Oskar Blues Gordon 8.7 percent ABV Imperial Red/Double IPA, about $10 per four-pack This Colorado-craft canned beer was a clear favorite of tasters. It also sparked a debate about its strong marijuana smell and possible subliminal messaging on the can: “can ’o bliss” sounds an awful lot like cannabis. Once people accepted that it was hops they were smelling, this brew was very well liked for the intensely floral, herbal, and hoppy aromas and surprisingly easy drinkability: rich, smooth, and pleasantly bitter.
Rogue Double Dead Guy 9 percent ABV Strong Ale, about $10 per 750-milliliter bottle Tasters thought this Oregon brew was clean and crisp, “kind of like a rubber eraser,” and liked its malty flavor followed up with a bitter IPA-like finish. Refreshing enough to even work as a summer beer, noted one taster.
Flying Dog Double Dog 11.5 percent ABV Double Pale Ale, about $10 per four-pack This beer from Maryland-based brewer Flying Dog was found to be balanced and seemed lighter-bodied than some of the others we tried, despite packing the higher ABV. Tasters found it to be apricot-y, hoppy, slightly malty, bright, and sharp. It “goes down round,” said one taster. Bonus: Illustrator Ralph Steadman does all the labels for the company’s beers.
Avery The Czar 10.82 percent ABV Imperial Stout, about $7 per 22-ounce bottle A favorite among the darker beers we sampled, the Czar “smells of buttery sweet fruit, almost like buttery pears,” and “tastes smooth and dense,” said a taster. Despite being sweet and heavy, said another taster, it feels like you could actually have more than a few sips. Others liked the fruity, coffee, and chocolate flavors and smells, as well as the lingering flavor.
Dogfish Head World Wide Stout 18 percent ABV Imperial Stout, about $8 per 12-ounce bottle Despite an “overwhelming banana odor,” tasters liked this super-high-alcohol stout from the Dogfish Head brewery out of Delaware. There was near unanimous surprise at how smooth-drinking it was for being so boozy. “Tastes like toasted molasses, very warming,” said one taster; another was reminded of the classic bananas-and-chocolate flavor combo.
Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball 8.83 percent ABV Strong Ale, about $10 per six-pack While “No actual eyeballs can actually be found in the beer,” tasters did find a nice burnt caramel taste, good carbonation, and a “stouty meets hoppy” flavor that they liked. “It felt like root beer when it first touched my lips, nice, refreshing,” said one.