The NFL playoffs begin this weekend and run until the Super Bowl on February 3. First off, sorry Giants and Lions fans. Your return ticket to the postseason was apparently lost in the mail. But we’re sure some of you are planning to watch these athletic contests, hopefully with plenty of beer involved. Here are 20 craft beers to seek out.
1. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace This is one of our favorite release from Brooklyn Brewery. The namesake Japanese hop gives this hazy, dirty-gold saison the bright bouquet of lemons and a slight but pleasing buttery flavor. Plenty of floral, peppery flavors keep the vigorously carbonated Sorachi grounded, helping it close out crisp.
2. Narragansett Porter Though once close to death, the classic Rhode Island brand has had a revival in recent years thanks to beers like this terrific winter seasonal. The deep-black brew is topped by a luscious tan head and boasts a bouquet of coffee and milk chocolate. The porter drinks crisp and creamy, with a touch of roast and hop bitterness to balance out the cocoa.
3. Surly Brewing Coffee Bender
For each batch of Minnesota-based Surly’s Coffee Bender, the porter–brown ale hybrid is cold-steeped with micro-batches of locally roasted Guatemalan coffee beans, creating a malty, robust easy-drinker with a lingering hop finish and barely any bitterness.
4. Bear Republic Brewing Hop Rod Rye
Rev your engines with this deeply amber ale with a thick, tan head and lacing as sticky as cotton candy. The hard-charging hoppy, floral aroma—citrus, pine—contains hints of caramel and spice. Taste-wise, a sweet-spicy profile and an earthy finish balance the bitterness out.
5. Golden Road Brewing Point the Way IPA
Compared to San Diego and San Francisco, Los Angeles has long lagged behind when it comes to craft beer. That’s why I was so pleased to discover Golden Road on my last swing through L.A. My favorite is this low-alcohol IPA (just 5.2 percent ABV) with a pleasing aroma of peaches and passion fruit.
6. Sixpoint Sweet Action The Brooklyn-based brewery is acclaimed for its highly hopped creations, but for pure drinkability I like to turn to Sweet Action. Sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans, the ale presents a cloudy amber hue and a sweet nose with bright, fresh notes of grass and citrus. The beer tastes of toasted bread, with a luscious mouthfeel and a bit of bitterness to boot.
7. Blue Point RastafaRye Ale This long-running Long Island craft brewery scores a touchdown with this excellent rye-dosed ale. The bronze-red brew presents a scent that mixes citrus with just-clipped grass and rye bread. These soft flavors mostly balance out on the palate, though hoppy bitterness wins out, trailed closely by sweet malt and sharp rye.
8. Founders Breakfast Stout A double chocolate, coffee and oatmeal imperial stout. We hear this modern classic is great for breakfast, but probably better to wait for the kickoff.
9. Great Divide Brewing Company Titan IPA An impressively well-balanced and drinkable IPA, with a high ABV and heavy citrus and caramel malt flavors.
10. Tröegs Brewing Company Troegenator Double Bock An amber version of the classic German style of malty lager. The high ABV is hidden well under layers of sweet dark fruits.
11. Deschutes Brewery Chainbreaker White IPA Though the beer is named after a rugged mountain-bike race in central Oregon, Chainbreaker is a smooth journey across a landscape of citrus, sweet orange peel and coriander.
12. Three Floyds Gumballhead The crisp, refreshing brew is made with heaps of red wheat and plenty of Amarillo hops. Their fragrant, citrusy notes make this cloudy, lightly bittered brew an intoxicating treat.
13. Green Flash Rayon Vert The team at San Diego’s Green Flash spent four years devising the recipe for Rayon Vert (translation: “Green Flash”), a hop-forward Belgian-style pale ale dosed with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. Inside the bottle these microbes go to work, creating a bone-dry, appealingly funky character backed by the crisp, delightful effervescence you adore in Champagne.
14. Arcadia Sky High Rye The unfiltered American pale ale pours a golden sunrise, releasing a brilliant perfume of fresh-squeezed citrus and cut pine needles. Though the aroma reads as an IPA, the floral profile is grounded by sweet malt, and the rye provides rogue notes of white pepper.
15. Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils Low in alcohol, all-malt Little Yella is big in taste, with a scent of squeezed citrus mingling with spicy, tingling hops and just-baked bread.
16. Tallgrass Brewing Buffalo Sweat What’s Buffalo Sweat? For this Kansas brewery, it’s a knockout milk stout. Loads of roasted barley provide Buffalo with a deep brown hue, while a dose of cream sugar makes the stout smooth, rich and oh-so sippable.
17. Avery Brewing Joe’s Premium American Pilsner With a zesty and floral aroma, Joe drinks prickly and crisp, with a light body, lingering hop bite and serious thirst-quenching skills.
18. 21st Amendment Brewery Marooned On Hog Island This San Francisco oyster stout comes in a 12-ounce can and packs an imperial punch of 7.9 percent alcohol by volume. Cola colored with a low head of foam, the beer was made with shells from the local Hog Island Oyster Farm. The stout is rich and smoky, and with — maybe — a faint briny sauciness.
19. Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout At 5.5 percent ABV, this one, made in Maryland with whole oysters from Rappahannock River Oysters, in Virginia, drinks like a traditional stout — roasty, toasty, delicious and malty, with a lovely butter-toffee finish as the bitterness fades. The oyster, as many of us know, is a faintly flavored creature, and its effects in the Pearl Necklace seem to add up to little more than a great beer name.
20. Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale Husband-and-wife team Mark and Leslie Henderson (guess again—she’s the brewer) head Lazy Magnolia, Mississippi’s first craft brewery. Leslie focuses on Southern ingredients such as roasted pecans, which give the amber-toned ale a nicely nutty character. It’s better than you think.
Compiled by Joshua M. Bernstein and Alastair Bland