Biere Au NougatBourganel (Vals Les Bains, France)
SIXPACK SEZ: Growing up in a family that always cracked open a box of Torrones at Christmastime, I always thought nougat was from Italy. Turns out they make a pretty decent version in France, in the form of this smooth vanilla-like lager made with almonds and nougat cream.
Leipziger GoseBayerischer Banhof (Leipzig, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: You can flip the swingtop and forget those rigid German stereotypes of beer purity with this unusual ale. An unfiltered wheat beer made with lactic acid like Berliner Weisse,, it’s spiked with salt and cilantro like, um, Mexican salsa.
10º BelowScuttlebutt (Everett, Wash.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Medical science has determined that, at precisely 10 degrees below zero, human gonads freeze solid. To thaw them, doctors recommend applying one large bottle of this dark wheat beer directly to the tonsils.
ConsecratorBells Beer (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A superb doppelbock with an exceptionally smooth, malty finish, thanks to its lengthy three-month conditioning period. A full bottle will leave you on bended knee in praise of the sacred.
Blue Mountain WeizenbockBlue Mountain Barrel House (Arrington, Va.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The brewery says it has revived “the lost art” of the U.K.’s Parti-Gyle brewing, in which a the first half of a mash is drawn off to make a strong ale. I wonder if that explains this potent wheat beer’s surprisingly light-body and fizz (my cork exploded).
Andechser Vollbier HellAndechs Kloster (Andechs, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Flanders isn’t the only place with monastery breweries, though the beers from the Andechs Benedictine abbey in Upper Bavaria will never be confused with those crazy Belgies. This one is a superbly clean (no yeasty esters), floral helles with a long-lasting, pleasingly hoppy finish.
Shiner Bohemian Black LagerSpoetzl (Shiner, Tex.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Don’t be afraid of the dark, the brewery says, and that’s good advice if you’re looking for a smooth, light-bodied, mildly roasty lager to take the edge off of a hectic afternoon.
Triple BagLong Trail (Bridgewater Corners, Vermont)
Double Altbier (Doppelsticke)
SIXPACK SEZ: A two-bagger is a beer that’s so good, you put a bag over your friend’s head in case the one hiding your last bottle in the back of the fridge falls off. I’m not sure if you really need a third bag for this strong, malty ale/lager hybrid, but it is udderly delicious.
EicheAecht Schlenkerla (Bamberg, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Though it’s produced mainly for Christmas, this strong double bock will keep you warm well into the winter months. Unlike other Schlenkerla lagers made with beech wood-dried malt, this full-bodied bock is smoked with oak (eiche, in German).
Over the PilsMagic Hat (Burlington, Vermont)
SIXPACK SEZ: Now that Nurse Jackie has completed rehab, maybe this is what she’s sipping out of that ubiquitous Greek coffee cup. While not in the same league as Vicodin, this exquisitely hoppy strong pilsner is, as the bottle says, a Humdinger.
Good 'n EvilEvil Genius (West Grove, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A fine refresher with a clean, hoppy kick, reminiscent of a hoppier version of Philly Brewing’s Kenzinger. It's more good than evil.
Mission Amber AleMission (San Diego, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Hard to believe this is from San Diego, where if it ain’t hopped out the wazoo, it ain’t really beer. With a malty backbone, this altbier is about as close to a lager as Southern California’s hopheads are likely to venture.
Ludwig's RevengeRoy Pitz (Chambersburg, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: When Chambersburg, Pa., was mostly burned to the ground during the Civil War, one of the victims was the old Ludwig’s Brewery that gives the label its name. Revenge is sweet, or in this case smoky, with a dry, thirst-quenching finish.
Pilsner UrquellPlzen Prazdroj (Plzen, Czech Republic)
SIXPACK SEZ: One of the few undisputed benchmark brands, Urquell (German for “the original source”) is bright, hoppy and exceptionally satisfying. It’s really hard to understand how so many copycats got it so wrong
Low LifeEvil Twin (Copenhagen)
SIXPACK SEZ: While this pilsner is as refreshing as any bright, crisp lager, its ample hops make it the polar – and corporate – opposite of High Life.
