Style: Imperial IPA
Alcohol by volume: 8%
It's only found in cans, it's only found in and around Vermont and there's no guarantee it's going to age well.
All that said, if you have your hands on some of the very limited supply of Heady Topper, feel fortunate. The Alchemist's brewpub and brewing operations in Waterbury, Vt., were wiped out last year by Hurricane Irene. While its owners have recovered and opened a 15-barrel brewery and cannery, they focus all their efforts on Heady Topper and only make so much of it during the year. Batches sell out early and often and expansion is still in its early stages. That rarity and the extremely sweet, citrusy flavor so rare in IPAs this strong - never mind this far east - makes it a coveted prize in the beer community and perhaps the most valued can of beer in the world.
Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
Alcohol by volume: 10.6%
In Michigan, September means breakfast stout season. Founders is more than happy to provide its four packs of original Breakfast Stout in high supply, but it gets just a bit more complicated when it comes to releasing the rich chocolate, coffee and maple-flavored Canadian Breakfast Stout in October.
Founders has been expanding over the past couple of years, and while production has increased in 2012, it wasn't expanded in time for the CBS brewing process. This means this year's CBS was brewed in the smaller batches the old brewhouse could handle and that it'll be just as rare this year as last year. The other problem is that Michigan gets 21% of all CBS produced and no other state gets more than 12%. When you work through distributors, this means that the 750-ml bottles that sell in the tap room for $18 go for upward of $30 to $50 in stores across the country. Founders admits that's blatant gouging, but it loses control of pricing once those beers leave the brewery.The good news is that CBS fans only have to wait another year for ample supplies of their favorite stout. The bad news? Unless buyers want to upgrade to the even more rare Kentucky Bourbon Stout, they should sell this year's vintage before the weather warms again. Pliny The Younger
Russian River Brewing
Style: Imperial IPA
Alcohol by volume: 10.5%
Is a beer really "rare" if it's on tap at the brewery's tap room? That's the problem Russian River's outstanding Pliny The Elder Imperial IPA faced this year when its title of Hipster Beer Of Choice was called into question by sheer availability. Pliny The Younger, however, is another story. This borderline triple IPA is brewed with three times the hops of a normal IPA and packed with enough hop-and-citrus bitterness to make your lips pucker out the back of your head. Unlike its Elder, though, Pliny The Younger is available for only two weeks in February and only in limited distribution around California. It's valuable, but only if you can find a place willing to give you a growler or mason jar full of it. Even without resale, it's one of the better investments a beer fan can make. Westvleteren 12
Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus
Alcohol by volume: 10.2%
The story of the monks of St. Sixtus is well-worn in beer circles, but still somewhat incredible to the outside world. These Belgian Trappist monks brew just 66,000 cases of Westvleteren 12, 8 and 6 a year to cover the costs of maintaining their abbey. The beer is sold 36 times a year and you have to make the journey to their abbey to get it. It goes for $33 a case and limited to two cases per carload, but gets a lot more costly once it returns to the U.S. Though the monks state explicitly on their receipts the beer isn't for resale, a small unlabeled bottle of the fruity, caramely concoction can fetch $8 to $15. Beer geeks still battle over whether this brew is overhyped or even preferable to the far more prevalent quadrupel brewed by the Trappists at Brasserie De Rochefort. Still, the effort required to get a Westvleteren 12 and its standing in the beer community makes it easily the best investment in the beer world. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.