Anything but Everyday: 7 Places to Find the World’s Rarest Beers
Sometimes the most renowned beers seem like the hardest to find. Be it a vintage sour, small-batch imperial stout, or Trappist-born tripel, rare brews often become legends, the kind of thing you hear stories about but never get to taste for yourself.
So take heart, beer fans, in the knowledge that bars across the country have begun panning the backwater streams of craft brewing for liquid gold. Here is a small sampling of the pubs, taverns, and taprooms whose offerings are anything but everyday.
Monk’s Café – Philadelphia
An obvious choice, it would nevertheless be a mistake to leave the pioneering Monk’s Café off this list. When it first opened nearly two decades ago, the craft beer movement was just finding its legs, and knowledge of Belgian beer was sparse. Proprietors Tom Peters and Fergus Carey helped change all that, with a mix of local, craft, and Belgian drafts and a bottle list that could serve as a master class in the brewing arts. In terms of rarities, Monk’s is one of the few places on the East Coast to regularly get Russian River on tap –it even poured this year’s Pliny the Younger. They are also just one of a handful of US locations for Cantillon’s Zwanze day, a worldwide event where the beloved fruit lambic is tapped simultaneously at locations hand-picked by the brewer.
Armsby Abbey – Worcester, MA
Featuring one of the strongest selections outside a major city (sorry Worcester), Armsby Abbey regularly features New England’s finest. A recent menu included 6(!) different beers from national favorite Hill Farmstead Brewery on tap—more than half of what was available at the brewery itself on the same day. Their 2016 Stoutfest included drafts of Allagash Aventureux, the 2015 edition of Firestone Walker Parabola, and the 2013 variant on Hill Farmstead’s Genealogy of Morals.
Surly Goat – Los Angeles
For those of you still skeptical that the notoriously beer-backwards City of Angels could host a world-class brew joint, consider this: In 2016, the Surly Goat has already tapped Pliny the Younger, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, 2014 Bourbon County Stout, and limited-edition beers from Anchor, Ballast Point, and Alesmith. Still skeptical? Down a few of their “Surly Hour” specials Saturday from 1-3, and feel the California sun wash those downer vibes far far away.
Toronado Pub– San Francisco
A Lower Haight landmark for more than 25 years, the Toronado caters to legit brew fans: no macro lovers need apply. Beyond its 40+ drafts and extensive bottle list, the divey Toronado hosts many special events, though you’ll most likely have to visit in person to find out just what (their website and social media pages have gone years between updates). Best of all: Toronado and its sister location in San Diego are the only places in the world where you can get Lost Abbey’s Cable Car Wild Ale, made exclusively for the bars yet considered by many to be the brewery’s best offering.
The Avenue Pub – New Orleans
In a town that’s better known as the birthplace of cocktails like the Sazerac, Hurricane, and Ramos Gin Fizz, The Avenue Pub stands out as the Easy’s epicenter for quality beer. Of 13 beers on tap, rarities appear with mind blowing regularity: a recent survey included Bell’s KBS 2016, KBS 2015, and Devil Dancer Triple IPA!
With lists like that, “special” events really need to stand out –and they do. For this year’s American Craft Beer Week, The Avenue unleashed a daily barrage of choice offerings, from five Crooked Stave sours on draft to a Goose Island Bourbon County RARE aged in 36-year-old Heaven Hill barrels.
The Sovereign – Washington DC
The Belgian-centered brainchild of Neighborhood Restaurant Group Beer Director Greg Engert (who also oversees DC beer landmarks like Churchkey, Birch and Barley, and Bluejacket), Sovereign has 50 drafts and 350 bottles available at any time. The list is carefully curated, ranging from standbys like Dupont and De Ranke to US upstarts Jolly Pumpkin and Stillwater. But the jewel in this monarch’s crown is one of the most sought-after lines in modern beer history: Westvleteren. Typically sold only on-site at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus, the full line was made available when Sovereign first opened. As of this writing, that list includes the truly legendary quad, Westvleteren (“Westy”) 12. To keep some in supply, Sovereign allows only one bottle per visit per group, so plan accordingly.
The brewery itself – All across the country
With more than 4000 craft breweries nationwide, a white whale might be hiding right around the corner. Almost every brewery now offers variations on the “Brewpub Exclusive,” test batches or one-time releases served solely on-premises. Beermongers as diverse as Jester King, Toppling Goliath, and The Bruery offer some of their most sought-after beers only on-site. And special events like 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Day and Cigar City’s Huhnahpu Day have drawn overnight campers and riot-size crowds eager to get their hands on a single rare bottle. If steep price tags and fierce competition sound a bit excessive, consider stopping by your nearest brewery and just giving that new recipe a try. Who knows, the next Westy 12 might be hiding in plain sight.
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