The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America (Slideshow)
July 21, 2014
Check out which American craft beer icons you should be turning to this year
#50 Devils Backbone Brewing Company — Roseland, Virginia
This 15,000-square-foot brewery located in the lush, mountainous heart of central Virginia should be on every beer lover’s watch list. In the six short years they’ve been in operation, the pub has won seventeen medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Their Gold Leaf Lager, a hoppy, Bavarian-style beer, is an annual favorite, bringing home three of the company’s GABF awards. Additionally, Devils Backbone was named Small Brewer of the Year for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013.
#49 Cascade Brewing Company — Portland, Oregon
Brewmaster Ron Gansberg got his start making wine in the Pacific Northwest, but his attention eventually shifted to the growing microbrew movement, particularly sour brews, which rely on yeast and barrel aging instead of hops to produce flavor. These days, Gransberg’s risk has paid off. The New York Times recently named Cascade’s Kriek the best sour beer in America. Beer Advocate also rates the beer “Outstanding,” praising the tart/sweet flavor of the red ale, which is barrel-aged eight months with fresh Bing and sour pie cherries.
#48 Short’s Brewing Company — Bellaire, Michigan
Unfortunately, you’ll have to travel to Michigan yourself to find the state’s favorite beer, Short’s. Owner Joe Short, known for his innovative brews featuring unlikely ingredients, has no plans to distribute his popular brand out of state. However, a pilgrimage to Northern Michigan might be worth it to visit the pub that has produced Great American Beer Festival medal winners like Bloody Beer, a bloody Mary-inspired beer containing notes of tomato, celery, and pepper, and Key Lime Pie, which tastes exactly like its name suggests. “Short's is, hands down, without a doubt, one of the most creative breweries out there,” Nick Brennan of Hoppy Times tells us. “They're the antithesis of the brewery looking to stay true to style, and that is part of their charm. If you want to be surprised and wowed by a beer that just doesn't seem like it should work, head to Short's.”
#47 Jack’s Abby Brewing Company — Framingham, Massachusetts
Tradition is important to the Hendler brothers, founders of Jack’s Abby. Not only do they grow the ingredients for their beer at the family farm, but they also brew in the centuries-old German tradition. All that attention to detail and respect for tradition paid off when their Framinghammer Baltic Porter took the gold medal in this year’s Beer World Cup. The beer itself is a black lager with a chocolaty sweetness that perfectly balances the roasted malt and bitter hops flavors. This new star in the beer world is definitely one to try.
#46 Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery — Athens, Ohio
Jackie O’s is the little brewery that does it all. No, seriously. They’ve got the brewpub, serving up a revolving list of IPAs, Belgian-style brews, and ales along with a full food menu. Then they’ve got the brewery itself, which bottles and ships their most famous beers all over Ohio, including their popular Mystic Mama IPA. And don’t forget the bakery, which supplies all the pub’s bread and desserts. Yeah, but do they grow their own veggies? They sure do. On a twenty-acre farm that includes four greenhouses. So when you’re at Jackie O’s, know that everything on the table, except for maybe the plates, is locally sourced and carefully prepared.
#45 Fat Head’s Brewery — Middleburg Heights, Ohio
Judges can’t get enough of this Ohio Brewery’s Head Hunter IPA, which Draft Magazine named as one of the Top 25 Beers in the World and was a two-time Grand Champion at the National IPA challenge. So what makes Fat Head’s IPA special? Reviews say it’s the perfect blend of sharp citrus, breadyness, and aggressive hops that make Head Hunter a standout.
#44 Sixpoint Brewery — Brooklyn, New York
Since its founding in 2004, Sixpoint has released hundreds of beers, so it’s difficult to pick just one standout. However, all those beers have led to a lot of positive attention for the brewery, which was named 2013’s Best Craft Beer Brewery in New York State at the New York Craft Beer and Fine Food Festival and one of Men’s Fitness’ Top Ten American Craft Breweries. Beer lovers go crazy for Sixpoint’s unconventional brews, including their aggressively hoppy IPA, Bengali Tiger, named “World Class” by Beer Advocate.
