20 Great Beers We Take for Granted

by Billy Broas

Shelf full of beerDon’t forget the familiar faces (Photo: .schill)

Admit it….you’re guilty.

I know I am.

You scour the beer aisles looking for the next bright shiny object. A limited release whiskey barrel aged imperial stout. A collaborative barley wine from 5 different breweries. A Rauchbier made from the smoke of the Icelandic volcano.

With the craft beer market exploding, it’s easy to become distracted as brewers fight to keep our attention with these whimsical brews.

But let’s not forget the great beers that are right under our noses. These year-round brews are often overshadowed by the hyped-up extreme offerings. You always see them on the shelf, but by now you don’t even notice them. They’ve become part of the background as your eyes dart to something new.

Let’s recognize some of these dependable soldiers. Here are 20 great beers that we take for granted:

  1. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – Available year round and one of the top Double IPA’s ever made, but often overshadowed by the limited release DIPAs.
  2. Deschutes Black Butte Porter – Drink this beer and try to think of a better porter.
  3. Chimay – Their white, blue, and red bottles are Belgian staples in bottle shops.
  4. Green Flash IPA – A whiff of its perfume will send your mind to a hop field on the west coast.
  5. Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale – Brown ales are under appreciated anyways. This is one of the best.
  6. Stone Pale Ale – What!? Stone makes a “normal” beer? Yes, and it’s delicious.
  7. Sierra Nevada Torpedo – A big IPA from a brewery that pays the utmost attention to quality.
  8. Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout – Doesn’t receive the attention of its bigger brother the Expedition Stout, but I’d call this the better of the two.
  9. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout- Best. Oatmeal. Stout. Ever.
  10. Left Hand Milk Stout – Not a hugely popular style here in the States but it’s hard to find a smoother stout.
  11. Victory Prima Pils – Poor Pilsners. They have a tough time getting attention, but Prima beats the pants of many of the bigger beers produced.
  12. Saison DuPont – Saisons are going through a revival with almost every brewery putting one out, but the classic Saison DuPont is holding strong.
  13. Dale’s Pale Ale – The beer that should be in everyone’s refrigerator, at all times.
  14. Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen – Produced by the oldest brewery in the world and the gold standard for Hefeweizens.
  15. Fuller’s ESB – A mouthfeel that is simply unmatched.
  16. Rogue Dead Guy Ale – Rogue hasn’t impressed me in a while but this will always be a solid maibock.
  17. Sam Adams Boston Lager – When the bar you visit just doesn’t “get it” with beer, you can always count on Sammy A.
  18. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – The classic American pale ale is hard to top.
  19. Hoegaarden – A Witbier that converts many to craft beer and still satisfies aficionados.

I’ll leave #20 to the readers. What beer do you think should take the final spot?



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{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim B August 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Can’t have a top 20 without mentioning at least one of the Deliriums! Both the tremi and the nock are two of my “go to” beers, when I want a Belgian.

Great list Billy!

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Dale Miskimins August 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale deserves to be on the list.

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todd August 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Anchor Steam

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Matt August 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Love what you said about Sam Adams. Not something I’d buy in a store, but a great fallback in a bar. And I love to see milk stout in there. I haven’t had Left Hand, but Lancaster Brewing Company makes a great one.

I’d add Boddington’s to the list.

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Chris Starr August 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Anchor Porter. A CLASSIC!
I haven’t seen Dechutes Black Butte Porter here in SC. but I’ll keep looking

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Denise Dochnahl August 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I haven’t even tried about half of what is on your list… craft beer noob! But I have been absolutely stuck on Bear Republic’s Racer 5 for quite a while now…. it’s always in my beer fridge. It’s fantastic anytime, it’s relaxing in the evening after a long day at the office, refreshing on a hot sunny weekend day… always a treat for the tastebuds. Then again, if I could get my hands on 90 Minute IPA out here in SoCal, my Racer 5 would probably have to share fridge space!

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Logan Thompson August 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Excellent list. The Deschutes Black butte porter is one that I love, but it is in every grocery store and I usually pass it over since I am so used to seeing it everywhere. One of my favs though.

