The Best Beer In America! My Top Ten List, Plus Two!!!

Mar 4, 2002 (Updated Jul 1, 2007)

The Bottom Line These could be the ten best beers in America. Unless I change my mind, that is.

Back on Valentines Day of this year, one of my very favorite Epinions writers (Tom Carr, 4-1-1) hit upon the brilliant idea of a write off themed upon the Top Ten Beers in America. I really wanted to participate, but to be honest it is very hard indeed for me to pick ten beers out of all the ones I love so much and make a list of them as the tops. It took some time, but I finally managed to do it.

Of all the thousands of beers I have tasted over the years, how did I go about weeding out which ones might be my top ten? It was a hard decision, and a daunting task indeed. One might just as well ask a parent which of his children is his favorite. The procedure I decided on was a simple one: First, I decided to use as my selecting criteria a simple question. Which of all these beers would I like to drink right now, and most of all?

With that in mind, I started at the bottom of my beer database and listed each beer I recalled as most memorable. I assigned that beer a place in the top ten. As some beers took precedence over others, some would be bumped into the “Runners Up” listings.

Try as I might, I could not narrow my list down to ten. I did manage twelve (sorry Tom!). The reader will excuse the excess, and hopefully accept the extra two beers (on the house, of course).

One caveat: the list I make now may not be the same as the one I would have written last week, or would write next month. These are the beers that strike my fancy right now, but to be honest I’ve tasted so many delicious brews over the years that I can’t honestly say these ten beers are better than many of the others on my list.

With the above qualifications proffered, let’s have some fun. Here are the runners up. A considerable list, indeed, but there are many great beers out there.

The Runners Up

Diamond Knot IPA
Diamond Knot Brewing, Washington State. Hops to the max here, a brew for the serious hophead in all of us. I was burping hops for three days after a glass of this stuff.

Amherst Brewing Company Puffer’s Smoked Porter
Amherst Brewing Company (Brewpub), Massachusetts. Almost as good as Alaskan Smoked Porter. Roasty, smoky, delicious.

Belle Dock Barley Wine
New Haven Brewing Company, Connecticut. Now defunct. This was a deliciously complex, rich and malty barleywine. The company brewed one batch and released it over several years. Some of it may still be floating around.

Belfast Bay Lobster Ale
Belfast Bay Brewing, Maine. A very drinkable red ale with a sinfully delicious fruitiness and rich chewy stewed malts. No lobster in the beer, but try a glass with one on a plate.

Bell’s Cherry Stout
Kalamazoo Brewing, Michigan. A glass of black forest cake. Smooth, chocolaty, plenty of cherry flavor and it works well with the stout.

North Coast Old Rasputin
North Coast Brewing, California. A complex Imperial stout, roasty and complex. Licorice, chocolate, and lots more.

Bar Harbor Bluebeery Ale
Bar Harbor Brewing, Maine. A perfect balance between fruit and malt. An incredibly delicious brew, not sweet or cloying but bursting with Maine blueberry flavor. A great dessert beer.

Bar Harbor Cadillac Mountain Stout
Bar Harbor Brewing, Maine. Wonderfully rich stout. Roasty, chocolaty, limited availability. One of my very favorite stouts.

Allagash Tripel Reserve
Allagash Brewing Company, Maine. Sold in corked 750ml bottles, this beer is fruity and rich, warming and delicious. A perfect sipping brew to ward off a cold Portland evening and a bit of Belgium in New England.

Bigfoot Barleywine
Sierra Nevada Brewing, California. Malty, hoppy, a beer not for the faint of palate. Released every year about this time.

Boston Beer Works Pumpkinhead Ale
I love pumpkin beers, and this one is one of the best. Lots of pumpkin pie flavor, yet smooth and drinkable. Enjoy it at the brewpub with an order of fried pickles.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Brooklyn Brewery, New York. Chocolaty, roasty, a little licorice, formidable alcohol content. A beautiful winter seasonal.

Brooklyn Brown Ale
Brooklyn Brewery, New York. A heavenly marriage of a touch of dark malt with flowery Cascade hops. Not a heavy beer by any means, but a truly memorable one to be sure.

Catamount Christmas Ale
Catamount Brewing, Vermont. Not presently made though the Catamount line still does exist. Perhaps it will be revived in the future. Very fruity, firm malt body, hoppy finish. The first few batches I recall drinking were truly exquisite.

Cisco Brewers’ Whale’s Tail Pale Ale
Cisco Brewers, Massachusetts. Six dollars a bottle and worth every penny. Bottle conditioned, fruity, hoppy, and easy to drink. Wonderful, wonderful beer.

Dock Street Amber
Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia. An old favorite, malty, smooth, very drinkable and with a unique Cascade hop signature in the finish. An American classic.

Dock Street Illuminator Doppelbock
Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia. Not being made right now as far as I know. Malty, toasty, chewy, a big rich doublebock, perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted that wasn’t brewed in Germany.

Dock Street Bohemian Pilsner
Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia. Closest I’ve ever tasted to an imported Czech pils. Dock Street does it again.

Dominion Millenium
Old Dominion Brewing, Virginia. A warming, complex barleywine full of rich luxurious malt. Seems to get better and better every year.

Gritty McDuff’s Boo! Halloween Ale
Gritty McDuff’s Brewpub, Maine. Bursting with candyish crystal malt flavor. I look forward to this every year.

