The number of craft breweries in the U.S. has increased more then 75 percent since 2012 . And we’re not complaining. But it does make it hard to decide what to buy when you hit the store or bar. You don’t want to waste your money on something that tastes like Budweiser.
So we asked Lisa Morrison, manager at Portland’s Belmont Station Bottle Shop and Tap Room, what she buys for herself. Since Belmont Station currently has more than 1,454 bottles and cans — and given that Morrison is known as The Beer Goddess — we’re pretty confident that you can trust her picks.
In addition to seeking out variety and quality, Morrison says she’s a seasonal drinker. “I have a crush on pilsners and lighter-bodied beers in the summer, but when the days get shorter, I find myself considering stouts and other darker-malt and/or heavier-bodied beers,” she explains.
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Here are her top nine craft beers.
Fort George 3-Way IPA
Now you can make that threesome fantasy come true any night. Every year, Fort George Brewery collaborates with two other breweries to create a summer IPA. And every year “it’s always delicious,” Morrison says. The 2016 threesome with Barley Brown’s and Melvin sold out in late August, so move fast when 2017’s is released.
North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Morrison calls this “the gold standard for imperial stouts.” It has just the right amount of roasty notes, is great on nitro or from the bottle and is terrific with food.
Block 15 Sticky Hands Imperial IPA
Crack open this double IPA, and you’re greeted with a blast of tropical fruit and citrus. “Dive in to the dankness!” Morrison says. “It’s deceptively drinkable.”
Bend Brewing Ching Ching Berliner Weisse
Don’t be turned off by the color of this quaffer from a small central Oregon brewery: It pours pink, but it’s definitely not a girly beer. “It’s got just enough tartness to be refreshing but doesn’t overdo it,” Morrison says.
Duvel Belgian Strong Pale Ale
“Yes, there are other Belgians that are higher rated, more rare, etc., but when I am in Belgium and I’ve had my fill of sampling all the rest, I always defer to Duvel,” Morrison says. “It has more hop profile than many Belgian beers, and as a hop head, I can’t go too long without a fix.”
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
Morrison considers this the epitome of a perfectly balanced IPA. “It’s a rare treat here in the Northwest; every time I take that first sip, I smile from ear to ear,” she says. And if a beer can’t satisfy you like that, why drink it?
“The saison to which all others aspire. ‘Nuff said,” Morrison says.
Ecliptic Belmont Station 19th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Barley Wine
If you buy this one, try to have patience. “It was delicious in March when it was released, but time in the bottle is proving to be very kind. I’d give it another six months to a year for perfect drinkability,” Morrison recommends.
Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack IPA
Although this is only available on draft at the moment, Morrison couldn’t leave it off her list. “Pallet Jack offers everything you want in an IPA — tropical fruit and citrus notes, with just a touch of pine and a hint of dankness.”