Brewing beer is a tricky science. The most subtle of changes to a recipe and your end product could be an awful tasting waste of time. Too many hops here or too many malts there and your beer won’t strike the balance you want. Of course, some brewers skew these ratios on purpose — creating overly hoppy bitter beasts or roasted malt bombs — but we’re not here to talk about triple IPAs or dessert beers today.
Today, we’re all about balance. A harmony of hops and malts. To help us out, we turned to the experts for advice — asking 12 well-known bartenders to name the beers that land in the hop-to-malt sweet spot. Check their picks below.
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
Dennis Shea, beverage director at Fish & Fire Food Group in Washington, DC
The first beer that comes to mind is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Its 100% Centennial hops offer grapefruit and pine aromas. It’s perfectly balanced with a strong malty backbone.
Average Price: $8.49 for a six-pack
4 Hands City Wide Pale
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
City Wide Pale from 4 Hands Brewery in St. Louis is one of the more perfect beers I’ve had. Toasty, malty, and rich on the front, with the perfect amount of dry hoppy-ness to finish. Pairs perfectly with a grilled pork steak or toasted ravioli.
Average Price: $8.49 for a 4-pack
Samuel Smith Organic Lager
Michael Norat, bartender in Puerto Rico
Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager is my pick. I love the citrus notes with the spices and malt flavors. It has a great mix of hops and malts. Plus, it’s organic so that makes it even better.
Average Price: $9.99 for a 4-pack
Bianca Swilley, bartender at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa in Orlando
Yuengling is America’s oldest running brewery, and a special treat to most, since it is not available in the majority of the states. When you’re visiting the east coast, I recommend grabbing a refreshing Yuengling and drink up some American history.
It has rich, sweet flavors and a great hop-to-malt balance.
Average Price: $11.99 for a 12-pack
Saranac Pale Ale
Becca Pesce, bartender at Team Cocktail Guru in New York City
Saranac Pale Ale hits that perfect balance of malt and hop. The citrusy grapefruit and orange notes are beautifully balanced with the malty caramel sweetness to make an incredibly easy drinking and delightful beer.
Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack
Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami
My favorite malt-to-hop balance beer would have to be Pernicious from Wicked Weed Brewing. The fruity aroma of the beer mixed in with the incredible hoppiness followed by the great subtle finish makes this one of my favorite beers in the last couple of years. The balance for me is almost perfect, because the beer is bitter with grapefruit notes in it but it also goes down so smooth, with the sweet, malty flavors.
Average Price: $9.99 for a 4-pack
Cigar City Guayabera
Nikole Calvo, bar manager at SIX in Tampa, Florida
The best beer brand that hits the malt and hops the best is the Cigar City Guayabera Citrus Pale Ale. It’s extremely citrus-forward with notes of tangerine, lime, and berries and contributes to a unique and extremely crisp beer.
It’s also an easy beer to drink for novice beer drinkers.
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack
Great Divide Yeti
Becky Rose, lead bartender at Queen’s Eleven in Denver
Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout is the perfect example of malt to hop balance. It boasts a huge 75 IBU score, which is comparable to most IPA’s, but that bright and bitter finish is needed to round out the extremely heavy malt start and sweet caramel and toffee middle. It’s a big dark beer that hits every section of your taste buds, making it great to drink alone or with rich, fat-heavy foods— cheese or cream-based pasta, a big ribeye, etc.
Average Price: $13.99 for a six-pack
Tampa Bay Brewing Reef Donkey
Ryan Cunningham, bartender at Anchor and Brine in Tampa, Florida
I have to shout out a local brewery and one of my favorite places to eat in Tampa, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, for this one. Their American Pale Ale (APA) is a perfectly balanced beer driving flavor and drinkability. The malts cut back the bitterness while adding depth and the hops stay strong with light citrus notes that make it perfect for Florida weather.
Average Price: $8.99 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans
Boddington’s Pub Ale
Jeff Rogers, bar director for Jester Concepts in Minneapolis
Boddington’s Pub Ale has always been my favorite for the perfect balance of all the classic beer ingredients. Sweet, crisp, bitter, and creamy all in the same pint. Bliss.
Average Price: $6.99 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans
Stone Ripper Pale Ale
Jeremy Williams, mixologist at MDRD at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan
I feel that a Pale Ale is an under-rated style and a true test of a brewer. For this style, the hop character has to be detectable without overshadowing the malt, and vice versa. Stone in San Diego does a great pale ale.
Sierra Nevada is also a classic favorite.
Average Price: $10.49 for a six-pack
Siobhán Cusumano, bartender at Buya Ramen in St. Petersburg, Florida
As someone with a gluten allergy, this is a tough one. I would have to say that Celia from Ipswich Brewing has the best-balanced beer on the market. It is a Saison that even my biggest beer snob friends have been impressed with, and that was before I told them it was gluten-free.
Average Price: $9.49 for a 4-pack