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Beer Tasting: The World's Best, And Priciest

Michele Norris considers one of the beers in the test.
Avie Schneider/NPR
Michele Norris considers one of the beers in the test.
At $100 per bottle, the Samuel Adams Utopias was the most expensive in the tasting.
Avie Schneider/NPR /
At $100 per bottle, the Samuel Adams Utopias was the most expensive in the tasting.

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

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Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.