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The World's Best Beers

The World's 15 Best Beers

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Today’s beer industry is dominated by a handful of large macro-brand corporations such as the ‘big four’ brewers: Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, London-listed SABMiller, Heineken, and Denmark's Carlsberg. Between them, they control half of the global beer market.Still mass-market beer sales are . Only “craft beer” from independent breweries is growing, by 11 percent in the United States, with the number of new brewers globally up by 16 percent in 2011 over the previous year.This is backed
Photo: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Today’s beer industry is dominated by a handful of large macro-brand corporations such as the ‘big four’ brewers: Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, London-listed SABMiller, Heineken, and Denmark's Carlsberg. Between them, they control half of the global beer market.

Still mass-market beer sales are falling in Western Europe and the United States.Only “craft beer” from independent breweries is growing, by 11 percent in the United States, with the number of new brewers globally up by 16 percent in 2011 over the previous year.

This is backed up by the consumer experience of the beers. The RateBeer Best 2012annual beer competition was again the largest in the world—more than 140,000 beers from over 12,000 brewers worldwide were tallied. The contest was open to all breweries including the big players, but only craft beers made the top 50.

Unlike other beer contests, the competition largely involves tasting commercial samples, rather than special batches prepared for festivals. A beer's score is based on its percentile rankingamong all beers. Every beer also has a “style” score.

The success of these microbreweries has led to larger breweries lining up to swallow them. In March 2011, Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island, one of the largest American microbrewers.

Craft brewers account for only about five percent of the US market, but that may be changing. Click ahead to experience the world’s most highly rated beers.

By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 10 Feb 2012

15. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

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Brewed by MikkellerStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Copenhagen, DenmarkMikkell Borg Bjergsø is a Danish gypsy brewer, meaning he makes high quality beers crafted from the finest ingredients but doesn’t have his own brewery. Beer Geek Brunch Weasel is an imperial stout brewed at the Nøgne Ø brewing facility in Arendal, Norway. The rich dark ale is made with the world’s most expensive coffee beans, which have been sifted out of the droppings of civet cats. Southeast Asian civet cats eat and digest onl
Photo courtesy: Bernt Rostad

Brewed by Mikkeller
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Copenhagen, Denmark

Mikkell Borg Bjergsø is a Danish gypsy brewer, meaning he makes high quality beers crafted from the finest ingredients but doesn’t have his own brewery. Beer Geek Brunch Weasel is an imperial stout brewed at the Nøgne Ø brewing facility in Arendal, Norway.

The rich dark ale is made with the world’s most expensive coffee beans, which have been sifted out of the droppings of civet cats. Southeast Asian civet cats eat and digest only the choicest berries that are ripe and ready.

These rare coffee beans are strong in taste, highly aromatic and very acidic. There are burnt malt, bitter coffee aromas and flavors on this 10.9 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) stout. The beer is said to have a mellow citrus hop flavor up front that is almost completely overridden by pungent coffee flavors.

14. Fonteinen’s Armand’4 Oude Geuze Lente

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Brewed by 3 FonteinenStyle: Lambic - GueuzeOrigin: Beersel, BelgiumThe Brouwerij Fonteinen uses a blend of one-, two- and three-year-old lambics to make Oude Geuze. At 6 percent ABV, this unfiltered, unpasteurized ale is aged in the bottle for at least a year. Armand’4 is a limited edition beer with only 17,000 bottles made in total. Refermentation takes place in the bottle, giving this ale a bubbly head. The base is 60 percent barley malt and 40 percent unmalted wheat. Wild yeast works spontane
Photo courtesy: Bernt Rostad

Brewed by 3 Fonteinen
Style: Lambic - Geuze
Origin: Beersel, Belgium

The Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen uses a blend of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old lambics to make Oude Geuze. At 6 percent ABV, this unfiltered, unpasteurized ale is aged in the bottle for at least a year. Armand’4 is a limited edition beer with only 17,000 bottles made.

Refermentation takes place in the bottle, giving this ale a bubbly head. The base is 60 percent barley malt and 40 percent unmalted wheat. Wild yeast works spontaneously to ferment the bright pinkish liquid. The beer is said to have aromas of leather, grapes, berries and melon rind. One taster described his experience: “The various flavors seem to pulsate as I work my way through the bottle, with some components asserting more on one sip as compared to another, but always pitch perfect in balance. If there is any flaw in this beer, I am not the person to say so.”

13. Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout

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Brewed by Three Floyds Brewing CompanyStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Munster, Indiana USAThis Russian Imperial Stout from Three Floyds Brewing Company is only available once a year in April on the special Dark Lord Day which takes place at the brewery. With different coloured wax tops’ indicating the year of vintage the beer is brewed with Intelligensia coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar and has a 15 percent ABV. Tasters describe it as sweet and boozy.
Photo courtesy: 3floyds.com

Brewed by Three Floyds Brewing
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Munster, Ind.

This Russian Imperial Stout from Three Floyds Brewing is only available once a year in April on the special Dark Lord Day which takes place at the Indiana brewery. With different colored wax tops indicating the year of vintage, the beer is brewed with Intelligentsia coffee, Mexican vanilla and Indian sugar and has a 15 percent ABV. Tasters describe it as sweet and boozy.

12. Bell’s Expedition Stout

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Brewed by Bells BreweryStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Kalamazoo, Mich.The on-going goal of Bell’s Brewery is to brew “thoughtfully, creatively and artistically,” and its highly rated Expedition Stout is said to tick all three. One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady
Photo courtesy: Anders Wallden

Brewed by Bells Brewery
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Kalamazoo, Mich.

The on-going goal of Bell’s Brewery is to brew “thoughtfully, creatively and artistically,” and its highly rated Expedition Stout is said to tick all three. One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages. It is described as a world-class beer that lives up to the hype.

11. Cigar City Hunahpu's Imperial Stout

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Brewed by Cigar City BrewingStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Tampa, Florida USACigar City Brewing aims to use fresh and local ingredients that reflect the culture and heritage of Tampa Bay. In Mayan myth, Hunahpu gave the gift of cocoa to the Mayan people, thus making it an appropriate name for this beer that is said to taste of chocolate, vanilla and spice. The base recipe is Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov Imperial Stout. However Hunahpu is a richer version aged on pasilla and ancho peppers as well as
Photo courtesy: Jonathan Lo

Brewed by Cigar City Brewing
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Tampa, Fla.


Cigar City Brewing aims to use fresh and local ingredients that reflect the culture and heritage of Tampa Bay. In Mayan myth, the god Hunahpu gave the gift of cocoa to the Mayan people, thus making it an appropriate name for this beer, which is said to taste of chocolate, vanilla and spice.

The base recipe is Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov Imperial Stout. However Hunahpu is a richer version aged on pasilla and ancho peppers as well as vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. “Killer,” “incredible” and “insane” are just some of the words used to describe it by raters.

10. Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss

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Brewed by Deschutes BreweryStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Bend, Oregon USADeschutes Brewery was founded by Gary Fish in 1988 as a small brewpub. By 2010, Deschutes was the fifth-largest craft brewery in the US, riding the craft beer wave on its quality beers. The Abyss is a Special Reserve Series brew available only between December and February. Abyss is an appropriate name, since the beer is viscous and permits absolutely no visibility of light through its dark body. Ingredients include licorice
Photo courtesy: portlandbeer.org

Brewed by Deschutes Brewery
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Bend, Ore.

Deschutes Brewery was founded by Gary Fish in 1988 as a small brewpub. By 2010, Deschutes was the fifth-largest craft brewery in the U.S., riding the craft wave on its quality beers. The Abyss is a special reserve series brew available only between December and February. Abyss is an appropriate name, since the beer is viscous and permits absolutely no visibility of light through its dark body.

Ingredients include licorice and molasses. Thirty-three percent of the beer is aged in French oak barrels and oak bourbon barrels. Said to be extremely rich and complex in taste, with hints of licorice playing over the smooth, oaky flavors.

