If you are a regular shopper at Costco Wholesale you are no doubt aware of their signature Kirkland brand which accounts for a huge percentage of their overall sales (in 2021 Kirkland products brought in over $58 billion in profit for the chain).
Introduced in 1995, the Kirkland range was named after the location of Costco’s corporate headquarters in Kirkland, Washington.
Why do people love the Kirkland brand so much? Overall most Kirkland products sell for approximately 20% less than the brand name equivalent products, and, while some are lower quality knock-offs of the branded items, many of the Kirkland brands are actually brand name products just under the Kirkland label.
What about Kirkland beer? If you have ever shown up to a pool party with a six-pack of Kirkland brand beer, you have probably noticed it’s still in the cooler at the end of the night.
Despite the proven high quality of some Kirkland beers, there is still a snobbery which means it doesn’t have the greatest of reputations with some beer drinkers.
Many of them have even placed it in the category of “worst beer ever” on user review websites such as reddit. Are they really being fair?
Who actually makes the beers for Kirkland? And, in an attempt to try and convert you to the cheap beers which are Kirkland, I’ll take a look at some of the best Kirkland craft beers available at your local Costco now. Here’s all you need to know.
Who Makes Kirkland Beer?
If you were hoping one day to go on a tour of the Kirkland Brewery, unfortunately, you are going to be disappointed. Costco doesn’t own a brewery of any kind but instead farms out the job to other already established craft breweries.
Which brewery your can of Kirkland beer comes from depends pretty much on where you live.
On the West Coast Costco use Gordon Biersch Brewery and the Hopfen Und Malz Brewery (also at the same address as Gordon Biersch). On the East Coast Kirkland beers are brewed by Matt Brewing and Bricks & Barley Brewing Company.
A variation of Kirkland’s Signature Light Beer was also originally brewed by Regal Brau Brewing in California, although it enjoyed such a poor reputation and was too bad to keep selling that Costco and Kirkland beers canned it for good in 2018.
Although a search for Kirkland brewery on the net brings up just one craft brewery in Kirkland, Washington – the Chainline Brewing Company – don’t be fooled, none of the Costco range of Kirkland beers actually come from the town itself.
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Originally opening back in 1987, the Gordon Biersch brewery was a partnership between Dan Gordon, one of the most sought-after brewers in the country, and Dean Biersch, who was an experienced restauranteur and beer lover.
Trained at the Technical University of Munich (the most renowned brewing school in the world), Dean brews all his beers according to the age-old German purity Law of Beer (the Rheinheitsgetbot) and uses only the finest ingredients of Hallertau hops, two-row malt barley and a special yeast strain imported from Germany.
If you shop at Costco on the West Coast your best bet is to go for Kirkland’s range of German-style lagers and ales due to the high quality of Gordon Biersch’s authentic German-style beers.
If you are looking for a German beer to try there are plenty of options including a double bock, a German-style lager, a Hefeweizen, and a Kolsch.
Gordon Biersch did also produce Kirkland’s Signature Light for a period but this was discontinued when Costco received too much negative criticism of the beer.
Hopfen Und Malz Brewing Co
Hopfen Und Malz is the name you are most likely to see on the labels of beer bought on the West Coast side of Costco and even has the same address as the San Jose Brewery of Gordon Biersch.
Hopfen Und Malz is actually operated by the California brewers at GB and is also known to brew beer for Trader Joe’s label and, in some areas, their line of restaurants.
F.X. Matt Brewing
The F.X. Matt Brewing Co is better known for its Saranac line of craft beers and for producing soft drinks such as ginger ale and root beer, but it also produces many of the fine pale ales and IPAs you will find in the Kirkland range of beers.
Matt Brewing Company is recognized as the fourth oldest family-managed brewery in the USA, one that started brewing beer in pre-prohibition days, most famously their West End IPA which was first created in 1914.
Still family-owned and operating from Utica in New York, Matt Brewing Co’s IPA and Pale Ale, which they produce for the Kirkland range, received Gold medal Recognition in 2020 for being two of the best in the world.
Who says you can’t get a decent beer at an affordable price in the US nowadays?
