50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2015
July 28, 2015
Check out which American craft beer icons you should be turning to this year
Fall In Love With Beer All Over Again
From your favorites that made it last year to new and exciting breweries on the verge of brewing (pun intended) up something special, from spots in Kalamazoo to Boonville, we cannot wait to share with you the best places to enjoy craft beer in 2015!
#50 Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kan.
When Jeff Gill and his wife Tricia pondered the age-old question “What do you want to do with your life?” in 2006, they immediately turned their thoughts to craft beer. It is a good thing too, because in 2007 they formed Tallgrass Brewing, a copper-clad brew house that is serving fans a unique array of tasty styles. Try the Buffalo Sweat, an oatmeal cream stout that is perfectly dark and decadent.
#49 Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., Decorah, Iowa
A growing giant in the industry, Iowa's Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. began only in 2009. Today they have a four- vessel, 30-barrel system that brews incredible styles that range from bold double IPAs to barrel- and-wood aged beers. Be sure to sample the Golden Nugget India Pale Ale made from Alt and Buggest hops for a medium-rich, easy drink.
#48 Abita Brewing Company, Abita Springs, La.
Beginning our list as a new arrival for 2015, Abita Brewing Company has more than earned its spot on this list. A popular write-in on our 2014 survey, this craft brewery has been functioning just 30 miles outside New Orleans since 1986. They began by brewing a mere 1,500 barrels of beer in their first year, and today have grown to a 100-seat brewpub that produces 51,000 barrels of beer and 9,100 barrels of root beer annually. The beer is made using fresh, simple ingredients, resulting in complex flavors that consistently delight and intrigue. Abita Purple Haze, brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and Vanguard hops, is infused with raspberries after filtration for a bold and sweet flavor unlike any raspberry wheat you’ve tried.
#47 Uinta Brewing, Salt Lake City
One trip to the Uinta Brewing facilities in Salt Lake City and you’ll see that there is just no substitute for tradition. Their brews are made through a classic fermentation process and infused with rich, familiar flavors that remind you of why you drink
#46 Yuengling, Pottsville, Pa.
Hard to pronounce? Perhaps, but it is sure is easy to drink! Yuengling, the oldest operating brewery in America, makes its arrival on this list with a force, being nominated with hundreds of write-in votes for its simple, bold lager that hits the spot in the dead of winter or on a hot summer day. Seriously, it is so good that even your friends who hate beer will love it.
#45 Elysian Brewing Company, Seattle
The Elysian Brewing Company has proudly brewed over 350 styles of beer since it opened on Capitol Hill in 1996. Today you can find comically named craft beers like Mens Room (a medium-bodied original red ale) ofr Loser (a pale ale) that will immediately help you understand their place on this list.
#44 Terrapin Brewing, Athens, Ga.
After the brewery was founded in 2002, Terrapin’s first beer, the Rye Pale Ale, was immediately recognized for its greatness. Six months later, it claimed the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. They’ve since become a craft beer lover’s favorite, brewing seasonal sessions as well as year-long rosters, and even a few collaborative brews.
#43 Prairie Artisan Ales, Tulsa, Okla.
Founded by brothers Chase and Colin Healey, Prairie Artisan Ales has gone through a lot of changes since its inception. Despite a significant slip on our list, this artisanal ale company still produces some of the tastiest and most versatile brews around. Their Limo Tent, a milk stout aged on chocolate, showcases their versatility and dedication to refined taste.
#42 Alaska Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska
When the Alaskan Brewing Company first brewed its flagship Alt Style Ale, they knew they had something special. The slowly fermented beer was a launching pad into a fine catalog of Gold Rush-era brews that celebrate Alaska’s history. Since beginning production in 1986, they’ve grown to distribute beer to 17 states, and hold many accolades for their fine ales.
#41 Dark Horse Brewing Company, Marshall, Mich.
What began as a small Michigan restaurant has become a serious brewing operation, 16 years after Aaron Morse convinced his father to turn the family eatery into a brewpub. Dark Horse Brewing Company’s ales all have a natural flavor. Take, for example, their raspberry ale: it’s made with the freshest raspberries for a mild fruit flavor that doesn’t overpower like most fruit beers.