#43 Stillwater Artisanal Ales — Baltimore, Maryland
Operating out of the brew pub Of Love and Regret, Stillwater specializes in saisons. One of their stand-out bottles, Cellar Door, is an especially exceptional — and atypical — saison, Jon Brewmaster tells us. “It’s delicate without being sweet, heady, or hot, and it derives flavor from its wheat, using American hops that tend towards citrus flavors,” he tells us. Stillwater regularly earns accolades for their beers — and has made Ratebeer.com’s list of top 100 breweries four years running now. "[Brewer] Brian Strumke works more like an artist than a traditional brewer — he uses barley, hops, and yeast as his medium to expertly craft a beer that transports you into his artistic vision," says The Baltimore Post-Examiner.
#42 Surly Brewing Company — Minneapolis, Minnesota
Surly recently broke ground on a 20 million dollar taproom, which is pretty good for a company that began from a home brew kit in owner Omar Ansari’s garage. And don’t let the fact that it’s sold in cans fool you; the company’s Cynic Ale, a farmhouse ale with a sweet honey flavor, is rated “Outstanding” by Beer Advocate and was named among Esquire’s “Best Canned Beers to Drink Now” in 2012.
#41 Dark Horse Brewing Company — Marshall, Michigan
What began as a small Michigan restaurant has become a serious brewing operation, 15 years after Aaron Morse convinced his father to turn the family restaurant into a brewpub. Ratebeer.com named Dark Horse one of the best breweries in the country, and their mostly vegan-friendly beers and ales get “Very Good” ratings across the board at Beer Advocate. “I enjoyed drinking Dark Horse brews for years before I had the pleasure of visiting the taproom and brewery,” says Kelli Williams of Momma Needs a Beer. “When I finally had the opportunity to visit, I felt as if I was hanging out at my favorite uncle's place. The Dark Horse environment is as laid back and comforting as the beer itself.”
#40 Sierra Nevada Brewing Company — Chico, California
Chances are, you’re probably already familiar with this company’s wildly popular Pale Ale — but did you know that in the early ‘80s, when founder Ken Grossman began his brewery, there was no such thing as a “micro brew?” Grossman, a home brew store owner, fashioned most of the equipment in his first brewery all by himself. 30 years later, Sierra Nevada’s hoppy, yet hearty, Pale Ale has launched a craft beer revolution and remains the best-selling pale ale in the country.
#39 Maine Beer Company — Freeport, Maine
The company’s founders vowed when they began their beer operation that they would “do what was right” by never letting the operation get too big and donating a portion of their profits to environmental charities. Eight years and lots of beer later, Maine Beer Company is still living by that mantra, producing small batches of popular “sipping beers,” including a variety of American ales. Their bottling is more suggestive of wine than beer, and that’s no coincidence, as the company ages its hoppy beers in oak barrels acquired from a pinot noir producer.
#38 HooDoo Brewery — Fairbanks, Alaska
HooDoo has only been around two years, but brewmaster and owner Bobby Wilken has been studying his craft for fifteen years, traveling the world tasting beer from Germany to the Czech Republic before putting in years on the crew at the Alaskan Brewing Co. Wilken prefers to brew in small batches, and rarely has more than four beers in rotation. Wilken focuses heavily on German and Belgian brews, but if Deutsche-style isn’t your style, don’t worry, because there are IPA and stout offerings as well.
#37 Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales — Dexter, Michigan
If you don’t immediately think of Michigan when you think of cutting-edge brewing, think again. Jolly Pumpkin produces complex, spicy flavors in their ales and beers by aging them in wine barrels. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière, a light farmhouse ale, took the bronze in the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, and was recently named one of the top beers in America by Men’s Journal.
#36 AleSmith Brewing Company — San Diego, California
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 1 Grand Master. In both 2006 and 2013, Ratebeer.com named AleSmith the Top Brewer in the World. Their Decadence Old Ale, a seasonal offering that varies from year to year, has won four Great American Beer Festival medals and taken the gold in the World Beer Cup.