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Serge G. August 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I will agree with Tim B.

Delirium Tremens rocks and its always around

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Brad August 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm

McTarnahan’s Amber Ale. It used to be brewed by Portland Brewing but I’m pretty sure they changed the name of the brewery to just McTarnahan’s. It’s a Scottish type ale and a great stand by beer!

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threefrenchs August 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Anchor Steam needs to be on the list. As for a Porter “black butte” is favorite of mine to.

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Big Tex August 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Good list… a few comments… :-)

2. Black Butte is solid. Probably one of the best porters around, especially when you narrow the field to those available at the store. That said, Black Raven’s Tamerlane Porter tops my list of porters… but then again, they are a small brew pub in Redmond, WA.

4. Never heard of it. Thus, I will substitute Bridgeport IPA in it’s place. It’s bottle conditioned. w00t

8. Can’t get Bell’s, so Samuel Smith’s Russian Imperial Stout is the stout that is heads and shoulders above other stouts, IMHO. It’s big. It’s rich. It’s good.

10. I’ve had Mackeson XXX and Widmer’s Snowplow. Solid.

14. I prefer the weizens from Schneider & Sohn. That’s their forte. Favorite among those is Aventinus.

17. Don’t much care for Sammy. Their beers tend to leave a harshness on my palate that I don’t care for. If the beer selection is lacking, then I go for iced tea. ;-)

20. Salvator. The classic example of dopplebock. I like Celebrator better, but Salvator is more widely available.

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Steven Ward August 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Awesome list….had about half these beers before…a few notes myself

1. *Drools* Looking forward to drinking it from Randall the Enamel Animal this weekend :-)

10. I love the Milk Stout style. Try Duck Rabbit Milk Stout….just as good.

13. I love it. It’s fun to get others to try this beer….

17 and 18. Tried and true standbys….can get them at pretty much any bar.

As for #20……hmmmmm………I’d have to go with Brooklyn Lager. Not my favorite beer, but it’s still very smooth and and good everyday beer. It also makes a good into for non craft beer drinkers.

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Ashley v Routson August 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Saison Dupont is way underrated by most, and probably overrated by me!

Great list! I need to revist many of those beers ….

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sarah August 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I’d put Brother Thelonious as my #20! Love that beer but you never hear many speak of it let alone praise it.

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Billy Broas August 17, 2010 at 7:13 pm

All awesome suggestions everyone. Thanks so much for adding them. Maybe I should have made it the top 40?

I especially like the callings for Anchor Steam, Delirium, and Two Hearted. Racer 5 was a good call too. There were a few new ones mentioned that I need to try. I was also thinking Fat Tire since it is really the Boston Lager of Colorado.

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Jonathan Shikes August 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I do the same thing when I’m at the store. List is good (although if I saw Bell’s in Colorado, I definitely wouldn’t skip over it!). I’d add Odell IPA and Great Divide Hercules

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Billy Broas August 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm

@Jonathan One of the few things Virginia has over CO in the beer department is lots of Bell’s options, so I’m a little bit spoiled in that way. I do miss it now though. Had Hercules last night for the first time. Great beer. And the name is appropriate ; )

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Jimmie the Mum August 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Damn, I need to get out more.

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Tom Bedell August 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I’d agree that Anchor Steam should be on the list if only for historical purposes (some of my reasoning here: http://bit.ly/ag5oQ0) though I actually prefer Anchor Liberty Ale, one of my desert island beers.

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Jason August 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

Great Topic! It is actually something that my friends and I talk about quite a bit. Many of these beers are what we call Base Beers- because they form the base by which we measure others of their style. West Coast IPA- Green Flash- for it to be a really good WC IPA it has to be better than Green Flash (not many out there). If I try a Pilsner, I want it to be better than Prima Pils (or I know where I can get something better). To us, these beers form what we love, and what we hope brewers try to surpass- but alas, not many do.

As for #20- I would have to add an East Coast IPA- maybe Troegs HopBack or Victory Hop Devil.

