We’re at that point in the year when I officially spend more time raking leaves than working, which means I’m going to need a stronger beer. Something with a bit of heft to it. The kind of beer that you know will completely ruin anything productive you have planned for the rest of your day. And part of tomorrow. Because it’s so big, so burly, that it’s a commitment. Luckily, there are a couple of those beers in this batch of new releases. There are also some more reasonable options that won’t force you to take a nap 30 minutes after imbibing, and a fruity beer that you’ll have to travel to Hawaii to drink. Here you go: six new beers you need to drink now.
21st Amendment Brewery, Stone and Firestone Walker
It’s time to put on your big boy/girl pants and start drinking beefy, dark beers that make you want to quote Moby Dick and take mid-day naps. El Camino (Un)Real (a partnership between 21st Amendment, Stone and Firestone Walker) is just such a beer—a dark strong ale sitting at 9.5% that hits hard with hop bitterness and malty goodness. Expect notes of licorice and vanilla but also some fruit and spice thanks to the addition of figs and pink peppercorn. Usually, beers of this magnitude get the big bottle treatment, but 21st Amendment is releasing it in four packs of 12-ounce cans. Because they’re cool like that.
Oregon’s Bridgeport throws just about everything in the kettle for this new red ale, using four different hops (Nugget, Sterling, Cascade, Mt. Hood) at six different additions during the brewing process, as well flaked oatmeal, caramel malt and two different specialty malts (Red-X and Midnight Wheat). Oh, and they dry-hopped the shit out of it, too. The result promises to be a caramel-centric beer with a super creamy mouthfeel and strong herbal/citrus notes from the hops. It’s set to be a new year-round release from the brewery. You can find it now in six packs of 12-ounce bottles and big bombers.
Maui Brewing and Dogfish Head
I’ve never had breadfruit, but apparently it’s a staple in Hawaii because of its versatility (it has a potato consistency) and high levels of protein and vitamins. Maui Brewing Company uses the fruit in this imperial golden ale, along with papaya seed and pink peppercorn, all of which give the beer a rich tropical flavor and notes of fresh baked bread. Dogfish founder Sam Calagione promises the beer is “like nothing else on earth.” Sounds awesome. But I hope you have friends in Hawaii who are interested in trading: the beer has a very limited 750ml bottle release only in the Aloha state.
Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery partnered with their neighbors, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey for a barrel-aged Burton Ale, a style known for its rich, sweet notes, particularly toffee. Breckenridge aged the beer in used Stranahan’s barrels that were just emptied of their whiskey so the beer takes on more characteristics from the spirit, as well as the charred oak barrels. Look for the big, 750ml corked bottles in select markets starting right about now.
Firestone Walker recently announced the discontinuation of three popular beers (Wookey Jack, Double Jack, and Opal) which is a bummer for fans of the California brewery. But at the same time, they also released into the wild Velvet Merlin, their annual oatmeal stout, which has a malt bill too hefty for us to list here and just a hint of Fuggle hops. Year after year, Velvet Merlin delivers hits of cocoa, chocolate and roasted coffee. And yes, the texture is truly velvet. This year, Velvet Merlin is exactly what we need to get over the death of FW’s IPA and DIPA.
Asheville Brewing Company
Is it too early for a holiday beer release? Maybe. Asheville Brewing is releasing this seasonal a bit ahead of schedule this year to help fill the demand, so I’m not going to argue when I see it on the shelves beginning this month. And Ninjabread Man definitely delivers the holiday goods. Asheville Brewing adds fresh vanilla beans, toasted cinnamon sticks, raisins, molasses and caramelized ginger to their flagship Ninja Porter, which is already a fine beer on its own. It’s basically like drinking a gingerbread cookie that’s 5.6% ABV. Look for it in 22-ounce bottles.