetry readings about their favorite hops while sucking down double IPAs. It can get very bitter. (march 2010)
Tangerine WheatLost Coast (Eureka, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Sweet, but with a slightly more complex body than Shock Top. It’s juicy in an Orange Crush kinda way. Sadly, I don’t mean R.E.M.
Pantius DroppusEllicottville Brewing (Ellicottville, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Named for the ancient Roman senator known for exposing his buttocks during health care debates in the Forum, this powerfully strong double IPA is a bit tu Brutus.
KenzingerPhiladelphia Brewing (Philadelphia)
SIXPACK SEZ: Thanks partly to that brilliant name and retro label, Kenzinger has emerged as a Philly beer icon. Light-bodied and refreshing with a price that’s right, it’s a quality alternative for the PBR crowd. (May 2010)
Terrapin Rye Pale AleTerrapin Beer (Athens, Ga.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A subtle twist on a classic summer quencher. The addition of rye gives this lusciously hopped pale ale a tart tang before it settles in for a long, dry finish. (july 2010)
Odd Notion (Summer '10)Magic Hat (Burlington, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: Magic Hat’s one-off Odd Notion series seems to be in the midst of summer reruns. This one has the same plot as O.N. Summer ’09’s Belgian pale, only with the ample addition of ginger root for a snappy finish. (July 2010)
Michelob Ginger WheatAnheuser-Busch (St. Louis, Mo.)
Spiced wheat beer
SIXPACK SEZ: A-B already controls the bulk of the American rice and hops commodities markets. With this sweet wheat and its insanely spicy Jack’s Pumpkin Spice, it won’t be long till it has a stranglehold on ginger, too. (Aug. 2010)
Good JujuLeft Hand (Longmont, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Spiced with ginger, it’s an easy-drinker that breaks the sweat like a charm. And I’m not saying that just because I’m afraid of invoking some bad juju. (Sept. 2010)
Saison du BuffDogfish Head (Milton,Del.)/Victory (Downingtown, Pa.)/Stone (Escondido, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The first collaboration of three Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor, this one’s the Dogfish Head version of a recipe that’s spiced with parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. How’s it taste? Let’s just say that brewers Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski and Greg Koch harmonize almost as well as Simon & Garfunkel. (sept. 2010)
He'Brew R.I.P.A. on RyeSchmaltz Brewing (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Satire equals tragedy plus time, said Lenny Bruce, the inspiration for R.I.P.A., the first in a series of He’Brews dedicated to Jewish celebs. Age R.I.P.A. in a cask of Sazerac rye whiskey, and it equals this acerbic, obscenely hopped ale.
The Dark SideTerrapin Beer (Athens, Ga.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Part of Terrapin's Side Project series of one-offs, it's an inky-black stout with underlying fruit flavors - a product of those lucious dark malts and Belgian yeast.
Hoplar Imperial IPAHardywood Park (Richmond, Va.)
SIXPACK SEZ: After hurricanes, fallen urban trees usually end up as firewood and sawdust. In Virginia, a non-profit recycler took a giant tulip poplar felled in 2003 by Isabel, turned it into barrels so it could age this thoroughly resinous (Summit, Columbus hops). Now that’s good wood. (June 2014)
90 MInute IPADogfish Head (Milton, Del.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Esquire once called this "perhaps the best IPA in America." I'm inclined to agree, but who the hell reads Esquire - a magazine that regularly features fashion spreads of metrosexual dweebs wearing knickers and beanies - for beer advice? (March 2009)
Issaquah Bullfrog AleRogue Ales (Ashland, Oregon)
American wheat ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Anytime I see a frog on a beer, I can't help but think of that infamous Bad Frog beer. You remember - the godawful lager was banned because the label depicted a cartoon frog flipping the bird. Alas this unremarkable ale could use some of that bad-ass attitude. (April 2009)
Beer of the GodsHigh & Mighty (Holyoke, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: If you’re going to call yourself Beer of the Gods, you better be brewed with unicorn tears and virgin’s blood. Or at least a healthy wallop of alcohol. Instead, this light-bodied, self-described Kolsch/altbier hybrid seems more fit for mere mortals with a healthy thirst.
