Every Sunday I take a look at five beers worth checking off your list. This week, it’s five beers that taste so good and drink so easily you can get yourself in a world of hurt if you’re not careful, because they are also heavy hitters in the alcohol department.
Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra
Beer has a rep as being a booze that isn’t “booze” because it’s low enough in alcohol that you can drink it all day. Thing is, that’s not always true. Sometimes a beer will taste as approachable as any other beer but will knock you flatter than a tortilla shell. Take Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Extra, for example. It’s a Belgian-style dark ale based on their Raison D’Etre, which itself is a nicely drinkable Belgian-style ale with notes of soft dark fruits, candi sugar and muffins. So how about jacking it up to an insane 18% ABV? Ummm, wow. And that’s what D’Extra is. Rum-soaked plums, burnt sugar, a touch of spicy Belgian-style yeast, but mostly heady black breads and aged cherries. And this thing is as potent as Port wine? You’d never guess it. Ridiculous. This one was last released a couple of years ago, but you can still find bottles in some shops and through trading groups, plus good beer bars often keep kegs of this for a few years to tap on special occasions. If you see it pop up, go get some.
Carton Regular Coffee
The thing about high alcohol beers is that in most cases you KNOW it’s a high alcohol beer. That’s a not a bad thing – in many ways it’s a GOOD thing – but yeah, generally speaking, once a
beer gets to a certain level of knock-you-down, you can taste it. And then there is Carton Regular Coffee, an imperial cream ale out of New Jersey. Creamy, sweet, loaded with rich coffee flavor, drinks super easy. And 12% ABV? Really? It tastes like a cup of iced coffee from that national donut place, but you’d never know it. It’s also golden light, which might throw you off given the nice coffee flavor. Having a couple of these in the morning would be a bad idea, but having one to cap off the night is a great idea.
Stone Enjoy By IPA
The folks at Stone are not known for compromise, so when they release a double IPA that clocks in at a robust 9.4% ABV, you probably expect a blistering, overpowering, no-compromise double IPA that will knock you on your ass. Turns out that Enjoy By (the date that follows “Enjoy By” changes with every release) qualifies only on the latter. A lot of double IPAs are big on the hops but also have a thick, syrupy sweet body that is frankly awful once the beer is anything less than fresh. Not Enjoy By. How is this beer so light and crisp and breezy? How did the folks who assaulted our senses with brews like RuinTen manage to concoct this absurdly drinkable brew? Aww hell, who cares? No double IPA should be this juicy, delicious and drinkable.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga
It should come as no surprise that the rule-breakers at Lagunitas know how to brew a beer that busts alcohol traditions while still tasting like an easy drinking beer. Hop Stoopid is one of the best affordable double IPAs on the market. The Hairy Eyeball tastes WAY better than it sounds. And Imperial Red drinks like a cheap beer but tastes ten times better. That’s why getting T-boned by Brown Shugga’s “there-was-a-red-light?” taste shouldn’t be shocking. This beer was meant to be a barleywine, but it ended up a little toasted and roasted sweet, like a high octane brown ale – which is what it is. It closes in on 10% ABV. It doesn’t try to hide it, either, but at the same time the sticky pine and sweet malts taste more like candy than booze.
St. Bernardus Abt 12
Striking a balance between butt-kicking alcohol levels and drinkability that keeps you coming back is harder than coming up with an appropriate analogy for “it’s hard” that isn’t sexual, but boy howdy does St. Bernardus do it with ABT 12, an abbey-style quad that is quite honestly one of the best beers in the world (and that also drinks like half its 10.5% ABV). Brewed by the folks who used to brew the elusive Westvleteren XII, ABT 12 is every bit the equal of that famed brew. It’s a near religious experience to drink a perfect pour of this heady beverage. Dark fruits and chocolate and figs and spice and Belgian yeast all swirl together for perfect little kisses that are so rich in flavor you’ll be oblivious to the fact that every pour is equal to two pours of a normal beer.