9. AleSmith’s Speedway Stout

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Brewed by AleSmith Brewing CompanyStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: San Diego, California USAFormed in 1995, Alesmith is an artisan microbrewery that specializes in handcrafted ales in a variety of styles. Speedway Stout is an Imperial Stout that weighs in at an impressive 12 percent ABV. Coffee is added to it to provide a little extra kick, before the beer is aged for a year in bourbon barrels. Jet black, with an off-white head, it starts with a strong coffee and dark chocolate sensation, then fades
Photo courtesy: portlandbeer.org

Brewed by AleSmith Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: San Diego

Formed in 1995, Alesmith is an artisan microbrewery that specializes in handcrafted ales in a variety of styles. Speedway Stout is an imperial stout that weighs in at an impressive 12 percent ABV. Coffee is added to provide a little kick, before the beer is aged for a year in bourbon barrels. Jet black, with an off-white head, it starts with a strong coffee and dark chocolate sensation, then fades to a multitude of toasty, roasty and caramel malt flavors. Warmth from the high alcohol content lightens up the feel.

8. Passionfruit and Dragonfruit Berliner Weisse

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Brewed by Cigar City BrewingStyle: Berliner WeisseOrigin: Tampa, Florida USAOne of the most unique beers in the list and made more exciting by the fact that it was a pilot series and has not yet been released, visually nothing is said to compare to Cigar City’s Passionfruit and Dragonfruit Berliner Weisse. Pouring a vibrant neon pink sample for himself, one RateBeer taster described it as a "Sci Fi beverage.” The aroma is said to be as strange as the color, with a taste and smell of exotic fruit
Photo courtesy: Cigar City Brewing | Facebook

Brewed by Cigar City Brewing
Style: Berliner Weisse
Origin: Tampa, Fla.

One unique beer in the list is made more exciting by the fact that it is a pilot series and has not yet been released. Visually, nothing is said to compare to Cigar City’s Passionfruit and Dragonfruit Berliner Weisse. Pouring a vibrant neon pink sample for himself, one RateBeer taster described it as a "Sci Fi beverage.” The aroma is said to be as strange as the color, with a taste and smell of exotic fruits. Those who have tried it rave about it and say they can’t wait for it to be officially released.

7. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger

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Brewed by Russian River BrewingStyle: Imperial / Double IPAOrigin: Santa Rosa, California USARussian River named its double IPA “Pliny the Elder” after the Roman scholar and naturalist who first named the hops plant and studied it. Pliny the Younger was his adopted son, so it seems fitting for this to be the name of Russian River’s triple IPA. It is almost a true triple IPA, with triple the amount of hops as a regular IPA. This beer is full-bodied, with hop character in the nose and throughout.
Photo courtesy: Sean U

Brewed by Russian River Brewing
Style: Imperial / Triple India Pale Ale
Origin: Santa Rosa, Calif.

Russian River named its double IPA “Pliny the Elder” after the Roman scholar and naturalist who first named the hops plant and studied it. Pliny the Younger was his adopted son, so it seems fitting for this to be the name of Russian River’s triple IPA. It is almost a true triple IPA, with triple the amount of hops as a regular IPA.

This beer is full-bodied, with hop character in the nose and throughout. It is also deceptively well-balanced and smooth. However, due to it being time- and space-consuming and expensive to make, it is only available once a year for two weeks in February. The beer has been known to sell out on the day of release. Consumers deem it to be worth the fuss though, with many claiming to have stood in line for hours to get some.

6. Bell’s Hopslam

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Brewed by Bells BreweryStyle: Imperial / Double IPAOrigin: Kalamazoo, Michigan USABell's Brewery began in 1985 and has grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 100 people over an 18-state area. Coming in sixth, the brewery’s Hopslam starts with six hop varietals added to the brew kettle, and culminates with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops. Selected because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest hops contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit,
Photo courtesy: Edwin Bautista

Brewed by Bells Brewery
Style: Imperial / Double IPA
Origin: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Bell's Brewery began in 1985 and has grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 100 people in 18 states. Coming in sixth, the brewery’s Hopslam starts with six hop varietals added to the brew kettle and culminates with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops. Selected because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest hops contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check and make it pour a deep gold.

5. Rochefort's Trappistes 10

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Brewed by Brasserie RochefortStyle: Abt/QuadrupelOrigin: Rochefort, BelgiumDescribed as Belgium’s best and a rival to Westvleteren 12, Trappistes 10 is the top product from the Rochefort brewery. Originally a convent founded in 1230, the current buildings can be traced back to the 1600s. The location started making beer in 1595. This beer has a dark color and tastes of plums, raisins and black currants.

