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Craft Beer Experts Name The Most Unique Beers They’ve Ever Tasted

The beer world is massive. There are countless styles, variations on styles, and seemingly random flavors that somehow work well together … most of the time. Take a stroll into your closest craft brewery and you’re likely to find some creative, imaginative milkshake IPA, spiced winter warmer, or fruited smoothie IPA alongside the more classic lagers, pilsners, and West Coast IPAs.

This is what makes beer so fun and exciting. There’s something for every palate. If you enjoy classic Czech-style pilsners and nothing else, you can spend your days sampling the style from countless breweries. If you’re more about the sour beers coming out of Belgium, you can find what feels like a million takes on those beers from thousands of American craft brewers across the country. The list goes on and on. And all of that hommage, imitation, and innovation lead to a litany of amazing beers popping up every now and then.

To find the gems, we asked a handful of well-known brewers and craft beer experts to tell us the most unique, innovative, and thought-provoking beers they’d ever tried. Keep reading to see all of their picks.

Wicked Week Oaxacan

Wicked Week Oaxacan
Wicked Weed

Eric Warner, brewmaster at Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston

ABV: 7.1%

Average Price: $17 for a 500ml bottle

Why This Beer?

One of the more unique beers I’ve had is the Oaxacan tequila barrel-aged smoked sour from Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. The base beer is brewed using smoked wheat malt and soured using traditional Belgian-style fermentation techniques. The finishing of this elixir is a complex process that ages the beer in tequila barrels, which had originally been used for aging red wine. To top it all off, grapefruit and lime zest is added as a finishing touch. This smoky, citrusy “beertail” is deliciously refreshing and an ingenious take on a tequila-inspired cocktail.

Jester King Snörkel

Jester King Snörkel
Jester King

Alex Wenner, owner and brewer at Lasting Joy Brewery in Hudson Valley, New York

ABV: 4.3%

Average Price: $15 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

It is harder and harder to find “unique” these days. So many breweries are trying to constantly find a way to make something that no one else has. My favorite beer which was certainly unique is Jester King’s Snörkel. It’s a farmhouse ale with smoked sea salt and locally grown oyster mushrooms. It is hard to get umami flavor out of a beer, but this one really delivers. The real key is that the beer, even if they never added salt or mushrooms, would still be a truly world-class saison. And then they go and have the perfect touch of smoke, salt, and mushroom to round it out.

Rogue Beard Beer

Rogue Beard Beer
Rogue Ales

Andrew Hood, wood cellar manager and brewer at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 5.6%

Average Price: $8 for a 22-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

One of the most unique beers I’ve ever had was the Beard Beer by Rogue. The beer is made with the yeast strain from brewmaster John Maier’s beard. It’s actually a super clean tasting beer and goes to show you can ferment anything with wild yeast.

Scratch Chanterelle Biere De Garde

Scratch Chanterelle Biere De Garde
Scratch

Derek Gold, director of brewing operations at WeldWerks in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 6.5%

Average Price: $24 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

My pick is Scratch Brewing Chanterelle Biere De Garde. This French farmhouse-style beer is brewed with chanterelle mushrooms foraged from the woods surrounding the brewery. It’s malty, earthy, and funky with notes of fresh apricot, toffee, and cracked peppercorns. It’s a must-try if you get the opportunity.

Big Alice Jalapeno Rye

Big Alice Jalapeno Rye
Big Alice

Jeremy Cowan, owner and founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park, New York

ABV: 7.1%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

The Jalapeno Rye from Big Alice in New York City is a rocking combo of unpredictable flavors that still shines after several years of production. It’s a crowd favorite of elegant “extreme” beer. It’s a super tasty adventure.

Prairie BOMB!

Prairie BOMB!
Prairie Artisan Ales

Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and brewmaster at 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco

ABV: 13%

Average Price: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

This imperial stout has so much going on and there is definitely a lot to unpack. Rich dark malt aromas with sweet toffee notes are what you would expect from an imperial stout. BOMB! takes it a step further as it’s brewed with coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers. The flavor of this beer is where it really opens up with spicy, pepper notes, chocolate, and soft vanilla tones. For such a big beer at 13 percent ABV, it finishes dry with bittersweet raisin notes.

Urban South Toasted Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie

Urban South Toasted Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie
Urban South

Erika Wojno, US director of marketing at BrewDog in Columbus, Ohio

ABV: 6.1%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

I’d have to go with Urban South’s Toasted Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie Fruited Sour. Totally unexpected flavor combination, but the pumpkin and spices bring a nice savory character, all balanced by the nice sweetness from the toasted marshmallow.

Cantillon Gueuze

Cantillon Gueuze
Cantillon

Patrick Ware, co-founder and head of brewing operations and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Phoenix, Arizona

ABV: 5.5%

Average Price: $22 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

This beer is so unique in that it is nearly impossible to replicate exactly. The unique character they achieve has been derived through a painstakingly long aging process in seasoned puncheon barrels over one to three years. This is only achievable after undergoing an archaic hot-side production process which is pivotal to creating a complex wort base for the bacteria living in the wood to flourish. The tart, musty, earthy, yet bright aromatic complexity in this beer is what brewers dream of if they have ever caught the lambic bug.

Riggs American Lager

Riggs American Lager
Riggs

Jack Hendler, co-owner of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $12.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

It’s a pretty cool story. They grow their own corn and barley on their own farm to make this American lager. I think it’s a very unique story and process that they actually use their own ingredients. They even worked with a local university to create an heirloom variety of corn that works really well for this style of beer. It’s crisp and hits all the right notes for an American lager.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Goose Island

Luis G. Brignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Co. in Miami

ABV: 14.4%

Average Price: $14 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

I’ve always been a fan of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stouts. I think what those brewers have done and continue to do is amazing. They really spearheaded the barrel aging process with beer since way back when, and they’ve done an awesome job keeping the standards up throughout the years. This year it’s tasting really good. I love the use of the bourbon barrels. I’m a big bourbon fan, and the beautiful thick full body of the beer with the vanilla and oak flavors make for an unbeatable experience. This is a beer that’s played as an inspiration to some of our barrel-aging beers we’ve done through the years and one that I look forward to every year. Also, this is one of those styles that ages really well and can continue to develop as you age it. It’s fun doing verticals and opening different vintages at once and comparing the different notes among the same beer. It’s always a nice treat.

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock
Schneider Weisse

Todd Bellmyer head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $7 for a 330ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock is one of my all-time favorite beers ever. Besides the hilarious invention of the style (a German brewer accidentally left a barrel of bock outside and freeze-distilled it), it boasts a high ABV and an enhanced flavor of sweet raisin, brown bread, and caramel.

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