For a minimal investment, growlers open up a whole world of local microbrews and draught beers that can be enjoyed on your own schedule. Get in on the action with five of the best.
Sampling the Core Expressions
Learning about the process of whisky-making is one reason to take a distillery tour, but we all know that the real name of the game is the post-tour tasting. Any day spent sampling a range of whiskies is a special one in our books. Throw in the chance to try 25-, 30- and 40-year-old expressions, and you’ve got a once in a lifetime drinking experience.
Finding 'the best whisky in the world' on the Scottish Island of Orkney
Highland Park has officially been making whisky in Kirkwall since 1798. The distillery requires no introduction for rabid fans of single malt. F. Paul Pacult, known as one of America’s foremost experts on spirits, heralded the 25 year old expression as the “Best Spirit in the World” in 2013; it’s an honor he’s also bestowed on the 18 year old twice before. For more casual imbibers, noting Highland Park’s relationship as the sister distillery to The Macallan generates a good number of nods. Our managing Editor Ben Bowers took the journey to the northern Scottish islands of Orkney to learn first hand how some of the world’s finest single malt is made.
The Official Drink of Rhode Island
Coffee milk is the official beverage of Rhode Island. Think that’s weird? So do we.
Cheaper Than Tournament Tickets
There’s a time for relaxing with a good craft beer, but this year’s Malted Madness tournament was not one of them. It took a great deal of humility, but we shelved our self-proclaimed beer snobbery for the sake of a single question: what’s the best mass market beer available? It wasn’t easy, but we got an answer, and some other cool articles, besides.
Two Experts, Three Cellars, and a Lot of Big Beers
In our own beer cellar, we’ve got a couple bottles of Brooklyn Black Ops, a Firestone Walker Parabola and a Perennial Abraxus — all great beers, but we could use a few additions. For some new suggestions, as well as some tips on beer aging, we contacted our friends at The Cannibal NYC, who run extensive cellaring collections, both personally and professionally.
The Quest for Affordable Pappy
At night, when bourbon connoisseurs go to bed, many dream of Pappy Van Winkle, a line of three exquisite bourbons (15, 20 and 23 years old, all of them colloquially referred to as “Pappy”) distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Much of Pappy’s legend comes from its high demand: when it’s released, liquor stores dust off month-long waiting lists to decide who gets a bottle.
At the end of last year, Bourbonr Blog made headlines in the liquor community by posting a recipe for “Poor Man’s Pappy,” a mix of two mid-range W.L. Weller whiskies that they claim, while not being able to emulate Pappy Van Winkle completely, “comes close.” But does the recipe hold up? With $50, a postal scale and a mason jar, we decided to find out for ourselves.
The Good Kind of Extremists
Sociologists talk of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and never has this feeling been more powerful than 20 minutes before the end of the Extreme Beer Fest. The event, which took place in Boston, MA, had 68 of the world’s best breweries offering 2-ounce pours of more than 300 “extreme” beers — defined simply as “a beer that pushes the boundaries of brewing”. Two GP writers, on hand at the festival, managed to try about 50 different beers between them. Here are six of their favorites.
Two days of boozy exploration
Good weird beers tend to be the rare finds of the beer world, ones that get secreted away to age in dark cellars or traded with like-minded drinkers for other legendary brews. But every year craft fans get a chance to pay admission to a free-for-all zoo of the wildest ones, captured and served at the raucous drunken atmosphere of the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston, Mass.
Less Searching, More Sipping
There’s no denying that bourbon is having a moment. The pride of Kentucky wins out over other whiskies because it’s a little sweeter, a little smoother, and a whole lot easier to mix. It’s also relatively affordable — very good bottles are available at very good prices. But thanks to its newfound popularity, some of the top-tier bottles — Pappy Van Winkle’s family reserve, George T. Stagg — are now shockingly expensive and, increasingly, hard to track down. Luckily, there’s still a wide variety to bourbons at accessible prices that are readily available in nearly every state. Which one to choose? Here’s a list to help you out.
A Champion is Crowned
The winners of their respective divisions — Sam Adams, Guinness, Natural Light and Steel Reserve — match up in the Final Four of the Mass Market Beer Tournament, and we crown a champion.
Mill...Milwaul...That Wisconsin Beer City
At one time considered the “Beer Capital of the World”, Milwaukee was home to four of the largest brewers in the U.S. Now the city is home to only one: Miller Brewing Co. We examine the rise and fall of the foamy city.
Just buy whichever's cheapest
The battle of the lights: Bud, Corona, Natural, Busch, Coors, Keystone, Michelob, Miller. Who will come out on top — and will we even be able to taste the difference?
In Search of the best ugly gems
Dive bars face a tug-of-war: they’re either worshiped or ostracized. This must stop. Dive bars are just like any other bar — plus or minus a few roaches and/or bathroom stall sex stories — in that “good” or “bad” depends on who’s asking. Whatever your cup of tea, we contest simply that “dive” not be used to describe a place that sucks: it should be a place that sucks with vigor, or with style, or with crassness. Here are the sordid watering holes that our staff believes, in their slightly perverse estimations, capture the true spirit of the dive bar.
The Weirdos Come Out to Play
The top selling malt liquors, ciders and flavored beers in America meet in an NCAA tournament of blind taste tests to find the best in the business. We’re talking about both Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita and Lime-A-Rita; we’re talking about Bud Light Lime; we’re talking about Colt 45, Steel Reserve, Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. We’re talking about a fiasco.
Libations the world over
We explore drinking culture from around the world to bring you the best five customs and oddities we could find — from beer-chugging Prime Ministers, to drinking and driving (don’t do it), to the biggest party in Iceland and more.
