On Friday evening, while tucking into some lovely brews with Cask Beerouac, Red Flanders, Ginger Ale, and Joey Joe Joe, Cask threw down the gauntlet when he asked all present to “Pick five beers.”

The question itself is a little enigmatic. Pick the best five beers on Earth? Pick your favorite five beers? What’s the best approach? We all agreed that the point was to pick five beers to satisfy all of your beerly needs. Based on that caveat, the question requires some careful thought. You need a variety of styles and flavors. You need everyday brews and special occasion brews. You need dark and light…hoppy and malty…and everything in between. Whittling down the hundreds (thousands?) of beers I’ve sampled over the years to a mere five is a seemingly impossible task. But I think I’ve come up with a reasonable response:

1. Orval: Perhaps my all-time favorite brew, this Belgian Pale Ale is the five-tool player of the beer world. It’s as refreshing and hoppy as a great IPA (the only Trappist that is dry-hopped), but still has the classic Belgian farmhouse funk and slightly “wild” flavors I love. An everyday beer AND a special occasion beer. Perfect.
2. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA: Doc and I “reviewed” this beer a few weeks back. It’s the quintessential American IPA with a bold, gorgeous hop profile and unlimited drinkability. I’m not selecting any true “hop-bombs” on my list, so this is going to be the brew I reach for when I need some humulus lupulus in my diet.
3. Deschutes The Abyss: I clearly need a massive Imperial Stout in my “Five”, but selecting just one was maddening. At the end of the day, The Abyss has a slight edge (for me) over the equally ridiculous KBS, Hunahpu, Speedway Stout and Dark Lord for its epic smoothness and sublime nose.
4. Cigar City Guava Grove: I wanted a “sour” on this list since I’ve loved beers in that vein ever since I cracked into my first Monk’s Cafe so many years ago. The Monk’s is a good choice as is the Duchesse de Bourgogne, but the Guava Grove is a near-perfect example from one of the great American ale factories that Wifey and I both absolutely loved. Super-complex and mouth-puckering, this is a wholly refreshing “big” beer.
5. Rochefort 10: I’ll just go ahead and say it…this might be the best beer on Earth.

Alehead Nation, the ball is now in your court. Pick five beers.

30 thoughts on “PICK FIVE

  1. 1. Cigar City Jai Alai- My everyday, desert island-worthy, super duper hoppy-floral IPA of record.
    2. Bell’s Hopslam Ale- When I need to turn up the volume a bit.
    3. Founders KBS- Some say it’s overrated. I say it tastes like chocolate-coffee-bourbon ambrosia. So bite me.
    4. Oskar Blues’ Gordon- My everyday Imperial Red Ale. Wait, I already have an everyday beer? Well now I have two.
    5. Saison Dupont- To change the pace a little bit, and prove I’m not %100 ugly American.

  2. My list needs no introduction to this crowd:
    1. IPA: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
    2. Sour: Russian River Consecration
    3. Stout: Founders KBS
    4. Red: Oskar Blues Gordon/G’Knight
    5. Wild: Lagunitas Lil Sumpin’ Wild

  3. Both great lists. I think there’s something to this “Pick Five” concept…both of your lists say a lot about you guys as beer drinkers. Slouch has obviously become a huge hop-head (three very hop-forward beers out of five) while the Commander focuses a bit more on variety. And I’m happy to see the Gordon on both your lists…I hated keeping an Imperial Red off of mine, but sacrifices must be made.

    My only quibble is Slouch’s claim that some people say the KBS is over-rated? Who are these heretics? Can we burn them?

  4. Fine fine…but where does this so-called “straw man” live? I must find him so I can burn him! He’s made of straw, so I suspect he will alight most rapidly.

  5. i tried to make a list but i failed. i’m still struggling with this question. i can’t come up with a top 5 that doesn’t make me angry because of all the things that are left off. slouch’s list is shockingly similar to some mental lists i came up with when considering it the other night.

    i will say, however, that founders red’s rye and gordon are almost certainly going to be on any list i come up with. or are they? do they overlap too much? damnit! if i had to kick one off i guess it would be gordon since red’s rye brings some beloved rye to the party. i’m going to have to think on this some more.