Harpoon Winter Warmer
Harpoon Brewery, Boston. One of the original domestic spiced ales. Cinnamon, nutmeg, malty pie crust body, all in perfect proportions. A classic.

Kessler Octoberfest
Kessler Brewing, Montana. Not an Oktoberfest, but one of the most memorable beers I’ve ever drunk. I likened it to liquid buttered lobster tails. A rich, buttery beer.

Martha’s Exchange Smokin’ Rauchbier
Martha’s Exchange Restaurant and Brewery, New Hampshire. This beer is so good that most of the first batch was dumped. Huh? It’s a super-authentic German smoked beer, not a style the majority of the public is ready for. Beer geeks loved it, but there were not enough to buy it all, so the remainder was discarded. A truly sad story. Subsequent batches have been less smoky.

Coastal Extreme Newport Storm 㢤
Coastal Extreme Brewing, Rhode Island. A style unto itself. Lots of malt, complex flavors, very high alcohol.

Anchor Our Special Ale
Anchor Brewing, California. The definitive holiday beer, different each year. Packed with spices, bursting with flavor. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Oregon Blackberry Porter
Boston Beer Company, Oregon. I wish they still made this. The fruity berry flavor worked perfectly against the chocolaty porter base.

Smuttynose Shoal’s Pale Ale
Smuttynose Brewing, New Hampshire. A perfectly balanced beer. Smooth and malty with a touch of fruity yeast and lightly bitter finish.

Sprecher Black Bavarian
Sprecher Brewery, Wisconsin. A smooth and drinkable lightly roasty take on a Schwarzbier, or German black lager.

Stoudt’s Honey Double Maibock
Stoudt’s Brewery, Pennsylvania. A light malty Maibock with a little honey kick to it. Warming alcohol.

Victory Storm King
Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania. A killer imperial stout. Roasty with licorice and chocolate. Complex.

Victory Old Horizontal Barleywine
Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania. A rich, chewy, complex barleywine. One of my favorites.

Watch City Kingpin Imperial Stout
Watch City Brewpub, Massachusetts. Perhaps my favorite domestic imperial. A glass of Allsorts, this beer is packed with licorice, espresso, chocolate, roasted malt.

And Now the Top Ten.........

12 (BONUS!)Anchor Liberty Ale
Anchor Brewing, California. My favorite Anchor beer. A Cascade hop blast set against a firm malt background.

11. (BONUS!) Paper City Winter Palace Wee Heavy
Paper City Brewery, Massachusetts. My favorite domestic Scotch ale. Rich and chewy, malty, slightly sweet. Absolutely delicious.

10. Hair of the Dog Adam
Hair of the Dog Brewery, Oregon. A unique and complex take on an old German style. A sipping beer, rich and malty, warming with alcohol in the finish.

9. Victory Prima Pils
Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania. Hop Devil may get all the glory, but I think this may be my favorite Victory beer. Crisp, biscuity Belgian pilsner malt serves as the stage on which a veritable parade of German hops dance across the tongue. Very bitter. Very, very good.

8. Geary’s Hampshire Ale
D.L. Geary Brewing, Maine. A rich and raisiny old ale, very complex and malty. A special treat on cask. Released for the winter season.

7. Gritty McDuff’s Cask IPA
Gritty McDuff’s Brewpub, Maine. I love Gritty’s beers, but this one is perhaps my favorite. Not extremely hoppy, but extremely drinkable and bursting with complex flavor. Just the right bitterness in the finish. Perfection in a glass.

6.Alaskan Smoked Porter
Alaskan Brewing Company, Alaska. I bought a case of this heavenly brew a few years back for about $120 with shipping. Deliciously roasty, smoky, and a tad phenolic, this is a much sought after gem and possibly one of my all-time favorites.

5. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Great Lakes Brewing Company, Ohio. The defining robust porter. Roasty, chocolaty, bold and exciting. Could be my favorite porter in the states.

4. Bell’s Expedition Stout
Kalamazoo Brewing, Michigan. Loosely based on an Imperial stout. Loads of malt, loads of hops, loads of everything. A big and brawny brute of a beer. Licorice, chocolate, roasty notes, piney hops, bitter, bitter, bitter. It’s all here.

3. Willimantic Brewing 2001 Willi Whammer Barleywine
Willimantic Brewpub, Connecticut. One of the most complex beers I’ve ever drunk. Rich sweet malt, dark chocolate, pineapple, cake-like malt, orange, sweet sticky toffee, and fresh bread. The finish has a wonderful combination of huge alcohol warmth and potent lingering bitterness.

2. Middle Ages ImPaled Ale
Middle Ages Brewing Company, New York. This Syracuse-based Ringwood beer has it all: hops, malt, and plenty of funky Ringwood yeast character. I absolutely love the way the buttery Ringwood notes merge with the biscuity malt and the bitter hops. An unbelievable beer.

1. Bank Street Ale
Emerald Isle Brewing Company, Rhode Island. The brewery is now sadly defunct, but when they were brewing, they produced the finest glass of cask ale I have ever tasted. Deliciously fruity, malty and with a vibrant hop finish, yet surprisingly easy to drink. This was a beer that commanded your attention, and in true real ale fashion would not be the same every time you drank it.

And there you have it. What I consider to be the top ten beers in America. Of course, ask a hundred beer drinkers and you’ll get a hundred different answers. But that’s all part of the fun.


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