Perhaps you are still feeling the effects of a little too much volume drinking last weekend for St. Patrick’s Day or maybe you are just looking for a little change of pace from your standard Budweiser and Miller products. Now is as good a time as any to give craft beers a try.
Over the last five years, craft beer’s market share has been growing at an exceptionally fast pace. As of 2011, the percentage of all beer sold in the United States reached over 5% for the first time and is showing no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately that means that craft beer, which by nature is not mass produced, is becoming more and more in demand.
There have been plenty of other blogs dedicated to the best of breed of the very trendy Indian Pale Ales and Belgian Triples. Prices on such beers are rising in line with demand for those products. So if you are interested in something a little bit better than your Coors Light sixer this weekend, you might find it hard to do so without breaking the bank.
With that in mind, here are some quality craft beer options that may not be quite as heralded, but are a great value and should come in around or under $10:
For the Hop Heads:
Samuel Adams – Latitude 48 IPA
America’s first big name craft beer shouldn’t be discounted just because it has been around a long time. This IPA gets its name from the various hops added from around the world, all from what Sam Adam’s calls the “hop belt” of around the 48th Latitude. It has a golden/amber color that was described as reminding one friend of “the old man’s cane in Jurassic Park.” It has a wonderful strong hop flavor that is slightly bitter but with a smooth finish.
Heavy Seas – Loose Cannon Hop^3 IPA
Coming out of Baltimore, Heavy Seas is brewing a classic East Coast IPA. The hop profile on this beer is not as noticeable as in the Sam Adams Latitude 48, but that makes for a more balanced beer. There are hints of floral and herbal notes with a very aromatic finish. Excellent for those looking for a lighter tasting (if not lighter in alcohol content) IPA.
Widmer Brothers – Drifter Pale Ale
While not labeled as an IPA, the Drifter Pale Ale certainly has all the punch that IPAs are know for. This pale ale has a very bold hop flavor to match its deep amber color. It comes out just between the Latitude 48 and Loose Cannon for hoppiness and represents a good middle ground between the two beers’ flavor profiles. The only knock I have heard on this beer is that it couldn’t have a more boring label. To each their own, I suppose.
For those that want something a little different:
Kona Brewing – Koko Brown
This is a beautiful beer and my favorite of the bunch. It is made with bits of coconut added during the brewing process that make this brown ale smooth with a nutty and caramel/toffee sweet aftertaste. It has a great amber color and pours an excellent frothy, brown head. The goal of the brewer was to bring the drinker to the beach, and I believe they have succeeded at this. A friend drank this beer and said “this reminds me of tanning oil, but in a good way.” Job well done, Kona. It comes very favorably in price/value compared to similar offerings from the other famous Hawaii brewer, Maui Brewing.
Ommegang – Abbey Ale (Double)
I couldn’t pass up a chance to add a Belgian style ale to this column either. Belgian Triples are really all the rage these days as with the IPAs. And who better to recommend than a New York brewer dedicated to making only Belgian style brews. Belgian Triples, however, are getting exponentially more expensive due in great part to their popularity. But the often neglected Belgian Double is where I think the real value is at. Triple v. Double refers to the alcohol content of a given Belgian style ale. As that multiplier increases, so does the alcohol content, though not linearly. This is done by adding more malt as the beer is brewed, which in general adds to cost. The Belgian Double is in a nice price/value sweet spot. You get all of the bold, complex, and rich flavors of a Belgian Abbey style ale in this beer. It has a wonderful malt profile with a tinge of fruity taste with the bonus that it isn’t too heavy or too expensive. The Ommegang Abbey Ale is a wonderful beer for those wanting to sample the Belgian style without going full bore into the deep end.
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