By Liz Dodd
One of my favourite things about the US that I noticed during my all-to-brief trip this month was the wide availability of great, bottled craft beer. Pop-art IPAs and strange, fusion stouts dotted the fridges of supermarkets, off-licenses and gas stations. Historians and PNWesterners will be able to tell me whether this is because the US has been onto craft beer longer, but wandering the booze aisles of Walmart and Costco was (generally) way more rewarding than in most UK supermarkets.
I have but one gripe: America, why are your bottles so big??! The range is probably different at specialist shops, but in supermarkets I struggled to find bottles smaller than 750ml in big stores. That’s ideal for an evening-long drink, but given most beers came in at the 6-8% mark, it meant I couldn’t really get through more than one a night. Was I shopping in the wrong places?
All the beers reviewed came from major US supermarkets in and around Bellingham in NW Washington.
1) Breakbeat Series IPA, Elysian Brewery, Trader Joes
I loved this beer so much I sought out the brewery in Seattle. A lively hop bomb, it pours the golden orange of the Fall leaves.
It’s spicy, herbal and orange on the nose, and tastes lush and full-bodied, with grounding citrus and hop oil to dial it back to refreshing.
2) Sriracha hot stout, Rogue Brewery, Costco
How could you not buy this beer? I loved Sriracha before it was cool, and admittedly this beer does little more than a chilli stout usually does (tastes like stout! But spicy!), but that’s no bad thing.
The real, lingering chilli kick perforates the bitter chocolate of the blackened malt, leaving a sinkable stout that doesn’t taste its 5.7% abv.
3) Sleigh’r, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Safeways
The metal-punnage! The label! This dark double alt from neighbouring Oregon sits atop a sweet, burned sugar malt.
It’s that malt that makes the beer – it’s nutty and sweet, with raisin and a hint of dried cherry. Light enough to stay in the background, but with a robust caramel taste, this beer would go really well with a roast dinner. Like Christmas. Topical beer klaxon!
4) Monk’s Uncle Tripel, Pike, Safeways
This psychedelic riff on a Tripel is a gorgeous, silky sweet play on the Belgian style, rolling in herbs and ripe fruit. It pours a cloudy orange with a delicate, white head. With plenty of funky depth from the yeast and juicy fruit from the hops, this is a lovely beer to savour – slowly, BECAUSE IT’S A WHOPPING 9 PER CENT.