10 Great Beers You Will Never Taste
10 Great Beers You Will Never Taste
While newly-minted bourbon “connoisseurs” line up at liquor stores, enter lotteries, or troll the black market hoping to get their hands on that sweet, sweet Pappy Van Winkle, beer geeks only wish they had it so easy. According to most reports, somewhere around 20,000-25,000 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle are released to stores and bars across the U.S. every single year. (And I’m not even counting those desperate folks who insist on labeling both the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year and the 12 Year Old Special Reserve as “Pappy.” Sorry, they’re not.) Go to the absolute best whiskey bar in whatever town you live in, and it’s almost a certainty you can buy a finger or two of one of the Pappys for less than a day’s pay. But for some of the best and most coveted beers in the world, there are miniscule bottle counts in the low hundreds that aren’t even distributed to every state in the union. Some aren’t even released every single year. Forget those uninformed writers that’ll tell you about the uber-rarity of Heady Topper, KBS, or even most Cantillons—you’ll get to try those one day, I guarantee it—but these on the other hand…?
1. Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout
The absolute hottest beer of the moment may very well be a barrel-aged coffee stout from little Decorah, Iowa. Kentucky Brand Brunch Stout has so far been released about once a year, about 300 to 400 bottles each time, always straight from the brewery. Beer geeks have gone bonkers for this brew and by the end of the year it looks poised to become the No.1 rated beer in the entire world on BeerAdvocate.com. In fact, so coveted is it, that it inspired a counterfeiting scandal last year!
2. Side Project Fuzzy
Beer fans go nuts for sour ales and St. Louis’s Side Project is currently making some of the most adventurous in the business. Their award-winning Fuzzy is aged in Chardonnay barrels with Missouri-grown white peaches eventually added. More importantly, it’s only been released once, in tiny 375 mL bottles, and, of course, it sold out immediately. Shockingly, beer geeks even behaved themselves waiting for it—though many clearly didn’t drink the one bottle they were allowed to purchase as it currently sells well on the secondary market.
3. Hill Farmstead Ann
Vermont’s Hill Farmstead is probably the most acclaimed beermaker in the world at the moment and, indeed, if you live outside of The Green Mountain State it can be a little tricky to try many of their offerings. But travel to this beautiful state and a lot of Hill Farmstead beers flow fairly freely at the major beers bars in Burlington, Waterbury, and Montpelier. Not Ann, though, which so far has only been released twice in bottles. The recent 2015 release of this barrel-aged honey saison saw a Byzantine lottery system that made most Pappy releases look quaint in comparison.
4. Cantillon Blåbær Lambik
Though you might not believe it, as I said above, you will get to drink something from the ballyhooed Brasserie Cantillon one day. Yes, they are hard to get and you may never taste one in America, but fly to any major city in western Europe and you’ll be able to find a good deal of Cantillon’s flagship offerings in various bottle shops. Fly to Belgium at the right time, and you’ll be able to find most all of their yearly offerings. One noted “Loon” will be a struggle, though, and that’s their almost yearly (since 2005) release of their celebrated blueberry lambic. Made in partnership with the Ølbutikken bottle shop in Copenhagen, that’s the only place where it’s ever sold (though I did happen to luck into one at Brooklyn’s Tørst in 2013). The 2014 vintage only saw 100 bottles sold for “takeaway.” By my count, there’s now 7.3 billion people on earth and, oh, about half of them currently self-identify as “beer snobs.” Shit.
5. 3 Floyds Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord
Just like your average Cantillon—whatever “average” means—Dark Lord is not that hard to land. Released every year at “Dark Lord Day” to the tune of 25,000 bottles or so, if you know a guy with a beard, a belly, and an arcane brewery shirt, he probably knows a guy who can find you a bottle or two. (The dirty secret is, the snootiest of beer geeks flat out mock the beer nowadays.) What they refuse to mock, however, and hypocritically go bananas for, are any of the Dark Lord variants, released in significantly smaller numbers via a scratch-off “Golden Ticket” lottery system. Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord—or BVDL as the code-talking geeks call it—comes out most years at the festival, usually at a bottle count of around 500 to 700.
6. Sante Adairius West Ashley
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales is perhaps California’s brewery of the moment, rocking some serious saisons out of a small industrial park in Capitola, right near Highway 1. SARA—as they are popularly known—beers can barely be found in most of central coast California, much less anywhere close to where you might live. That’s one reason their most famed beer, the Pinot Noir-barreled apricot sour saison West Ashley, is so damn tough to get your hands on. Released sporadically—they’re now on Batch 8 by my count—they are also snatched up immediately.
7. FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout – Masterpiece
If you think Pappy is hard to get as a mere bourbon, try getting your hands on a Pappy Van Winkle beer. Late last year, California’s FiftyFifty Brewing released a mere 400 bottles of their noted Eclipse imperial stout that had been aged for eighteen months in former Pappy barrels. The brewery inexplicably didn’t have any sort of per person bottle limit, so many opportunists loaded up and the beer sold out in under an hour. The next day, FiftyFifty’s owner offered an apology.
8. TAPS Remy’s Pappy
Besides FiftyFifty’s, there’s actually several other Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged beers that have come out over the past few years. All of them make finding a real Pappy (the bourbon) seem as easy as going to your corner store for a Coke Zero. Pennsylvania’s Voodoo Brewing released the Pappy Van Winkle-aged THE K13, a barleywine, in 2013 to the tune of 258 bottles. California’s Port Brewing Pappy-fied their Board Meeting, a brown ale, late last year and released around 250 wax-sealed bottles. Remy’s Pappy is perhaps the most acclaimed of the few Pappy beers, first released by California’s TAPS Fish House & Brewery (try the tuna!) in 2013. Earlier this week, TAPS opened another Fish House in Irvine and to celebrate, offered a new batch of Remy’s Pappy. A mere 60 bottles at $60 per bottle. Ouch.
9. BrewDog The End of History
It’s actually more difficult than you’d think to figure out what is literally the rarest beer ever made. Even your local brewery has probably brewed a single sixtel keg’s worth of a beer, never to make it again. But no one cares about that beer. Perhaps the rarest beer ever bottled is the publicity stunting The End of History. Only eleven total bottles of this 55% ABV beer were ever released—and when I say bottles I’m being a little inaccurate. The beer came in an effing taxidermied squirrel. For a mere $750 you could nab this Scottish beaut, the world’s most alcoholic beer at the time. I have no idea if any bottles still exist on planet earth, though someone reviewed in on Untappd as recently as last week. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that, just because something is rare, doesn’t mean it’s good. Although, the few people to have tried this beer do actually give it a fairly great rating.
10. The Bruery Barrel-Aged Partridge in a Pear Tree
Finally, and perhaps most navel-gazingly, I wanted to list a beer that I’m starting to wonder if I will ever taste. In 2009, The Bruery began a program to release a special beer each year for Christmas for twelve years. Twelve years later, you would, in theory, drink all twelve beers in a grandiose celebration of patient alcoholism. These beers aren’t particularly rare, though I do find them fun to collect. I bought Partridge in a Pear tree that first year and I’ve managed to keep up each subsequent year (we’re now up to 7 Swans a Swimming). In many years, The Bruery has released more limited barrel-aged versions as well, but the one I’ve never been able to sniff is this first one, Partridge in a Pear tree. A mere 290 bottles were released seven years ago, but who knows how many still remained un-drunk. I’m lucky to have actually tasted most of the beers in this listicle—hey yo media “samples”—but I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever land this sucker. I’ve got five more years left to try…