• row_of_beers_from_istock.jpg

    iStock

With craft beers becoming more and more popular, it can be hard to find the right brew for you. Gayot has done some sudsy research so you can buy your next craft beer with confidence. Take a look at our picks for the top 10 craft beers to find everything from American-made saisons to Belgian-brewed pale ales.

  • 1. Saison Various

    Harpoon Brewery
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Saison / Farmhouse Ale
    6.1 percent ABV (Alcohol by Volume)

    Price: $6 for 22 oz.

    Founded in 1986, Harpoon Brewery is one of the oldest craft breweries in the U.S. The Boston mainstay first introduced its 100 Barrel Series in 2003 to showcase the individual talents of its brewers. This 47th installment of the series is a collaboration of four different Harpoon brewers — Ethan Elston, Jamie Maxwell, Rich Masella and Ryan Thompson, each of whom brewed a saison style-beer but with totally different recipes. The name refers to the blending of the four unique saisons and the various ingredients and yeast strains found within this complex golden ale. Elson's version incorporates American hops, a Trappist yeast strain, coriander, orange peel and black peppercorn; Maxwell's is a traditional version with a French saison yeast strain, Bohemian pilsner malt and noble hops; Thompson's features coriander and white peppercorn; and Masella utilizes New Zealand Pacifica and Motueka hops to give a citrus-tinged hop profile. The result of this grand experiment brings a delightful complexity to the table, featuring spicy overtones backed up with a citrusy hop balance and slightly sour funk of the farmhouse yeasts. The dry aftertaste lingers for several seconds, allowing your taste buds to revisit the aforementioned flavors.

  • 2. Kriek

    Santa Fe Brewing Company
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Lambic / Fruit Beer
    8.5 percent ABV

    Price: $21 for 750 ml.

    Brewed by Santa Fe Brewing Company, New Mexico's first microbrewery established in 1988, this kriek is part of the brewery's Los Innovadores series of wild fermented ales. Inspired by the time-honored Belgian lambics, it's fermented with Michigan tart cherries and a blend of Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces wild yeasts, and then aged in oak barrels for two years. However, in a departure from the Belgian process, Santa Fe Brewing Company adds a sake yeast during the secondary fermentation. As soon as the kriek pours into your glass, the cherries shout out with a beautiful red tint and sour cherry aroma. As you sip, your mouth tingles with a fizzy effervescence and your taste buds are met with a warming glow from the hefty 8.5 percent ABV. A pleasing, puckering tartness comes courtesy of the sour cherries and barrel aging. Interestingly, no hops are used, for none are needed, as the sourness provides its own balance to the unmalted wheat and two-row barley malt. While it's definitely sour, it's not overwhelmingly so, and you'll find yourself going back for more sips. This is definitely a beer to savor and drink slowly.

  • 3. Fresh Squeezed IPA

    Deschutes Brewery
    Bend, Oregon
    India Pale Ale
    6 percent ABV

    Price: $6 for 22 oz.

    This IPA is named for its intense citrus characteristics, which are creatively illustrated on its label depicting a hop cone being "juiced" for its oil. Upon pouring the IPA into your glass, you are met with a blossoming citrus aroma and a hazy orange hue. Pale, Crystal and Munich malts are balanced with a generous dose of Nugget, Citra and Mosaic hops, which produce a strong citrus flavor reminiscent of fresh grapefruit. A tremendous aftertaste that lingers for a dozen seconds or more after swallowing makes this a hophead's dream. Although it's fortified with a heavy helping of hops that combine for 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), it's not overly bitter, as the hops are mainly used for flavoring. Originally a favorite at Deschutes' brewpubs in Portland and Bend, Oregon, it's now available for the masses to enjoy. However, if you see Fresh Squeezed IPA in stores, snatch it up quick, as it's only available June through September.

  • 4. Curieux

    Allagash Brewing Company
    Portland, Maine
    Bourbon Barrel Aged Tripel
    11 percent ABV

    Price: $20 for 750 ml.

    Allagash Brewing, out of Portland, Maine, is becoming sought out for its Belgian-style creations. Founder Rob Tod originally crafted this barrel-aged tripel by accident. In 2004, when he needed a home for 150 gallons of his tripel that was ready to be bottled, and his bottle shipment was delayed, he was "curious" as to what would happen if he stored it in some Jim Beam bourbon barrels he had recently acquired. The result was a happy accident that has been repeated every year since. Aged for two to three months in bourbon barrels that are stored in the brewery's cold cellars, Allagash Curieux boasts a soft vanilla character, imparted by the oak, with a hint of bourbon added to the flavor. Also evident are some roasted charcoal and coconut notes, and the alcohol presence is masked by a malt-rich body. This dark golden, Belgian-style ale is bottle-conditioned and packaged in a 750 ml bottle with cork and cage. Like many other American craft breweries, Allagash is minimizing its carbon footprint by obtaining 100 percent of its energy from wind power.

  • 5. Bam Biere

    Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales
    Dexter, Michigan
    Saison / Farmhouse Ale
    4.5 percent ABV

    Price: $12 for 25 oz.

    This Belgian-style, artisan Michigan brewery has distinguished itself for its dedication to traditions of old-world craftsmanship — oak aging, bottle conditioning, open fermentation and use of wild yeast, just like they do in Belgium. The brewery's use of oak barrels to age its beers results in naturally occurring microbiological cultures including brettanomyces, which give this beer its earthy farmhouse funk. This golden-hued, naturally cloudy farmhouse ale/saison begins with notes of citrus peels and a fruity aroma that gives way to a slightly sour tartness balanced with spicy malt and a pleasant hop citrus tang. The name and label honor Bam, the brewery's Jack Russell, who survived getting "bammed" by a car. Unlike most Belgian beers, it has a relatively low (4.5 percent) ABV, which means that you can safely drink one without risking getting run over.

