With limited-release beers attracting rock concert–style lines at shops carrying them, wildly expensive resale markets, and near hysteria, it's easy to get swept up in the hype for every new quadruple-hopped pale ale and ridiculously strong stout. More hops, or a few months in bourbon barrels, generally makes an awesome beer, but not every iteration is worth your precious time and cash. Here are 11 of the best rare beers in America that are worth tracking down.
RELATED: The 100 Best Beers in the World
Bourbon County Stout Rare
Brewer: Goose Island Beer Company
Style: Imperial Stout
We're fans of Goose Island's Bourbon County beers. The introduction of Bourbon County Stout in 1992 inspired craft breweries across the country to revive barrel-aging programs that had been abandoned since the introduction of stainless steel to the brewing process. Over the years, Goose Island has added new beers to the Bourbon County portfolio, including a coffee stout and a barleywine.
While the base beers change with each variety, the approach remains the same. They brew superhigh-alcohol beers in the range of 15 percent for yearlong aging in barrels that formerly housed Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Over the course of the year, the beer absorbs vanilla and coconut notes from the oak as well as bourbon flavor from the barrel's previous resident. All the Bourbon County creations are a sensation and attract long lines at participating retailers every Black Friday.
The rarest of the Bourbon County beers, though, is called simply Bourbon County Stout Rare. The base beer is the same rich imperial stout that comprises the Bourbon County Stout, but rather than aging the beer for one year in a Buffalo Trace barrel, Rare is put down in 35-year-old Heaven Hill barrels for two years.