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27 Seasonal Beer Releases Worth Traveling For [MAP]

Wine tourism is a bonafide industry. But beer tourism? Not so much, unless we’re considering the Pacific Northwest, New England, and a few select European countries. Even then, taking a vacation devoted to beer is a harder thing to justify. Nonetheless, there are stellar breweries around the country that bring beer nerds to their taprooms every year to score their most coveted releases. So, if you’re hitting the road any time soon, our round-up of the best annual beer releases may persuade you to take a detour.

Curating such a list is no small feat. Plenty of breweries release batches of their most sought-after beers sporadically throughout the year, and many go unannounced until the week — or day — prior to keep fans on their toes. That’s why on this list, some beers’ availability is listed as “rotating,” so make sure to keep an eye on the brewery’s social media accounts to stay up-to-date on the timing of those releases.

We also factored in distribution. For instance, Tröegs Brewing’s Nugget Nectar is a phenomenal beer, but given that it sees heavy distribution in a handful of states, we didn’t consider the annual release as travel-worthy. Same goes for Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, which makes it onto a much larger distro circuit. You’ll also notice a heavy-emphasis on barrel-aged ales throughout this list, which is the result of a handful of factors. Those beers need ample time to mature, and many breweries don’t have the cellar space to fit hundreds of barrels containing one type of beer — so they can release it multiple times per year.

There are almost 10,000 breweries in the U.S. right now, so it would be impossible to consider each and every one. That said, we feel that every beer that made the cut is truly special and worthy of a detour. Keep reading to discover the annual and seasonal beer releases that are worth the road trip.

Arizona: Wren House Brewing Company Roofbox

Availability: December 26th

Consistently clocking in above the 11-percent ABV mark is this beautiful behemoth of a barleywine, which hits the Wren House Brewing taproom every year on “Wren Day.” Each batch comes out a little bit different, but it’s always chock-full of rich fig, nougat, and dried fruit notes. For anyone not crazy about barleywines, this one will coax you over to the dark side.

California: Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Younger

Availability: Late March-early April

The Pliny the Younger release of 2010 pioneered line culture in American craft beer culture as we know it. These days, the hordes still come flocking to Russian River Brewing during a two-week window every Spring to pick up a few bottles of the famous, crisp, and clean Triple IPA.

Colorado: TRVE Brewing Company Nazareth

Availability: April 20th

Turns out there’s more than one reason to be in Colorado on 4/20. While “Denver’s True Heavy Metal Brewery” is often raved about for its mixed culture beers, Nazareth is a testament to TRVE’s prowess in the IPA realm.

Connecticut: New England Brewing Co. Imperial Stout Trooper

Availability: Late Fall-early Winter

Upon its initial release in 2010, Imperial Stout Trooper famously got New England Brewing Co. wrapped up in a cease-and-desist case with Lucasfilm Ltd. over the beer’s Star Wars-centric can art. The brewery has since changed up the packaging, but that hasn’t stopped it from putting out this decadent stout every year when the weather turns frosty.

Florida: Cigar City Brewing Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout

Availability: March

Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is only available for purchase for one day each year at the brewery’s Hunahpu’s Day event in Tampa. Named after the Mayan mythological figure Hun Hunahpu, the stout is brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, cacao nibs, and chili peppers.

Georgia: Inner Voice Brewing Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ego Trip

Availability: Late September

Although the technicolor can art might suggest that Ego Trip is a sour or hazy IPA, the liquid inside is pitch-black and decadent. Inner Voice unleashes this coconut- and chocolate-infused, barrel-aged stout every September, and it’s a release you won’t want to miss.

Illinois: Off Color Brewing Market Rate

Availability: Early to Mid-Summer

Founded in 2013 by David Bleitner and Goose Island alum John Laffler, Chicago’s Off Color Brewing has been making serious waves in the craft beer industry from the start — especially with its wild ales. One fine example is Market Rate, an American wild ale aged in wine barrels with strawberries. It comes out every year around the early Summer months, but the timing of its release depends largely on when the year’s strawberry season pops off.

Indiana: 3 Floyds Brewing Dark Lord

Availability: Late April

While any list like this is bound to get some negative feedback, we know the Reddit community would throw us to the dogs if we forgot to include 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord. And to their credit, we’d deserve it if we didn’t. The brewery has been making the Russian Imperial Stout annually since 2002, and over the years, it’s become one of the most coveted releases in the American craft brewing scene. Like Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, Dark Lord is only available for one day — Dark Lord Day — at the brewery in April. Oh, and it doubles as a music festival.