Beer offerings on the East Coast from Matt Brewing include IPAs, Pale Ales, a Blonde Ale, and other styles of beer such as porters and stouts.
Bricks and Barley Brewing Company
Bricks and Barley Brewing Co is one of the East Coast breweries based in Wisconsin which supplies many of Kirkland’s craft beers, such as the Blue Moon wheat beer.
According to a report in the USA Today newspaper, Bricks and Barley also manufactures craft beers under the Roundy’s Supermarket brand which are distributed in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
This brewery and distillery is said to have links to Matt Brewing’s plant which makes the Saranac and Utica Club line of craft beers, but the connection between them is still uncertain.
Why Did Costco Stop Selling Kirkland Beer?
In 2018, a story appeared in the national media that Costco was to stop selling Kirkland beers. Fortunately, further investigation reveals the story only referred to one of the Kirkland family of beers, the Kirkland Signature Light.
While many of the Kirkland beers had received positive reviews, Costco’s first foray into the light beer scene with Kirkland Light had not gone particularly well, with mixed, mainly negative reviews of the light beer.
Some may have praised the beer for its incredibly affordable price and were happy paying $22 for 48 cans, but other beer consumers would bluntly say it tasted like urine. Harsh, but it seems this is a prime example of getting what you pay for.
Customer reviews on highly regarded consumer websites like Rate Beer compared it to a urine-soaked nappy.
Some of the other best comments were:
- “tastes like it’s been sitting in a men’s urinal in Tijuana in 110-degree temperature”
- “It’s brewed and filtered through the sweat socks of the owners and GM of the brewery”
- “Flavors of insipid soggy bread”
- “Smells like cooked veg and underage cat pee”
Rate Beer users gave Kirkland Signature Light Beer a score of 1.97 out of 5 while Beer Advocate users were only slightly more generous with a score of 2.51 out of 5.
Although not many people are going to miss the Kirkland Light with an alcohol content of 4.2% ABV, we may miss the funny homemade commercials made by one die-hard fan whose favorite beer was Kirkland Signature Light.
Carpenter Randy Colpeck from California would regularly film himself breaking through a wall of stacked cases of Kirkland’s Signature Light Beer and shouting slogans like “Kirkland Light: It’s got 30% less calories, so you can drink double the amount” or “Kirkland Light: It’s 11 am somewhere!”
How Much Do Kirkland Beers Cost?
The major benefit of Kirkland beers is their value for money. As with all Costco products, Kirkland beers are offered at a discounted price compared to other premium brands. This makes them an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy a high-quality beer without breaking the bank.
Kirkland beers are also known for their consistency in flavor and quality. Each batch is brewed using the same recipe and ingredients, which ensures that every bottle tastes the same.
This level of consistency is particularly important for those who enjoy a particular beer style and want to know they can rely on its taste every time.
Although you may have to pay an annual membership to enjoy the discounted prices for beer at Costco, at the time of writing a 24-pack of beer was priced at $19.99. A 30-pack of beer at Costco was $22.29 and a 36-pack was $25.49.
Gone are the days of a 48-pack of Light beer for $22 but, as discussed earlier, that’s probably no bad thing.
Prices will vary from state to state and keep an eye out in the Costco Connections magazine for regular deals on the Kirkland beers, especially if you buy in bulk.
Perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to sample the Kirkland range of beers is to buy one of their 24-can variety packs at just $19.99. These packs include everything from an IPA to a German-style Kolsch.
The Best Kirkland Beers To Enjoy
The other thing that makes Kirkland beers stand out is the variety of beer styles they offer. From light beers to stouts, there is a Kirkland beer to suit every taste preference.
Additionally, Kirkland offers seasonal beers throughout the year, which allows beer enthusiasts to enjoy a variety of flavors and styles throughout the seasons.
One of the most popular beers from the Kirkland Signature line is the Kirkland Signature German Lager. This beer is a classic German lager that is brewed using only the finest barley malt, hops, and water. It has a smooth, clean taste that is perfect for pairing with a variety of foods, including burgers, grilled meats, and spicy dishes.