PanzerPort Brewing (San Marcos, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Yes, “imperial” is an odd adjective for a presumably delicate style. And “Panzer” is an odd brand name from a brewery that celebrates a surfer dude ethos. With ample German malts and hops, maybe this strong, golden lager is what we’d all be drinking if Hitler had won. -jan 2011
Pandora's BockBreckenridge (Denver, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Unlike Pandora’s Box, this bottle won’t spill out evil when opened. Instead, the contents are rich and malty and bring nothing but the heavenly warmth of spring. Either that, or it's the familiar temptation of demon alcohol. (march 2011)
Big Thaw BockOld Dominion (Dover, Del.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Clear, golden and light-bodied, this Maibock is deceptively strong, like a freak snowstorm in April. Take two and defrost till May. (March 2011)
CambonatorAllgauer (Kempten, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Why they named a double bock after NBA star Marcus Camby is beyond me. This malty, raisiny strong, dark lager does more than rebound... it scores! (june 2011)
Joe's Premium American PilsnerAvery (Boulder, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I had no idea that Avery named a beer after me. And what a fine choice: a crisp, clean, very gulpable pilsner – just my style. What’s that you say? It’s actually named for Adam Avery’s grandfather? Well… nice hat, dude. (july 2011)
Sly Fox Oktoberfest LagerSly Fox (Royersford, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Aluminum on the outside, glorious copper on the inside. While it’s no longer a surprise when brewers pack a bunch of malty goodness into a can, this actually may be superior to the Sly Fox’s bottled Märzen because it’s the perfect lager (and package) for an early autumn tailgater. (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)
Volks WeizenbockAppalachian (Harrisburg, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Let’s stock up our hippie van with a few cases of this strong, dark, fruity wheat beer and head to the next Phish concert! Oh, right… we traded that in for a Honda Odyssey. (sept. 2011)
Norwegian WoodHaandBryggeriet (Drammen, Norway)
Juniper smoked ale
SIXPACK SEZ: I once had a beer, or should I say, she once had me… This is one of those sentimental bottles for me, because the first time I tasted this juniper-smoked ale, it was while watching the Northern Lights with Mrs. Sixpack on the winter solstice in a small town above the Arctic Circle in Norway. (Oct. 2011)
SamichlausSchloss Eggenberg (Vorchdorf, Austria)
SIXPACK SEZ: Here comes Samichlaus, right down Samichlaus Lane. Which in the case of this strong but smooth, brandy-like bock is a straight line from the mouth to the pre-fontal lobe. Visions of sugar plums, indeed. (Nov. 2011)
Innstadt Doppel BockInnstadt (Passau, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: A smooth, creamy double bock with no discernible faults – what’s not to like? Bavarian brewers make it look so easy, you’d think they’ve been doing it for 600 years, or something. Oh, right. (march 2010)
Noble PilsBoston Beer (Boston, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This handsome, floral pilsner takes its name from its 5 classic – or “noble” – Bavarian and Czech hops varieties, which explains those recent vicious rumors that a certain “triple-hopped” light beer recently filed federal trademark registration for “Ignoble Pils.” (May 2010)
Primator MaibockPivovar Nachod (Nachod, Czech Republic)
SIXPACK SEZ: The label calls it the “2008 World’s Best Lager,” an honor bestowed upon it by the World Beer Awards. A Czech bock, it’s strong, bready and full-bodied and I suppose after three or four I’d say nicer things about it, too. (Sept. 2010)
Paulaner Oktoberfest-MärzenPaulaner (Munich, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: A rare year-round Oktoberfest, it has that classic malty base with a smooth body. Pair it with one of those giant pretzels they sell at the Theresienwiese or, in a pinch, a warm one from Tasty Twisters in Manayunk.