Iowa: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout

Availability: Early December

Another one-day-only release (well in this case, two-day), Toppling Goliath holds a special event for Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout every December. It’s perhaps one of the most hyped-up beers of all time, and fans have to enter a lottery to get a chance at attending the event. But all things considered, many say that it’s one of the best beers on the planet.

Kansas: Central Standard Brewing Thanks for Playing

Availability: Late November-early December

Kansas has some pretty stellar beer. This Donkey Kong-inspired stout has seen a few adjunct-heavy iterations over the years, but the standard issue version consistently drops just in time for the holiday season.

Louisiana: Parish Brewing Company DDH Ghost in the Machine

Availability: Rotating

We included Parish Brewing Company’s standard edition of Ghost in the Machine in our recent list of beers to bring home from every state, and we’re not ashamed to give the brewery its flowers once again. The double dry-hopped edition of the beloved hazy goes heavy on the Citra, and it’s a certified gem in the IPA segment. Luckily, the brewery puts this one out bi-annually, so folks have two chances to secure some cans every year.

Maine: Bissell Brothers Swish

Availability: Winter-early Spring

Admittedly, Swish isn’t a one-and-done release — the brewers at Bissell Brothers pump out a number of batches from Winter through early Spring. That said, you should pick up some four-packs if you find yourself in Portland. This Double IPA — built on a dank base of Mosaic, Citra, and Simcoe hops — is a must-try for hazy-lovers.

Maryland: Sapwood Cellars Brewery Elliptical Orbit

Availability: Black Friday

Sapwood Cellars is a relatively young brewery at just under six years old, but it’s quickly risen to become one of the most talked-about breweries on the East Coast. Every Black Friday, the brewery releases a new rendition of Elliptical Orbit: a dark sour ale aged in red wine barrels with a rotating cast of adjuncts.

Massachusetts: Trillium Brewing Company Headroom

Availability: Summer

Massachusetts is packed with IPAs, and you won’t have a hard time getting a world-class example of the style any time of year. But for those who want to get a taste of some of the best the state has to offer, keep an eye on Trillium’s website during the Summer months to see when it’ll be dropping Headroom. It’s an absolute hop bomb, exploding with tropical and stone fruit flavors.

Michigan: Founders Brewing Company Canadian Breakfast Stout

Availability: December

While incredibly delicious, Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) is relatively easy to track down in the states where the brewery has established distribution. Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout, though — that’s another story. This coffee- and chocolate-infused imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels with maple syrup, is a true grail now released every December after being on a hiatus for a few short years.

Missouri: Perennial Artisan Ales Barrel-Aged Abraxas

Availability: Spring

After cutting his teeth at Chicago’s Goose Island and Half Acre, Phil Wymore moved down to Missouri to open up Perennial Artisan Ales in 2011. Different variants of one of the brewery’s most sought-after stouts, Abraxas, come and go throughout every year, but the barrel-aged expression is arguably the toughest one to score. It’s only available through a ticketed lottery system, but don’t let that deter you from trying your luck when Spring rolls around.

New Jersey: Kane Brewing Company Sunday Brunch

Availability: Rotating

Kane Brewing is well-versed in the stout and porter game. It’s got A Night To End All Dawns, Mexican Brunch, Morning Bell, Evening Bell — the list goes on. But we have a special place in our hearts for Sunday Brunch. Brewed with maple syrup, cinnamon, Rook coffee, and lactose, this porter is a decadent treat that comes out once a year on a somewhat random basis announced on the brewery’s Instagram.

New York: Hudson Valley Brewery Valley Beer

Availability: Rotating

Hudson Valley Brewery — which has been championing the Sour IPA style for years — brews every beer in its “Valley Beer” series with locally-sourced wheat and barley, ferments them with wild yeast, and then ages them in oak barrels before a nine-month bottle-conditioning period with local wildflower honey. To display the effects that the changing seasons have on these factors, the brewery releases four expressions of Valley Beer every year, along with a cuvée blend of the previous year’s four vintages. For all the people that scurry off to Beacon, N.Y. for weekends away from the city, stop by Hudson Valley Brewery on your next trip to pick up any one of the Valley Beer offerings when they’re available.

