Category Archives: Food & Dining Out

11 St. Patrick’s Day Beers That Go Down Like a Guinness World Record

St. Patrick's Day

Stouts make for the perfect St. Paddy’s Day beer!

It would be hard to rationalize calling yourself a real beer drinker if you’ve never had a Guinness, or at the very least, a dry Irish stout. In fact, many would say it’s not March Madness until you’ve had a good stout to kick-off St. Patty’s Day. Even breweries on this list would probably tell you they drink a pint of Guinness quite often, if not out of respect, just to see how their own stout creations match up with the original.

History implies, in part, that the birth of stouts were a result of economics when Irish brewers, like Authur Guinness, started using unmalted roasted barley in favor of heavily taxed malts used in English porters. The new style resulted in a much drier, darker and stronger competitor to the mainstay porters, featuring a very distinct, smokey-sweet flavor referred to as “Guinness Extra Porter Stout”. This quickly became the beer of Ireland and still is, hence a staple for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the go-to for dark beer drinkers around the world, year round.

Guinness has inspired more than eight major style varieties of medium to full-bodied stouts with a wide range of tastes, feel and alcohol levels (great read from Bringing various chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, milk, dark fruit and big oak barrel-aged characteristics, stouts represent everything a real beer drinker could ever wish for…distinguished, velvety-smooth choices of brew to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day and compare for a lifetime.

With help from Zak Rotello, beer aficionado and tap curator at The Olympic Tavern in Rockford, IL, here’s a list of awesome stouts that go to eleven, expanding your palate beyond the original this St. Patrick’s Day. We hope you get a chance to enjoy this limited and luscious list of beers sure to have us gobsmacked and singing Pot O’ Gold ‘til the wee hours of the night. #Slainte

  • Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout (Left hand) 10.2% ABV
    Left Hand is famous for their Milk Stout (and Nitro version), but this imperial stout goes to 11 (literally…see ABV). Yet, the big numbers lead to a surprising drinkable, smooth medium body brew that hides the alcohol quite well. It’s very creamy, providing a distinct balance of raisin and roasty chocolate with mild herbal hop notes. Winner of best beer label in this list, 22 oz. bottles start at just $5.99.
  • Obsidian Stout (Nitro) (DeSchutes) 6.4% ABV
    “Smooth & roasty American stout,” says Zak. “Intense aromas of coffee and chocolate, but very little sweetness on the palate.  Like most brews from Deschutes, there’s no lack of hops to even out the finish. It’s great on conventional draft, but a very special pint if you can find it on nitro.” This popular stout is readily found in bottles starting at $8.99 a six.
  • Storm King Stout (Victory) 9.1% ABV
    Aptly named “king”, this American Imperial Stout is one of the bigger, hoppier stouts you’ll ever drink. Best served closer to room temp. to help ease the aggressiveness of the hops, the smokey, roasted sweet chocolate taste is balanced quite nicely with the piney hop bitterness. Best on tap, but also found in 4-paks of 12 oz. bottles.
  • Double Stout Black Ale (Green Flash) 8.8% ABV
    A long-time favorite of some of the boys at Forest City Brewers, this high powered stout features “golden naked oats mashed with dark crystal and robust roasted malts create a luscious black brew with satin smooth finish. An old-world style, done the Green Flash way. Big, bold, flavorful and complex.” Can’t say that any better.
  • Imperial Stout (Lagunitas) 9.9% ABV
    With immediate notes of cereal, oats, semi-sweet chocolate, and oatmeal, this deep dark brown stout hides the big alcohol with it’s complexity and smooth finish. Roasty, nutty and not too sweet, Lagunitas doesn’t disappoint as this beer will give you a little sumpin’ sumpin’, and then some more.
  • Boston Irish Stout (Harpoon) 4.3% ABV
    This traditional dry Irish stout is a full-bodied, creamy easy drinker for those lucky enough to be out in a pub in the Northeast. Harpoon says it combines the roasted and chocolate character of six malts with delicate Willamette hops, making it an old-world treat in modern times. My good friends in Boston swear it’s old school to the max.
  • Narwhal Imperial Stout (Sierra Nevada) 10.2% ABV
    Zak raves, “A jet black, high viscosity octane boost of stout. Burnt coffee aromas lead into a midpalate with well balanced sweetness and bitterness. Brightly hopped & slightly boozy finish, but not enough to scare you away from a second glass. Would love to get my hands on the barrel aged version of this.” So would I!
  • Milk Stout (Snow Plow pre-2008) (Widmer) 7.6% ABV
    It wouldn’t be a stout list without a Milk Stout. Widmer Brothers and the Oregon Brew Crew created this stout as the first Collaborator project. For shear sweetness and silky mouthfeel, even straight from the bottle (but better in a pint glass in a Northwest pub, if you’re lucky enough to find it on tap), this beer is smoky smooth. The use of cascade hops adds a sneaky smart aromatic touch and brings nice balance to the rich chocolate malt character.
  • The Poet Oatmeal Stout (New Holland) 5.2% ABV
    I had the privilege of being in New Holland last St. Patrick’s Day which featured a colorful parade and lots of “all-day” drinking buddies…bucket list checked! The pinnacle was a tasting of both Dragon’s Milk and The Poet in one sitting. The latter was a delightful surprise, posing as a creamy, deep, full-bodied rich and rib-tickling nectar. Dark fruits, coffee and molasses lead the way to a spicy finish. Exclusive to Western Michigan for most, if you can score a bottle of The Poet, treasure each verse.
  • Satin Solitude Imperial Stout (Central Waters) 7.5% ABV
    This Midwest brewer is a rising star and this stout is one of my new favorites. Deep, dark and yummy, it tingles your lips and goes down incredibly smooth. You know you’re drinking a special beer with each delicious malty mouthful. Satin Solitude is properly named and poised to be remembered. Limited distribution in the Midwest–call a buddy in Wisconsin and have them send you a sample before while it’s on the shelf.
  • Java Stout (Bell’s) 7.5% ABV
    Even with Bell’s wildly popular Hopslam running amuck, this gem of a brewery has a special stout to close out this great list of stouts. Says Zak, “Creamy tan foam atop inky black beer. The first whiff of this yearly favorite is straight cappuccino and hops. Right at the ABV border of imperial (7.5%) this coffee spiked beer is a great pair for dessert, especially vanilla ice cream or Irish cream spiked cheesecake.”

SERVING TIP (via Always drink a stout in a glass, preferably a simple pint glass, or snifter can be used for double and imperial stouts. Give stouts a firm pour to create a foamy head and release all that rich aroma, and watch the bubbles as they seem to float downwards.

RESOURCES: This short list is a great stout starter–find more details web sites and apps like (,, Pintley, Find Craft Beer) to help you navigate the endless beer choices that make St. Patty’s celebrations so unique.

You can find and tweeting about suds and other substance @brentsheltonnow, like the popular post: Top 10 St. Patrick’s Day Beers That Aren’t Guinness or Green with Envy.

Top 10 Summer Beers List That Goes To Eleven


Top 10 summer beers

Summer means many things to us all, but to craft beer drinkers, it means a new line of warm season thirst quenchers. Lighter, crisper, and most important, wet! This is the time of year we see wits and other wheats, lagers, pilsners and tasty pale ales that impede on the spinal tapping hop-crazed-big-alcohol beers for a more refreshing and energizing indulgence.

The best part of the recent craft beer boom is that there’s never a dull moment when it comes to innovative brewing. Todays small breweries are continually expanding upon the masterful traditions of the seasons and summer is no exception. The shear number of styles can be overwhelming, but fortunately there are some excellent web sites and apps (,, Pintley, Find Craft Beer) that can give us a an edge to make better beer choices for our outdoor parties, backyard barbecues, pub meet-ups and of course, our individual palates.