Aass JuleølAass Bryggeri (Drammen, Norway)
SIXPACK SEZ: Twelve hundred years ago, Norwegian farmers were required by law to brew Juleøl, the traditional Scandinavian holiday beer. This one, a dark lager, is made by Norway's oldest brewer, (don't giggle because it rhymes with moose) Aass. (Dec. 2010)
SamichlausSchloss Eggenberg (Vorchdorf, Austria)
SIXPACK SEZ: Brewed once a year, on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), this supremely malty beer brings the good cheer of its namesake (the Swiss-German name for Santa Claus). Note this bottle, purchased in Austria, carries the claim “The Strongest Lager Beer in the World” – a claim of strength banned by U.S. label regs. (Dec. 2010)
Organically Produced Lager BeerSamuel Smith Old Brewery (England)
SIXPACK SEZ: It took me years till I had the nerve to try this; I just didn't want to be disappointed by a run of the mill lager from a brewery I love. What the hell was I thinking? Plenty of malt body, with biscuit-like flavor and a surprising hop bite.
Alaskan AmberAlaskan (Juneau, Alaska)
SIXPACK SEZ: This is a total stealth beer. From its generic name to its unavailability anywhere but the northwest, there’s nothing here that shouts greatness. For me, though, this unassuming altbier is a purely sublime masterpiece, slow-fermented to give your palate a smooth, malty, satisfying treat. (March 2009)
Koningshoeven BockKoningshoeven (Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands)
SIXPACK SEZ: You think of bock and naturally it's either German or American varieties that come to mind. But the Dutch have a longstanding bokbier tradition, with breweries releasing them in the fall. This one is a rare Trappist monastery lager.
Samuel Adams Double BockBoston Beer (Boston, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Bears a resemblence to "liquid bread" in the same manner of a Sarcone's loaf embedded with a Louisville Slugger. Big, blunt and what-the-hell-just-hit-me? (May 2009)
Michelob Dunkel WeisseAnheuser-Busch (St. Louis, Mo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I raise a glass of this foamy, creamy, surprisingly decent, decidedly non-pale wheat beer with the firm belief that - even as it is crassly marketed as a "craft" product of the so-called "Michelob Brewing Co." - with every sip, Adolphus Busch, the man bequeathed the world his fizzy, yellow rice water, spins one more revolution in his cold, gray mausoleum. (June 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.
Korbinian DunkelZötler (Rettenberg, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Call it a stealth summer beer. It's dark, so you'd think you have to wait till cooler temps to enjoy this malty lager. Wrong. We're talking big-time refreshment - perfect with brats on the grill. (July 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)
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)
Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-MärzenSpaten Brau (Munich, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: One of the most storied beers in history, developed by brewing giant Josef Sedlmayr in 1872 as a tribute to Anton Dreher's classic Vienna lager. The first true Märzen to be served at Munich's Oktoberfest. Mellow, lightly malty, sweet and worthy of the tents of the Theresienwiese. (Oct. 2009)
Leinenkugel's OktoberfestLeinenkugel (Chippewa Falls, Wis.)
SIXPACK SEZ: ddly for a German-heritage brewery that's been in business for more than 140 years, Leinenkugel's didn't start making Oktoberfestbier till 2001. A pretty decent golden brew that goes gentle on the hops, it's especially refreshing after raking leaves. (Oct. 2009)
Stoudt's Oktober FestStoudt's Brewing (Adamstown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Maybe no other beer symbolizes the rich German beer heritage that Ed and Carol Stoudt brought back to Pennsylvania 20-plus years ago better than this beautifully brewed lager. Malty with the delicate sweetness of a classic Bavarian festbier, it’s the perfect seasonal to enjoy at Stoudt’s weekend fall festivals. (Oct. 2009)
Granit BockBrauerei Hofstetten (St. Martin, Austria)
SIXPACK SEZ: A beer made with heated stones and open vat fermentation? Sounds downright primitive. But aside from some interesting caramel notes, it's a fairly average (read: why'd they go to all the bother?) bock. I'd like to see what someone like Will Meyers at Cambridge Brewing could do with this one. (Nov. 2009)
ViaEmiliaDel Ducato (Roncole Verdi Di Busseto, Italy)
SIXPACK SEZ: You know all those crazy Italian beers flavored with chestnuts, basil and saffron? This isn’t one of them. Instead, it’s a very fine, classically hopped (Tetnang) Czech-style pilsner with a very smooth finish that I suspect meets even the standards of even strictest of Reinheitsgebot traditionalists.
