Bucketlist: 30 Craft Beers To Drink Before You Die

Craft beer is here to stay. That’s a given. Over the course of the past decade, we’ve witnessed a flurry of breweries spring up all over the country in response to what many consider the craft beer movement. Don’t get us wrong, beer has been around almost as long as man himself. And the master brewers of Europe are certainly a testament to the saying “practice makes perfect.” We North Americans just decided we’re tired of sub-par domestic beer that resembles more of a beer byproduct than art. Because that’s what craft beer is when you think about it. Art. Art you can drink and appreciate.

Now for those who are just entering the field, or simply feel overwhelmed by the selection, we’ve put together a bucket list of beers you must try from all over the country. Some are easier to access than others. Some downright difficult. But that’s the point right? So get out there, plan a trip, organize an outing, and get involved in what has become a twist on an old tradition for the U.S. We scoured the nation to find the best American craft beers we could get our hands on. We hope you enjoy drinking your way through this list of 30 American craft beers you must try before you die. Cheers!

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout 0

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.6%
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

The Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) is an imperial stout brewed with a blend of coffee and imported chocolates, later aged in spent bourbon barrels that have also recently aged Michigan maple syrup. It’s a dark explosion of malty chocolate and coffee notes that finishes smooth and coats both the front and back end of the palate with a warm, drying finish. CBS comes in at a respectable 10.6% ABV.

The Alchemist Heady Topper 0

The Alchemist Heady Topper

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
Location: Waterbury, VT

Easily considered one of the best IPA’s around, Heady Topper hits you with a myriad of tropical fruit aromas in conjunction with fresh pine hoppy scents. It pours light and cloudy and drinks soft and gentle, which is saying a lot considering the 8% ABV. The flavor follows the aroma with more tropical and bitter notes that pleasantly linger and leave you craving that next sip.

Tree House Julius 0

Tree House Julius

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.8%
Location: Monson, MA

This classic IPA stays true to its name pouring as a cloudy dark orange color with a thick head. And for those tropical hop heads out there, Julius gives off aromas of sweet tropical citrus: Think mango, papaya, pineapple. Initially, tropical citrus dominates the taste but is soon followed by a more earthy, piny hop profile, finishing with a soft bitterness. In short, this 6.8% IPA serves as a refreshing and incredibly drinkable summer ale.

Russian River Pliny The Elder 0

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

It’s hard to come by anything Russian River Brewing touches that doesn’t turn to gold. Pliny the Elder, their 8% ABV Imperial IPA, is no exception. Pouring a golden straw color, thin head, and with magnificent clarity, Pliny offers full tropical aromas that marry quite well with its sweet malt profile. Flavor is full and sweet with the perfect amount of bitterness to keep you coming back for more. A true work of art, Pliny the Elder combines craft with creativity to provide drinkers with a beautifully balanced IPA.

Goose Island Bourbon County 0

Goose Island Bourbon County

Style: Coffee Stout
ABV: 13.4%
Location: Chicago, IL

Each yearly release of Bourbon County features a different type of Intelligentsia coffee beans. When combined with powerful chocolate, molasses, and malty notes, this 13.4% ABV gives you a thick mouthful with a boozy bourbon-laced finish. The coffee is the star player here with a heavily forward bean profile in a jet black, oily pour. Very rich in both flavor and alcohol content.

3 Floyds Zombie Dust 0

3 Floyds Zombie Dust

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%
Location: Munster, IN

Pale ales too often get a bad reputation as the safe and boring alternative to their IPA cohort. Thankfully Zombie Dust (6.2 ABV) is here to flip that notion on its head. Pouring in a glowing tangerine color with a bright white head, aromas of ripe tropical fruits and pine needles immediately come forward. The first sip brings forth more citrus and pineapple, following up with bitter fruity undertones. With a medium mouthfeel, Zombie Dust coats the palate and finishes with dry bitterness.

The Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze 0

The Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze

Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 7%
Location: San Marcos, CA

American Wild Ales are in a league of their own. And this one is no exception. Brewed with “wild” naturally occurring yeast, Duck Duck Gooze is an effervescent, sparkling and bitter tribute to the Belgium brewing tradition. It pours a vibrant orange color and features a bright, tart flavor profile peppered with red wine and oaky tannins. At 7% ABV, its highly carbonated mouthfeel and sour characteristics make it a pleasure to drink for any fan of the style.

Jester King Atrial Rubicite 0

Jester King Atrial Rubicite

Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 5.8%
Location: Austin, TX

Taking the sour style to a more fruity dimension, Atrial Rubicite is brewed with raspberries to give it a blood red appearance with a slightly pink head. The pungent smell of raspberries dominates the aroma, and the taste follows extremely well with a funky tart raspberry flavor.

Firestone Walker Parabola 0

Firestone Walker Parabola

Style: Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 14%
Location: Paso Robles, CA

Aged for eight months in 1990’s Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, this 14% ABV beast of the beer pours midnight black with an espresso head. Not for the faint of heart, Parabola smells of whiskey and sweet stout characteristics of vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. The flavor is full of bourbon, vanilla, coconut, oak, coffee and milk chocolate; finishing with booze on the back end.

Toppling Goliath Pseudosue 0

Toppling Goliath PseudoSue

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.8%
Location: Decorah, IA

Named for the largest T-rex fossil ever discovered, the PseudoSue offers roaring amounts of grapefruit, citrus mango, and evergreen in this west coast style IPA. It pours an orange hue in leaves a tall head in the glass as you sip. Taste adheres to the aromas of citrus fruit and piny undertones. It’s a refreshing, drinkable (5.8% ABV) IPA that is incredibly juicy and certainly deserving of its name.

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout 0

Hardywood Park Gingerbread Stout

Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 9%
Location: Richmond, VA

A seasonal release that will keep you in the holiday spirit, Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout is a medium-bodied beaut pouring black with a slight milk chocolate head that settles quickly. On the nose, this stout lives up to its name with aromas of ginger, vanilla, molasses and cream. On the palate, it’s very smooth and clean with significant ginger notes followed by vanilla bean, honey, cinnamon, slight malt and a giant cream flavor. The smooth characteristics also prevent the 9% ABV alcohol content from overpowering the beer.

The Bruery Black Tuesday 0

The Bruery Black Tuesday

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 19.9%
Location: Orange, CA

There are some beers out there these days that push the envelope regarding style and finesse. Black Tuesday, a 19.9% monster of an Imperial Stout does just that. Pouring in a surprisingly light brown color, the booze hits you with full force and will probably be the most booze forward beer you’ll ever try. Taste is, of course, full of bourbon but follows nicely with notes of vanilla, dark fruit, caramel, and almonds. Dark, bourbon-soaked cherry, and raspberry flavors finished off the flavor profile on the back end but again, it’s the booze that lingers.

Russian River Supplication 0

Russian River Supplication

Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 7%
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

A true testament to how crafty the beer industry is becoming, Supplication (7% ABV) takes a Brown Ale and ages it for 12 months in Pinot Noir barrels from Sonoma County along with sour cherries, and wild yeast. The result is a whiskey amber pour, wine, cherry and vinegar on the nose, and sour tartness taking center stage on the palate with backup notes of vinegar, sour cherry, and subtle caramel.

Bells Hopslam 0

Bell’s Hopslam Ale

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10%
Location: Kalamazoo, MI

Hopslam adheres to its namesake here boasting six hop varietals in the brew kettle, later dry-hopped with a massive addition of Simcoe hops giving it a powerful Pacific Northwest IPA profile. Pouring a light straw color, the aromatic qualities of Northwest hop additions come through with grapefruit and floral notes. On the palate again its a very hop forward IPA, however, malty undertones mixed with honey keep this 10% ABV IPA remarkably drinkable for the hophead in all of us.

