There are some beers that could have been on this list—notably some of the offerings from the Samuel Smith brewery. But they come in clear bottles and the CBR is officially boycotting all beers that come in clear bottles. That is a rant for another posting.
So without further ado, here are ten of my old friends:
Guinness Extra Stout—A classic. This beer is black and very assertive with roasted grain, coffee, and molasses on the palate. It's rich, tangy, well balanced. Great. Like all ales, this should not be drunk too cold. This is the foreign export extra stout version, not the more watery draft version. I like the draft version with its nitrogen pour and creamy head, but it's just a totally different animal. To my tastes, this wins hands down.
Fuller's London Pride Pale Ale— An incredibly well balanced beer. I think that for me this represents the quintessential example of a British pale ale. Smooth, not overly hoppy or overpoweringly malty. Classic British flowerly hop presence. Perfectly balanced and every sip a pleasure. Incredibly good.
Fuller's London Porter—This beer blows me away; I can hardly believe how good this is. This very dark brown (not black) beer starts with slightly thick mouthfeel that leads to a creamy, slightly roasted, slightly bitter but perfectly balanced follow-through of porter perfection. Bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and I catch a touch of licorice. The first time I tried this, I had a Fuller's London Pride and the London Porter in the same evening (12 Aug 2002) and I have never tasted two such great beers together, ever.
Tyranena Bitter Woman IPA—You may not be able to get this fabulous beer where you are. It's brewed here in Wisconsin and I love it. A very complex malt palate (the brewery lists 2-row, Vienna, Carapils, Wheat, Caramel malts in the grain bill) is supported by a very assertive but absolutely clean bittering. Citrus and pine notes prevail on the nose and the palate. An outstanding American IPA (India Pale Ale). Get it if you can!
J.W. Dundee's Honey Brown Lager—Mildly sweet, distinctive honey finish, mildly malty, and fairly low hop bitterness. Nice rich brown color. Smooth and infinitely quaffable. I have drunk a lot of this and I keep coming back for more. It is reasonably priced to boot.
Sleeman Original Dark—To my taste this is a dead ringer for Newcastle. In fact, it more often tastes the way Newcastle should taste, since it seems nigh unto impossible to get a fresh bottle of Newcastle. Sleeman, on the other hand, is brewed on contract right here at the La Crosse City Brewery, so I have an easy time getting it fresh. It's a brown ale, slightly nutty with nice caramel and a hint of molasses. Great.
Young's Double Chocolate Stout—Made with cocoa and chocolate malt (hence the double chocolate in the title) this is a silky, smooth, dessert-style beer. Very low hop bittering. It should not be consumed too cold—if you start it on the cold side it will get much better as it warms up. This beer should not, repeat NOT, be drunk with a meal. It's totally ruined by food. Drink it by itself or with a rich dessert.
Samuel Adams Cream Stout—This is not as sweet as I would expect from a cream stout. The roasted and coffee notes are pronounced, the chocolate less so. Starts almost tart when very cool, but sweetens as it warms. Nice hefty mouthfeel and a perfect malt and hop bittering balance. This is widely available and, at least in my locale, can often be had on sale for a very good price.
Samuel Adams Boston Ale—Note this is the Boston Ale, not the Boston Lager. The Boston Lager is okay—the Boston Ale is really yummy! This ale stands in the British style; it is decidedly malty, with the hop presence perfectly balanced. This beer is slightly fruity, but only mildly estery so it is more tame than some British ales. A rich mahogany in the glass with a nice stable head. This is hard for me to find locally, but when I travel I try to grab a six pack. I come back to it again and again, which is why it's on this list.
Goose Island India Pale Ale—I have not generally been a fan of the Goose Island products. Neither the Honker's Ale nor the Hexnut Ale from this Chicago microbrewery do a thing for me. Some years ago I somewhat reluctantly bought a six-pack of the India Pale Ale because it was on sale and I had never tried it. Wow! This medium bodied beer has a slightly thick mouth feel. The first sip shouts, Hops! The strong grapefruit notes indicate that there are almost certainly Cascade hops here, but probably at least two other varieties as well bringing a pleasing complexity. The finish is markedly bitter, but with a nice balance of malt and a very slight sweetness. Great!
Please share some of your own favorites in the Comments. What beers do you go back to time and again?