Owen Ogletree gathered brewers and beer judges Neal Engleman, The Beer Wench, Ashton Smith, Samantha Eaves, Tim Schiavone and Ben Halter to sample and comment on 12 exceptional examples of classic craft beers on the market now. This blind beer evaluation was done in a "best-of-show" format, and beers were commented upon and ranked according to Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines. First, second and third places were awarded to the beers we felt represented their styles in an extraordinary fashion. Photos by Ashton Smith.
Munich Helles - 4A.
- Golden color; clear; beautiful white foam; mild aromas of flowers, honey and pilsner malt; flavor notes of honeysuckle, light jasmine, just a hint of corn.
German-style Landbier/Kellerbier - 7C Pale Kellerbier.
- Brilliant clarity; gorgeous golden color; herbal note; grassy, hoppy nose; flavors of flowers, hops, light citrus, pleasant bitterness, egg white hint; sulfur hint; ends dry, clean and hoppy.
Marzen - BJCP 6A.
- Spot-on copper color for style; excellent clarity; good head retention; maple and caramel nuances; dark toasted bread; herbal; grassy; cracker-like note; nice dry finish.
Helles Bock - BJCP 4C.
- Hint of chill haze; attractive golden color and white foam; floral hops; citrus hint; grassy; flavors of sweet malt, sugar, pale malt; hoppy finish is pleasant but may be too much for style; quite floral; finish seems a bit too bitter for this malty style.
New World Cider - BJCP C1A.
- Nice gold color with light carbonation; apple note dominates; fruity; clean; hint of dark sugar and acidity; well-balanced between sweetness and apple nuances; lovely apple note comes through mid-palate; dry finish; refreshing; simple, yet pleasant and elegant.
American IPA - BJCP 21A.
- Deep gold color; slight haze; aromas of candied oranges, citrus, pine resin and dank hops; good malt/hop balance; clean malt goes well with rich hops and mild bitterness; nice dry finish; bold citrus and piney hops are the star of this IPA.
Double IPA - BJCP 22A.
- Quite hazy and opaque; dark gold/orange color; nose seems like candy sugar, earthy malt, light caramel hint; flavors of earthy malt, orange, apricot, tropical fruits and hops.
Doppelbock - BJCP 9A.
- Great clarity; deep tan head with nice retention; brown/mahogany color with a ruby/orange hue; aromas of chocolate, raisins, prunes, dates, dark sugar; flavors of leather, dark sugar, cherry hint, light fruit; hint of alcohol warmth; melanoidin finish balanced with a hint of hops; dark, toasty malts; slightly bitter finish.
Schwarzbier - BJCP 8B.
- Dark brown color that's almost black; good clarity; light tan head; aromas of roasted malt, coffee, hint of dark sugar and caramel; flavors come across as moderate; dark malt; roasted malt is soft on the finish; pleasing bitterness in the end from dark malts and light hops; nice and dry; a great dark lager.
American Barleywine - BJCP 22C.
- This amazing barleywine was voted best beer of the bunch. Mahogany color; dark auburn; deep amber/copper hue; aromas of dark caramel, lots of American hops, raisins, leather, pine, wood; flavors of massive hops and clean, rich malt; well-rounded and packed with flavor; not harsh at all; hop character is outstanding; beautiful, long hop finish; a big, bold, breathtaking beer.
Imperial Stout - BJCP 20C.
- Deep black hue with a dark tan head; small amount of particulate matter in the beer; aromas of spice, roasted malt, smoke hint, dark cocoa, bitter chocolate, Maduro cigars and subtle fruit. Flavors of dark malt; dark bitter chocolate; anise and chocolate candy. Luscious, full mouthfeel.
Imperial Stout with vanilla, chai, coffee and oatmeal - BJCP 20C.
- Deep black color with dark head. Aromas of green coffee and roasted malts. Flavors reminiscent of peppers, chai latte, spices, dark sugar, viscous oatmeal, caramel and dark sugar. Ends sweet with a warming alcohol hint.