August 30th, 2013
12:15 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Oh, those clever folks at Amstel Bulgaria, always pushing the boundaries. This week came news that they’d installed a beer vending machine on a street in Sofia that - and this is the genius part - would give you a free beer for doing nothing.
 
That meant really doing nothing, i.e., standing there for three minutes in front of the machine, not talking, not texting, not looking around, not dancing a jig, nada. But if you could manage to hold mind and body perfectly still for three minutes, hey, presto, here’s your beer.
 
In light of the Labor Day holiday, it seems to me that being given beer for doing nothing is particularly apt. You’ve worked enough: Now you must relax. Of course, beer vending machines aren’t likely to take off in the US anytime soon, unless they can figure out how to make them check IDs, too, but it’s still a nice dream.

And in the meantime, thanks to the craft beer world’s fascination with high-alcohol beers, here are a few potent - and very good - brews that will pretty much force you to relax (though, of course, you could just down a couple of Amstels, too, if you wanted).

Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout
Definitely not wimpy at 10.6 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), this lightly bitter, chocolaty stout has a distinct coffee note. That’s unsurprising, given that it was brewed together with several hundred pounds of espresso beans. It lifts you up even as it relaxes you. If you can’t find this one, Stone Smoked Porter is a mighty fine alternative (and about half the alcohol by volume).
 
Deschutes Black Butte XXV
In honor of this Oregon brewery’s 25th birthday, earlier this summer it released twice as much of its annual anniversary beer as usual. A potent imperial porter at 11.3 percent alcohol, it was brewed with cocoa nibs, figs and dates, and gets vanilla notes from a portion of it being aged in bourbon barrels. An excellent, easier-to-find alternative is Deschutes’ regular Black Butte Porter.
 
Smuttynose Rhye IPA
Part of the Smuttynose “Big Beer” Series - they come in 22-ounce bottles, hence the name - this aromatic, citrus-hoppy IPA gets an unexpected spiciness from 30 percent rye malt. It’s 7 percent ABV; not wildly strong, but a notch more than usual. Another option: the grapefruity, regular-release Smuttynose IPA.
 
Samuel Adams Tetravis
A Belgian quadrupel ale that’s part of the Sam Adams Barrel Room collection - a limited series of barrel-aged beers fermented with a special blend of yeasts the Sam Adams folks have seen fit to call “Kosmic Mother Funk” - this is a caramel-y, dense, ruby-hued ale, 10.2 percent ABV. There’s no real alternative to it, but the annual, reliably tasty Sam Adams OctoberFest is also now in stores and worth checking out.

More from Food & Wine:
F&W Readers’ Picks: Best Burgers
America’s Greatest Lobster Rolls
Best Beer Gardens in the U.S.
Best Summer Restaurants
America’s Best Hot Dogs

Previously:
Embrace low-alcohol beers

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Beer • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Labor Day • Lobster • Shellfish • Sip


soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. bence

    Just give me my frosted jelly glass and a Natural Light and I will kick back. It don't get no better Vern. I am old I have tried all that crap. It is just made to sell. When I was in Scotland years ago we would take a glass of Harps Lager and then take a shot of Johnnie Walker scotch and drop it to the bottom. Better than truth serum talk like a magpie. after about two or three

    September 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
  2. Edwin

    I'll have to try the Stone espresso stout. By far my favorite beer type.

    August 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  3. Wow...

    Lots of alcoholics on here today...

    August 30, 2013 at 11:55 am | Reply
  4. Fred Evil

    Beer is nasty. It tastes bad, and makes people do dumb things.
    How about an article celebrating tasty BUDS!!

    August 30, 2013 at 11:51 am | Reply
    • bence

      you mean Budweiser. You know how to make Budweiser? Send him to school

      September 1, 2013 at 9:33 am | Reply
  5. palintwit

    Teabaggers living south of the Mason Dixon line do not observe Oktoberfest. They have what is called "Boink-Your-Cousin-Fest" instead.

    August 30, 2013 at 11:02 am | Reply
  6. Megan

    This list is incomplete without Fullsteam Brewery's Working Man's Lunch! Perfect beer for Labor Day. See http://www.fullsteam.ag/beer/

    August 30, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply

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