Some beers are simply unforgettable. They might not necessarily be the best, rarest, or most profound you’ve ever tasted, but they stay with you. They capture a moment, reminding you of special times or people in your life.
We asked 16 beer professionals, from brewers to label artists to Instagrammers, to share their most memorable beers from the past.
“For me it would have to be a tall thin glass of super fresh Herold Pilsner right from the source. Thirteen years ago, I got to travel with the patriarch of modern beer journalism, Michael Jackson, to do a collaboration and some tasting events alongside him. Herold Pilsner is a brand of beer made in Herold Březnice Castle Brewery, a small brewery in Březnice, a small town 60 kilometers south of Prague. I vividly remember we had an afternoon off and so we sat around the brewery sipping this grassy-spicy pilsner and talking more about American jazz and English rugby than our day jobs as a writer and a brewer. R.I.P. Michael Jackson. As the OG craft beer evangelist, Michael was an evocative storyteller and a serious historian and he is surely the single most responsible person for the global craft-beer renaissance we are all enjoying today.” — Sam Calagione, Founder and CEO, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
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“One of my most memorable beers would have to be Bitches Brew by Dogfish Head. When I initially started drinking craft beer, I kind of closed myself into this box. I thought I only liked pale ales or IPAs. I avoided stouts because they seemed so heavy, and pilsners were boring to me at the time. I started working for Dogfish in 2015 and began exploring more flavors. I decided I had to get rid of this preconceived idea that I wasn’t going to like something I hadn’t even tried. That’s when I drank Bitches Brew for the first time and fell in love with its delicious and complex blend of mild fruit, coffee, bittersweet dark chocolate, honey, and its dry finish. Also, who wouldn’t love a Miles Davis tribute beer? Bitches Brew spiraled me into my new love for dark beers, and inspired me to expand my palate. Nowadays I will pretty much try any style of beer you place in front of me — and I mostly have Bitches Brew to thank for that.” — Megan Stone, Brewer, Modern Times Beer
“On my first visit to Belgium in May of 2000, on one of New Belgium’s fifth anniversary trips, we visited Brouwerij Boon. I was so excited. We were going to be toured by Frank Boon — it was like meeting your rock hero. I cannot remember one moment of the tour; my heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, I was dizzy and kept thinking, ‘Don’t lock your knees and keep smiling.’ When the tour was over, Frank (I call him Frank at this point) suggested we walk down the street to a café to have a few beers. When we sat down, I was right near him and he suggested we split a bottle of Oud Kriek Marriage Parfait. To this moment, I can see the navy of Frank’s sweater and pink beer’s hue, hear the pop, smell the bouquet, taste the tart, and feel the effervescence. It is a forever moment. And is one of my favorite beers.” — Lauren Woods Limbach, Wood Cellar Director and Blender, New Belgium Brewing
”Early in the process of purchasing our building, the then-owner was nice enough to give us a bottle of Samuel Adams Triple Bock (1994) that he had been cellaring since its release… We decided to open the bottle once we finalized the purchase. Well, that process was long and trying, so opening that bottle was a sweet celebration. A beer brewed well before we were old enough to drink it, by pioneers of craft beer, christening our journey on a trail they blazed.” — Tommy Kennedy, Owner, HOMES Brewery
“The first time I was able to try a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, my impression of what beer was and what it could be dramatically shifted. At the time, I was predominantly a wine drinker and worked in the wine industry. That beer helped promote a shift. Its ability to so clearly represent a place, the delicate balance yet explosive character, the absolutely unique and uniquely delightful aroma and flavor, and the clear display of mastery in working with a few simple ingredients in a specific location; it inspired me to further explore truly wild beverages and beer, and ultimately to work with my wife to open our brewery years later.” — Trevor Rogers, Co-Founder and Head Brewer, de Garde Brewing
“The last very memorable beer I drank was an ESB in a little brewpub in Ohio. It was the perfect pour on a cold night after a long day spent in airports. The beer was a gorgeous example of the style and I paired it with a plate of authentic pierogies and sausage. It was one of those nearly perfect moments you find at quiet corners of the bar from time to time.” — Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Diversity Ambassador, Brewers Association
“The most memorable beer that I’ve ever drank is Jean Chris Nomad by Cantillon. I’ve had my fair share of Cantillon beer, new and old, but what stood out about this one was its tantalizing wine character. It will likely forever be in my top five lambic beers of all time. This is one of those lambic ghosts that not many have tried but my friend Sean had our buddy Rob and myself over and casually pulled it out and surprised us. I won’t ever forget that.” — Roman Estareja, Beer Instagrammer, @theyoungcraftenthusiast
“During a family gathering at my parents’ house, after everyone went inside for cake, I was once able to steal a bottle of Miller High Life from the back patio table, sneaking it up into the treehouse in the corner of the yard behind the shed. Looking down on the house below, while relatives milled about, I drank the beer with little ceremony and enjoyed the feeling of being completely alone up there — the feeling that no one could tell where I was, or what I was doing.” — Jason Synan, Co-Owner and Head Brewer, Hudson Valley Brewery