TIP: If you’re going to one of the many awesome beer festivals around the nation, look for a smartphone app as many events create them to help you stumble through the madness to seek out your favorites…and find your way to relief. SUMMER BONUS: Win One of (5) Three Month Craft Beer Club Memberships!

Summer Beers

  • Summer Love (Victory) 5.2% ABV
    Grassy hopped aroma and crisp malty flavor make this appropriately named brew an easy drinker. Smooth, medium, swirly and perhaps a bit dry, the taste is a German malt complex, yet simple with Tettnang lemony goodness throughout. It’s always an easy victory with a fresh blonde on a hot summer day.
  • Alchemy Ale (Widmer) 5.8% ABV
    Long awaited replacement for the popular Drifter Pale Ale is smooth APA, balanced and distinct. This can hold it’s own-IMO and unlike some reviews out there. Not exceptionally malty or hoppy, but the floral citrusy taste is pleasant, crisp and creamy. A perfect light, zesty-wet summer beer at a great price.
  • Dry Hopped APA (Schlafly) 5.9% ABV
    One of my new favorites, especially off the tapper. This St. Louis brew is hoppy, bold and full bodied. The mix of Cascade and Chinook hops fit the genre well, right through to the clean piney grapefruit finish. It’s light enough for a hot day, but has the energy of an IPA and goes down super easy (and fast). Not for every one, but I’ll have another.
  • Twilight Summer Ale (DeSchutes) 5.0% ABV
    Who doesn’t like a hoppy blonde? Lighter, yet full-flavored, this aromatic Ale brings a solid malt foundation that pairs nicely with the Amarillo hops for flavors surprisingly big and crisp. A creamy wet porch sipper, as they should be.
  • Summerfest (Sierra Nevada) 5.0% ABV
    I love Perle hops, they leave a nice floral and spicy affirmed bitterness that doesn’t linger. This crisp dry pilsner comes at you kind of wispy, yet maintains a complex malty flavor that indoctrinates quality brewing with every watery mouthful. Spicy light refreshing back yard beer that fits the hot afternoon or the Staropramen-less heat of an August night.
  • Oberon (Bell’s) 5.8% ABV
    I’ve been a fan of this classic summer wheat way back when it was referred to as’Solsun’. It’s perhaps one the most popular and distinct summer crafts you’ll ever taste, and well distributed throughout the US. It’s an orangy, creamy, spicy mouthful of grainy sweet crispness and almost impossible to drink just one. A warm weather masterpiece that out classes any blue moon night.
  • All Day IPA (Founders) 4.7% ABV
    If you go at this one expecting that big IPA head rush, you may be disenchanted…at first. This “session” beer is brewed with a complex expo of grains and hops well balanced for a light, clean bitter finish, making it the only IPA on this list for summer beers. This earthy and somewhat fruity ale is perfect for the IPA effect on that sunny “all day” fishing boat trek when you don’t want your navigation skills gettin’ cloudy.
  • Sundog Amber Ale (New Holland) 6.0% ABV
    New Holland, MI is like a mini Amsterdam in the middle of America, festive, unbridled and cultured, just like their beer (Western Michigan is craft beer paradise). This mainstay ale has a toasty caramel character, is subtly malty sweet and has a complex nutty finish. Smooth, dry and more drinkable than expected – a fresh break from the bitter hop madness. Best of all, it’s a great beer with brats, chops or anything grilled for summer suppers.
  • UFO White (Harpoon) 4.8% ABV
    Nothing to alien here (UFO pertaining to unfiltered), this is a medium bodied, high carbinated spicy citrus wit, but not over the top, probably boosting recent popularity as wits aren’t for everyone. Light and chewy in the tradition of spiced wheat beers with unmistakable orange peel and a curious blend of other spices. Leaves a puckering finish that feels soft. citrus rind forward and a good match for outdoor food on a warm evening.
  • Whitsun (Arcadia) 6.2% ABV
    They used to make a dry hopped version (to add mild piney, citrusy notes), but it doesn’t need any of that and probably works much better as a summer wheat sans that step. Run off little hops. This unfiltered, translucent orange colored wheat beer rears a creamy, white head. Bready notes and a sweet caramel flavor shape this profile. Orange peel, coriander and a nice hop balance complete the finish. Classic and simple!
  • Totally Naked (New Glarus) 4.5% ABV
    The name alone says “It’s summer and I’m hot…or fresh?” Anyway, this American Pale Lager is simply pure and crisp. Deep grain breadiness meets a perfect balance of noble hops for a mildly bitter and extremely refined malty summer drink. If your looking for something light, yet masterfully smooth and mature in every respect, this seasonal is a virtue to behold, if you live in Wisconsin:)