Black OrchardThe Bruery (Placentia, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: What we have here is a dark wheat beer brewed with chamomile, or what Orange County's tiny Bruery calls a black wit. Does that make this the Wanda Sykes of Belgian-style ales? (July 2009)
Prairie PathTwo Brothers (Warrenville, Ill.)
SIXPACK SEZ: One of my favorite "finds" in the summer of '09. Full of biscuit-like malt flavor and lightly spiced hops, yet crisp and never filling. This would make a tasty refresher after mowing the prairie, or whatever they do out there in the Great Plains. (Aug. 2009)
Festina PecheDogfish Head (Milton, Del.)
SIXPACK SEZ: DFH likes to blow everyone away with its high-octane brews, but here's proof it can go low. The lightest beer it bottles is tart, peachy and exceptionally thirst-quenching, a nice twist to the traditional Berliner Weisse style. (Aug. 2009)
Wake 'N' Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial StoutTerrapin Beer (Athens, Georgia)
Imperial coffee/oatmeal stout
SIXPACK SEZ: A couple bottles of this lucious coffee-infused wake-me-up, and suddenly even Athens' favorite son Michael Stipe starts to make sense. Now I know why all those Shiny Happy People are laughing.
Harpoon OctoberfestHarpoon (Boston)
SIXPACK SEZ: Technically not an Oktoberfestbier because it's not a lager. But Harpoon's smooth, malty, garnet-colored version (uniquely brewed with a small addition of wheat) proves that distinction is nonsense. This ale would be more than welcome at Munich's Theresienwiese. (Sept. 2009)
Weyerbacher Imperial PumpkinWeyerbacher (Easton, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: As one of my Daily News editors used to say, "In for a dime, in for a dollar." I think he was talking about a Gary Heidnik story, but it's the same idea. If you're going to do a pumpkin beer, open up the spice cabinet, as Weyerbacher has, and jump in with both feet. (Oct. 2009)
2 Turtle DovesThe Bruery (Placentia, Calif.)
Strong Belgian-style/chocolate ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The Bruery of California is seemingly tempting fate with this hugely flavored dark ale brewed with cocoa nibs and toasted pecans. Let’s just say it has a better ending than that bird-scratching Secret Santa episode on “The Office.”
Longshot Pineapple IPASamuel Adams (Boston)
India pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Homebrewing is the soul of craft beer, and this one – from Teresa Bury, a hobbyist who works in Sam Adams’ Lehigh County plant – is a perfect example. Its pineapple flavor perfectly matches the tropical fruit aroma of its hops. Find it in the 2014 Sam Adams Longshot selection. (June 2014)
ClassiqueStillwater Artisanal Ales (Baltimore, Md.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Brewer Brian Strumke calls this “post-modern” beer, which I suppose is a wonky acknowledgement that he’s brewed a historically accurate Belgian-style farmhouse ale without funky Brettanomyces yeast, and then – in an ironic nod to his own Bal’more/Natty Boh roots - put it in a decidedly non-European can. In other words: Saison Lite. (July 2014)
Allagash ConfluenceAllagash (Portland, Maine)
Belgian-style pale ale/wild ale
ALCOHOL: 7.5 percent
SIXPACK SEZ: Start with the spicy house Belgian yeast strain, add a bit of wild Brettanomyces, dry hop with Glacier – such individually distinct flavors and aromas would seem to clash, like a mighty river crashing through rapids. Instead, some lengthy aging in steel tanks creates a smooth flow on the palate – an absorbing confluence where the sum is greater than the parts. (July 2014)
HereafterPerennial Artisan Ales (Saint Louis)
Belgian-style pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Perennial didn’t hold back on the pear or the sage in this one-off with Penrose Brewing brewed in ’13. It’s still vibrant a year later. Or, as Tyrone F. Horneye (a/k/a Arte Johnson) leered, “Do you believe in the hereafter? Then you know what I’m here after!” (July 2014)
SIXPACK SEZ: Hamlet drove that nice girl Ophelia mad, and here’s her revenge: A bipolar wheat beer with the refreshment of a standard American wheat beer, but with a huge wallop of Mosaic hops. (July 2014)
WarlockSouthern Tier (Lakewood, N.Y.)
