Best Cult Brew - 2010
North Coast Le Merle
Every California brewmaster these days seems to want to be a Belgian monk — one who still rocks out to Megadeth and rides to Mass on his hog. We're still scarred from some of the saccharine, piercingly bitter hop-heavy Belgian-style dubbels and tripels we've tasted. But North Coast's Le Merle, a Fort Bragg beer that makes it onto most of the cult beer lists in town, is the perfect fusion between American and Belgian brewing traditions. A saison-style beer, the Le Merle begins like a piña colada, albeit one whizzed up with a handful of fresh herbs. It has enough acidity and hops to keep the flavor focused, and a light, malty sweetness that lingers. The Le Merle goes with roast pork. It goes with spring vegetables. It goes with small talk and cigarettes. The only problem: Since it contains almost 8 percent alcohol, you'll have to switch to a lager to avoid getting smashed.