There are endless choices and styles for summer sippin’. Our next beer post will feature a comprehensive list of apps, online communities and festivalsl that can help you find them and expand your experience. Until then, insist on American crafts or seek out homebrews whenever you can and always keep your feet far enough from the camp fire.

You can find and tweeting about suds and other substance @brentsheltonnow.

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Top 10 Spring Beers To Help You Forget It Ever Snows

Top 10 Spring Beers

To a long snowy winter of strong brew in all its black chocolatey, spicy, warm brilliance – Cheers! That seemingly never ending selection of hearty stouts, porters, dunkels, scotch ales (and many other winter brews) has kept us languid and beamy, if not foam-filled and dreamy through the cold months. We’ll genuinely miss you.


Now as the weather warms, the thaw brings a fresh batch of beer styles to keep us cooler and agile as we slither out from our caves to taste thee. Beer buffs everywhere are studying menus with anticipation of a mouthful of emerging new arrivals, or savoring one of their trusted spring favorites. But those undecided may need some affirmation, so we called on home brewing expert Michael Sears (Forest City Brewers) to collaborate and craft this “Top Ten List of Spring Beers”.

TIP: If you’re interested in seeking out other spring seasonal beers beyond this exceptional list (it’s only ten of hundreds), you’ll find great online resources and ratings to enhance your intellect on all beer styles and their characteristics, including and the Beer Advocate, or go totally beer social with UNTAPPD. Whatever tips your pint…Prost!