Monk's FestKlosterbrauerei Weissenohe (Weissenohe, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: The 11th-century Benedictine monastery that gives this Märzen its name is mostly gone. Thankfully, however, its exceptionally smooth and bready flavor lingers on. An exceptional rendition of a Bavarian classic from Franconia. (Sept. 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)
SamsonBudejovicky Mestansky (Czech Republic)
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. (August 2008)
Black BavarianSprecher Brewing (Wisconsin)
SIXPACK SEZ: Sprecher is kinda like the Stoudt's of Milwaukee. Grounded in traditional Bavarian brewing methods, it produces absolutely world-class styles across the board. This lager will blow you away (and it's finally available in Philly). (August 2008)
Dunks Ferry DunkelweizenNeshaminy Creek (Croydon, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Dunk’s Ferry was one of the sites where colonial troops were supposed to cross the Delaware into New Jersey on Christmas night, 1776. Of course, only Washington’s force made it, kicking Hessian butt and then celebrated with this very spicy Bucks County-made German-style dark wheat beer. (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)
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)
Winter-TraumKlosterbrauerei Weltenburg (Kelheim, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Other Christmas beers claim a connection to age-old monasteries, but this excellent, light-bodied lager is actually made by monks. And not just any order. The 17 Benedictine brothers of the Weltenburg cloister trace their roots back to 600 A.D., when Irish monks founded the monastery along the banks of the Danube. The brewery is relatively modern: a mere 950 years old (with production interrupted only by that notorious French wine snob, Napoleon). It has been rebuilt over the years with modern equipment, but they’re still using the 300-year-old lagering rooms, nearly 10 stories beneath the surface. Enter the monastery today, and you’re greeted with symbolic representations of the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Walk a little further, and you’re greeted by the four ingredients of beer: Water, Malt, Hops and Yeast. Together in Winter-Traum (German for Winter Dream), they produce an astonishingly complex aroma of fresh citrus and spice, and a delicious flavor of freshly baked bread. Drink up before you encounter the other four.
Ringnes JulebokkRingnes Bryggeri (Oslo, Norway)
SIXPACK SEZ: Americans who grouse about crazy state liquor laws should try buying a beer in Norway. Here’s a nation of frozen fjords and 24 hours of darkness, a cold land where you’d presume that easy access to alcohol in the midst of winter would be a life necessity. Instead, its grocery stores are prohibited from selling anything more potent than 4.7 percent alcohol. That means the shelves at Christmas are lined with dumbed-down brownish suds with little more character than the lame lagers they have to suffer with through the rest of the year. For the strong stuff, you have to traipse off to the state-run booze monopoly, the Vinmonopolet (which, by the way, closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays). But there, if you’re lucky, you’ll find one of the finest strong bocks in the world. Julebokk is somewhat sweet with a clear, strong flavor of caramel followed by a spicy finish. And at nearly 10 percent alcohol, it will certainly warm you till the sun returns next spring.
