These seven craft beers defy expectations based on ABV, bitterness, or style. Don’t let them fool you!
Utopias Sam Adams (Boston, Massachusetts)
The now 29 percent ABV Utopias (pictured at top) surprises with its smoothness and drinkability. It has a dry finish from the addition of several hops varieties and a flavor profile unlike any other beer on the market. “A Utopias takes beer into another world. Its flavor is somewhere between a vintage port, a fine sherry, and an old cognac,” says a Sam Adams tasting video. Every two years, the brewery blends Utopias from a library of barrels that the brewery has been aging for many years, some since 1994. The first Utopias release was one of the United States’ first strong ales, weighing in at 17.5 percent ABV.
Hopslam Ale Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Hopslam is a double IPA brewed with six Northwest hops varieties, with a massive dry-hops addition of Simcoe hops. Its name and big West Coast IPA flavor profile might suggest a hop bomb or overpoweringly bitter beer; however, Hopslam is packed with grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes that balance its bitterness and leave you wanting more.
Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA Alameda Brewing (Portland, Oregon)
Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA is another double IPA that masks more than 100 IBUs (103, to be exact), with its, dare I say, sessionable qualities. It’s light in color, smooth to taste, and goes down easy.
Hibernation Ale Great Divide (Denver Colorado)
Award-winning and cult-followed, Hibernation Ale is dry-hopped for drinkability. It’s an 8.7-percent ABV Old Ale that’s almost as deceiving as the brewery’s notorious Yeti character.
Although candied and caramelized, these fruit-forward beers are unexpectedly dry and drinkable.
Brandied Purple Raspberry Belgian Dubbel Moody Tongue (Chicago, Illinois)
Strong ale aged on brandy-soaked purple raspberries sounds suited only for those with a sweet tooth, but the addition of burnt orange to Moody Tongue’s Belgian dubbel creates dry, spicy citrus nuances in this crowd-pleasing brew. It’s a beer brewed to pair well with food, so it finishes surprisingly dry for a Belgian-style dubbel.
Death By Coconut Oskar Blues (Longmont, Colorado) and Shamrock Brewing Co. (Pueblo, Colorado)
Death by sweet, flaky coconut isn’t so daunting when it’s packaged into this collaboration beer. The Irish porter is aged on dessicated coconut and dark chocolate from Robin Chocolates in Longmont, Colorado. It’s just the right amount of bittersweet chocolate, confectionery coconut, and roasted malt.
Soft Parade Short’s Brewing (Bellaire, Michigan)
You’d expect this fruit-infused rye ale to be extra sweet, infused as it is with pureed strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. The dry spiciness of the rye, however, balances the sweetness of the berries and makes for a subtle celebration, or soft parade if you will, of flavor.
What beers have you tasted or brewed that defied expectations?