  • 6. Old Foghorn Ale

    Anchor Brewing Company
    San Francisco, California
    English Barleywine
    8.2 percent ABV

    Price: $15 for a six-pack

    Brewed since 1975, a decade before the craft beer movement was even in its infancy, Old Foghorn barleywine was the first of its kind in modern times to be produced in the U.S. The barleywine style contains no wine, but is so named because the alcohol strength approaches that of wine. Old Foghorn uses three times the malt of most beer styles and attains a balance of malty sweetness and fruitiness. Brewed based on traditional English barleywine methods, it is dry-hopped, naturally carbonated and cellar-aged. It pours a ruby red and is Americanized through its use of a heavy dose of American-grown Cascade hops, which add a citrus element not found in English versions of the style. Its low carbonation, thick texture and warm finish make it ideal for sipping after dinner.

  • 7. Orval

    Brasserie d’Orval
    Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval, Belgium
    Belgian Pale Ale
    6.9 percent ABV

    Price: $5 for 11.2 oz.

    Monks have occupied the site of Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval since 1070 and continue to brew there; it's one of only seven Trappist monasteries in the world which still brew beer today. First produced in 1931, this iconic ale with complex and distinct flavors is produced with three different malts, two types of hops, Belgian candi sugar and multiple semi-wild yeast strains. The yeast contains brettanomyces, which adds to its unique flavor and slightly sour finish. Sunset-orange in color and slightly cloudy, it pours a large, foamy head and offers up a fruity and somewhat acidic bouquet. Unlike most Belgian beers, Orval is dry-hopped and packs a good amount of hop flavor and bitterness. For the ultimate tasting experience, dispense into an Orval glass. Specially designed for Orval, it has a wide mouth rim, and drinking from it opens up the hoppy flavor of the beer. And, be sure not to drink it too cold. As this beer warms, the flavors keep getting better and better. As the beer is bottle-conditioned, its taste can change over the years with ageing, with a mature version exhibiting a more toned-down, gentler hop bitterness, as well as increased sourness from the still growing wild yeasts.

  • 8. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

    Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
    Chico, California
    American Pale Ale
    5.6 percent ABV

    Price: $9 for a six-pack

    One of the pioneers of modern brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing set the stage for craft beer when it opened in 1980. Its flagship pale ale set the standard for the style and also introduced the U.S. to West Coast hop strains. The brewery is known for using only fresh, full-cone hops and lots of them. This beer gets its fragrant bouquet and spicy, citrusy flavor burst from generous quantities of Magnum, Perle and Cascade hops. The robust hoppiness of this deep amber-colored brew is matched with a full-bodied maltiness. This best-selling pale ale in the U.S. is considered a common gateway choice for craft beer novices. Perhaps the greenest of all breweries, the company was named Green Business of the Year in 2011 by the EPA, in recognition for its energy generation through solar panel arrays, recovered bio-gas, hydrogen fuel cells, zero-waste policy, recycling, heat recovery, CO2 recovery, energy efficiency and water conservation.

  • 9. Dark Lord

    Three Floyds Brewing
    Munster, Indiana
    Russian Imperial Stout
    13 percent ABV

    Price: $15 for 22 oz.

    Three Floyds may have one of the most devoted followings of any brewery in the world, and a beer that is made once a year and all sold in one day makes an excellent candidate for cult status. The momentous yearly event is dubbed Dark Lord Day, and is held on the last Saturday of April, at which time all of the once-a-year gargantuan Russian imperial stout is released and sold. To alleviate crowd control problems, 6,000 pre-sold tickets go on sale in mid-March and sell out in less than five minutes. If you have made the trek to the brewery or bought some on the black market (eBay bids are currently around $60 a bottle), you have tasted a rarity that relatively few have enjoyed. The Dark Lord moniker suggests something dark and sinister. Dark it is, and it pours pitch black, like an opaque black hole in your glass, akin to the Dark Lord rising from his primordial beginnings. An intense roasted malt and chocolate flavor dominates and is joined by notes of maraschino cherry, cocoa nibs and coffee, with a thick body and sublime smooth finish. If you are fortunate enough to win a scratch-off golden ticket, you are allowed to purchase a barrel-aged version for $50.

  • 10. Detour Double IPA

    Uinta Brewing Company
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    American Double / Imperial India Pale Ale
    9.5 percent ABV

    Price: $10 for 750 ml.

    Detour is part of the Uinta’s Crooked Line series, so named because they are part of the company's more experimental recipes, brewed "outside the lines" of traditional beer styles. Since all of the beers in the line exceed 9 percent alcohol, "Detour" may also refer to the possibility that you won't be walking a straight line after finishing one. The brewery hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, and the 9.5 percent ABV alcohol strength and 74 IBUs of this hop bomb help to destroy the myth that beers made in Utah are wimpy. Hopheads will be happy with the aroma of fresh grapefruit and pine, and a slightly bitter, lingering aftertaste, thanks to the addition of four different hop varieties. Stylishly corked and caged, it pours a copper burnt-orange with an off-white head. As with all of the beers in this line, its label is adorned with artwork of local artists, in this case that of Leia Bell. Uinta is decidedly green, obtaining 100 percent of its power from solar and wind, and its spent grain from the brewing process is donated to local ranchers to use as feed for cattle, sheep and pigs, reducing waste sent to the landfills.

    More from Gayot

    More Info and Photos of the Top 10 Craft Beers

    More Top Craft Beers

    Top 10 Sipping Beers

    Top 10 Fall Beers

    Top 10 Oktoberfest Beers