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Beer is so many things: Not only is it perfect for both everyday and special occasions, but it's also both light and dark, both rich and robust, and both sour and sweet. With the ongoing rise of craft beer, it's also proliferating like never before, which can make it challenging to find the best brew.
From light beers to stout beers, there's also a wide variety of suds to choose from. “There are so many impressive beers out there, and it’s fun to navigate the different styles and regional strengths. Why limit yourself to one genre?” says Jeff Moses, a career brewer and craft bottle house pioneer; he's also taken part in assembling beers for his award-winning Monterey Bay Beer Festival and San Francisco Holiday Beer Festival.
It's a great question. So, to help you fill your favorite beer glass, here are our picks of the best beers to drink.
Best Overall: Peace Tree Blonde Fatale Belgian-Style Blonde Ale
Region: Iowa | ABV: 8.5% | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Hops, Citrus
“While it may not be available everywhere, Peace Tree Brewing's Blonde Fatale is my absolute favorite beer,” says Darian Everding, Product and Talent Development Specialist at London Underground in Ames, Iowa.
“It's what I stock at home and reach for when I am out with friends or taking in a concert. It was the first Iowa beer I had, and it blew me away! It enabled me to see the wonderful quality being produced right in my community and made me very proud to be a part of Iowa's hospitality community. It's a great, well-balanced Belgian blonde that, at 8.5% ABV, walks the walk.”
Best Light: Estrella Inedit Damm
Region: Spain | ABV: 4.8% | Tasting Notes: Coriander, Orange, Spice
Estrella Inedit is a barley- and wheat-based extra lager from Spain's Damm Brewery. Ferran Adrià, a Michelin-starred chef, collaborated with his sommeliers and Damm’s master brewers on this supremely food-friendly concoction that cleverly combines a malted-barley pilsner and ale-style wheat beer.
The result is a light-bodied lager, accented with coriander and orange peel, that’s clean and creamy, with a touch of fruity sweetness and spice. “Inedit is a beer for dining,” says Adrià. “We saw there was a gap to fill when eating.”
Best Low-Carb: Lagunitas DayTime IPA
Region: California | ABV: 4% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Mango, Hops
A high-grade craft IPA that's also light on carbs, Lagunitas' DayTime IPA boasts full flavor with a very modest 3 grams of carbs and 98 calories. It checks an impressive amount of desired boxes: easy-drinking, hoppy, balanced, and bursting with citrus and tropical fruit. This California-crafted ale also has a low, 4% ABV, making it the ideal fresh summer beer.
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Best German: Weihenstaphaner Hefe Weissbier
Region: Germany | ABV: 5.4% | Tasting Notes: Banana, Lemon, Yeast
With 1,000 years of practice, Germany's Weihenstaphaner is one of the oldest existing breweries today, and its golden wheat beer might be its flagship.
A dream pairing for an old-school Bavarian veal sausage and cheese (though versatile enough to pair with seafood), the Hefe Weissbier has claimed a chest full of international awards. It enjoys full-bodied flavors of banana with a touch of clove, without sacrificing smoothness or refreshment.
Best IPA: Toppling Goliath King Sue
Region: Iowa | ABV: 7.8% | Tasting Notes: Tropical fruit, Citrus, Hops
Distributed nationally, this Iowa brew, according to Everding, is highly prized for its abundance of citrus and hazy appearance.
“In addition to being a tasty, high-ABV brew, coming in at 7.8% ABV, Toppling Goliath's King Sue and Pseudosue beers form a collaboration partnership with the Field Museum in Chicago," she says. Even better, King Sue used to be an annual release, but nowadays you can find it almost year-round, Everding adds.
Related: The Best Beer Glasses
Best Sour: Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale
Region: Delaware | ABV: 4.9% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Salt, Hops
"When I think of a great sour, I want to feel refreshed after each sip,” says Everding. And she thinks that SeaQuench delivers that—and more. That's why it's her ultimate summer beer. The session sour walks the fine line between gose (a salty, wheaty golden beer) and hardcore sour, she explains.
"If you find yourself reaching for a lime seltzer this summer, I really think you should give the SeaQuench a try instead,” Everding advises.
"Each delightful effervescent sip packs in a citrusy, salty electric buzz that leaves me all tingly." — Darian Everding, Product and Talent Development Specialist at London Underground
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Best Stout: Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout
Region: England | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Cocoa, Cream, Mocha
“I like my stouts rich, slightly sweet and not too roasty-toasty,” Everding says. “This dark, almost inky bottle of goodness hits all the right notes for me." Plus, this chocolate stout is certified organic and vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
Everding also likes that this beer comes in at a decent 5% ABV: "Some stouts really run away with alcohol content, so this more moderate level keeps me reaching for this brew year-round," she explains.
Looking to lighten up this rich treat? Everding suggests mixing it with a little bit of your favorite lambic or fruited sour. "My favorite combination is with a raspberry lambic for a chocolate-covered raspberry,” she says.