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Steven Ward August 18, 2010 at 9:35 am

I wish VA could get Great Lakes

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Nelson Steelberg July 13, 2011 at 11:57 am

Apparently Great Lakes is available in DC, but still haven’t seen it in NoVa.

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Scott Roche August 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

As I said on Twitter, my #20 would be Buffalo Bill’s Orange Blossom Cream Ale. Good list overall if a bit obscure in places. Nothing wrong with that I suppose on a blog devoted to all things beer. I certainly forget how many good “mainstream” beers there are.

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Ilya Feynberg August 22, 2010 at 1:50 am

@Billy

I think that a lot of this list can actually be reconstructed according to location. I know people in parts of the country and world that would see something from Sierra Nevada or Stone as a very rare beer indeed. Between preferences in different areas of the country and distribution channels, I think that the list can be redone for every region. Not at all hinting that list is in poor condition or unfair…it’s a fantastic list and in many cases very true, just saying that I’m willing to be it would vary greatly by region and areas.

All that being said…

I see it pretty often as well. Beers that folks have tried and they like but pass over it almost every time because it’s always just there. Is that really a bad thing? Is it really a bad thing that a beer you like or love is always there? Why must one always be focused on chasing the very rare stuff that often times just isn’t worth it or doesn’t stack up to the common stuff?

You know how I feel about canned craft beer too, and that’s been a big topic for me as of late. People pass over canned craft beer’s such as Dales Pale Ale, Southern Star etc just because it’s always around (down here in Texas anyway) and is in cans. Although this subject might have something to do with beer douchery actually. ;)

And on a last note…I can’t tell you how much I agree with you on the Pilsner issue. It really is sad that Pilsner’s seem to always get over looked, ignored and even frowned upon. People…come on get over it already. Pilsner can actually be very good and even make for some great seasonal beers even if it’s not summer time. Just get your mind away the Bud Light’s and Miller Light’s and you’ll see how great Pilsner’s can really be. Not my favorite style, but still love them and there are some seriously great ones out there.

Great post Billy, and good job for bringing this to people’s attention! :)

Ilya

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danwho August 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Sculpin by Ballast Point

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Ilya Feynberg August 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

@danwho

That’s a good one!

Ilya

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Dale Miskimins August 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

@Jason @danwho
I agree on the Sculpin and Prima Pils

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Billy Broas August 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Sculpin is a great one too. As Ilya said, whether a beer is taken for granted or not depends on where you are. In some areas a beer is in every store you go to, whereas in others it is a non-existent. I think the list plus the excellent comments have done a fantastic job of covering the country. Thanks everyone!

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Mel August 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Great post, but as I tried to think of my suggestion for #20, I got to thinking about how this list would differ for most of us based on region. I could take almost ALL Dogfish Head and Victory beers for granted because I live outside of Philly—my beer store and pubs will ALWAYS carry them! But on the otherhand, someone in a state that isn’t on those breweries distribution lists would feel very differently. Make sense?

So for me, there are 2 beers for #20. One is my favorite brewpub Nodding Head’s Grog. I ALWAYS know it’ll be on tap. But for a bottled beer, I’d have to say Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon—an amazing IPA that I can count on to be on my beer store’s shelves.

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Chris Starr August 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm

JUST GOT BAD NEWS!

South Carolina can not get ANY Anchor brewery beer! no Steam, no porter, no nothing!!!! Changed distributer ! nada coming to SC! thought it may be bad when they changed owners~ just didn’t think they would cut us off!

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Ilya Feynberg August 24, 2010 at 12:46 am

@Mel

Off subject here, but love your blog! Design is epic LOL! Just bookmarked it now ;)

@Chris

That REALLY sucks. Sorry to hear that! It’s not my favorite brewery but I would hate to do with out them. Contact me through my site, and I’ll see if maybe I can send you some on my next round of trades or something.

Ilya

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Billy Broas August 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

@Mel First of all, ditto what Ilya said about your blog. Second, what you mentioned is a conversation we’ve been having in the comments. I tried to cover the country with my list, and the readers did a great job of filling in the blanks for their area. That’s why my readers rock ; )

@Chris Man, cut-off! They may not be my favorite but I don’t want to see any beers leave my market. Hopefully they get replaced by something even better.