  • Columbia Common (Widmer) 4.7% ABV
    These guys make affordable and consistently great tasting beer. This spring standard has a clear rich amber hue and off-white head with a crispy dry taste with maybe a hint of grapefruit and mellow spicy hops. Light and bright “steam” style beer with refreshing character.
  • Hot Rocks Lager (Port Brewing) 6.2% ABV
    It could run the Board Meeting (Port’s yummy Brown)…while perhaps a bit overstated, this robust and deep ruby brown lagers sizzles with a smoky toffee caramel flavor, created with the addition of glowing hot granite to the kettle…clever indeed. A one-of-a-kind dark stein brew is medium wet, quenching and highly drinkable.
  • Double Agent IPL (Sam Adams – Hopology Series) 5.0% ABV
    This seasonal Irish Ale is made special for the new year is a clear dark ruby-red tribute to Ireland, with just the right blend of toasty malts and flowery hops to make it a classic in its own right.
  • Gumballhead (Three Floyds Brewing) 5.6% ABV
    Big flavored American Wheat Ale with the namesake of Rob Syers’ underground comic book cat created by. Amarillo Hops and generous American red wheat lead to a complex hop aroma with notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, marmalade and peach. Perhaps a springtime IPA in disguise and exceptional any time.
  • Dead Guy Ale (Rogue) 5% ABV
    German Maibock and contrary to some rumors, has no direct association with the Grateful Dead, although Rogue pubs “it glows”. Looks like wet fizzy orangey honey and tastes malty sweet with balanced bitterness and a very slight mild hop bite. Should be the theme beer for “The Following”!
  • Mexican Logger (Ska Brewing Company) 4.2% ABV
    Corona gets hopped up? Maybe just a little as the boldness of Saaz hops give you that impression, but actually this APA is clean, crisp, lightly malted and slightly lemony right out of the bottle…or…can! This is the ultimate spring lawn tending fuel. And the web site is a ska kickin’ hoot to boot.
  • Maibock/Helles Bock (Smuttynose) 8.7% ABV
    Big beer series and that ain’t no joke. Mostly hazy orange with huge maltiness and a very warm finish. There’s a touch of sweet fruity dark apple crispiness with grassy spicy hopness. Great beer to sip around a spring campfire while telling fishin’ tales.
  • Karnival Kölsch (Stoudt’s) 4.8% ABV
    I Love a Kolsch brewed well and this one is a mouthful of amusement. An all German style malt and hop gala that’s cold fermented for a nice lager-like smooth, dry, bready crisp spring time celebration. Refreshing with a fruitiness and mild bitterness, this one goes great with circus peanuts…the real ones!
  • Maibock (Summit Brewing) 6.5% ABV
    Referred to as “liquid bread”, the monks brewed this to get through Lenten fasting. Moravian 37 malts and Czech Saaz hops give it a crisp toasty sweetness balanced quite nicely with a mild spicy/bitter finish. It’s got a hoppy hang-time for a bock, but that’s why they call it spring!
  • Canoe Paddler (Leinenkugel’s) 5% ABV
    My new Leinie’s favorite and unexpected treat from this workingman’s N. Wisconsin brewer. Clear and golden in the pint with a citrusy herbal nose. The soft lemon zing and rye malted mouth, crisp, and well balanced with delicate spicy hop bitterness keeps this Kolsch simple as it should be–but a refreshing adventure for the style. And for the money ($12/12 pack), I’m paddlin’ down river ‘til mid-summer.

As seasonals go, there are endless choices of multiple styles. The purist may have other brews in mind or you techies can sort through these beer finder apps featured by our friends at Appolicious. At the very least, here’s hoping this list temps you to expand your horizons. Trust me, you’ll look much more cultured tipping back one of these fine brewskis versus forcing that domestic kitsch down your pie holes.

You can find and tweeting about suds and other substance @brentsheltonnow.

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Top 10 St. Patrick’s Day Beers That Aren’t Guinness or Green with Envy

st. patrick's day

Reverent and respected are all who partake in St. Patty’s Day traditions – festivals, parades, and shamrocked hoolies where we gather to salute many Irish spirits and the rich flavors of liquid hops and roasted barley. Like every March 17th, the bag-pipes bellow as devout beer drinkers raise their pints to rejoice in all that is Irish and green. But that doesn’t mean the beer should be green.

See 2014 Best Stouts post – #StPatricksDay

There are hordes of traditional, great tasting Irish beers that will make top ten lists for donkey’s years. From creamy Irish Red Ales of Sam Adams, Smithwick’s, Killian’s and Kilkenny to the “black stuff” (stouts) from Murphy’s, O’Hara’s, Porterhouse and of course, Guinness … everyone knows these scoops go down the cake-hole like a bang-on river dance.


The following list of “deadly” craft beers can definitely hold their own with the classic Irish groggs and make that green manky brew seem like a jar of slash. But bare no ill feelings towards those gee-eyed bollocks who’d rather get mouldy with green-dyed domestic lager (while scuttering off to the jacks). Going green is our St. Patty’s Day master plan to keep that shower of scavages far far away from this limited and luscious list of beers sure to have us gobsmacked and singing Pot O’ Gold ‘til the wee hours of the night.

TIP: Bring a stiff shillelagh to keep you upright and make use of these beer apps to slurry through the day with a bit more intelligence. Also, check your Locals’ schedules as many hoolies will happen on Saturday this year. Slainte!