  6. 1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
    2. Deschutes the Abyss
    3. Cigar City Vuja De/Lost Abbey Avant Garde
    4. Founders Red’s Rye
    5. Troegs Nugget Nectar
    Bonus: Good People Hitchhiker IPA (unfortunately Jason doesn’t brew it very often)
    HopSlam lost out to Pliny ’cause Larry’s been a real bitch lately.
    I also cheated on 3, but screw it, this is an impossible task.

  7. Nugget Nectar is the first one on anyone’s list that surprised me. Well, I guess I’m surprised that Slouch Sixpack would even touch a saison. Aren’t you supposed to be the “beer-swillin’, burger-grillin’, ‘possum-killin’ everyman amongst the Aleheads”? ‘Cuz that’s what your bio says…

  8. A year in the “shit” with the Aleheads can change a man. Slouch went from being a stout-in-a-plastic-bucket-chugger to a hibiscus-infused-saison-in-a-chalice-sipper in no time.

    Though as many Aleheads can attest, drastically changing Slouch’s persona isn’t very hard.

  9. You guys missed the malt category!

    1. Prestige stout- KBS
    2. Barleywine- Free State Old Bacchus
    3. Lawnmower beer- Ska Modus Hoperandi
    4. IPA- Stone Sublime Self-righteous. Yes, I went black.
    5. Red- Cigar City Tocobaga

    I would like to point out that some would also call 3 and 5 IPAs.

  10. Well, perhaps the reason some folks count KBS as overrated is that they’ve not had the opportunity. Poor souls…Count me as one. Sooooo, here’s a list for those with a different group of beer distributors to deal with:
    1 – Terrapin Wake ‘N Bake – ’tain’t no better Oatmeal Stout made. Period.
    2 – Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot
    3 – Terrapin Hopsecutioner
    4 – Flying Dog Raging Bitch
    5 – BIG HOPPY MONSTER – Turtle Power !!!!

  11. 1. Orval
    2. Lagunitas Maximus IPA
    3. Rasputin Imperial Stout
    4. Seattle Maritime’s Jolly Roger Christmas Ale
    5. Russian River Consecration

    Oh, how quickly we bail on winter warmers and scotch ales when the weather turns nice.

  12. In no order:
    1) Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti – For some reason I want to drink this forever more than I want to drink Abyss forever, which surprised nobody more than me.
    2) Duvel – Bottled, not the green one (which I haven’t had)
    3) Full Sail Session Black Lager – You know, for sessions
    4) Upright Brewing Four Play – Sour saison brewed with cherries

    Screw this. I can’t do it. I’ve already changed this list like five times, and I still can’t finish it. Pelican Doryman’s Dark Ale instead of Full Sail Session Black Lager? Abyss instead of Oak Aged Yeti? Chimay Blue instead of Duvel? And I absolutely can’t pick an IPA (though the one Cigar City Jai Alai I’ve had comes close). My powers are weak.

  13. 1. Haandbryggeriet’s Odin’s Tipple- oily & chocolatey, Triple R’s Kryptonite
    2. Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale- it’s just so damn good
    3. St. Bernardus ABT 12- bready, malty goodness
    4. Black Fox Brewing’s Somnombulence- vanilla bean, caramel & Sumatran coffee- heaven in a growler
    5. Ska Pinstripe Red Ale- my hop/malt go-to beer

    Aiiiyaa! This was hard. I have to add Fort Collins Imperial Black IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Left Hand Fade to Black II, & Yeti Imperial Stout… & there’s more. Oh gods, there’s always more!

  14. Hey man, I’m workin’ on half a pot of coffee & still ain’t awake yet. I wasn’t even consciously aware I made that a Colorado dominated beer list. If it makes you feel better, I forgot to put Sam Adams Chocolate Bock, Nøgne Ø Imperial Dunkle Wit, Mikkeller Black Hole Stout, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Spaten Optimator, Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout & DIPA, Xingu schwarzbier, Lagunitas Maximus, Franziskaner Dunkel, Green Flash’s West Coast IPA, Elysian Bifrost, Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale, Boulevard’s Dark Truth Stout, Santa Fe State Pen Porter, Samichlaus Helles & Wynchwood’s Hobgoblin (when it smells like wet dog, it’s just right).