#35 The Lost Abbey — San Marcos, California
The Lost Abbey was founded in 2006 out of an obsession with Belgian-style abbey beers. Since its inception, Lost Abbey has gained a cultish following of devotees, and big-time accolades as well. They were named the Small Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in 2006 and 2007 and were the Champion Small Brewer at the 2008 World Beer Cup. Lost Abbey offers six year-round beers including the popular Lost and Found, a Belgian-style double ale with a pleasant, easygoing caramel and fig flavor.
#34 Anchor Brewing Company — San Francisco, California
This iconic San Francisco brand dates all the way back to the gold rush, when the company’s founder, Gottlieb Brekle, bought his first Bay Area saloon and founded America’s first craft brewery. Anchor has been brewing more or less ever since, and can even be credited with bringing the now en vogue wheat beer back to America with Anchor Summer Beer in 1984. Their most popular beer, Anchor Steam, first brewed in 1896, can be found all over the world.
#33 21st Amendment Brewing — San Francisco, California
Last February, 21st Amendment announced plans to take over San Francisco’s former Kellogg’s plant to build a brewery capable of producing 250,000 barrels a year. The brewery, once named San Francisco Press’s Best Brewpub, has reason to plan big. Each of their nine year-round and seasonal ales and IPA 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. “Brew Free or Die IPA is so bold, yet refreshing, it's a great beer for all of your hoppy needs,” Don Ayres tells us. “Back in Black IPA has great hoppy flavors with a bold roasty character from the dark malt.”
#32 Crooked Stave — Denver, Colorado
Crooked Stave equally values tradition and innovation. Brewmaster Chad Yakobson originally studied winemaking in New Zealand before founding Crooked Stave, where he uses wild yeast, once considered a contamination threat by other breweries, and oak barrels to create everything from traditional saison to IPA and porter. His Pure Guava Petite Sour, with its funky, sour flavor finished with hints of guava and kiwi, is certainly not for everyone, but acolytes adore his cheeky twist on traditional brewing.
#31 Evil Twin Brewing — Brooklyn, New York
Founded just four years ago in Denmark, Evil Twin has already made its mark on the beer world. The company released 40 different beers in 2012 and exports to twelve countries. Beer Advocate recently ranked the dark, chocolate and coffee based Imperial Biscotti Break among the best beers in the world.
#30 Flying Dog Brewery — Frederick, Maryland
Flying Dog has moved around a bit 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, the “good beer” with the iconic labels produces 70,000 barrels annually. Of its nine different year-round offerings, Flying Dog remains best known for their pale ales. The New York Times recently named their Doggie Style Pale Ale the number one APA in the country.
#29 Great Lakes Brewing Company — Cleveland, Ohio
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’ malty, rich Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is a 10-time medal winner at the World Beer Championships.
#28 Hill Farmstead Brewery — Greensboro Bend, Vermont
The 60,000 gallons of world-class beer that Hill Farmstead brewery produces annually is only sold at the brewery itself, located in rural Vermont, and in around twenty local pubs. But it might be worth the trip to try a few of their many offerings. Everyone from The New York Times to Vanity Fair raves about their pales ales, stouts, and porters. In 2010, Ratebeer.com even named Hill Farmstead the best brewery in the world.
#27 Odell Brewing Company — Fort Collins, Colorado
Colorado takes its craft brewing seriously, and after 25 years in the business, Odell Brewing Company has proved that they mean business. The company boasts 18 year-round and seasonal offerings, including some much-loved barrel aged beers. Odell Friek is brewed with wild yeast and cherries, then aged two years in oak barrels. The result is a delicate sweet and sour beer that earns a world-class rating from Beer Advocate.
#26 Green Flash Brewing Company — San Diego, California
Green Flash is a young company that prides itself on embracing traditional craft beer favorites like the foamy, piney West Coast IPA. But the brewery also allows for innovation, and their seasonal offerings are continually evolving. Depending on the month, beer enthusiasts can expect anything from the floral scented Cedar Plank APA to the bitter caramel fall favorite, Green Bullet. “You have to appreciate the hubris of a brewery that rolls out a giant red imperial rye IPA as a summer seasonal,” quips Don Ayres.