Imperial pumpkin stout
SIXPACK SEZ: Southern Tier surely has been dabbling in the black arts with this, brewing a cauldron that perfectly blends the in-your-face flavor of its vanilla-forward Pumking with the smooth and luscious, malty body of its 2X Stout. Though it hits the shelves in late August, save a bottle till Halloween night. (Aug. 2014)
OktoberfishFlying Fish (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A well-crafted hybrid, this is actually an ale posing as a malty lager. It's even made with the same strain of Dusseldorf yeast that's used for German altbier, another classic ale/lager hybrid. Toasty and smooth, it's a welcome complement to more traditional Oktoberfest styles. (Sept. 2008)
Nugget NectarTroegs (Harrisburg, Pa)
SIXPACK SEZ: As if you couldn't tell by the label, this one's a huge hopfest. It's a cult fave, partly because it's released in limited supplies only in February, and partly because those IBUs (93) will put hair on the chest of even the greenest beer geek. (February 2008)
SIXPACK SEZ: Though this nicely hopped IPA is named after that noisy bug that shows up in North America every 17 years, it might’ve been better tagged with a honey bee. Plenty of local wildflower honey shows up in both the nose and the palate, and after two bombers I felt more than buzzed. (Oct. 2014)
DeviousFegley's Brew Works (Allentown, Pa.)
Imperial pumpkin ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Though its name suggests some underhanded doings, there’s nothing devious about this autumn treat. From the first crack of the bottle, this spicy (ginger, allspice, clove) jack-o-lantern is right up in your face and heads straight for the cerebral cortex with a huge alcohol wallop. (Oct. 2014)
Saaremaa Island AleAnchor (San Francisco)
SIXPACK SEZ: Anchor Brewmaster Mark Carpenter smuggled home some yeast from Estonia’s Saaremaa Island on the Baltic Sea to create a unique, wonderfully complex, somewhat spicy ale. I’d describe it as Belgian farmhouse meets British pale ale - not unlike Lithuanian’s equally unusual rustic country ale.(Oct. 2014).
Dead SoulsRound Guys (Lansdale, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Unlike Gogol’s novel by the same name, which famously ends in mid-sentence, this dark beer finishes with a bitter and somewhat roasty bite on the palate. It’s a bit more porterish than pumpkiny, but nothing particularly spooky. (Oct. 2014)
Cafe Racer 15Bear Republic (Healdsburg, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A “café racer” is the motorcycle version of those Spandex-suited bicycling TDF wanabes who spend most of their time sipping Starbucks lattes. There’s nothing pretend about this hop bomb, however, as it’s packed with a Ducati dose of Citra, Cascade, Chinook and Amarillo. (Nov. 2014)
DissenterFounders (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Imperial India pale lager
SIXPACK SEZ: At first gulp, Founders’ first lager in 12 years will remind you more of a fairly fruity ale with an assertive citrus aroma. But don’t turn your back on this one because it finishes with an unusually distinctive lager flavor in the finish. Label note: That’s the graphic designer’s father-in-law with his back turned, taken from a publicity shot when he was the drummer for a New York City 1960s rock ‘n roll band. (Nov. 2014)
Saison ExtraBouwerij West (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I picked up this bottle because of its very cool pop art cat-playing-pinball label and wasn’t disappointed in its flavor. This is a fun, usually sweet/funky, full-bodied take on the increasingly flexible saison style. (Nov. 2014)
Winter SolsticeAnderson Valley (Boonville, Calif.)