#40 Smuttynose Brewing Company, Hampton, N.H.
In 1994, Smuttynose Brewing Company, named after the third largest of the nine islands that form the Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire, was born. Despite being available in 12 states and Europe, these beers remain distinctly loyal to the area in which they were born. Their Really Old Brown Dog full-bodied “old ale” is a testament to just that; a malt rich brew that has a complex flavor of fruit that speaks its region of origin.
#39 Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Md.
Flying Dog has called many locations home since its founding in 1990. The company began as a brewpub in Aspen in 1990, but by 1994 had become a full-fledged brewery in Denver. Now housed in a state-of-the-art facility in Maryland, this “good beer” company with its iconic labels produces 70,000 barrels annually. While the beer speaks for itself, its labels also have a fascinating history. When co-founder George Stranahan was introduced to English artist Ralph Steadman by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (who lived down the road from the brewery in a “fortified compound” in Aspen), he met the man who’d create his bottles’ look, beginning with the Road Dog Porter.
#38 Jester King Brewery, Austin
This small farmhouse brewery in the hills of the Texas countryside was not on our list in 2014, but supporters were determined to make sure it had a place this year. With brews like Le Petit Prince, a farmhouse light table beer, and Saltlick, a pecan-wood-smoked saison, you’ll be able to find a beer to satisfy any craving.
#37 AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego
It’s no wonder this California brewery creates such great beer, since Peter Zien, brewmaster and owner since 2002, is a Beer Judge Certification Program Level One Grand Master. Their nut brown ale, a year-round staple, is a tribute to the British style, which has notes of flavors like “biscuit, mild cocoa, and earthy hops.”
#36 Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn
Since its founding in 2004, Sixpoint has released hundreds of beers, so it’s difficult to pick just one standout. A Sweet Action beer is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, with a refreshing zing all its own, and the recent favorite 4Beans Imperial Porter is steeped with Madagascar vanilla beans for a rich and creamy flavor.
#35 Tröegs, Hershey, Pa.
Brothers John and Chris Trogner founded Tröegs (a play on their last name) in 1996, and in 1997 they sold their first keg to a local restaurant in Harrisburg. Since then, they’ve developed 15 brews. While the Tröegenator is a year-round favorite, every Tröegs fan longs for the holiday season, when their Christmastime beer Mad Elf arrives on shelves.
#34 Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland
Great Lakes Brewing Company prides itself on its environmental conscience and sustainability practices almost as much as its beer. The brewery is committed to local, organic farming for the harvest of raw materials and exclusively uses alternative fuels in their factory. All that green power produces some truly great beer. Great Lakes’ Eliot Ness Amber Lager is a testament to that, comprising slightly toasted malts and noble hops for a smooth and light finish.
#33 Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
For 25 years, Boulevard Brewing Company has been one of the finest specialty brewing companies in the Midwest. They produced 184,692 barrels last year, including their Great American Beer Festival gold medal-winning unfiltered wheat beer. This yeasty beer’s sweet, bready flavor makes it a real crowd-pleaser; it’s the company’s biggest seller. But don’t discount their other brews, like their Dark Truth Stout or their Bully! Porter.
#32 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco
The brewery, once named San Francisco Press’s Best Brewpub, has truly earned a spot on our list this year. Each of their nine year-round and seasonal ales and their IPAs has won a medal in the Great American Beer Festival, and their Imperial Jack, a bitter amber ale, won gold in the 2010 Beer World Cup. For a seasonal treat, be sure to catch their Hell or High Watermelon, a wheat beer that leaves a refreshing watermelon aftertaste.
#31 The Bruery, Anaheim, Calif.
The Bruery, which draws its name from the owner’s family name “Rue,” prides itself on pushing the boundaries of what beer should be. Their beers are always unfiltered and unpasteurized, and their groundbreaking methods are gaining them a lot of buzz. Saison Rue, voted Wine Enthusiast’s No. 1 beer of 2012, wins rave reviews for its sweet and sour flavor and fizzy mouthfeel. For a floral and authentic Belgian-style beer, try the Jardinier —French for “gardener” — which pairs well with California avocado toast.
#30 Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg, Calif.