The Bruery Sour In The Rye 0

The Bruery Sour in the Rye

Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 7.8%
Location: Orange, CA

Get ready for a wild ride with this sour rye ale. The good folks over at The Bruery in Orange County brewed an ale with 40% rye as the base malt and let their sour yeast take control for over a year in oak barrels. The result is a sour ale that features a complex nose and flavor of rye spice, oak, and subtle funkiness wrapped within a clear amber appearance. Boasts a 7.8% ABV.

Anchorage Brewery A Deal With The Devil 0

Anchorage A Deal with the Devil

Style: American Barleywine
ABV: 17.3%
Location: Anchorage, AK

Tread lightly with this 17.3% ABV barleywine aged for 11 months in Cognac barrels. True to its name it pours a ruby red, almost glowing, when held up to the light with an oatmeal-colored head. Aromas are reminiscent of oatmeal cookies with butterscotch and caramel undertones. Flavor follows the aroma well with berry notes, and red wine as well. It’s a very rich barleywine that almost mimics a digestif in the finish.

Treehouse Good Morning 0

Tree House Good Morning

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.4%
Location: Monson, MA

For those looking for an excuse to drink a beer at first light, there’s the Good Morning Imperial Stout. Brewed with dark amber maple syrup, Good Morning pours pitch black with a creamy head. A blast of milk chocolate hits the palate alongside maple syrup and coffee notes. Deeper flavors make their way forward as the libation warms. Not overly boozy either, Good Morning boasts an ABV of 8.4%.

Stone Enjoy By 0

Stone Brewing Enjoy By

Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: Varies
Location: San Diego, CA

With all this aging going on we had to include one of the best and freshest IPA’s you’ll ever drink. Brewed by the hop hounds at Stone Brewing in San Diego. Each Enjoy By is encouraged to be drunk as soon as possible. Featuring tropical fruit on both he nose and the palate, it’s full-bodied yet light in flavor and boasts an extremely fresh hop profile.

WestcoasterAd-Bottles-June2013-FINAL

Ballast Point Sculpin

Style: American IPA
ABV: 7%
Location: San Diego, CA

If you’re in any way a fan of west coast IPA’s, then be sure to give Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA a shot. Adhering to the classic IPA style, here’s a no-frills all-around great IPA. Pouring a bright, clear golden- orange body with a pure white colored head, aromas of juicy citrus hop profiles envelope the nose. At 7% ABV, it’s a crisp IPA filling the palate with grapefruit, orange and floral notes leaving a dry bitterness on the back end.

Surly Darkness 0

Surly Brewing Darkness

Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.3%
Location: Minneapolis, MN

This jet black, viscous stout pours properly while releasing an incredible nose of toffee, caramel, dark fruit, and chocolate. Flavor follows nicely with smooth toffee and chocolate notes finishing up with dark fruits in an almost desert-like, syrupy mouthfeel. Really a cut-above the fray at a respectable 10.3% ABV.

Live Oak Hefeweizen 0

Live Oak HefeWeizen

Style: HefeWeizen
ABV: 5.2%
Location: Del Valle, TX

Ideal for the warmer months, a good HefeWeizen is often hard to come by. Here Live Oak offers a solution to this problem. It pours golden with lively carbonation and minimal head with a beautiful banana and clove nose. The taste features several layers of sweetness as well including banana, grape, clove and a dry vanilla finish. Perfectly executed at 5.2% ABV.

New Glarus Raspberry Tart 0

New Glarus Brewing Raspberry Tart

Style: Framboise Ale
ABV: 4.8%
Location: New Glarus, WI

Through the framboise style may not be for everyone, here’s a version you’re bound to appreciate. It features a voluminous raspberry nose that greets you upon pouring the reddish-brown and pink-highlighted Raspberry Tart into your glass. Of course, raspberry dominates the palate, starting sweet and transitioning to tart with notes of lemon and vanilla. Finishing dry at a light 4% ABV.

