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.
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Brewer: Three Floyds Brewing
Style: Imperial Stout
Chaotic release parties are becoming a regular feature of the craft beer scene. Indiana's Three Floyds' Brewing got ahead of the curve in 2004 and institutionalized the madness around the release of its Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. The resulting party has evolved into an annual full-fledged death metal festival: Dark Lord Day.
Dark Lord Day attracts thousands every year, and it's the only time and place that Dark Lord beer is available for sale. Craft beer fans for hundreds of miles around flock to the festival. A swap and share culture has taken root, and fans typically show up with mixed six packs of vintage Dark Lord bottles as well as other rare beers from far-flung breweries. After trying various ways to satisfy the throngs that show up on Dark Lord Day, the brewery has settled upon the sales of non-transferable tickets. They sell 6,000 of them, and each allows the festival goer the opportunity to buy a limited number of bottles.
The beer is a 15 percent-alcohol Russian Imperial Stout that's sold in a 22-ounce bomber bottle that has had its cap dipped in a colored wax. Each year the wax color changes, a handy way to discern the vintage. The trademarks of the style would lead us to expect a massively roasty, chocolaty beer with significant warmth, a viscous mouthfeel, and some residual sweetness.