In the heart of the Sonoma wine country lies Bear Republic Brewing Company, a brewery dedicated to bottling natural California flavor with each brew. This brewery is owned by fourth-generation Californians. In case you needed any more convincing, their Racer 5 IPA is one of the most award-winning beers in the country.
#29 Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn
Founded just five years ago in Denmark, Evil Twin has already made its mark on the beer world and now proudly calls Brooklyn its second home. The company released 40 different beers in 2012 and exports to 12 countries, making this one of the most widely distributed breweries on our list.
#28 Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, Ore.
Though Ninkasi Brewing is only about a decade old, this brewery has already made a name for itself in the craft beer community. After a chance meeting through mutual friends, partners Nikos Ridge and Jamie Floyd decided six months later that they would open a brewery based on exactly what they believed made amazing beer. They spent 17 hours brewing their first beer, Total Domination IPA, and have been making incredible brews ever since.
#27 Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver
One of the first craft breweries in Denver, Great Divide was on the forefront of the Denver craft brew scene. Not only did they do it first, but they are one of the best, winning a slew of awards in their hometown. In the beginning founder Brian Dunn was the sole employee, brewing, bottling, and shipping his ales all on his own. The beers quickly proved to be distinctively Denver, and with community support, Great Divide grew to the 45-employee-run brewery that it is today. Make sure you sip on their Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti for a bold and decadent beer that satisfies.
#26 Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
Amazingly enough, Brooklyn Brewery is making its first appearance on our list this year after fans rallied for it on the write-in portion of our survey. Located in the hipster capital of the world — Williamsburg, Brooklyn — this brewery predates the counterculture wave that sprung up around it. On the team is author and James Beard Award-winning brewmaster Garrett Oliver and co-founder Steve Hindy, who’s an author and beer industry commentator. These folks are just two among a team of impassioned beer advocates who bring unique seasonal flavors and year-round ales to their growing masses of fans.
#25 Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
A Rocky Mountain classic, Odell Brewing Company has been delighting beer lovers since 1989. Odell’s brews are an intimate experience, maybe because the brewery is family-owned and -operated. The company boasts 18 year-round and seasonal offerings, including some much-loved barrel-aged beers. Try the Barrel Thief and imperial IPA — a part of their Cellar Series — which is housed in medium toast American oak barrels.
#24 Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Ill.
This award-winning craft beer brewery is making its debut on our list, but has been brewing incredible beer for 25 years. After founder John Hall explored Europe pint by pint, he came back to America with the intention of giving our people the beer they “deserved” in the late ‘80s. The brewery officially opened in 1995 and has since doubled in size, producing 50 kegs every 60 minutes. Goose Island produces a variety of ales, both year-round and seasonal.
#23 The Alchemist Brewery, Waterbury, Vt.
This family brewery, situated in small-town Vermont, focuses on one thing and one thing only: Heady Topper, the brewery’s famous double IPA. It’s a testament to just how incredible this beer is. Luckily, all that focus pays off, resulting in a blend of six hops that hits some beautiful notes, featuring hints of citrus, pine, and spice. While The Alchemist brewery is closed to the public, their excellent beers are worth seeking out from retailers.
#22 New Glarus Brewing Company, Green County, Wis.
This community-oriented brewery on the outskirts of New Glarus landed itself in the same spot as last year. They’re still giving the bigger guys a run for their money with six outstanding beers available all year, along with eight seasonal offerings. Most notable is their year-round lager Two Women, which is a testament to the female brewers who helped shape the brewing industry. This country classic lager is the product of two women-run craft companies: Weyermann Malting, which provides floor-malted Bohemian malt for the brew, and Hallertau Mittelfrueh, which supplies New Glarus with hops.
#21 Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, N.Y.
Founded in 2002, Southern Tier has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, with eight year-round standard beers and a rotating cast of seasonals and special series beers. This brewery has something delicious for everyone at every season. And as an added bonus, their brew pub has a killer seasonal food menu for pairing purposes.
