Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro, 6%
The texture is like wrapping your tongue in a velvet glove, the flavour is a rich, creamy hot chocolate with a drop of espresso. ‘Pour Hard’ is the advice on this pitch-black stout (the same style as Guinness) by Left Hand Brewing. The difference is in the bubbles – it's topped up with nitrogen rather than CO2 – and it has a thick head once settled, like whipped cream. Luscious.
Anchor Steam Beer, 4.9%
Can a brewery that opened in 1896 still claim to be ‘craft’? Of course, when this much love goes in to the beer. The name, Anchor Steam, is a nod to the somewhat hazy origins of the San Francisco brewing scene when beer was cooled on rooftops. This beer is a refreshingly malty drink, with a gentle balance of hops, a hint of peanut brittle and dried fruits.
Russian River Pliny the Elder, 8%
Californian brewery Russian River is consistently voted as one of the world’s best breweries. And its Pliny the Elder is consistently voted as one of its best beers. Try it. Now. Why so sought after? It’s an Imperial IPA (read: bloomin’ strong IPA) in the West Coast tradition of piney hops. The plaudits are for its balance, technical brilliance and all-round amazing taste and aroma.
Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter, 6.5%
We can’t forget the northern state of Alaska, especially when this brewery is making this rather special beer. Tasting it is like an explosion in the mouth. This is smoked, seriously so. It tastes almost as though it’s aged in oak, but with an underlying sourness that cuts through the smoke and makes it very drinkable. There are different ‘vintages’ every year; drink one, save one.
Firestone Walker Pivo, 5.3%
The US has always been a brewers tun of cultures, and this is one of the main reasons there’s such a vibrant brewing scene. The IPA may be British, but the immigrants from Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and many more also brought their beers with them. Today, as brewers rediscover their roots, they are resurrecting the beers and adding their own spin. Firestone Walker’s Pivo is a case in point: a Gold Medal winning German pilsner with a hit of hops adding hints of bergamot and lemongrass.
Explore more of the USA and its beers with the Rough Guide to the USA. Compare flights, book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
Daniel Neilson is the editor of craft beer magazine Original Gravity%.