  • Brian Boru Old Irish Ale (Three Floyds)
    5.50% ABV
    Famous for their Zombie Dust release, this hazy orange-red ale offers a huge billowy head. It’s super rich with an amazing toast and caramel taste that’s perfectly balanced by both hop flavor and citrusy bitterness. Who doesn’t love Amarillo hops!
  • Conway’s Irish Ale (Great Lakes) 6.50% ABV
    One of my favorites in this style…it’s big with a bright copper and ruby-red hues, oodles of hop bitterness with a notable toasty malt presence, and crisp grainy sweetness to keep our whistle wet with joy. You’ll feel Irish with a pint of this stuff, even if you’re not.
  • Bourbon County Stout (Goose Island) 14.5% ABV
    One of the hits at Day of the Living Ales last month in Chicago, this bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout is dark, dense with foam you can float on. It’s intense charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke will blow your your mind lads…seek this limited release often.
  • Irish Ale (Boulevard) 5.80% ABV
    This seasonal Irish Ale is made special for the new year is a clear dark ruby-red tribute to Ireland, with just the right blend of toasty malts and flowery hops to make it a classic in its own right.
  • Celtic Red (Harpoon) 5.40% ABV
    This Boston beer screams St. Patrick’s Day, vibrant clear translucent copper-amber, floral hoppiness with rich caramel-bready malts. A sweet, easy way to say goodbye to winter.
  • Celtic Red Ale (Harpoon) 5.40% ABV
    This Boston beer screams St. Patrick’s Day, vibrant clear translucent copper-amber, floral hoppiness with rich caramel-bready malts. A sweet, easy way to say goodbye to winter.
  • Milk Stout (Left Hand) 6.00% ABV
    Famous and readily available, this dessert like stout is all black, roasty sweet, milk chocolate exultation. It goes down easy and have you beggin’ for another pint.
  • Black Top (New Glarus) 6.90% ABV
    My fellow home brew buds at Forest City Brewers rave about this beer (plug!). This dark dark ruby brown with a light beige head has a leathery sweetbitterness and piney wetness that makes this an easy drinker. Black Top will instill a little Irish in anyone, even Canadians.
  • Irish Style Extra Stout (Schlafly) 8.00% ABV
    For the brave…This one will leave you shook…great double darkness, complex, huge maltiness with black liquorice, toffee, caramel, and chocolate undertones. Perfectly balanced with generous the hops. Yum.
  • Irish Lager (Rogue) 5.00% ABV
    Pale golden color, slight haze, thick frothy head, Bread-like malt flavor with some herbal hop bitterness, light hint of citrus and apple crisp finish. Rogue suggests this for floating your Guinness.
  • Dark Star Stout (Starr Hill) 4.20% ABV
    This dry Irish Stout is a multiple award winner, blacker than night with a thick creamy off white nitro head. It starts off with hints of coffee and smoothly slides into a nice velvet chocolate finish. Robust and light tasty bliss.

The Wild Cards:

  • Cane and Ebel (Two Brothers) 7.00% ABV
    From the western suburbs of Chicago comes this very dark mahogany, hazy “Hopped Up Red Rye Ale” with a big headrush of rye flavor, full of hop goodness that’s slightly sweet and a tad bitter as it goes down. You’ll be thinking about this flavor for a while.
  • Dirty Bastard (Founders) 8.5 ABV
    This incredible Scotch Style Ale is brewed with seven varieties of imported malts and dark ruby in color and. The finish is very complex with hints of smoke and peat, paired with a malty richness and a hoppy attitude…this beer ain’t for the wee lads!

There you have it…an alternative list of incredibly big beers brewed with an Irish tradition in mind… me thinks Bono and The Edge might even approve. U2?

You can find and tweeting about suds and other substance @brentsheltonnow.

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