Stillwater Artisanal Westbrook Gose Gone Wild 0

Stillwater Artisanal Westbrook Gose Gone Wild

Style: Gose
ABV: 4.6%
Location: Baltimore, MD

For this beer, StillWater wanted to get a bit funky with it, taking Westbrook’s Gose and hopping it out with massive amounts of Citra and Amarillo hops. They then fermented the beer with various strains of sour yeast creating a crazy funky beer both on the nose and the palate. Citrusy and sour, salty and funky, this beer at 4.6% is crazy good.

Cigar City Hunahpu 0

Cigar City Hunahpu

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 11%
Location: Tampa, FL

According to Mayan myth, Hunahpu gave cocoa to the Mayan people. Here, Cigar City pays tribute to the myth by aging an imperial stout on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, chillis, and cinnamon. Holy cow this is delicious. A silky smooth mouthfeel masks the 11% ABV with roasted grains, chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon coming through in full force on both the nose and the palate. A must try.

Deschutes Brewery Abyss 0

Deschutes Brewery Abyss

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 12.2%
Location: Bend, OR

This Imperial Stout is aged in bourbon, Oregon oak, and Pinot Noir barrels to give it a formidable 12.2% ABV and dark fruit characteristics. Pouring a beautiful black, the nose gives off aromas of smoke, cherry, and chocolate. With an even more flavorful taste, there are hints of peat, burnt sugar, and red wine notes to compliment the star player here, chocolate, before finishing with a bit of espresso and lingering bitterness.

Founders Brewery Kentucky Breakfast Stout 0

Founders Brewing Kentucky Breakfast Stout

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.2%
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Take an imperial stout, brew it with a hint of coffee and vanilla and age it in bourbon barrels for over a year and you have KBS, a smooth stout at 11.2% ABV. KBS pours black with a little caramel color head with sweet biscuit, caramel, malt and oak notes. It opens with sweet, malty syrup followed by hints of caramel, coffee and bourbon and finishes with subtle oaky tannins to close out the taste.

Surly Abrasive Ale 0

Surly Brewing Abrasive Ale

Style: Oatmeal Double IPA
ABV: 9%
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Pouring hazy gold in gold in color, ample Citra hop additions give this IPA serious aromas of grapefruit, tangerine, and tropical fruit. Using malted oats as the grain bill, Surly balances the bitterness really well with the sweetness from these oats. On the palate, this 9% ABV IPA translates to a full bodied and pleasant malty yet bitter American Double IPA.

Sam Adams Utoipia 0

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Utopias

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 29%
Location: Boston, MA

Emphasis on STRONG ALE, this legend of a beer clocks in at 29% ABV, leading some to claim it drinks more like a liquor than a beer. This beast pours dark and ruby red and smells mainly of cognac, oaky port, and bourbon with hints of prunes and tobacco. Tobacco, cognac, and dark fruity sweetness overcome the palate with a serious boozy finish. It’s unlike any other beer out there.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy 0

Oskar Blues Ted FIDY

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.5%
Location: Longmont, CO

Oskar Blues pioneered the notion of craft beer in a can and have continued to release delicious craft beer that is unassuming yet perfectly executed ever since. And basing its name off the stouts 10.5% ABV, the Ten FIDY is no exception. This immensely viscous stout is chocked full of chocolate, caramel, and coffee on both the nose and the palate with a noticeable bitterness underneath that warm malty blanket.

Alesmith Speedway Stout 0

AleSmith Brewing Speedway

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 12%
Location: San Diego, CA

At 12% ABV, this creamy imperial stout pours midnight black with an off-white head. On the nose, you get strong coffee and dark chocolate followed by toasted and roasted caramel malt flavors on the palate. It goes down super easy, despite its alcohol content, and really opens up nicely as the stout warms.

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