Beer and liquor have always been an important part of our culture—especially pop culture. We’ve got movie-themed bars (like NYC’s Will Ferrell-themed Stay Classy New York), and cult-classic movie quotes imagined in cocktails and TV shows that inspire their own liege of cocktails (looking at you, Mad Men). In recent decades, craft brewers—particularly in the U.S.—have quietly begun a revolution, pushing new extremes with the way people drink and think about beer. From double IPAs to barrel-aged beers that soak up flavor for months, finding the best beers in the world is no easy task.
We’re starting to see dedication to craft brewing that rivals Europe’s enthusiasm for wine. With a helping hand from realbeer.com, we’ve highlighted the best beers in the world, breaking down 10 different styles and nominating the top five in each. Beer freak or not, these need to be on your bucket—or pint—list.
The 50 Best Beers in the World
1. Pliny the Elder
Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA
The stuff of legends, this double IPA can be a hard find, but is arguably one of the best beers in the world. It’s named for the ancient Roman naturalist “Pliny the Elder,” who first studied the hop plant. The Russian River brewers in Santa Rosa, California, keep supply tight to ensure freshness, but if you can get your hands on the Elder, a world of well-balanced malt, hop, and citrus is sure to be a mouth-watering experience you won’t soon forget.
2. 60 Minute Dogfish
Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE
From the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware, this IPA is hopped with 60 different Northwest coast hop flowers over the course of a 60-minute boil (hence the name). Needless to say, this IPA is super hop forward with notes of bright lemon, pine, and cedar.
3. Bell’s Hopslam Ale Michigan
Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI
A lot of time and precision hopping goes into this aromatic double IPA. Six carefully selected northwestern hop varietals are added as the brew process unfolds, finally culminating in a “dry hop” (adding hop flowers after the beer has cooled from the cooking process), bestowing a slight bitter, flowery finish to the beer. You’ll also find hints of grapefruit, honey, stone fruit, and delicate malt.
4. Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, CA
Though it takes its name from a poisonous fish with spikes that can deal a nasty sting, the Sculpin craft IPA couldn’t be more different from the nasty bugger it’s named after. The bite from the hops is gentle, giving way to a more subtle balance of lush fruit—mango, peach, and lemon.
5. Brew Free or Die IPA
21st Amendment Brewery,. San Francisco, CA
Brewed with “some serious West Coast attitude,” according to the maestros over at the 21st amendment Brewery, “this aromatic golden IPA starts with a sucker punch of six different hops to the nose, quickly balanced by a solid malt backbone.”
6. Deschutes The Abyss
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR
The Deschutes brewery is serious about its beer, aging the Abyss in oak barrels to unlock mature bourbon flavors. This imperial stout is for the hardcore beer enthusiast looking for grace in a glass. It’s deep and dark with rich molasses, licorice, vanilla, and cherry.
7. Founder’s Breakfast Stout
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
This stout is a perfect blend of coffee and chocolate flavors, and has an equally elegant balance of sweet and bitter. It’s brewed with flaked oats, Kona coffee, and chocolate. When it comes to the best beers in the world, consider this breakfast in a bottle. Maybe not quite so literally, but it packs more than enough flavor to tickle the imagination.
Guinness Ltd., Dublin, Ireland
An international favorite, Guinness has been soothing souls with its rich, creamy taste for generations. With a velvety run on the tongue and a slight bitter finish, this imported Irish stout has become a staple of any self-respecting pub.
9. Left Hand Milk Stout
Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO
This is a creamy stout that’s supple and dark with a mouth-filling heft. The sweet finish brings back childhood memories of Oreos and milk that’s “udderly delicious.”
10. Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
Cave-aged for a year in oak barrels? Check. Heaps of choco-love and coffee beans? Double check. Whisps of bourbon rising from the bottom of the glass? Checkmate. The wizards of the craft brew world all seem to agree this beer is a giant among men, giving it high marks as one of the best beers in the world, time and time again.
Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
This Belgian-style blonde is the love child of Ommegang Brewery and Brasserie d‘Achouffe in Belgium. Yeast from both sides of the Atlantic are used during the fermentation process to create a wonderfully unique beer. “The nose focuses on distinctive clove aromas, combined with yeasty fruitiness typical of chouffe beers with flavors of ripe fruit, clove, light caramel, non-cloying candy sweetness.”
12. Allagash White
Allagash Brewery, Maine
Coriander and orange zest spice up this twist on a Belgian wheat. It’s fruit forward but not overly sweet. You’ll get a well-rounded pastiche of pear, lemon, and coriander that’s exceptionally refreshing.
13. Lost Coast Great White
Lost Coast Brewery and Cafe, Eureka, CA
The brioche aromas typically found in Belgian-styled beers merge in the Great White to make a blonde with an American pilsner feel. It’s a light, crisp rendition of a witbier. Careful of that first sip, you might not want to stop.
Brouwerij Van Hoegaarden, Hoegaarden, Belgium
The original Belgian white beer from Hoegaarden Belgium dates back to at least the 16th century. The yeasts in this beer yield a fruity flavor akin to bananas, pears, and lemons with hints of wheaty breads, and mild spices like coriander, allspice, and clove. This pairs wonderfully with a lemon slice.
15. Ninkasi Spring Reign
Ninkasi Brewing Co., Eugene, OR
More of a blend of styles, landing somewhere between northwestern pale ale and blonde, the Spring Reign combines toasted malt with hops to make a great session beer to celebrate the warming months and Ninkasi, Babylonian goddess of brewing.
16. Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust
Three Floyd’s Brewing Co., Munster, Indiana
“This intensely hopped pale ale will be one’s only respite after the zombie apocalypse,” so says Three Floyds. But while you’re in the land of the living with functioning taste buds that crave suds not brains, give this single-hop craft original a try. Aromatic, with herbs, flowers and citrus, Three Floyds uses high-quality hops from the Yakima Valley in Washington. It’s a hard pale to find, but well worth the search.
17. Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
Medium-bodied with mild yet fragrant hops, Sierra Nevada is a go-to craft beer that should be readily available at any decent bar or corner store. It’s got a slight bitter finish on the mouth that fades into the other flavors mingling around in the glass. The best beers in the world don’t have to reinvent the wheel; this is a dependable, all-around great pale ale.
18. Arrogant Bastard Ale
Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA
We’re not worthy! If you can’t take the bite in this bottle, then you better go back to shotgunning light brewskis. “You probably won’t like it,” to quote the Arrogant Bastards. It’s “doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.” Arrogance in a bottle, indeed, but hoppy and bold nonetheless.
Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend, VT
Extremely rare, but the reviews seem to unanimously suggest this is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pale ales being brewed in America today. The Brewers at Hill Farmstead chose to immortalize their grandfather who shares the same name. “In his honor, this American pale ale is dutifully crafted from American malted barley, a plethora of American hops, our ale yeast, and water from Edward’s well…aromatic and flowery, with Impressions of citrus and pine.” You might just have to make your way to this sleepy corner of Vermont to taste perfection.
20. Dale’s Pale Ale
Oskar Blues Brewing Co., Lyons, CO
Big bodied with hints of grapefruit and bready malt, Dale’s has more in-your-face hops than your average pale. This is definitely one for the hop-crazy beer lover. And what’s that? It comes in a can, too!
21. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany
This isn’t just one of the best beers in the world, but one of the highest-ranked German wheat beers. Like most Hefeweizens, you’ll find it golden and hazy on appearance with bright fruit and malt on the mouth, and a little dash of honey and cream. The brewers recommend sipping this refreshing beer while munching on the classic Bavarian sausage, weisswurst.
22. Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin’ Ale
Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA
“A truly unique style featuring a strong hop finish on a silky body” is how the Lagunitas brewers describe this beauty. The hops in this brew create a perfect middle ground for admirers of both IPAs and wheat beers.
23. Schneider Weiss
Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, Kelheim, Germany
In 1872 when the Bavarian king decided wheat beer was a fading fad no longer worth the expense, he sold the rights to make the classic style to the Weisse family, marking the beginning of one of the oldest wheat beer breweries in the world. Tasting notes include nutmeg, apple, and clove, with a refreshing start and sour finish.