Oregon: Pelican Brewing Company Mother of All Storms

Availability: November

Pelican Brewing Company started as a standalone waterfront brewpub on the Oregon coast in 1996. Now, the brewery operates four different facilities across the state, and boasts an extensive barrel-aging program. One fine fruit of that labor comes in the form of Mother of All Storms, an English-style barleywine aged for a year in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The barrel influence is heavy on this annual Winter release, so it’s sure to please bourbon enthusiasts and dark beer fans alike.

Pennsylvania: Free Will Brewing Co. Ralphius

Availability: Black Friday

Bucks County’s Free Will Brewing Co. doesn’t mess around when it comes to saisons and mixed culture beers. That said, its stouts aren’t anything to scoff at either. Every year on Black Friday, the brewery unleashes its Russian Imperial Stout Ralphius, along with a bonkers number of barrel-aged and adjunct-heavy variants of the base beer.

Pennsylvania: Warwick Farm Brewing Foraging for Clouds

Availability: Summer

A stone’s throw away from Free Will Brewing, you’ll find Warwick Farm. Since 2021, the brewery has been collaborating with Tröegs Independent Brewing annually to put out a massive, hoppy Triple IPA dubbed Foraging for Clouds. Every summer, the duo releases a new rendition featuring a rotating blend of hop varietals.

Texas: Jester King Brewery SPON Three Year Blend

Availability: December

Spontaneously fermented beers are a somewhat fading trend in the American craft brewing consciousness, but Austin’s Jester King represents a well-established outlier. Every December, the brewery hosts SPON Day: a free, no-reservations event with live music, funky beer pours, and best of all: “holiday goat photos.” On SPON Day, Jester King also releases its highly-anticipated SPON Three Year Blend, crafted with spontaneously fermented beers from the previous three years’ coolship seasons. Along with the blend, the brewery also sells a handful of fruited variants of SPON beer from various years.

Vermont: Foam Brewers FOTW

Availability: Late Summer

FOTW (Funk On The Water) isn’t just a beer; it’s an annual festival in Burlington hosted by Foam Brewers where reps from nearly 50 breweries congregate by Lake Champlain to share their wildest, funkiest ales. Live music keeps the party going and food trucks keep the masses well-fed. Along with the festivities, FOTW marks the day that Foam Brewers releases their coveted beer of the same. The brew is totally different each year, but it’s always some form of sour.

Vermont: The Alchemist Brewery El Jefe

Availability: December

Many write off Black IPAs as a gimmick, but El Jefe from The Alchemist gives those curmudgeons a reason to think otherwise. While you can secure a few cans of the brewery’s legendary Double IPA Heady Topper any time of year in Vermont, El Jefe is a holiday season exclusive that’s well worth the detour to Stowe.

Virginia: The Answer Brewpub Diablo Forever

Availability: Late June

Diablo Forever is a beer that holds a special place in the hearts of the folks behind The Answer Brewpub. It’s an homage to Quy Pham a.k.a. Diablo, who was a beloved bartender at the brewery’s sister restaurant Mekong in Richmond, Va. before his untimely passing in 2019. Every year since, the brewery releases a rich Imperial Milk Stout brewed with maple syrup, vanilla beans, hazelnut coffee, and cinnamon in his honor.

Washington: Holy Mountain Brewing Company The Goat

Availability: Late Summer-early Fall

Washington’s Holy Mountain Brewing Company claims to be “the original oak and barrel focused brewery in Seattle,” so you’d better believe they have their farmhouse ale game on lock. The brewery’s most sought-after saison is arguably The Goat. It’s funky, fruity, relatively low in alcohol, and makes for a perfect beer to enjoy in the warmer months.

Wisconsin: 3 Sheeps Brewing Company The Wolf

Availability: June

What the brewery describes as “the liquid equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” this bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout is dangerously smooth in spite of its hefty ABV of 13 percent. Sheboygan’s 3 Sheeps Brewing Company releases The Wolf annually — typically around June — but it also puts out other renditions of the stout sporadically throughout the year, such as The Wolf: Barrel Select and The Wolf: Triple Barrel.

*Image retrieved from George Cox via Unsplash

The article 27 Seasonal Beer Releases Worth Traveling For [MAP] appeared first on VinePair.

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