While Pilsner Urquell is the more well known Czech beer in the U.S., and rightly so, it’s pretty special, its Czech brother Staropramen might just be even better. Not just because one is a pilsner and the other lager. And not just because it’s harder to come by, and therefore more elusive and special- because it stands as well on its own as it does with food. Urquell, while terrific in both respects as well, falls a hair short by itself, because it’s so much lighter, which makes for an ideal meal companion, and drinkability, but on its own the flavor is not so impressionable that it would ever have you savoring the aftertaste. Whereas Staropramen is all of that and a bag of yum. Crisp. With a longer, more complex taste. And a much stronger finish that could put most Olympic gymnasts to shame.
McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured)
For my micro brew bestie I have to give it up to McSorley’s in New York City. It’s the oldest bar in Manhattan offering up only two beers since 1854, McSorley’s Ale and McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured). Served in biblical proportions. No seriously. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a Noah’s ark business model. They only serve their beers in twos. And while both are great, I’m a bit partial to the dark. It has a Negro Modelo vibe about it, but with a little more ester to it. If you’re in NYC for a visit or live there, this place is a must for a glass of beer. Well, technically two glasses. Or four… Or six… They go pretty quickly.
If you’re getting sushi you have two options as far as I’m concerned. Sake or Sapporo. Screw Asahi and save the green tea for dessert. Sapporo is the perfect companion. Made remarkably smooth with the use of rice, which is perhaps part of why it grooves so well with Japanese cuisine. In fact, it goes so well, it’s almost as if it were purposefully engineered to go specifically with sushi. Well, be it the case or not, suffice it to say that Sapporo is the Sonny Bono to raw fish’s Cher.
I’m not exactly sure why any other stout beer exists, because they’re all trying to be like Mike. And they all fall miserably short. Tasting like the hops took a shit in your glass. But not Guiness. Oh no. This stout manages to caress your buds in a lather as smooth as milk. But the craziest thing is that while most stouts are very heavy and highly caloric, Guinness is neither. The only nit is that she’s a temperamental brew. She doesn’t like to sit around, so make sure you’re getting your pint from a place that pours a lot of it, otherwise don’t even bother. And while the bottle and can versions are much improved over the years, they still don’t compare to the likes of a well-poured pint from the keg.
This newest comer to the list exploded onto the scene about ten years ago and shook up the beer category so much that it needed Dramamine to recover. In fact, this Belgian Wheat is so damn good it’s the only one that I keep stocked in my house. Goes great with seafood, burgers, dogs and pizza. And while it’s often served with a slice of orange, don’t discount it as a fruity, fru fru brew. It’s just as great sans slice, and better than every other Belgian beer I’ve had.
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
As the only non-mass beer on the list, I feel the need to go above and beyond to say just how special this beer is. If you should be so lucky as to happen upon a tap, be sure to order it. Spare no expense, because it will pay for itself on the first sip. You have never tasted anything this special in beerhood. Forget the opulence of Chimay, although I must admit it sort of reminded of the creamy Belgian, but instead of deriving its cool from brewing it in a monastery, Kentucky pulls a trump card and brews it in actual bourbon barrels, as the name suggests. The result layers the beer with incredibly complex notes that subtly spring to life in your mouth. Balanced by a hint of sweetness, the takeaway becomes smooth and creamy. And while the alcohol content is a bit higher than the others, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.