“The most memorable beer I’ve had recently would have to be one of the two imperial stouts we released in celebration of our fifth anniversary, All 5th Anniversary Everything. Each had different adjuncts, my favorite being the one made with wild Thai banana, cinnamon, coconut, toasted coconut, vanilla, and macadamia nuts. It was the first banana beer that I actually found delicious, with an amazing texture and rich flavor. It almost reminded me of banana bread.” — Geriz Ramirez, General Manager, Other Half Brewing
“One of my most memorable beer moments was the first sip of Surly Brewing’s Todd The Axe Man IPA after I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. I’ve had this beer several times prior, but that first sip in my new Dr. BeerCat pint glass, a commemorative gift from my lab mates, after my defense, was incredibly satisfying. Every time I smell the citrus aromas and taste that tropical hoppy bitterness, I remember what I’ve accomplished, and the family, friends, and colleagues present that day who supported me throughout graduate school.” — Caroline Campion, Co-Founder, CatsOnTap
“One of my first great drinking experiences was in Germany when I was hanging out with my mother at a beer garden. I drank a Hofbräu Dunkel, which was my first experience with dark lager. Most people in America have an association with lager as the light macro beers that they find everywhere. This beer inspired the first beer that I wrote a recipe for. Plus I really appreciated the environment of the beer garden, the atmosphere, and the culture of beer. What was also really memorable was the look on my mother’s face when she saw the liter stein being served to me, and even more so when I ordered another one five minutes later.” — Jack Hendler, Co-Owner and Brewer, Jack’s Abby Craft Lager
“When we travel to Belgium, our first stop is always Cantillon. I always start, and pretty much stick with, their Gueuze. On one particular visit, owner Jean Van Roy treated us to a very old bottle of Gueuze made by his dad, Jean Pierre, in the late 1970s. It was the last year they used artificial sweeteners to make their very sour beer sweeter and more palatable for consumers. The bottle was appropriately covered with dust and cobwebs, and the Gueuze tasted like burnt marshmallows. Drinking this beer with Jean and my husband, Vinnie, at Cantillon was one of the most memorable beer drinking experiences of my life!” — Natalie Cilurzo, Co-Owner and President, Russian River Brewing Company
“One of the strangest, yet enjoyable, beer experiences I’ve had was at a Beachwood BBQ’s annual Sour Fest back in 2015. During the middle of the chaos, I managed to snag a glass of Sauer Power, a collaboration between Freigeist Bierkultur and Jester King Brewery. Up to that point I couldn’t remember having anything like it, tart and smoky, as if someone had slow-smoked stone fruit for 15 hours. It definitely wasn’t for everyone, but holy hell did that beer leave a lasting impression on those of us who had it that day.” — Vito Trautz, Marketing Brand Manager, Brouwerij West
“Everyone has their ‘gateway’ beer — that brew that turned their head, made them realize that beer was much more than the commercialized bullshit we grew up to know. No offense to the Corona with the lime wedge I knew in my early 20s, or the artificially colored and flavored malt liquor I choked down on the assumption it was impressive to do so… It was Epic Brewing’s Big Bad Baptist, an imperial stout that uses roasted coffee — the cupid, if you will, that caught my attention. I’ve been a heavy consumer of coffee since my teen years, and this big, bad beer gave me just what I never knew I needed. It occurred to me that I just hadn’t met the right brew until then. Living in Maine, winters are long and challenging, with ridiculously short days, just the right formula for a warm fire and a heavy stout. I found comfort in this, and started to hone my palate, seeking new styles to try, with an open mind, stepping through that portal into the amazing world of craft beer.” — Heidi Geist, Founder, The 48 Beer Project
“One beer that comes to mind was a beer I’d had in my cellar for several months, Allagash Midnight Brett. As I was getting ready to move back from Portland, Ore., to northern Vermont, probably late 2014, I was trying to work through some of the beers I had piled up. I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Allagash, though didn’t have any real expectations for this beer. As the name implies, it’s a dark brettanomyces beer, which isn’t really a go-to for me. But, the thing that stood out for me was the sensation of the carbonation. The way this beer rolled across my tongue can be described like the last bit of an ocean wave, reaching as far as it can into the beach until the foam crackles and sinks into the sand. It sent an intense meridian response blossoming out of my brain and tingling down my spine… It was one of the coolest beers I had in a long time and sent waves of pleasure ringing through me. I’ve had it again, as well as many beers since, yet haven’t found that perfect carbonation again. It was like Champagne carbonation without the sweetness or degree of alcohol to it. Just talking about it makes me feel it in my body.” — Vasili Gletsos, Owner and Brewer, Wunderkammer Bier
“This question was oddly harder than I thought it would be… I have always seen beer as a catalyst to adventure; whether it’s on the palate, a bar stool, or an Instagram message from a homebrewer on the other side of the planet. My most memorable beer was on a backpacking trip with my husband over Thanksgiving. We decided to forego the pressures of the holiday and get into the middle of the Mendocino National Forest. We got lost on the way out there detouring around downed trees and closed roads and then nearly stuck in deep snow but eventually made it to the trailhead. We hiked in and set up camp next to this crystal clear, freezing steam and made a makeshift rock ‘refrigerator’ in it. That night we made a fire, ate some MREs, and opened a Russian River Framboise For A Cure. Although I have always loved this beer, the combination of the quest to get there, the effort to pack it in, how it was perfectly cooled by the creek, sitting under the stars with my husband and dog in the middle of nowhere; a beer has never tasted so good.” — Mikaelaa Crist, Beer Instagrammer, @craftybeermaven