#25 The Bruery — Orange County, California
The Bruery, which draws its unconventional name from the family name “Rue,” prides itself on pushing the boundaries of what beer should be. Its founders draw inspiration from unconventional sources like “sweet potato pie, Thai food, and the intense aroma of freshly picked lavender.” Their beers are always unfiltered and unpasteurized, and their groundbreaking methods are quickly gaining a lot of buzz. Saison Rue, voted Wine Enthusiast’s number one beer of 2012, wins rave reviews for its sweet and sour flavor and fizzy mouthfeel.
#24 Ballast Point Brewing Company — San Diego, California
What started as a group of home brewers dedicated to making great-tasting beer has evolved into a pretty large operation that produces not only seven year-round beer offerings, but spirits such as award-winning vodka, whiskey, rum, and gin. But let’s stay focused on the beer. Their Sculpin IPA won the gold medal in 2014’s World Beer Cup, and for good reason —
the beer’s citrusy flavor is undercut with a “sting” of bitters to mimic its poisonous namesake. The combination of sweet yet biting flavors makes for a unique IPA experience. However, the Sculpin isn’t the only beer that deserves a second — or third — taste. “Ballast Point gets headlines for Sculpin, which now comes in grapefruit and habanero varieties,” says San Diego-based craft beer writer Don Ayres, “but the real gem in their brewing crown is Victory at Sea, a coffee vanilla imperial porter.”
#23 Boulevard Brewing Company — Kansas City, Missouri
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.
#22 New Glarus Brewing — New Glarus, Wisconsin
This community-oriented brewery on the outskirts of New Glarus, Wisconsin is giving the bigger guys a run for their money with six outstanding beers available year-round, along with eight other seasonal offerings. “When people ask me about New Glarus I always tell them that it's the brewery that puts quality above everything else,” says Nick Brennan of Hoppy Times. “You're not going to see something ridiculous coming from them. Instead, you'll see flawless examples, perfectly to style, that stand out due to their simplicity.” Their nutty brown ale, Fat Squirrel, was voted one of 2010’s 25 Best New Beers in America by Maxim. Spotted Cow cream ale, a fresh-tasting flaked barley brew, was named Best Drink in Wisconsin by Bon Apétit in 2009. Most agree that what put New Glarus on the map wasn’t just its fantastic beers (the brewery won several awards at the recent U.S. Beer Open competition), but the "fantastic" story of co-founder Deborah Carey, one of the few women CEOs in the brewing industry.
#21 The Alchemist — Waterbury, Vermont
This family brewery situated in small town Vermont focuses on one thing and one thing only — Heady Topper, the brewery’s famous double IPA. They currently brew 180 barrels of the beer a week in 15-barrel batches. 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 now closed to the public, their excellent beers are worth seeking out from retailers.
#20 Brewery Ommegang — Cooperstown, New York
Before Cooperstown, NY was known for baseball, the town was the epicenter of U.S. hop production. Situated on 136 acres of an old hop farm, Brewery Ommegang seeks to keep that tradition alive. Their Belgian-style brews have won prestigious awards including the 2010 and 2012 Beer World Cup and the 2010 Bronze European Beer Star for Belgian Style Ale. Ommegang also recently teamed up with HBO to make Game of Thrones-inspired beer. Fire and Blood beer is named after the House Targaryen and premiered on in March 2014 along with the show’s fourth season.
#19 Allagash Brewing Company — Portland, Maine
The brewing company that started as a one-man operation, Allagash has quickly become the toast of the Maine brewing scene. The brewing company is famous for the Belgian influence in its beers, which founder Rob Tod thought was majorly missing in the brewing culture. True to these roots, its most famous and first beer is the Allagash White, similar to a traditional Belgian beer, easily one of the most favored beers on the East Coast (and the winner of seven beer awards). Today, the company operates out of a brewery in Portland, Maine, and offers both tours and tastings.