For those who enjoy a hoppy beer, Kirkland offers a variety of IPAs. The Kirkland Signature IPA is a West Coast-style IPA that is brewed with a blend of four different hops, giving it a strong, bitter flavor and a floral aroma. The Kirkland Signature Hoppy Hefeweizen is another hoppy option that combines the flavors of a traditional hefeweizen with a bold hop character.
Kirkland also offers a variety of seasonal beers throughout the year, including a pumpkin spice ale in the fall and a winter ale during the holiday season. They even make a Kirkland Hard Seltzer for those summer months too.
Whether you’re a fan of German lagers, hoppy IPAs, or rich stouts, there is a Kirkland beer that is sure to satisfy your taste buds.
In no particular order, here are a few of our favorite Kirkland beers:
Kirkland Brown Ale 5% ABV
This Kirkland varietal of brown ale uses 8 distinct malts which give it a complex, nutty, molasses and malt palate.
At a moderate 5% ABV, it’s highly drinkable, although some critics may say it has more of a body of an amber ale or pale ale than a traditional brown ale.
If the authenticity of a brown ale isn’t a deal breaker then it’s hard to beat this brown ale for the price.
Kirkland Blonde Ale 4.3% ABV
This blonde ale pours with a light golden-yellow color and is a typical Kolsch-style ale that is easily drinkable at just 4.3 % ABV.
It’s the closest Kirkland gets to a light beer since discontinuing the godawful Kirkland Light and is brewed by Matt Brewing Company with a touch of wheat and pale Maktoum.
Flavors are notes of honey, a biscuity malt, a sugary sweetness, and a mild funky aroma that is not too offensive. The perfect beer for those pool parties and hot summer days.
Kirkland Pale Ale 5.4% ABV
A classic American Pale much in the style of Sierra Nevada’s famous brew.
Brewed by either the Hopfen Und Malz Brewing Co on the West Coast or Bricks & Barley Brewing Co and Matt Brewing Co on the East Coast it has a hop and bitter profile.
Even though it has a bitter finish, the tasting notes and aromas of the hops balance nicely with citrus and caramel notes.
Kirkland Session IPA 4.9% ABV
This Session IPA is produced by either the Gordon Borsch Brewing Co or Matt Brewing Co with a slightly lower ABV of 4.9% than the regular IPA.
It still manages to have that big hoppy flavor with citrus notes that we have come to expect from an IPA, but the lower ABV means you can enjoy more in one session.
The version brewed by Matt Brewing Co is virtually the same as their Saranac Pale Ale which was awarded a Gold medal at the European Beer Awards in 2020.
Kirkland Double Bock 7.5% ABV
This is the Kirkland Beer where the expertise of the Gordon Biersch Brewery really shines through. Although it is also brewed on the East Coast by Matt Brewing Co, you should really try to get hold of a West Coast-brewed DoubleBock by GB Brewing Co.
Boasting a 7.5% ABV, the beer has a medium to full body with a deep dark brown color, almost like burnt amber. The beer has an interesting taste of deep toasty caramel balanced with a touch of spicy hops.
It has a strong bitterness but a dose of light toffee and nuts gives the beer an earthy aftertaste. To quote one review Brutaltruth from Beer Advocate: “Not a lot to hate about this one – decent and would have it again!”
Kirkland India Pale Ale 6.9% ABV
Kirkland’s India Pale or IPA has a clear, bright orange-gold appearance with an aroma of honey malt and citrus.
It’s considered a hop-centric ale with plenty of citrussy flavors, including that sharp grapefruit you get in the best IPAs, and has a respectable ABV of 6.9% ABV.
Although it is brewed by both Hopfen Un Malz and Matt Brewing Company, remember the Matt Brewing Company IPA is a Gold Medal winner, so try to seek out the East Coast-brewed version of Kirkland IPA if you can.
Final Thoughts – Can a Generic Beer Be Good?
In summary, Kirkland beers are an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality, affordable beer.
With a wide variety of beer styles to choose from and seasonal offerings, there is something for everyone in the Kirkland Signature Craft Brewed Beer line.
So the next time you’re at Costco, don’t forget to stock up on your favorite Kirkland beer and enjoy a cold one at home.
You may just have to spend a bit more time at the party convincing the other guests next time you put some Kirkland Beer in the cooler.