St. Nikolaus Bock BierPennsylvania Brewing (Pittsburgh)
SIXPACK SEZ: Made with five different roasted malts, this smooth-tasting, chocolate-like, dark Munich-style lager is one of the world’s classic bocks. Like the other fine beers in this book, it’s available only in the wintertime. But to get the true taste of the patron saint of Christmas, you have to wait till spring when, in the Italian town of Bari, they bottle the holy Manna of St. Nikolaus. On May 9th, the Feast of the Translation, the Pope oversees the extraction of a mysterious transparent liquid that seeps from the crypt holding the saint’s bones. No one is certain what produces the liquid, though devotees say it has the power to heal. Only an ounce or so is extracted and bottled in a hand-painted flask. It’s then diluted in holy water and distributed to believers who either rub it on their bodies or drink it down. Yes, that’s right, they drink the bodily essence of St. Nick. If you’re looking for something a bit more palatable, try the Brewer’s Reserve version of this bock. The 25-ounce bottle is bit stronger at 9 percent alcohol and is packed in an embroidered velvet bag.
Monchshof WeihnachtsbierKulmbacher (Kulmbach, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: It was the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia, according to historians, who discovered how to make beer about 4000 B.C. And if it weren’t for the spread of Islam – a religion that celebrates neither Christmas nor beer – the people of the Middle East would probably still be brewing in honor of Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing. Instead, it is Kulmbach in the northern reaches of Bavaria that can lay claim as the longest uninterrupted brewing region in the world. The evidence: an 8th-century B.C. crock unearthed at a burial site that had been used to ferment beer. Over the next three millennia, the region became famous for a variety of unique beer styles, including bock, dark lager and black beer. Monchshof refers to the monastery (monks’ house) where beer was brewed by Augustine monks as early as 1349. Today, the brewery’s Christmas treat, a malty, golden-orange lager, is made by the Kulmbach Brewing conglomerate.
Mahr’s Christmas BockMahr's Bräu (Bamberg, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: In Bavaria, when the Oktoberfest tents are folded up and the temperatures begin to dip, the brewers prepare for the cold months ahead with rich, malty, dark batches of “stark,” or strong, beer. It’s the first beer of the new brewing season, made with freshly harvested malt and hops. Traditionally, it’s tapped just in time for the first day of Advent, in late November or early December. They’ve been doing it for centuries in Bamberg, a medieval town where the oldest breweries can trace their history to the early 1500s. Mahr’s Brau is family-owned and, by many accounts, the finest in town. While the timber-beamed dining room of Mahr’s “gastrube” is a comfortable place to enjoy this delicately balanced bock, you’re more likely to find locals hanging out in the brewery’s standing-only section, called the “schwemme.” The first time this festive beer was offered, the crowd – known as the “stehgammler” (loafers) – sucked down the entire supply in two hours.
Hitachino Nest Commemorative AleKiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki-ken Naka-gun, Japan)
Spiced ice bock
SIXPACK SEZ: In Japan, where Shinto and Buddhism are the predominant religions, Christmas is not a huge national holiday. Instead, New Year’s Day is the big event. Japanese send postcards to friends, decorate their houses, give small pocket money and small gifts to children, prepare festive meals and, of course, drink beer. Most of the big breweries produce a winter beer called fuyumonogatari (“winter tale”) in cans decorated with winter scenes. It’s only mildly stronger than the run-of-the-mill pale lagers that dominate the marketplace, so for something really special you have to track down something from one of Japan’s new wave of microbreweries. This one is an ice bock, a style that gets its name from an old process in which, after fermentation, the beer is chilled to 24 degrees F, allowing the water (but not alcohol) to freeze. The ice is removed, which both sharpens the flavor and increases the alcohol content. Spiced with coriander, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, this is a truly imaginative and unique beer.
Saranac Long John LagerMatt Brewing (Utica, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: For a beer named after thermal underwear, this dark lager is not particularly warming. A nice malty flavor upfront thins out quickly and, in fact, is quite refreshing. Think of it as the bottle version of one of those union suits with an open flap in the rear. (Jan. 2015)
Evan AlmightyBlue Mountain (Afton, Va.)