24. Widmer Hefeweizen
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR.
An American take on the traditional German Hefeweizen from the Widmer Brother’s craft brewery, it’s bigger bodied than traditional hefeweizens with caramel coming through as its distinct flavor twist.
25. Flying Dog in Heat Wheat
Flying Dog Brewery- Frederick, Maryland.
This is a much bolder version of the German tradition that was made to break the back of a summer heat wave. It’s super bready with a big, supple mouth feel; the lemon citrus makes the overall experience satisfyingly refreshing.
26. Victory Prima Pils
Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA
“Prima!” the Victory folks explain, is “a German exclamation of joy.” The Prima Pils is grassy with a dry finish. If your every desire is a crisp beer that acts like a lightweight but drinks like a welter, then the hoppy golden Prima is for you.
North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, CA
“Named for the delicate engravings popularized by 19th-century seafarers,” according to the North Coast brewers, this is an inspired pilsner that maintains an even keel between complexity of flavor and light body. Mildly bitter with hints of floral hoppiness.
28. Keller Pils
Southampton Publick House, Southhampton, NY
The brewers add a new hop variety every year to change up this take on a classic German pilsner. Keller Pils is a lazy-day sipper of impeccable quality.
29. Pilsner Urquell
Plzensky Prazdroj, Plzen, Czech Republic
A tried and true Czech pilsner that’s maintained its recipe and reputation for over a century, Urquell is dangerously drinkable. It’s a clear choice for one of the best beets in the world. It’s straw gold in appearance, with tasting notes of sweet corn and biscuits.
30. Pivo Hoppy Pils
Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
By far the hoppiest of the pilsners on our list, the Firestone Walker Brewing Company offers this description: “Hallertau-grown Magnum hops deliver the lupulin foundation while generous amounts of Spalter Select hops bring floral aromatic and spicy herbal notes. As a twist on the traditional pils, we dry hop with German Saphir for a touch of bergamot and lemongrass. A refreshing, light-bodied and hop-driven pils.”
ALES AND PORTERS
31. Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Rogue Ales, Newport, OR
Earning multiple gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival, the name says it all: It’s dark and nutty in flavor, with chocolatey sweetness, and a pleasant malt that lingers. Gentlemen, go nuts.
32. Edmund Fitzgerald
Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, OH
The Great Lakes brewers wanted to add a dash of tragedy to their beer, naming it after the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ship that sunk in Lake Superior in 1975. Why, you ask? Because, according to the brewery, like its depth of color and taste, it’s the “dark brooding type. One sip of this complex, flavorful porter inspires lavish bar napkin poetry and spirited closing-time soliloquies.”
33. Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
This is the flagship beer of the Deschutes brewery, and it’s no surprise why. Its dark ruby color hints at the underlying flavors of chocolate, burnt caramel, and hoppy bitterness. It’s rare for a brewery to showcase a porter—a bold move that suggests it means business.
34. Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale
Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC
The Duck-Rabbit Brewery specializes in full-flavored dark beers. Spiced with Amarillo and Saaz hops, and malted with seven different kinds of grains, this American brown ale has personality. Floral aromas waft out from the first sip, followed by toasty malt notes that end with a bitter finish.
35. Newcastle Brown Ale
The Caledonian Brewery Co. Ltd., Edinburgh, Scotland.
Brewed in Scotland with a big presence on the international market, Newcastle Brown Ale is a bit of a cult classic—and by far the lightest brown ale on our list. Newcastle makes for a great session beer. We give it high marks for maintaining integrity while being a big name beer at the same time.
WHISKEY OR BOURBON BARREL-AGED STOUTS
36. John John Dead Guy Ale
Rogue Ales, Newport, OR
The Rogue whiskey distillery teamed up with its brewery to age Dead Guy Ale for two months in spent whiskey barrels. On top of the yeasty caramel and vanilla, the aging process adds a unique yet subtle oakiness and spice to the John John Dead Guy—similar to what you’d find in a bourbon whiskey or scotch.
37. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
The Bourbon County stout series by Goose Island includes annual limited-edition beers that can be very difficult to get a hold of. Hype aside, they’re still considered some of the best beers in the world (and aged at that). The stout, in particular, stands out as a wunderkind. Coffee beans from Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea are the key to the trademark flavor, lending deep undertones of darker fruit, mocha, and bourbon.
38. DuClaw Retribution
DuClaw Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD
DuClaw Retribution is aged for six months in bourbon barrels, rendering it high in alcohol and flavor. The time it takes to make this well-nurtured imperial stout is well worth it. Thick, creamy, and aromatic, you’re sure to get wafts of espresso and dark chocolate, along with a caramel undertone drawn from the charred whiskey barrels.
39. Avery Hog Heaven
Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO
The Avery hog heaven is dry hopped as it’s aged. “This garnet beauty is a hop lover’s delight,” per Avery Brewing Co. “The intense dry-hop nose and alcohol content are perfectly balanced for a caramel candy-like malt backbone.” With a multi-layered thread of ingredients and flavors, the hog heaven is definitely one to relish.
40. Brooklyn Black Ops
Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
The Brooklyn Brewery crafted this aged beer with more than a little bit of ingenuity. It utilizes champagne fermentation techniques (i.e. it’s re-fermented with champagne yeast after it’s bottled). The end result is a bubbly beer with a fluffy head full of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. We couldn’t not add this to our list of the best beers in the world.
41. Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale
Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
A two-time Great American Beer festival gold medalist, the Red Trolley Ale is copper red with a toasty malt and toffee taste.
42. Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale
Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Green Flash brewers add extra hops to this beer to amp up its kicking power. The result? A beautiful hybrid red IPA with a sweet, malty bite.
43. Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale
Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg, CA
The Bear Republic guys are proud of their work on this one, calling it a “bastardized Scottish style red ale that traces its origins to our home brew roots.” Care and passion show in this red ale packed full of intense, earthy flavors. It’s full-bodied and hoppy with a touch of caramel.
44. St. Arnold Amber
Saint Arnold Amber Ale, Houston, TX
Malted with Caravienne malt from Belgium and hopped with northwestern American ingredients, the St. Arnold Amber draws on some of the best ingredients from around the world to create a well-balanced beer that’s fruity, floral, and tasty.
45. Tröegs Nugget Nectar
Tröegs Brewing Co., Hershey, PA
“Nugget Nectar will take hopheads to Nirvana” say Tröegs brewers. This is another IPA/amber twist that loves to play with the extremes of malty sweetness and bitter hops.
RYES AND PUMPKIN ALES
46. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg, CA
If you’ve never explored the world of rye beers but love IPAs, then this beer is a great place to get started. The brewers describe it as a “high-gravity IPA brewed with 18 percent rye malt. Hop Rod Rye has a floral hop aroma and subtle caramel notes with a slightly earthy, spicy rye character.”
47. Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale
Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI
An American-style pale ale made with rye, Smitten Golden Rye is the perfect brew to brighten up the dark, cold winter months, just when you need it the most. Golden in color and vibrant with citrus, it’s an easy drinker.
48. Founders Red’s Rye
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
This superb rye is super smooth, starting with notes of grapefruit and hop that’s balanced out with caramel malt and spice that’s characteristic of rye beers.
Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, NY
Southern Tier credits the bewitching taste of the Pumking to the power of Halloween spirits. Okay, maybe not so literally, but if you’ve ever tasted this imperial pumpkin ale, you have to admit there’s a little magic at work. A great balance of fall spices go alongside with an upfront pumpkin flavor. It’s almost like taking the first bite of a warm slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. It’s only available in fall, so if you missed it this year, plan to make it one of your first stops next season.
50. Elysian’s The Great Pumpkin
Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle WA
A wide variety of hops and molts are combined with pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. It’s spiced with a classic autumn mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. This is definitely a must-try for pumpkin beer lovers. And while it’s only available in the fall, it’s still one of the best beers in the world.
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