#18 Great Divide Brewing Company — Denver, Colorado
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, including several for their famed Hades Belgian-Style Strong Ale and Yeti Imperial Stouts. They celebrated their twentieth anniversary this past June, where they announced their expansion to a second location, also in Denver.
#17 Victory Brewing Company — Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Victory Brewing Company has hometown roots in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean the brewery is without its national fans. It’s one of the oldest craft breweries in the country, created in 1996 by best friends Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski. The company uses German malted barley and a mix of both European and American whole-flower hops; in fact, it’s unusual in that it uses whole flower hops, and the brewers insist this creates a better flavor and aroma in the beer. In its first year, the brewery produced a mere 1,725 barrels of beer; today, that number has climbed to more than 93,000 barrels annually. The brewery has also recently started producing whimsical, beer-related treats like beer-infused beef jerky, pickles, cheese spreads, and ice cream. "Victory has a deep catalog with tons of hits, but they shine brightest when hewing to the German tradition — not surprising, given the generations of Germans who settled eastern Pennsylvania,” Chris Van Orden of DC Beer tells us. “Prima Pils is widely (and rightly) considered one of the best American takes on the German pilsener, while their limited Braumeister pils series are subtle yet intriguing variations on the theme. Moonglow Weizenbock and St. Victorious Doppelbock gives the best old world versions a run for their money. A good rule of thumb: if it's a Victory beer based on a German style, buy it. Once you've done that, delve deeper into their roster: DirtWolf DIPA, Storm King imperial stout, and Old Horizontal barleywine show that Victory does a lot more than lagers.
#16 Epic Brewing Company — Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado
Utah might not be the first place that comes to mind when you want to experience great craft beer, but Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City doesn’t aim for the typical. Utah law changed in 2008, allowing founders David Cole and Peter Erickson to team up with brewmaster Kevin Crompton in the creation of small batch, artisanal beer. By 2013, Epic expanded to Denver, where they produce over 39 beers. This year, they’ve received several gold medals, including for their Hop Syndrome Lager at the San Diego International Beer Festival, and their Smoked Porter at the LA International Beer Competition. Don Ayres believes their best beer is an ideal choice for breakfast, however. “It's not up for debate when I say that Big Bad Baptist is the best coffee beer you will ever drink. Period. That giant behemoth is perfectly acceptable to have for breakfast, because it's coffee,” he tells us.
#15 Prairie Artisan Ales — Tulsa, Oklahoma
Founded by brothers Chase and Colin Healey, Prairie Artisan Ales has gone through a lot of growth recently. Last year, the brothers opened a Kickstarter to help fund their move into new warehouse space in Tulsa. A year later, and their expanded operation is proving a success, due largely to the high quality of their saisons. The Funky Gold Mosaic has been garnering a lot of attention. Already at the #15 spot, Prairie Ales are a star on the rise.
#14 Southern Tier Brewing Company — Lakewood, New York
Founded in 2002, Southern Tier has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, and now produces more than 90,000 barrels annually. Draft Magazine calls their Southern Tier IPA a “seriously beautiful” beer, and many have praised their unusual crème brûlée stout. 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 brewery pub has a killer seasonal menu for pairing purposes.
#13 Deschutes Brewery — Bend, Oregon
Founded by Gary Fish in 1988 as a small brew pub, Deschutes has grown into one of the largest craft breweries in the United States today. Last year, they took home the Best of Show trophy at the International Brewing Awards, and they’ve also been honored at the United States Open Beer Championship, among other awards. Their beers are excellent, a stand-out being the Chainbreaker White IPA, which uses on-trend Citra hops. Recently, Deschutes unveiled Woody, their impossibly cute beer-mobile, which has been making the rounds this summer doling out their delicious drafts.
#12 Avery Brewing Company — Boulder, Colorado
This 20-year-old Boulder, Colorado, Avery Brewing Company began with founders who had a passion for home-brewing. Today, they have expanded to a much larger warehouse and have gained an impressive following, in Colorado and beyond. Avery certainly knows how to treat its fans right; visitors to the Boulder taproom find exclusive, small-batch beers that are hard to find in stores and in bars. This year, however, the brewery is expanding the size and scope of its barrel-aging program — in Colorado, as well as the 27 other states to which the brewery distributes. In a Colorado beer scene that’s plenty full, it’s what makes Avery stand out from the rest.