Spiced winter warmer
SIXPACK SEZ: It all begins with the solstice, of course: The sun, at its lowest point, finally begins its climb into the sky; the days lengthen, the earth is reborn. Christmas beer can surely trace its roots to the ancient civilizations that celebrated the turning point in the yearly calendar. The solstice was a time when masters and slaves in Rome reverse their roles, the Persians offered sacrifices to Mithra, and everyone drank alcohol to reach a happy, enlightened state. It is no coincidence that the world’s religions mark their biggest festivals at this time of the year. Today, however, in a world where you can buy fresh tomatoes in December and even our car seats are heated, the solstice goes by almost unnoticed. A sip of this creamy ale won’t necessarily reveal your inner pagan, but it does provide a modest buzz and a warm sensation in your belly. The spices aren’t overwhelming – perhaps cinnamon – and it finishes with an understated cherry-and-vanilla flavor.
Rude Elf's ReserveFegley's Brew Works (Allentown, Pa.)
Spiced Belgian-style ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Rude Elf’s Reserve is one of those highly spiced brews that make you think you're drinking Red Zinger tea with a kick. The ale, backed by three different Belgian yeasts, comes through nicely, though, for a festive holiday flavor. The Brew Works suggests letting the bottle warm up to about 50 degrees. Then sip it beside a fire, maybe on one foggy Christmas Eve. GABF bronze, 2009
Holiday CheerSpoetzl (Shiner, Texas)
SIXPACK SEZ: During the holiday season, the cheer we’re most apt to hear is a chorus of kids singing “Deck the Halls.” But if you enjoy a glass a glass of this peach-and-pecan flavored dark wheat beer during December’s decidedly more secular ritual, and you might hear a more meaningful cheer. That’s right: E-A-G-L-E-S… EAGLES! (Dec. 2014)
AdorationBrewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Belgian-style strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The Adoration of the Magi is the biblical episode in which the three kings lay down gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh in worship of baby Jesus – a sacred occasion commemorated in painting and tapestry by the likes of Botticelli, Brueghel and Rubens. Slapping the iconic image on a beer label might offend some – though this superb dark ale spiced with coriander, orange peel, mace, cardamom and grains of paradise ought to earn the brewery a bit of Christian forgiveness. (Dec. 2014)
Mad ElfTroegs (Hershey, Pa.)
Belgian-style strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Brothers John and Chris Trogner are reluctant to call this ruby-colored gem a Belgian-style ale, but that’s only because it’s almost unclassifiable. Though it’s brewed with honey and tart Pennsylvania cherries, the dominate character here is a ginger- and clove-spiciness, a product of its unique pair of Belgian yeast strains. Think of fruitcake, but not the one made by your Aunt Bertha. This one feels like it’s been aged in an apple cider cask. You’ll taste it on draft and in bottles in the Northeast, but you’ve got to be quick – it sells out every year. The ultimate Mad Elf is the corked-and-boxed 101-ounce jeroboam – ideal for long-term cellaring or a holiday party. Either in a small bottle or large, it’s worth saving in your cellar to enjoy for years later. The spice mellows nicely and you’re left with a deeply satisfying wine-like flavor. A fine example of how American microbrewers have taken old-world styles and created an entirely new – and ultimately superb – Christmas beer.
Green BulletGreen Flash (San Diego)
SIXPACK SEZ: Green Bullet is what Coors Light in its famous Silver Bullet can would taste like if you somehow compacted the hops content of a entire case of the latter and filled a single bottle of the former. And then added the buzz of 10 percent alcohol content. And a wallop of tropical aroma. And actual flavor. Other than that, exactly the same. (Jan. 2015)
Raison D'ExtraDogfish Head (Milton, Del.)
Strong Belgian-style ale
ALCOHOL: 15-18% est.