#20 Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego
Though Green Flash Brewing Company was only at the 26th spot on last year’s list, fans loved this company so much they voted them right into the top 20, and rightfully so. Couple Mike and Lisa Hinkley began Green Flash in 2002, but it wasn’t until brewmaster Chuck Silva helped them develop their signature West Coast IPA that they gained a loyal following of craft beer lovers. While there are flagship beers always on the line, Green Flash strives to keep their fans coming back for more with limited-edition brews and special seasonal ales.
#19 Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Brewery Ommegang crept up on the list this year by one spot, and is proudly holding onto its place in the top 20 of our list. Before Cooperstown was known for baseball, the town was the center of U.S. hop production. Situated on 136 acres of an old hop farm, Brewery Ommegang seeks to keep that tradition alive. Ommegang famously teamed up with HBO to make Game of Thrones-inspired beer, proving that tradition is always contemporary.
#18 Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, Colo.
Left Hand Brewing may be making their debut on our list this year, but they’re certainly no stranger to the beer-loving community. Their secret to success? It’s simple, really: it is all about staying balanced. From their lightest beers to their darkest, each brew has the perfect balance between malts and hops for a smooth and refreshing finish. Try their Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout if you’re looking for the perfect example of a beer that makes a statement while keeping a balanced flavor profile.
#17 3 Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
3 Floyds Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by Nick and Simon Floyd, along with their father, Mike. The business's home was originally a run-down warehouse, but the brothers transformed the building into a brewery, brewing intense beers that were (and still remain) "not normal" by conventional standards. In 2000, the company acquired better technology, and eventually began to bottle their products. As the craft beer industry grows, the Floyd family hopes to expand their distribution outside of the local area. Their Barrel-Aged Iced Grille is a strong Belgian-style beer aged in bourbon soaked barrels; how can you not love that attention to detail?
#16 Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colo.
This dog-friendly, small-batch-style brewery and brewpub offers beer lovers a respite from your average beer experience. The Avery brewing Company is a 22-year-old company that uses basic ingredients and brewing processes, mixed with their own bold flavor profiles, to create sips that range from rich pilsners to light Belgian-style beers. Be sure you stop by for a visit to the brewery for one of their daily tours, then swing by the taproom to taste the deliciousness for yourself.
#15 Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, Pa.
Created in 1996 by best friends Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing Company is the toast of PA with a reach that spans the nation. The company uses German malted barley and a mix of both European and American whole-flower hops (the use of whole-flower hops is unusual; the brewers insist this creates a better flavor and aroma in the beer). They are famous for their Hop Devil IPA, but Belgian-style lovers flock around any tap that is pouring the fruity and floral Golden Monkey.
#14 Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
Allagash Brewing Company is famous for the Belgian influence in its beers, which founder Rob Tod thought was majorly missing in the American brewing culture. Before each beer is bottled, a fresh dose of yeast and candi sugar (a Belgian invert sugar) is added, so that when it is put in a temperature-regulated cellar it referments to add a unique taste. This attention to detail and focus on quality is exactly why Allagash continues to be a fan favorite, climbing high on our list this year.
#13 New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
New Belgium quickly turned from a microbrewery into one of the most respected and loved full-scale breweries in the country. While Fat Tire is the solid flagship beer of New Belgium, the brewery takes risks with its seasonals. Their Pear Ginger Beer has zesty flavors and compelling aromatics.
#12 Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, Fla.
The self-proclaimed "world’s best beer" may have slipped a bit from its top 10 spot on our list, but Cigar City, a Florida favorite, has fans from far outside the Sunshine State for their unique lineup of beers. Their Two Regular Joes imperial stout is anything but average, and their seasonal Puppy’s Breath not only has an “aww-worthy” name, it has the aroma of chocolate and coffee (said to resemble an actual puppy’s breath, due to the animals' weak digestive systems!).
#11 Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, Calif.
If you’ve ever thought of your in-laws as a burden, you might want to start look at the possibility of monetizing them. After all, the Firestone Walker Brewing Company began as a debate between two brothers-in-law on what makes beer good. It is safe to say that these two have answered the question, as their brewery produces some of the highest-quality beers in the country. If you can catch their seasonal ales, you have to try the Oaktoberfest, which has subtle notes of honey and tons of hoppy goodness.
#10 Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colo.