#11 Firestone Walker Brewing Company — Paso Robles and Buelton, California
Adam Firestone (who lucks out with a name like that?) and his British brother-in-law David Walker founded Firestone Breweries in 1996, when they decided to start brewing their own beer after years of debating what makes a great beer.The result? Firestone Walker, a brewery that has earned accolades — including recognition from the European Beer Star and Great American Beer Festival — for many of its beers. Don Ayres tells us that “Double Jack is one of the best readily-available Double IPAs on the market today. Parabola is the stuff of all of your stoutiest dreams.” Jon Brewmaster agrees. “The Double Jack is an amazing version of a classic Pacific Northwest-style IPA: the hop profile is exactly the classic style, but unlike other DIPAs — which tend to tip the scales in favor of bitterness or sweetness or hop aroma — this one ends up maintaining the balance, giving the beer a strong body that is never overwhelmed,” he says. “It’s a sipping beer, like a Scotch, and is one of those complex beers that will have you tasting things not in there: sipping it like a wine, you’ll ask yourself Is this oaked? Is there rye in this? Get yourself a 22-ounce bottle and see for yourself.”
#10 Three Floyds Brewing Company — Munster, Indiana
Three 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, and began to brew intense beers that were (and still remain) "not normal" by conventional standards. With the increase in demand for their beers, the company grew and grew. "They’ve got a fanatical fan base," says Tom Bobak, of American Craft Beer. In 2000, the company acquired better technology, and eventually began to bottle products. As the craft beer industry grows, the Floyd family hopes to expand their distribution to more people outside of the local area. Still, once you try Three Floyds, you never go back. “After everyone and their brother passed along various bottles of deliciousness to me from Three Floyds over the years, I recently had the pleasure of visiting the taproom. The chaotic brewery was buzzing with clinking glasses and smiling faces; I may have been a stranger walking in, but I felt like family walking out — armed with beer to share, of course,” Kelli Williams tells us.
#9 Oskar Blues Brewery — Longmont, Colorado
Oskar Blues, originally based in Lyons, Colo., is the self-declared leader in the canned beer revolution — and it’s hard to imagine a summer in the Centennial State without Dale’s Pale Ale or Old Chub. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more award-winning brewery in Colorado, much less the West Coast, but this brewpub turned mega-craft beer producer (with new facilities in North Carolina) has kept its hometown roots intact with live music, outdoor games, and more. Of course, canning craft beers may be unusual, but it’s not what makes Oskar Blues shine. “Sure, they're one of the first American craft breweries to exclusively can their beers,” Don Ayres notes. “But that notoriety would be a footnote if they didn't fill those cans with high-quality brews. Ten Fidy is one of the most satisfying dark beers in the world.”
#8 Cigar City Brewing — Tampa, Florida
This brewery started with two things in mind, according to its website: to "make the world's best beer" and "to share with people near and far the fascinating culture and heritage of the Cigar City of Tampa." The self-proclaimed "world’s best beer" is made in a 6,600-square-foot warehouse, which includes a tasting room open to the public. But Cigar City, a Florida favorite, has fans from far outside the Panhandle state for their unique lineup of beers. Cigar City recently signed a deal with Carnival Cruise Lines, so now the lucky folks onboard thirteen Florida-based cruise ships will now have access to the delicious Florida Belgian-Style Ale and Invasion Pale Ale.
#7 New Belgium Brewing — Fort Collins, Colorado
Started in 1989 with the founder delivering beers on his bike, New Belgium quickly turned into a microbrewery and then surpassed the microbrewery mark to become one of the most respected and loved full breweries in the country. They now offer free tours of their facility, which produces Fat Tires the very brew that was transported on bikes more than 20 years ago. While Fat Tire is the solid flagship beer of New Belgium, the brewery still takes risks with its seasonals. New Belgium takes the Colorado lifestyle and transposes it to a larger audience, and many agree that the brewery doesn’t just make great craft beer — it makes an eco-friendly and community-friendly impact.