1 Japanese, 1 Dutch, 1 Belgian, 1 Irish, 1 English, 1 Canadian and 2 Mexican Beers Walk Into A Bar...
In the Imported Division of the Mass Market Beer Tournament, our blind tasters pick the their favorites and grant a Final Four berth to the best in the division. This round, it’s between Corona Extra, Guinness, Heineken, Modelo Especial, Labatt Blue, Newcastle Brown Ale, Stella Artois and Sapporo.
Round One of Malted Madness 2014
We kick off the Mass Market Beer Tournament with the Domestic Division. It’s a blind tasting fight to the finish (and a Final Four berth) between Budweiser, Sam Adams, Yuengling, PBR, Miller High Life, Blue Moon, Coors Banquet and PBR.
Wait...Yuengling's not an Import?
Put a Heady Topper next to a Busch. One of the beers is craft, and the other is not. Why? When does a beer stop being craft? Who wrote the current definition, and why did they define craft like they did? Part of the answer, it turns out, involves two breweries you know.
34 Beers. 5 Rounds. 1 Winner.
We got down from our high horse, if only for a second, to judge the best of the generic, watery and cheap mass market beers. How exactly? It has to do with seeding a total of 34 beers into four divisions and holding an NCAA-style tournament of blind tastings in order to declare a winner. Read on for all the details and a preview of next week’s madness.
We Test 10 Huge Imperial IPAs
Over the past 20 years, the way to make a double IPA (otherwise known as DIPA or “imperial IPA”) hasn’t really changed: roughly double the ingredients that would go into a normal IPA and you get a double IPA. As the weather changes, more and more stores begin cellaring their heavy winter stouts and replacing them with these hop- and malt-forward beasts. For those looking to expand their palates, doubles offer the citrus hop and bready malt flavors of regular IPAs, but amplified, and with plenty more complexity to spare. We tasted ten of our favorites.
Know Your Terroir, Love Your Terroir
The current food-obsessed climate may prize terroir in everything, from beef to coffee to olive oil, but winemakers aren’t new to the game — they’ve been sniffing the soil and praying to the grape gods for centuries. Wine at its best is spiritually, ritually, and tribally connected to a place, and knowing the major wine regions provides some basic insight with which we can approach the wine aisle or pick a bottle at a restaurant. Here’s our guide to the 10 essential wine regions of the world.
Cream of the Cropless
A fair amount of people in this country drink gluten-free by necessity, and that’s not even counting those who do it by choice. But when you tinker with malt, one of the four main ingredients in beer and the one that activates the autoimmune response in those with celiac disease, does the resulting product still taste like beer? And if so, how does it hold up against more traditional counterparts? To find out, we put ten gluten-free beers to a blind taste test.
Think Globally, Drink Locally
One of the sublime joys of a tropical vacation is the beer. I’m not talking about anything you can find at your corner liquor store in Manhattan (Kansas or New York), or even those Mexican imports with the clever TV ads. I’m talking about the ones that come in brown bottles with peeling labels and caps that you knock off on the edge of a table, beers with names like Belikin, Polar, Banks, Sands, Sol, Belashi, Kalik or Three Coins.
Because their flavor profiles range from hearty to downright bacon-filled savoriness, Rauchbiers — especially smoked porters — are the perfect winter beer, sipped alone or paired with charred meats. Crack one of these five in your living room in front of a roaring fire; if you don’t have a fireplace, it won’t be hard to imagine one.
60, 61, 75, 90, 120, Floor
Though Dogfish Head currently produces 33 beers, 65 percent of their sales come from their five “continuously hopped” IPAs — the 60, Sixty-One, 75, 90 and 120 Minute. We tasted them all, in numerical order, and learned much more about Dogfish Head, and craft beer in general, than we expected.
A Dram of Tam
Founded in 1923, Cutty Sark originally made a name for itself by offering an accessibly priced blended cocktail Scotch. By the 1960s, Cutty Sark produced the best-selling Scotch whisky in the United States; then it disappeared. In 2010, The Edrington Group bought Cutty with hopes of reviving the dying brand. The brand’s new line now consists of six whiskies, three of which are available in the United States.
Limited Release, 13-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey
Drinking alone gets a bad rap, but there’s having a drink alone and then there’s really drinking alone, getting after it, sitting on a creaky chair the garage with a case of Keystone and no real plans to speak of except to power through it. Be careful with that. But in the first scenario a man reaches beneath his desk around 6:00 p.m., puts The Best of Dean Martin on the phonograph, starts nodding to the music, and pours himself a measure of something good and strong. During a recent six o’clock hour we opened up a bottle of Lock Stock & Barrel ($118) straight rye whiskey — and it’s just about as smooth and rich as Dino’s voice.
In Vino We Trust
For a long time we’ve been put off by wine — its rules and regulations, its esoteric language, its arcane, Old-World naming regimes. Then the floodgates opened and there was two-dollar wine, highbrow boxed wine, wines that could be chilled and others that could be warmed. And guess what? It was all still pretty confusing.
But the truth is that no other drink pairs so exceptionally with food as wine does, and then, the drink has romance and mystery, too; it carries a certain tradition and importance that’s undeniable, indeed, biblical; it has fun pastimes like stomping grapes, sabering bottles and having important conversations about literature. So we’ve done what we should have done all along: created a guide to everything there is to know about wine, an extensive flight of wine knowledge. It begins with a layman’s guide to understanding the varietals.
In 1923, a pharmaceutical representative named Shinjiro Torii built a distillery in Yamazaki with the dream of creating a Japanese whisky for the Japanese people. His original distillery evolved into Suntory, a holding company that recently made a $13.62 billion cash play for Beam, Inc., makers of Jim Beam brand spirits, Old Crow, and Maker’s Mark, among others. If it goes through, Suntory will become the third largest whiskey company by volume in the world. What does this mean for the whiskey (and whisky) world?