This brewery got its start in the basement of the Oskar Blues Grill and Brew Restaurant one year after the restaurant opened. There was never a doubt about Oskar Blues Brewery: Their very first beer, the Reverend Sandi’s Sinful Stout, earned them a bronze medal in the Great American Beer Festival in 1998. In 2002 they became the first brewery to can their own beer: their flagship Dale’s Pale Ale.
#9 Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, Calif.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company began with Ken Grossman’s passion for the alchemy of home-brewing as a young man. When Grossman took a cycling trip through Chico, he fell in love with the area and decided to set up his home and his first beer venture, the Home Brew Shop, there in the 1970s. As he honed his craft, he searched for quality hops (not easily available at the time) and began shaping what would become Sierra Nevada’s entire flavor profile. It’s all based on rich, hoppy brews that mirror flavors found in nature. While their IPA is the most popular brew, you have to try their Nooner Pilsner, one of the original session beers.
#8 Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego
From humble home-brewing roots to the empire that is Ballast Point Brewing Company, the goal has always been to do beer a little differently. Their Longfin Lager, a German-style inspired beer, and their array of flavored IPAs (including a grapefruit-infused one) are evidence enough of this noble effort.
#7 Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Once upon a time, the beer that is now brewed under the name Russian River Brewing Company was under the influence of a winery. When Korbel Champagne Cellars decided to do away with their beer in 2003, they turned to their trusted brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo, giving him the opportunity to continue brewing the beer he made for them under the same brand. Try the double India pale ale Pliny the Elder for a well-balanced and hoppy brew.
#6 Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
With over 20 beers brewed for distribution, this Kalamazoo icon brings artful and delicious flavors to the masses. While producing quality beer is obviously the main focus (just sip on their Oarsman Ale and you’ll see), another aspect we appreciate is the emphasis they place on the sustainability and environmental impact of their beer. Bell’s Brewery’s farm in Shepherd, Michigan, follows no-till farming techniques, and they have seriously reduced their carbon footprint with recycling practices that necessitate garbage pick-up just once a week.
#5 Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Its slip from the top of our 2014 list to the fifth spot shouldn’t dissuade you: Founders Brewing Company still produces some of the most complexly flavored and delicious beer in the country. The founders of Founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, admittedly don’t brew beer for everyone. They say they focus on the select few drinkers who appreciate the nuances in each sip of beer, aiming to provide them with brews that challenge and intrigue the senses. If you’re an IPA lover, you have to try the floral and frothy Centennial IPA, which boasts a sweet, yet balanced flavor.
#4 Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
As the Deschutes Brewery looks over the gorgeous Deschutes River, it is only fair to wonder if the secret to their delicious beer is actually in the water. A local institution, this brewery has been around since 1988, consistently pushing flavor profiles to the limit and experimenting with special small-batch brews. For a go-to beer, try their Black Butte Porter, a rich and deep beer that satisfies.
#3 Stone Brewing Co., San Diego
Escondido’s finest brewery stands tall and proud at No. 3 this year, moving down only one spot in this year’s ranking. Stone Brewing Co. has been producing quality beer since beer lover and brewer Steve Wagner teamed up with fellow beer advocate and businessman Greg Koch in 1989. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that they would actually begin brewing some of the best beer in the country. A fan favorite is the Arrogant Bastard Ale.
#2 Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
With influences from the beer-making communities in Chicago; St. Louis; Quincy, Massachusetts; Memphis; and Walker Creek, California, the crew of Lagunitas Brewing Company came to meet in Petaluma, California, to make hoppy magic. This brewery takes signature ales and transforms them into liquid gold. Don’t believe us? Sip on the Censored Ale, which is unfathomably smooth with a “roasty, malty” finish.
#1 Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Del.
It is no surprise that Dogfish Head Brewery has climbed to the top spot on our list. Since 1995, this brewery has been creating craft beer that is approachable and relatable to all tastes. Their dedication to quality is what garners them such a respectable reputation in the Rehoboth Beach area and around the country. Try their year-round Belgian-style white beer Namaste, made with “dried organic orange slices, fresh-cut lemongrass, and a bit of coriander,” for a refreshing beer that will totally confirm why America thinks of Dogfish Head as the top brewery in the country.