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Bill Nevins August 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Wonderful list, gotta try the ones I haven’t. How about Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde and Maudite? And for Southwesterners, Marble Red is a must. I agree on Anchor Steam, but also love Liberty Ale. Avery and Breckenridge not too shabby either. What, no New Belgiums?
ah the list goes on and the world turns round– Gracias!

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Andrew Spiehler August 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Thank you for mentioning Hoegaarden. After dozens of wits and hefeweizens, it’s still my favorite, even over St. Bernardus.

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Quinn September 3, 2010 at 10:35 am

Fantastic list. I want to drink. Now. Two classic favorites to add:

1. Guinness. I mean…it’s an acquired taste. But I’m Irish. And it just makes me so happy. I will contend that a well-poured Guinness will beat just about any beer (or meal), for that matter. Delicious.

2. Fat Tire. A year round love, found west of the Mississippi. A staple in my fridge.

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Ilya Feynberg September 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm

@Quinn

I’m so glad you brought up Guinness and have no idea how we’ve all forgotten about it! I understand that it’s not really craft beer, but they’re a brewery with a serious history and a seriously good beer that one must respect. I LOVE my Guinness and that will never change! :)

The Fat Tire though…not so much ;)

Ilya

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Chris Starr September 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Guinness should have been top of my list! Just picked up another 12 pack on sale for $10.99 cheaper than most good 12packs here in SC. Made shepherds pie with Guinness gravy last weekend!

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Ilya Feynberg September 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

@Chris – Does the flavor of the Guinness really come through well in the gravy of does it fade leaving behind almost no taste during the cooking process?

Ilya

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Tom Bedell September 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm

And I’m sure you’re all aware that Guinness is the beer in Fried Beer, a substance I haven’t had the experience of yet trying. It’s all over the web and air, but if you somehow haven’t heard about it, I put up a post today: http://bit.ly/cGyhDN
Cheers,
Tom

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Billy Broas September 4, 2010 at 1:14 am

That deep fried beer thing is insane! A classic “why didn’t I think of that?” situation. Dude is gonna make a fortune. I didn’t know it was Guinness though. Thanks for that Tom. Now you have me wondering about a whole line of deep fried beer. Maybe I should deep fry every beer on this list? And who will be the first person to deep fry wine? Ok that sounds kinda gross…

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Kalea February 29, 2012 at 3:53 am

Taking the ovveriew, this post hits the spot

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Chris Starr September 4, 2010 at 2:21 am

“@Chris – Does the flavor of the Guinness really come through well in the gravy of does it fade leaving behind almost no taste during the cooking process?”

It leaves a good Guinness metallic taste, sharp but not over powering, like a good traditional British shepherd pie! ( just like my Grandmas, from Burton on Trent).

My British buddy James says my Shepherds pie is better than his recipe and mine takes less time (his takes hours to stew) this recipe can be ready in an hour plus prep time depending on how long gravy takes to thicken.

Ingredients

* 2+ pounds potatoes, russet, peeled and cubed (don’t use reds, and I leave skins on and more potatoes depending on size of pan)
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1/2 cup cream (1/2 & 1/2 is fine or whole milk, 2% in a pinch or if your “healthy”)
* 1/2 cup sour cream (low fat if your “healthy”)
* 1 tsp jarred minced garlic
* 1 bay leaf
* OPTIONAL a small pinch of Fennel seeds ( my grandma used them… I like the flavor, some people don’t. I think it adds a nice addition)
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
* 1 3/4 pounds ground beef or ground lamb (ground lamb is the best if you can get it!)
* 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 cup beef stock or broth (boxed store bought is fine but fresh stock puts this recipe OVER THE TOP!)
* 1-2 bottles Guinness ( depending on taste and thickness desired. I usually use 1 1/2, and drink a few while cooking)
* 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
* 1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
* 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leave
* 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (low fat if your “healthy”)

Boil Potatoes
and mash with:
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1/2 cup cream or milk (some extra cheddar can be added here too, to make a heart attack special!!)
* 1/2 cup sour cream (low fat if your “healthy”)
* salt & pepper to taste

