Last November, the New Yorker ran a cover featuring two tattooed hipsters on a pub bench being served by an equally flannelled young man. In his hands? Beer, being presented like a sommelier would show off a shmancy bottle of wine.
Though obviously satirical, the cover is indicative of the sophisticated turn beer has taken. Though craft brews have been around for decades, they haven’t hit their peak, instead continuing to refine themselves in quality and grow in popularity. So much so that we know that Budweiser is feeling threatened.
The good news is that ordering high-end beer at a restaurant will probably still run you back less than a bottle of equally good wine. So you shouldn’t fear the classy brew. Here are five you should get your hands on today, all varying in price.
Noble Rot-Dogfish Head, average price: $14 on a 750 ml bottle
Like a late harvest wine, Dogfish’s Noble Rot makes a perfect dessert beverage. With a fairly potent ABV of 9 and a tangy, sweet taste, Noble Rot is comparable to a late harvest Chardonnay or even a Sauternes. Fitting, because the “rot” in this beer comes from fungus infected viognier grapes, used with pinot gris must to act as fermentable sugars. In a way, this is a wine/beer mashup. Enjoy chilled in a chalice.
Utopias-Sam Adams, average price: $224
Okay, so Utopias is more expensive than plenty of wines. But let’s just say you should drink it before you die. This blend is pulled from different barrels (ex-port, ex-bourbon), and made with unusual ingredients like Munich malts, maple syrup, proprietary yeasts and a variety of hops. And it’s exceptionally alcoholic for a beer. The ABV comes in at a whopping 28%, around six times as alcoholic as Sam Adam’s Boston Lager. It sips like a port wine or even brandy. Enjoy in a snifter.
Barrel-Aged Project Brew No. 9-Grappa-Hof Ten Dormaal, average price: $25 on a 750 ml bottle
Grappa is an Italian brandy that has a reputation for being harsh (and that’s me giving a very not harsh description). However, because this beer is aged in a grappa barrel, the residual bitterness is very subtle and gives the beer a great savory quality. Though it’s a limited edition batch, you can find similar sips from the same brewery. Drink in a traditional pint glass.
Shapeshifter-Grimm Artisanal Ales, average price: $8 for a 22 oz bottle
Not enough good things can be said about the Shapeshifter. It’s wonderfully complex, thick, yet oddly refreshing, and made by real people. Crisp enough to pair with seafood, yet chocolatey enough to have for dessert, this Scotch ale is brewed with candi syrup from Belgium. Forget red wine and opt for this beer, which will turn up similar fruit flavors, like figs and dates. Drink straight from the bottle.
Framboise Lambic-Lindemans, average price: $11 for a 25 oz bottle
This is the Moscato of beer. Low in alcoholic content, bursting with raspberries, and pretty in pink, this sweet lambic beer is far tastier than a glass of sugarbomb two-buck-chuck. Great with cakes, fruit, and ice-cream, I’d use it in a float. There’s no shame in having a sweet tooth, but don’t waste that impending cavity on nothing. Sip in a champagne flute.