Brewed by Brasserie Rochefort
Style: Abt/Quadrupel
Origin: Rochefort, Belgium

Described as Belgium’s best and a rival to Westvleteren 12, Trappistes 10 is the top product from the Rochefort brewery. Originally a convent founded in 1230, the current buildings can be traced back to the 1600s. The location started making beer in 1595. This beer has a dark color and tastes of plums, raisins and black currants.

4. Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)

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Brewed by Founders Brewing CompanyStyle: Imperial Breakfast StoutOrigin: Grand Rapids, Michigan USAMike Stevens and Dave Engbers quit their day jobs and braved bankruptcy to make the types of beers they were passionate about. Fortunately, the gamble paid off. Founders KBS is described by the brewers as an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year to make sure its bourbon undertones come through: A combination that will
Photo courtesy: portlandbeer.org

Brewed by Founders Brewing
Style: Imperial Breakfast Stout
Origin: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers quit their day jobs and fell near bankruptcy to make the types of beers they were passionate about. Fortunately, the gamble paid off. Founders' KBS is described by the brewers as an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year to make sure its bourbon undertones come through: A combination that will “make your taste buds squeal,” the company says. Consumers seem to agree, with KBS rated fourth on the list with 100 for taste and 99 for style.

3. Rare Bourbon County Stout (Retired)

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Formerly brewed by Goose Island Beer CompanyStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Chicago, IllinoisFounded in 1988 by John Hall, the Goose Island brewpub was one of the first producers of craft beer in Chicago. Hall built interest in craft beer by allowing consumers at his brewpub to watch the brewing process. The brewpub was successful and led to a larger brewery that he opened in order to keep up with demand. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout was brewed in 2008 and aged for two years in 23-year-old Pap
Photo: Getty Images

Formerly brewed by Goose Island Beer Company
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Chicago, Illinois

Founded in 1988 by John Hall, the Goose Island brewpub was one of the first producers of craft beer in Chicago. Hall built interest in craft beer by allowing consumers at his brewpub to watch the brewing process. The brewpub was successful and led to a larger brewery that he opened in order to keep up with demand. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout was brewed in 2008 and aged for two years in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Barrels. A true rarity, each bottle of this beer has its own number and is now permanently retired. Tasters at RateBeer hail the flavors of coffee, vanilla and chocolate.

2. Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter

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Brewed by Närke KulturbryggeriStyle: Imperial StoutOrigin: Örebro, SwedenRetired since 2011, Narke Kaggen Stormktsporter is described by the brewery as Imperial Stout beer, brewed with heather honey and aged on oak barrels for two and a half months. Pouring a very dark brown, it is rated the second best beer of 2012 by those who have tasted it, and described as “liquid perfection.”
Photo courtesy: Bernt Rostad

Brewed by Närke Kulturbryggeri
Style: Imperial Stout
Origin: Örebro, Sweden

Retired since 2011, Narke Kaggen Stormktsporter is described by the brewery as imperial stout beer, brewed with heather honey and aged on oak barrels for two and a half months. Pouring a very dark brown, it is rated the second best beer of 2012 by those who have tasted it, and described as “liquid perfection.”

1. Westvleteren 12

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Brewed by Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus Style: Abt/QuadrupelOrigin: Westvleteren, BelgiumThe small Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world, not to pray but to drink. The monastery is famous for producing what is regarded as the best beer in the world: Westvleteren 12. Westvleteren has the smallest output of all the Trappist breweries, with the monks asking for their beer not to be re-sold outside the monastery. Introduced in 1940, No. 12 is so p
Photo courtesy: Stephen Boisvert

Brewed by Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus
Style: Abt/Quadrupel
Origin: Westvleteren, Belgium

The small Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world, not to pray but to drink. The monastery is famous for producing what is regarded as the best beer in the world: Westvleteren 12.

Westvleteren has the smallest output of all the Trappist breweries, with the monks asking for their beer not to be resold outside the monastery. Introduced in 1940, No. 12 is so popular and produced in such small quantities that the website warns that if you call to make a reservation to buy the beer, it’s most likely that the line will be busy.

Still, it’s an improvement over the old system, where cars lined up for miles outside without any guarantee of getting the beer. The beer gets a rating of 100 by tasters overall and for its style. Pouring a medium brown, with little head and the aroma of dark fruits, it is described by enthusiasts as a complex beer that lives up to its reputation as the best in the world.