Top 25 Beers 2011

The domestic craft beer boom is still in full swing, and there is a growing interest in imports. That’s what made the selection of our Top 25 Beers so difficult. The beers presented on the following pages are among the best- reviewed selections we tasted over the past 12 months, exhibiting extraordinary quality at prices that still represent affordable luxury.

The list is all about balance—the balance of countries, brands, styles, prices and production sizes. This year’s Number One beer is a perfect balance of all the elements considered when compiling this list: high score, reasonable pricing, brand buzz, hot style and superb availability. In addition, however, you’ll discover a couple of high- scoring items here that might not be distributed to your area or are extremely limited in production; these are beer treasures that are definitely worth the hunt.

Grab your favorite cold one and turn the page to discover the best that this year’s reviews had to offer.

Download the Full List in PDF Form

#25
92
points

Baladin Isaac

  1. $18
This Italian wheat ale brewed with spices gives the traditional Belgian offerings some fierce competition. The medium-intense nose offers aromas of raw bread dough, soft banana and delicate spice. Full and creamy but balanced by assertive carbonation, the almost chewy mouthfeel is loaded with flavors of cereal, sweet citrus rind, jasmine florals and coriander that…  — L.B.  (4/1/2011)
#24
92
points

Full Sail Black Gold Imperial Stout Bourbon Barrel Aged Brewmaster Reserve 2011

  1. $12
Although the label promises a “hint of oak,” it’s the defining characteristic of this beer. Aged in Bourbon barrel casks for 10 months, this is actually quite the oak bomb, with intense notes of Bourbon-soaked vanilla beans, sweet spice, cigar tobacco and roasted cocoa nibs that infuse the soft prune and dried black berry fruit accents. Chewy and full, this is a…  — L.B.  (11/15/2011)
#23
92
points

Goose Island Fleur Belgian Style Ale

  1. $8
Though not a fruit beer, this herbed pale ale was blended with hibiscus and hombucha tea. Flowery phenols start you off, supported by notes of peach, tea leaves, soft sweet spice and bready malt. The taste is more of the same but with a bit more of an acidic kick, finishing with an oily citrus flavor. Red fruit, caramel and a soft wild funk round out this complex…  — L.B.  (6/1/2011)
#22
92
points

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA

  1. $6
An intense and well-balanced brew with strong hop-driven notes of grapefruit rind and pressed pine needles against a backdrop of caramel malt and fresh-baked bread. The full-bodied and round mouth is quite bitter and astringent, with powerful resiny hop flavors along with a touch of woody spice and more citrus pithiness. Definitely a good choice for those who like…  — L.B.  (11/1/2011)
#21
92
points

Karl Strauss Blackball Belgian-style IPA

  1. $8
This IPA pours a bright orange-gold color with a significant frothy white head that lingers. Fresh stone fruit and floral hops immediately waft out of the glass, while secondary notes of whole green peppercorns and faint sweet spice are discovered upon deeper nosing. The mouth is big and full but with all elements in check as the juicy fruit character mingles…  — L.B.  (11/1/2011)

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