The September issue of All About Beer magazine has an interesting feature on "suitcase" beers; i.e., the rare beers you love so much that you'll pack them home with you when returning from travels.
A suitcase beer has to be not only delicious but rare enough that it's not available around your home. The magazine's list of 99 such beers was (not surprisingly) heavy on imperial stouts, IPAs and obscure Belgian beers. It got me thinking about my suitcase beers. Here's my top five, shaped by my narrow travels in the Western U.S.:
1. Terminal Gravity IPA. This IPA is widely distributed and well-loved in its native Oregon, but it does not get enough respect outside the state, unlike California favorites such as Racer 5 IPA and Russian River's Pliney series. Terminal Gravity's offering is redolent with citrus, and extremely tasty. Perhaps the nation's best six-pack IPA.
2. Avery Brewing Co.'s barrel-aged beers. The Boulder brewery has an extensive barrel-aging program, and the best of these are a wonder to behold - not to mention difficult to find outside of the Front Range. If you can get them, Brabant and Depuceleuse deserve your attention (and something like $8 per 12-ounce bottle).
3. Deschutes The Abyss. This legendary imperial stout is the only beer I currently have aging in my fridge. I can't wait to do a vertical tasting. Happily, its 2009 vintage was more widely available than previous versions.
4. Upright Brewing Co.'s seasonal releases. This small Portland brewery is an increasingly poorly kept secret. Brewer/owner Alex Ganum completely eschews English-style brewing: you will not find an IPA, a pale ale or a porter on premises. His basic line of beers (named Four, Five, Six and Seven) could loosely be described as French and Belgian-inspired farmhouse ales, but that falls short of justly describing his innovative use of yeast and local ingredients. I avidly want to try his recent seasonals, including a Gose, an obscure German style brewed with salt; and an oyster stout, brewed with oyster juice and whole oysters in the kettle. Ganum is a brewer who is truly pushing the art of brewing forward.
5. Pelican Brewery's seasonals. This Oregon Coast brewpub has been justly celebrated with multiple GABF medals. It sits on the beach, amid the salty Pacific Ocean air and swarming sea gulls. Seasonals such as the biere de garde Bridal Ale are worth the high price.
Those are my suitcase beers. What are yours?