This September, embrace the upgrade with us: Make your eating and drinking better, faster and stronger.
Whether it's brewing with unexpected ingredients or using innovative techniques, brewers are constantly exploring new ways to get more—and different—flavors into beer. One of the most common moves is to take a familiar base beer and upgrade it with a twist. Sometimes that means adding new varieties of juicy, fruit-filled hops. Other times, it's the addition of reinforcements like coffee, maple syrup or Luxardo cherries.
Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing says that a good base beer is a springboard for experimentation and development. "A good base beer has many layers of flavors that you can play with and that can be improved upon," he says, while conceding that many beer variants are simply marketing gimmicks. "I actually want to see where I can take the recipe, not just add a bunch of stuff to make a new beer to sell," he says. "It's always about trying to improve upon the beer."
Here are five of our favorite base beers and their jazzed-up variations.
Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose
Base Beer: Anderson Valley's peculiarly named sour ale, The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose, is a bracing and refreshing summer chugger brewed with wheat, salt and Lactobacillus. It's available April through October.
The Upgrade: From October through April, the team brews the same base beer but ferments it with the addition of blood oranges, creating the tangy, citrusy Blood Orange Gose. The augmented version is richer and more perfumed than its progenitor while still preserving that beer's refreshing, thirst-quenching qualities. Available October through April; $10 for a six-pack
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Variants
Base Beer: Every year on Black Friday, Goose Island releases its hotly anticipated (and extremely limited-edition) Bourbon County Brand Stout, an intensely oaky, chocolaty and smoky behemoth of a beer.
The Upgrade: The brewery concurrently releases several even rarer variants of the stout that day, each enhanced with flavors and ingredients that change from year to year. One of the most coveted is the Proprietor's variant, which this year is spiked with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, toasted pecans and guajillo peppers. Others include a coffee variant made with Intelligentsia cold brew and a rye variant aged in rye barrels with blackberries, Luxardo cherries and sea salt. Available beginning November 27; $9 for a 500ml bottle
Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's
Base Beer: American craft beer pioneer Oskar Blues are the guys who made it OK to put specialty beer in cans. Their flagship Dale's Pale Ale is easily one of the most recognizable beers on the market—an easy drinking, thoroughly American hoppy pale ale.
The Upgrade: Doubling down on the success of Dale's, Oskar Blues introduced Deviant Dale's, an 8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) IPA. Not only is the beer more aromatic and more aggressively hopped, the can is 60 percent bigger. $3 for a 19.2-ounce royal pint
Jack's Abby Kiwi Rising
Base Beer: This lager-only brewery from Massachusetts specializes in hoppy India pale lagers. Mass Rising is its double IPL that's loaded with citrusy and dank American hops.
The Upgrade: The tweak here is Kiwi, but not kiwifruit. Instead, it refers to the addition of all New Zealand-grown hops, like Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy, which lend tropical aromas of passion fruit, lemon, guava, and gooseberry. Available November to December; $5 for a 500ml bottle
Evil Twin Molotov Lite
Base Beer: Reversing the impulse to create a bigger beer from a smaller one, Evil Twin takes its Molotov Cocktail—an enormous 13 percent ABV imperial IPA withl mouth-numbing bitterness and sharp, astringent hops—and makes a smaller beer.
The Upgrade: At 8 percent, Molotov Lite may be a downgrade in terms of ABV—"lite" here is very much a relative term—but it's an upgrade in flavor and palatability. The smaller version is just more enjoyable all around—fruitier and mellower, not to mention much more portable (it comes in tallboys). Available year-round; $12 for a four-pack
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