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8 Beers With Cult Followings

8 Beers With Cult Followings

Certain beers have taken on mythical status simply based on scarcity. Breweries release these limited wonders knowing full well they can’t come close to satisfying demand—and they’re okay with that. Sure, a beer can earn a real following from rarity alone. Those aren’t the beers we’re talking about here. Some of the beers in this post are fairly easy to acquire (depending on where you live) and still have rabid fans. They’re good, sure, but they don’t all find their way onto Top 100 lists. Others have received plenty of high marks, but they don’t pop up at one can release never to be heard of again. Every beer here as a fan base that would make anything on this list jealous. These are beers with cult followings.

New Glarus Spotted Cow

New Glarus, WI

New Glarus brews a good amount of fruit-forward beer worth hunting down. Serendipity, Wisconsin Belgian Red, and Strawberry Rhubarb are masterclasses in brewing with fruit. Spotted Cow is not one of those beers, but it’s far and away the one the Wisconsin brewery is known for. In fact, it may be the beer the entire state is known for. First brewed in 1997, the beer is made with corn and has sweet, grain-forward profile. It’s the best-selling draft beer in Wisconsin and its legend has spurred numerous stories in the media. A Minnesota bar was even busted for selling it to try and meet demand outside of Wisconsin’s borders. With a 3.89 out of 5 on Untappd (at time of publication), people certainly like Spotted Cow, but it’s not like it’s about to end up on a Highest Rated list. Still, thanks to a mixture of Wisconsin state pride and longevity in the game, it’s amassed quite the following. Link

Bell’s Oberon

Comstock, MI

We think a lot of the fanfare over this wheat ale has to do with when it’s released. Oberon hits shelves every year at the beginning of spring and heralds in those warmer months. Maybe there’s some sunny memories associated with picking up a 6-pack and that’s why people love it so much. Whatever it is, it’s hard to overstate the following the summer-friendly beer has. Bell’s Brewery’s flagship beer was originally known as “Solsun,” before Bell’s changed it after legal action from the makers of El Sol. The release is celebrated each year with parties all over the 30-state footprint, though California and some other states do see Oberon year-round. Oberon is incredibly approachable and the perfect crafty jump from something like Blue Moon. Link

New Belgium Fat Tire

Fort Collins, CO

We remember being in Washington D.C. the first day Fat Tire was distributed there. You’d think they were selling ultra-cheap Pappy Van Winkle the way customers were buying it. And this was during beer week, a time when incredible beers were on tap all across the capital. Inspired by a trip spent hopping between European breweries, Fat Tire is a biscuity, caramely brew that, like others on this list, is very approachable. While the landscape has changed considerably since the time the beer was introduced, Fat Tire has carved out a life as a go-to beer for the casual craft fan. Link

The Alchemist Heady Topper

Stowe, VT

Heady Topper is a bit different than the others on this list, as it has appeared on plenty of Best Beers lists. Still, the reason it makes this list is the fact that it has become the stuff of legends and has become the rare beer even casual beer drinkers know. Longreads called it “America’s most loved craft beer,” and it’s kind of hard to argue when you consider The Alchemist had lines before lines for beer were even a thing. It’s the beer that started the New England IPA revolution, though we’d argue it’s not all that similar to the current beers carrying that label. Heady was mythical. It sent people on wild goose chases all around Vermont. Link

Yuengling Traditional Lager

Pottsville, PA

Yuengling is one of the most interesting cases on this list. D.G. Yuengling & Son is, according to the current definition from the Brewers Association, a craft brewery—and the largest in the country, at that. Many in the Pennsylvania area view it as a macro lager, one that’s a step up from the Bud Lights of the world. Yet outside the area, in the places that don’t get Yuengling, many treat it with reverence normally reserved for the hottest beer from the newest brewery. We’ve seen people ask for it in trades, which, to anyone in the area where it is distributed, seems crazy, as it’s stocked in almost every store. Being the oldest operating brewery in the U.S. helps, of course. Link

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Milton, DE

Anything extreme is going to get noticed, and few breweries do extreme like Dogfish Head. One of their buzzed-about beers, since it was first released in 2003, is 120 Minute IPA, a hopped-to-the-max IPA that clocks in at upwards of 20% ABV. Still, there are countless beers that push the envelope, and none get talked about like 120 Minute. For many, it’s the first out-there beer they ever had, and maybe that’s why it has taken on such a legacy. Then, of course, there’s the whole “it will get you wasted” thing, which, we guess, you really shouldn’t overlook. Link

Westvleteren 12

Vleteren, Belgium

Westvleteren 12—often referred to as “Westy”—was rated the best beer in the world in the early 2000s and that sparked quite the craze. You have to remember, this was around 15 years ago, a time before can releases and anything resembling today’s secondary market and trade world. The fact that you could only get a few bottles of Westy from the abbey where it was made only added to the allure. Monks declined interviews and kept to themselves without increasing their output for something that just paid the bills. Obviously, beer drinkers went nuts. The hoopla over Westy has subsided a bit, though many still consider it a grail beer. 

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Santa Rosa, CA

Pliny the Elder is a beautiful example of a balanced beer. While many of today’s hot IPAs ramp up the hop aroma while tuning down the hop bitterness, Pliny the Elder is a throwback IPA that gets everything right. Years ago, brewing a turbid IPA meant you didn’t know how to brew, and Russian River’s masterpiece was the perfect version of what many brewers were trying to do. A piney, West Coast hop aroma paired with a lingering bitterness in a clear, crisp body was the gold standard. That’s why Pliney the Elder found itself on the top of Zymurgy’s Best Beer list for seven straight years. If you got into the beer game before Heady Topper invaded the scene, this was your whale. For some it still is. Link

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