Saute in Olive Oil:
* onion
* carrot
* garlic (can add more garlic to mashed potato if you like)

Brown ground beef or lamb in same pan after onions turn clear.

after meat is browned add
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ( to thicken mix with some Guinness to prevent lumps)
* 1 cup beef stock or broth
* 1-2 bottles Guinness ( depending on taste)
* 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
* 1 bay leaf (remove before transferring to baking dish)
* add peas when mix is gravy thick. cook another 5 min
* pinch of fennel seed if you want

Prep a baking dish (spray with Pam spray or REAL butter for “heart attack special”)

Put down a layer of mashed potatoes.
Pour meat, pea, and gravy mix into pan over layer of mashed potatoes.
Top with another layer of mashed potatoes.
Top with paprika, and melted butter.
Bake 350 20-30 min
top with cheese
broil for a few more minutes to crust up cheese…. mmmmmm, Crusty CHEESE
dash with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves just before serving.

SOOO GOOD!

Sounds more complicated than it really is. Depending on how much Guinness you use will depend on how long your gravy takes to thicken… take your time and cook it pretty thick! You want it to soak into potatoes, top and bottom, but not be runny.

Make this as “heart attack special” with more butter in potatoes for buddies St. Pat’s party every year and it goes so quick I started bringing 2 pans! BUT I won’t drink the green beer!

Any questions send me an email ( If it’s not public have Billy send it to you!) Make it! Enjoy it! And SHARE it! Haven’t won the lottery yet, so I don’t have my bait shop brew pub, but it will be on the menu when my Powerball numbers hit!

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Billy Broas September 4, 2010 at 2:33 am

@Chris You sir, kick ass. I think we need to make this blog “BillyBrew and ChrisCooks” and get you doing recipes on here! I especially like the strategy of using 1 1/2 bottles of Guinness to save some for yourself. I try to make recipes the same way – gotta have something to drink while cooking. Thanks so much for posting, and a toast to your Powerball numbers coming up soon!

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Chris White September 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Fat Tire and Anchor Steam are great additions, not to mention Liberty Ale which is nearly as good as Anchor Steam. If I was going to award the 20th spot, I would go with Breckenridge Brewery’s delicious Vanilla Porter, I can’t think of a better porter that I want to drink all the time and it’s a wonderful choice when introducing someone to dark beer.

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Billy Broas September 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm

@Chris I’d definitely biased, but I can’t disagree with anything made here in Colorado, especially the Vanilla Porter. Great pick.

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Ilya Feynberg September 30, 2010 at 12:10 am

@Chris & @Billy

You know, I’m not a huge fan of Breckenridge Brewery and but I do like their Vanilla Porter, however I would put Black Butte Porter from Descutes Brewery over it any day of the week.

Ilya

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Chris White October 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I find Breckenridge Brewery is really hit and miss, I love their vanilla porter and I really like their Agave Wheat as well but nothing else of theirs really grabs me.

I’ll seak out the Black Butte Porter, I haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet.

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Billy Broas October 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

@Ilya and Chris – The Vanilla Porter, 471 IPA, and Lucky U IPA are my favorites. I also give them extra points because they’re local, I know them, and I like them. That counts towards the beer experience for me. I know what you mean by hit or miss, because a lot of their beers are pretty mediocre. They actually know this, and plan on revamping the line up to create some bolder brews. Can’t wait. And Chris, enjoy that Black Butte!

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Jason November 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I keep hearing great things about Dale’s but can’t seem to find it. Maybe i can see if i can order some at my local imported foods and wine store.

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Ilya Feynberg November 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

@Jason – Oh you must you must! :)

Ilya

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Timd December 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

If you are in Seattle, you might find Manny’s replacing your Sierra Nevada habit. Can’t get it here in WI though so I’m drinking Torpedo.

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Billy Broas December 8, 2010 at 7:17 pm

@Timd Thanks Tim I’ll keep an eye out for it. I take Sierra Nevada for granted because I’m surrounded by it. Manny’s would have a hard time qualifying ; )

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