The American stout style is typified by bold hop flavors and aromas that keep pace with a rising level of alcohol, chocolate, and roast flavors. Sonoma County's Bear Republic makes one of our favorites. There's always a risk that hoppy flavors will clash with high levels of roast (which is why black IPAs are so often a train wreck), but Bear Republic makes grapefruity American hops sing happily along with chocolate, caramel, and roasty malts. Big Bear Black is also powerful, pushing up to the edges of Imperial Strength at 8.1 percent. [bearrepublic.com]