SIXPACK SEZ: Strong, boozy and port-like, this amped-up version of Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Etre reached a then-world record 20.2 percent alcohol when it was introduced in 2002. The bottles of the fortified, port-like Belgian-style strong dark ale released for the winter of 2015 register a mere 15-18 percent alcohol. That’s right: they turned this unique monster into a session beer. Artwork by Mekons guitarist John Langford. (Jan. 2015)
Dank & StickyHop Concept Brewing (San Marcos, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: “Dank” and “Sticky” is just another way to say “piney” and “resinous.” But since this first in a new quarterly Hop Freshener Series comes to us from California, the bottle must contain a reefer pun and an inordinate amount of highly aromatic (Chinook, Simcoe, Mosaic) hops. Brewer Jeff Spicoli has outdone himself on this one. (March 2015)
Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream StoutStarr Hill (Crozet, Va.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m a black coffee drinker. Despoiling a perfectly fine cup of joe with something squeezed out of a grass-chewing, Monsanto-ized cow seems wholly unnatural. Thankfully, this smooth-bodied stout doesn’t contain any actual cream. But one whiff tells you those are some serious coffee beans. I’ll take mine with a doughnut. (March 2015)
Riverwalk BlondeTwisted Manzanita (Santee, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The can says this is a blond who’s crisp, bready and approachable. Y’know – just like Amy Schumer, though it could use a little more bite. (July 2015)
Hodgson’s Double India Pale AleFish Brewing (Olympia, Wash.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Here’s a big, strong DIPA that’s named as a tribute to 18th-century British brewer George Hodgson, a mythic name in beer circles in that he probably gets more credit for “inventing” India pale ale than he deserves. Ironically (for this bomber can be had for under 7 bucks) Hodgson’s brewery was also well known for price-gouging. (July 2015)
Session IPA from PHLPhiladelphia Brewing (Philadelphia)
SIXPACK SEZ: Even without the hassle of body-searchers and delayed flights, the soulless PHL airport is a dreaded stop for weary travelers. Their only hope: The terminal bars may be pouring this hoppy, light-bodied, well-balanced IPA. Order three or four for the road. (July 2015)
Funnel Cake Boardwalk AleForgotten Boardwalk (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Funnel cake, of course, is one of the four main food groups of the summer carnival season, along with cotton candy, corn dogs and nachos. But this wonderfully creamy, vanilla-flavored beauty is the only one that comes in a sixpack, which means you won’t spill it on the roller coaster. (July 2105)
Yards PynkYards (Philadelphia)
SIXPACK SEZ: When this fruit beer first appeared in 2001, I thought Yards was pulling a practical joke: A pink-colored fruit beer from a Brit-centric brewery known for his pugnacious Brawler? But with its re-introduction (and re-formulation) in 2013, this tart, raspberry-and-cherry beer has emerged as a sought-after late summer/early fall seasonal that goes well with your favorite creamy cheese or chocolate dessert. And it gets do-gooder points for donating a share of sales to breast cancer research. (Aug. 2015)
Riverwest Stein BeerLakefront (Milwaukee, Wis.)
SIXPACK SEZ: No, despite the name this is not one of those old and rare German stone lagers, made by boiling wort with hot rocks. Instead, it’s exactly the kind of lager I can imagine Wisconsin bratwurst munchers guzzle from frothy, overflowing steins. An underlying sweetness in this outstanding amber lager gives way to a clean, lightly hopped finish. (Aug. 2015)
Joint CustodyOtter Creek (Middlebury Vermont) & Jack's Abby (Framingham, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Weed reference aside, this smokin’ can is an excellent example of two disparate brewers coming together to create a beer that may be better than the sum of its parts. From Otter Creek, where hop-minded brewer Mike Gerhart has been kicking up a storm, we get a solidly bitter yet fruity addition of Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria hops. From Jack’s Abby, which has been re-introducing New England to craft lager, we get the delicate malt balance of a crisp pilsner. They call the result a “nouveau pilsner.” I say give me another hit. (Sept. 2015)
Wishbone Session Double IPAShmaltz (Clifton Park, N.Y.)
ALCOHOL: 8 percent
SIXPACK SEZ: With a name like Shmaltz, you’d figure most people would be in on the joke. But beer nerds went nuts when the offbeat brewery came out with this tasty yet oxymoronic session double IPA. An 8 percent pounder?!? Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. After all, one man’s binge is another’s session. (Oct. 2015)
Scary Jesus Rock StarDark Horse (Marshall, Mich.)