SIXPACK SEZ: No, this beer is not some weird homage to a bad Steve Carell movie. Instead, it named for the owners’ son. You can do that sort of thing when you open a brewery. Even better, you can decide to bottle a very nicely made version of the rarely seen altbier – an old German style that’s fermented with ale yeast but lagered at a cooler temperature for a crisp, clean, balanced flavor. (March 2015)
TroublesomeOff Color (Chicago)
SIXPACK SEZ: A blended wheat beer intentionally inoculated with the same bacteria that causes cavities, puts the sour in sauerkraut and spoils beer – yeah, I’d say this one deserves its name. Yet, as the typically mouth-puckering German-style gose goes, this brew is hardly blue, with only a touch of tartness mingling with a surprising sweet flavor. (April 2015)
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest (Riegele Collaboration)Sierra Nevada (Chico, Calif.) & Brauhaus Riegele (Augsburg, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: Look closely at the label and you’ll understand how a California brewery known for hops-forward ales managed to break out with a wonderfully full-bodied German-style Märzen. This one-time collaboration teamed Sierra Nevada with the 630-year-old Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg. Their unique recipe depends heavily on a high-extract Steffi barley to produce a rich, complex yet very drinkable lager whose touch of Magnum hops only serves to help showcase the wonder of malt. (Sept. 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)
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)
Snow BlindStarr Hill (Crozet, Va.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Somehow I don’t think Black Sabbath’s “Snowblind” was a tribute to this sweet, smooth double bock: Something blowing in my head; Winds of ice that soon will spread; Down to freeze my very soul: Makes me happy, makes me cold. (Dec. 2105)
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)
InsulatedBrooklyn Brewing (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Despite its name and release as a limited, cold-weather seasonal, this lager really deserves to be enjoyed year-round. Yes, it’s dark and warming and worthy of a fireplace snifter on a snowy night. But I could see cracking open bottles of this malty yet well-balanced lager and enjoying it in the heat of a summer bbq. It’s not too heavy and it’s roasty malt dries out with an almost fruity, surprisingly hoppy finish. (March '16)
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier DunkelWeihenstephan (Freising, Germany)
SIXPACK SEZ: With hefeweizen, the malt flavor is an afterthought, with the wheat serving as a blank canvas for all that spicy, fruity yeast character. But add some roasted malt and turn it dark, and suddenly you’ve got a whole ‘nother thing: caramel, chocolate and an overall creaminess that plays off the banana and clove of a lighter German wheat beer. This version, from the world’s oldest brewer, is outstanding when fresh, preferably out of a tall glass in a Bavarian beer garden. (April '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)
Pony PilsnerHalf Acre (Chicago)
SIXPACK SEZ: No it wasn’t the monkey riding a horse on the label that prompted me to grab this can at my local bottle shop. Instead, it was the name – pony! – that brought back memories of those tiny 7-ounce bottles I used to gulp on hot summer days. Miller, Rolling Rock and the perfectly named Little Kings... aaaah! This short trip down memory lane was brought to you by a 12-ounce can of crisp, light-bodied pilsner with a touch of sweetness. Very enjoyable. (June '16)
Sprecher Black BavarianSprecher Brewing (Wisconsin)
SIXPACK SEZ: Sprecher is kinda like the Stoudt's of Milwaukee. Grounded in traditional Bavarian brewing methods, it produces absolutely world-class styles across the board. This lager will blow you away (and it's finally available in Philly).
SamsonBudejovicky Mestansky (Czech Republic)
SIXPACK SEZ: In Europe, this is actually known as Samson Budweiser - a tribute to the fact that it is brewed in the place where Bud was born. They'd sell a helluva lot more of this sweet, creamy lager around Philly if they spelled it Sansom.
The KaiserAvery Brewing (Colorado)
SIXPACK SEZ: I don't believe that's actually the Kaiser pictured on the label of this exceptional imperial Oktoberfest. A close look shows the pointed helmet (a pickelhaube) is covered with cloth, which was standard issue for infantry - not the sort of thing an emperor would wear. Enough history - let's drink!