Beer Tasting: The World's Best, And Priciest

Michele Norris considers one of the beers in the test.

hide captionMichele Norris considers one of the beers in the test.

Avie Schneider/NPR
Robert Siegel conducts an unscientific taste test.

hide captionRobert Siegel conducts an unscientific taste test.

Avie Schneider/NPR
Beer expert Michael Jackson joined the discussion from London.

hide captionBeer expert Michael Jackson joined the discussion from London.

Steve Gorton
At $100 per bottle, the Utopias was the most expensive in the tasting.

hide captionAt $100 per bottle, the Samuel Adams Utopias was the most expensive in the tasting.

Avie Schneider/NPR

If you think beer is just beer, this story is not for you. Grocery shelves are sagging with every kind of beer imaginable, varying in taste and appearance. With the help of beer expert Michael Jackson, Michele Norris and Robert Siegel take stock, and taste, of some of the world's finest (and most expensive) beers.

"I think the whole idea that beer should taste of something is alien to many drinkers," says Jackson, author of Ultimate Beer and the Great Beer Guide. "Many drinkers have been trained by the big mainstream beers to expect beer to taste of nothing at all."

The List

Below is a list of the beers tasted. (Prices quoted are from the Washington, D.C., area.)

Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus. This Belgian beer has a raspberry and cherry flavor, with a hint of vanilla. $6.99 / 12 oz. bottle.

Czechvar. Brewed in the Czech town of Budweis, this dry beer inspired the famous American brewer. The control sample, the closest tasting to a "regular" beer. $6.99 / 6-pack

Anchor Steam. From San Francisco, this is an American beer with flavor. Firm, assertive, with hoppy dryness and a hint of fruitiness. $8.99 / 6-pack

Goose Island IPA. From Chicago, this beer with fruity undertones is more heavily hopped than others. (IPA stands for India Pale Ale; the heavy hopping was originally designed to preserve IPA beer on its long journey from Britain to the colonies in India.) $9.76 / 6-pack

Deus Brut des Flandres. A smooth Belgian beer in a Champagne-style bottle. (Appropriately, it surfaced with quite a head.) Toasty, honeyish, floral. $25 / 1 pint 9.4 fl. oz.

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout. This English beer is creamy and tastes of coffee. $10.99 / 4-pack

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Tastes like it sounds. Rich, spicy, textured and fruity. $8.99 / 6-pack

Schneider Aventinus. German, tastes of toffee apples. $3.99 / half-liter

Rogue Smoke. Perhaps to be enjoyed with a cigar, this brew hails from the Pacific Northwest. $4.99 / 650 milliliters

Samuel Adams' Utopias. Delivered in a brew-kettle shaped copper bottle, this beer is one of the world's strongest (25 percent alcohol), but with a fine sherrylike taste. $100 / bottle

Books Featured In This Story

Ultimate Beer
Ultimate Beer

by Michael Jackson

Hardcover, 192 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • Ultimate Beer
  • Michael Jackson
Great Beer Guide
Great Beer Guide

by Michael Jackson

Paperback, 544 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • Great Beer Guide
  • Michael Jackson

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