Fruit and herb pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This sounds like a nightmare, and I’m not just talking about the over-the-top label. A beer made with chamomile and apricot could go wrong in the same way things went downhill for Sodom & Gomorrah. But it’s surprisingly tasty and earthy with complex fruit and herb flavors. Don’t get too butt-hurt over the name: It’s just a string of four random words suggested by a Chicago chef who collaborated on this very fine pale ale. (Nov. 2015)
Yuengling IPLD.G. Yuengling & Son (Pottsville, Pa.)
India pale lager
SIXPACK SEZ: With this newfangled hybrid India pale lager, Yuengling – that most traditional of America’s breweries – appears to have finally succumbed to the lingo and conventions of modern craft beer. Where Pottsville’s finest was once content with plain ol’ Lager or Premium, it now speaks of dry-hopping and wonky IBUs and trendy Citra hops. Well, good for them. By getting with the times, this pre-Prohibition brewery has given us its hoppiest beer, yet – an aromatic, piney lager with a clean finish and a typically low Yuengling price. (Nov. 2015)
Pennsylvania TuxedoDogfish Head (Milton, Del.)
Spruce pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: That red-and-black wool outfit you wear with your ironic trucker cap is called a Pennsylvania Tuxedo, a name I never heard till Dogfish Head teamed up with Clinton County’s Woolrich factory to produce this pine-soaked oddity. Smooth and fairly bitter, it’ll appeal to hop heads and varmint hunters. (Nov. 2015)
Rampant Imperial IPANew Belgium (Fort Collins, Col.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This Colorado brewery was a little late to the whole double IPA party, but when it showed up, it came barging through the door with a heavily aromatic hop monster that’s both fruity on the palate and bitter in the finish. (Dec. 2015)
Martians Kidnap Santa!Spring House (Lancaster, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I totally remember Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as a double feature back in the ‘60s at the old Brookline Theater. The dastardly Martians kidnapped St. Nick, but only because their bratty kids had become jealous that they didn’t have a Santa of their own. The aliens should’ve made off with a couple cases of this smooth, spiced “egg nog” stout instead. (Dec. 2015)
Santa!! I Know Him!Evil Genius (West Grove, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: There can be no argument about the greatest Christmas movie character of all time. It’s not Santa, it’s not Scrooge, it’s not even little Natalie Wood. It is Buddy the Elf, and it’s about damn time someone brewed a beer in his honor. (Dec. 2015)
Samuel Adams Sparkling aleBoston
SIXPACK SEZ: Sam Adams says this unusually dry, effervescent ale is its take on a rare Scottish style of yore, though my usual source on such things (Randy Mosher, via “Tasting Beer”) says that old-time beer was probably twice as strong as this one. No problem: Just crack open two bottles and give this bubbler a big pour. (Dec. 2015)
Day Without A DawnConshohocken Brewing (Conshohocken, Pa.)
Imperial black IPA
SIXPACK SEZ: The brewery’s standard black IPA (Doll’s Eye) is nice, and all that. But if you really want to see what a brewer can do with the style, step up to this imperial version – a righteous fist-pounder with a solid but not overwhelming roasted malt background and a big smack of resinous hops. A four-pack of 16-ounce cans? No way you’ll see sunrise. (Jan. 2016)
Funk Citrus India Pale AleFunk Brewing (Emmaus, Pa.)
India pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The “funk” in Funk Brewing is not about barnyardy Brettanomyces. No, it’s a real type of thing going down, gettin' down – in this case, a West Coast IPA with a big hop profile that plays off a tangy dose of grapefruit juice. I think that’s George Clinton behind the shades on that can. (Jan. 2016)
Scratch 212 Chocolate StoutTroegs (Hershey, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Though this rotating small-batch brewhouse series has been around a long time, you could buy it only if you trudged out to Chocolate Town, USA, and visited the brewery’s in-house store. Finally it’s hitting the big time as part of a seasonal variety case, and the debut is a winner: A velvety smooth chocolate milk stout that will have you reaching for a straw. I’d love to see this served on a nitro tap. (Jan. '16)
Siren NoireHeavy Seas (Baltimore)
Barrel-aged chocolate imperial stout
SIXPACK SEZ: More than a few hearty sailors have succumbed to the song of the siren, but few of them went down with such a big, chocolatey smile on their faces. This heavy duty stout is well-aged in bourbon barrels spiked with vanilla beans, but it’s the big pop of cocoa that both adds complexity and smoothes out all that alcohol. Crack open a bottle now, but put some aside in your ship’s hold – it should age nicely. (March '16)
Double or NothingOtter Creek (Middlebury, Vermont) and Lawson’s Finest Liquids (Warren, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: The second collaboration between Otter Creek’s Mike Gerhart and Sean Lawson of Lawson’s Finest Liquids is the mirror opposite of their first, bold, crisp Double Dose IPA. This one’s sweet (thanks to a huge malt bill plus brown sugar, candi sugar and Vermont maple syrup) and smooth. Usually “double or nothing” is the last bet in a bad night of poker. I’m hoping this is far from the last collaboration between these two very talented brewers. (March '16)
UnderOld Forge (Danville, Pa.)
India pale lager
SIXPACK SEZ: This IPA/lager hybrid is fairly straight-forward as poundable 16-ouncers go, with a light malt body and a big but not overwhelming pine aroma. The fun label art (“It’s better to be under-rated than over-hyped”) is a great argument for drinking straight out of the can. (March '16)
River Horse Triple IPA (Brewer's Reserve)River Horse (Ewing, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Over the years, River Horse has used its Brewer’s Reserve label to roll out new flavors, to see what sticks. A wonderfully spicy pumpkin and a smooth oatmeal stout happily made the cut; sadly, an easy-drinking dunkel lager just kinda came and went. Here’s hoping this strong, honey sweet uber IPA finds a permanent home. This one will appeal to hop lovers whose idea of a “session” is spending time with a single glass. (April '16)
O'Hara's Barrel Aged Leann Folláin Irish StoutCarlow Brewing (Carlow, Ireland)
Barrel-aged imperial stout
SIXPACK SEZ: You don’t think of barrel-aging when it comes to classic Irish stout, but that’s the way they’re rolling these days at Carlow Brewing. Three months in an Irish whiskey barrel added a smooth, slightly boozy finish to this dark, coffee-like brew. Seems like it would go well with sausages and black pudding. (April '16)
Enjoy By 05.30.16 Tangerine IPAStone Brewing (Escondido, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Tangerine? Now that sounds a-peeling. This golden IPA isn’t just another one of those fruit bombs from the soda aisle. It’s sticky, dank and quite more bitter than you’d expect. And, yes, as the label says, you should drink it asap. Orange you glad you didn’t wait? (May '16)
Steady EddieUnion Craft (Baltimore, Md.)
American wheat ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Baltimore Orioles fans are mourning the loss of Natty Boh, apparently banned from Camden Yards at the start of the 2016 season. If they’re lucky, they can drown their misery with cans of this excellent, very juicy wheat IPA. It’s a tribute to Orioles great Eddie Murray, the last major leaguer to reach 500 HRs before the juicers (McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, A-Rod…) ruined the club. (May '16)
Samuel Adams Nitro Coffee StoutBoston Beer (Boston)
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m not a fan of the other two canned nitros from Boston Beer (a surprisingly thin IPA and a very unsettling white ale), but this one hits on all cylinders. The rich coffee flavor is amplified by an exceedingly smooth nitrogenated body, which makes way for an aftertaste of heavenly roasted grain. It’s hard to believe this didn’t come straight off a tap. (May '16)
Brotherly Suds Ryebock Lager (2016)Stoudt's (Adamstown, Pa.)