    *pants* me brain feels like its been stuffed into an MP5 magazine & shot its load in Siberia… I’m spent. Need more coffee…

  15. I think I have to disagree with you BeerBanker (at least quasi-respectfully). Terrapin makes a quality brew no doubt, but for my money I have to go with Good People’s Coffee Oatmeal Stout with a slight edge. I’m extremely biased though…which just means correct.

  16. I’ll play tiebreaker and agree with BeerBanker. Good People’s COS is delicious, but I’d pick the Wake ‘n’ Bake in a head-to-head. Of course, if Good People starts canning their COS and making it available year-round, all bets are off.

    Thanks for the link, Jim! I wasn’t clever enough to add the conceit of a zombie apocalypse or nuclear winter, but the premise is exactly the same. It’s an amazingly difficult question to answer. When you can only pick five beers, you have to eliminate entire styles and favorite breweries. Fortunately, we’ll never have to actually deal with any such scenario…

    Or will we?! Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

  17. The only way I can do this is to put very little thought into it. If I think about it, I know I’ll get mad. Here’s my quick list of variety meets everyday needs meets can’t live without.

    1. De Dolle Stille Nacht – If I woke up tomorrow and there was no Stille Nacht in this world, my life would feel a little less than full. This is the only beer I can say that about

    2. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid – The definition of West Coast Double IPA. None better. Period.

    3. Founders Centennial IPA – Tough call here. I want to add the Sculpin because it’s one of the best IPA’s ever made, but Founders just speaks to me. Still might be my favorite beer in the world

    4. Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus – Have you had it? If you have you’ll understand

    5. Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale – Best brown ale ever brewed? Sure, I’ll add this to the list

  18. OK, here is my team… what do you think?

    Rasputin Imperial stout; North coast brewing Co.

    Hopslam, Bells


    Double Bastard, Stone Brewery

    Raison D’Etre, Founders

    There it is!!!!!!

  19. Resie: Anything in Growler make list!

    As I have no need to limit myself to five or five hundreds of beers, let me tells you what Karls list is.

    1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Karl does not have to look for it, it seems to find him wherever he goes and is the cause of 90% of the sexual satusfaction in his younger life. If your list lacks a beer to drown in, you need a #6.

    2. Fraziskaner Weissbier – Despite having German sounding name, Karls hates things that are German, except for this beer which has all of the best qualities of a Weissbier that he likes – sour, crisp, murky, dark. Yes, he also prefers dark meats in turkey and Berlin girls.

    3. Chelsea Brewing Company Barleywine – Part of this stupid exercise is to put beer on list that is hard to get. This one is hard to get unless you live in manhattan. It is brewed on site at a sports complex on the west side highway primarily to serve internally. Karl legitimately loves it, maybe because complex has no helipad and I does not go there.

    4. Brooklyn Pilsner – Karl in love with this beer and does not care who walks into bathroom while he’s expressing it. Is better pilsner than Victory, Avery and even but Brooklyn brewery Lager taste like horse sweats and pennant ale makes opera as interesting as pornography (and is not!) and their dark beers are like ashtray margaritas, they make a great pilsner.

    5. Forent Saison Forent – Karl took a bottle of this from me the first week he was employed. I took his pinky ring with finger. We are friends now, but he has own fridge.

  20. Yes, Raison is from Dog fish… thanks for the correction.. oh, thanks Sixpack for the Imperial Red Ale pick – tired it, loved it.. but the cost is steep.

    You people should do a forum on the most expensive beers at the locel store or a regional comparision just to see who pays what.

  21. Founders Harvest Ale
    Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
    Founders KBS
    Founders Breakfast Stout
    The Bruery Rugbrod

  22. Well Good Sir Cask, Having not had the pleasure (see note about freakin’ distributors) of the Good People’s Coffee Oatmeal Stout or any Good People’s libations, I’m always willing to entertain the possibility of a new and tastier brew just over the state line… And for an odd bit, my wife claims that the Tenfidy I am currently inbibing was too bitter for her taste !?! Bitter ? It’s like liquid dessert to me…And she loves my IPA’s…anybody else have weird taste comparisons of big brews ?

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