Best Craft: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
Region: Michigan | ABV: 7% | Tasting Notes: Pine, Grapefruit, Hops
Among myriad great craft beers available on the market, Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale is one of the best. Bell's craft pioneers hail from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Larry Bell started a homebrew supply store in 1983. Two years later, he followed up with his first commercial beer from a 15-gallon soup pot.
That beer's finest modern-day descendent is this hop-heavy American-style IPA. At 7% ABV, it's filled with pure pine, soft floral and juicy grapefruit flavors, a striking nose (owed to Bell’s house yeast), and a superbly dry yet lingering finish.
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Best Lager: Pilsner Urquell
Region: Czech Republic | ABV: 4.4% | Tasting Notes: Green Apple, Grass, Hops
The Czech Republic, the birthplace of pilsner and home of the largest per-person intake of beer, is the proper place to find the world’s best lager. Just outside of Prague lies the city of Pilsen, where Josef Groll crafted the first lager of its kind in 1842. The original recipe remains in use (and closely guarded), with all of its tedious triple decoction and parallel brewing.
Still, the hard work and secrecy are worth the effort. The original pilsner is the very definition of bright, crisp and balanced—across sweet, hops, malt and carbonation.
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Best Belgian: St. Bernardus Abt 12
Region: Belgium | ABV: 10.5% | Tasting Notes: Dried Fruit, Cherry, Biscuit
St. Bernardus’ signature quadrupel-style beer, a traditional abbey ale brewed in Trappist monk style, is strong (with a 10.5% ABV), yet smooth. Rich dark notes of raisins, plum and cherry resonate, along with toasty and biscuit malt sweetness balanced with the bitterness of noble hops.
“Old-school, flavorful, naturally fermented, perfectly balanced and malty,” says Moses. “It’s what other dark beers aspire to be.”
Best Japanese: Hitachino Nest White Ale
Region: Japan | ABV: 5.5% | Tasting Notes: Baking spice, Orange, Wheat
With its iconic owl logo, Hitachino's brew is the pride of Japan-based Kiuchi Brewery, which has been in the brewing industry for more eight generations, starting with sake in 1823.
The Nest White Ale Witbier ferments with wheat malt and shines with elements of nutmeg, coriander and citrus zest. The result is fresh and balanced, with a crisp, orange-hinted complexity.
Best Mexican: Modelo Negra
Region: Mexico | ABV: 5.4% | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Malt, Biscuit
Mexico is the world’s largest producer of beer, with a surprisingly deep catalog of international styles. The best among them is Modelo Negra, a Munich-style dunkel lager.
The nose presents caramel and soft hops, plus delicate and dark malt. The deep amber color carries a nice harmony of sweet and bitter notes. And, at 5.4% ABV, it’s not too lean, but it maintains a light body that complements the toasted chocolate flavors. Salud.
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Best Mainstream: Miller High Life
Region: Wisconsin | ABV: 4.6% | Tasting Notes: Grain, Sweet malt, Lemon
He's had a career’s worth of trying the nerdiest, most unusual, flavorful beers. But Ethan Fixell, certified beer cicerone and longtime adult beverage writer, says he's come to the realization that, when looking for a beer, he just wants a good old-fashioned, adjunct domestic lager.
The best of those is Miller High Life, the self-proclaimed champagne of beers, with its simple, satisfying, light and crisp golden-pilsner flavor profile. There’s a reason it’s a favorite among bartenders.
Pro tip: Get them in 7-ounce pony bottles so they never get warm.
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Our pick for best overall beer is Peace Tree Blonde Fatale (view at Go Puff) because it has the perfect balance of citrus, hops and sweetness. It really represents a high-quality beer in the craft Belgian-style blonde category.
What is beer generally made from?
The basic ingredients of beer are grains (usually malted barley, but other grains can be used as well, such as wheat, rye or rice), hops, water and yeast. The grains are mixed with hot water and turned into a liquid called wort. Hops are added to obtain the desired level of flavor. The wort is then cooled, and yeast is added to begin fermentation, during which alcohol is produced.
What's the average alcohol content of beer?
ABV varies depending on style, but the average alcohol content is usually around 4.5%.
What's the ideal temperature to serve beer?
This also varies depending on the style of beer. Some general temperatures to serve a few popular styles are as follows (with stronger beers best served warmer than lighter ones): light American lager (33 degrees to 40 degrees), pilsner (38 degrees to 45 degrees), IPA (45 degrees to 50 degrees), and stout (45 degrees to 55 degrees).
What is the best way to store beer?
The best way to store unopened beer is in a cool, dry and dark place. The refrigerator is a great place to put your beer as soon as you bring it home; remember to store it upright. And it’s best to drink your beer within three or four months of its bottling date.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Mark C. Anderson has been covering adult beverages for more than 15 years across six award-winning publications and five continents. His top beers require in-person purchases, including the strictly limited Westvleteren 12, Pliny the Elder triple IPA and legendary Dark Lord Imperial Stout.
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