Rye Helles Bock
SIXPACK SEZ: Philly's brewers returned to the city's beer-making roots with this excellent twist on a classic German-style helles bock. Brewed first for the annual Craft Brewers Conference in May, then re-released in time for Philly Beer Week, It's a smooth lager with just a touch of sweetness that seems lightened by the addition of rye. A collaboration by Yards, Victory, Stoudt's, Flying Fish, Iron Hill and Tröegs (June '16)
GeminiSouthern Tier (Lakewood, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: What were the ancient Greeks drinking when they imagined the stars above the western horizon each spring depicted the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux? Possibly some early, unrecorded version of this wonderfully hopped ale, named because its original recipe was a blend of two other outstanding Southern Tier IPAs, Hoppe and Unearthly. Because, otherwise, all I see up there is a bunch of shining dots. Still, the question is worth contemplating while sucking down a brew that's both bitter, with a selection of six hop varieties, yet surprisingly sweet, thanks to a hearty malt bill. (June '16)
Monsieur EdGreen Bench (Saint Petersburg, Fla.) and Saint Somewhere (Tarpon Springs, Fla.)
Wood-aged farmhouse ale
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m going to try to erase the image of Saint Somewhere brewer Bob Sylvester riding shirtless with Khris Johnson of Green Bench, and hope that Monsieur Ed is not a talking horse. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the contents of this bottle, a collaboration by the two Florida Gulf Coast brewers. The farmhouse ale opens with a traditional herbal/citrus aroma, but then is surprisingly complemented by an unusual, full-bodied malt sweetness, creating a brew that is both satisfying and playful. A prime candidate for a year or so of cellaring. (June '16)
Luponic Distortion Revolution No. 001Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m tempted to shrug this off as just another rotating hop series from a California brewery (do those west coast guys have anything else in their playbook?). But this one got off to a good start with a wheat-based brew that shies away from overly bitter flavor and plays up the fruitiness of new hop varieties. It’s quite smooth and mellow. Let’s see where brewer Matt Brynildson takes the series with No. 002. (June '16)
Space JuiceLong Trail (Bridgewater Corners, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: A big juicy hop monster from Vermont – imagine that! This one’s surprisingly sweet, with the kind of fruity aroma you’d expect from a box of pear-flavored CapriSun. It finishes with a bitter bite, giving you a chance to consider what’s up with that name. A pot reference? Steroids? Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan? I dunno, take another gulp and enjoy a very solid double IPA. (July '16)
Chateau JiahuDogfish Head (Delaware)
Spiced fruit ale
SIXPACK SEZ: In this collaboration between DFH & UPenn's molecular Indy Jones, Patrick McGovern, 9,000-year-old Chinese pottery dregs were analyzed and used for inspiration. The result: a barley-rice-and-grape brew spiced with Chrysanthemums, honey and hawthorne fruit, then fermented with sake yeast. Jiahu, I think, is Mandarin for "Yahoo!"
Big Hoppy MonsterTerrapin Beer (Georgia)
Imperial red ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Of course hops dominate, but as with any red ale it's the malt that gets your attention. Beautifully roasted and smooth in the mouth. I'd to see more of Terrapin crawling in the northeast.
Stone RuinationStone Brewing (California)
Imperial India pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: It's been fashionable lately - mainly among old school "session" beer fans - to bash "extreme" beers as brainless brutes. It reminds me of all those retro knuckleheads who complain that AI travels every time he scores. Welcome the artistry and crack open a bottle of this monster to remind yourselves of the glory of hops.
Devil DancerFounders (Michigan)
Imperial pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Egad, this bottle just explodes with hops. The brewery says it's dry-hopped with 10 different varieties, but who's counting? Strong and strangely hypnotic, this one will appeal to leather tongues and barleywine fans.
Double D India Pale AleOtto's Pub & Brewery (State College, Pa.)
Imperial pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Remember Nude Beer? Here's the stacked model's bra, holding a bustload of hops. The ale is OK, but, oh that cleavage! Enough to give a hop head a woodie.