#6 Lagunitas Brewing Company — Petaluma, California
Founded in 1993, Lagunitas Brewing Company has a core of supportive beer lovers who want to nurture the creation of consistently good beer. The brewery is willing to do anything, "capable of making beer out of goat’s milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the moon, if need be," according to its Facebook page. And it’s the brewery’s dedication to experimentation that has won over beer lovers across the company. "Lagunitas' laid-back vibe and stoner aesthetic belies their devotion to pinpoint brewing,” Chris Van Orden of DC Beer explains. “Brown Shugga shows a dizzying array of malt flavors and Cappuccino Stout is a world-class coffee beer, but it's their use of hops that really sets them apart. Somehow, even the dankest, most bitter beers come across with a brightness and sprightliness that too many hop bombs miss. It's this green, spritzy character that instantly identifies nearly every one of their products as a Lagunitas beer. Drinking a fresh Lagunitas Sucks is a true joy — one that Midwesterners and East Coasters can now enjoy more easily, with the massive new Chicago facility up and running."
#5 Bell's Brewery — Kalamazoo, Michigan
What started with merely a thirst for better beer and a gallon soup kettle in 1985 has turned into a regionally known craft brewery. Bell’s Brewery is a dedicated company that believes in brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality, and small-batch craft beers. Bell’s currently has more than 20 brews for distribution, as well as some select options served at their pub. The pub at Bell’s, The Eccentric Café, was founded in 1993 and made Bell’s the first brewery in Michigan to serve beer by the glass. The brewery also has a general store with beer to go, and home brewing supplies to help you on your own beer endeavor. This year, Bell’s started releasing cans and mini-kegs of Oberon, in case you needed an excuse to drink even more of their excellent brew.
#4 Dogfish Head Brewery — Milton, Delaware
In the brewery business for almost two decades, Dogfish Head is one of the most popular breweries in the country. It was Delaware’s first brewpub, and when it opened in 1995, Dogfish Head was the smallest commercial brewery in America. But this small brewery now packs a giant punch, operating out of a 100,000-square-foot converted cannery, and selling their beer, including their original 60 Minute IPA, in more than 25 states. Under the direction of founder Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head continues to be the game changer — and leader — in the world of craft beer. This year, the company continued its innovative streak by turning hotelier: they recently opened the Dogfish Inn, an impossibly cute inn featuring sixteen rooms packed with beer-centric amenities and charming design.
#3 Russian River Brewing Company — Santa Rosa, California
Russian River Brewing Company focuses on "traditional aggressively hopped California-style" ales, Belgians, and barrel-aged beers. Originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars, the brewery became its own entity in 2003. Founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo came from a winemaking family, but has established himself as a craft brewer full of innovation and willingness to share his knowledge. Today, he and his wife Natalie serve the brews fresh at their brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif. "One of the best things about living in California is being able to get a pint of fresh Pliny at tons of local bars,” says Maggie Hoffman, Senior Editor at Serious Eats. “Russian River churns out consistently delicious, hoppy beers and sours, not a dud among them. Vinnie Cilurzo is committed to quality and really digs into the science behind making the best beer. At a dinner I attended recently, he talked about taking a whole course on Brettanomyces at UC Davis. He quoted beer writer Michael Jackson, who once compared regular brewing yeast to a dog, who can be trained, and whose behavior is pretty predictable, while Brettanomyces is more like a cat. ‘When you call, they'll run away. When you pick them up, they'll scratch you.’ ‘Well,’ he noted. ‘Natalie and I are cat people. Brett is a moving target. You have to be ready for the uncertainty.’”
#2 Stone Brewing Company — Escondido, California
There are more than enough accolades and recognition for this Californian brewery. If topping the 2008 list of All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth by Beer Advocate isn’t enough for you, perhaps a bit more information will convince you that Stone Brewing Company is one of the best craft breweries in America. Stone is the tenth-largest brewery in the United States, with 55,000 square feet. And it’s beloved for much more than the beer. “Stone is all about attitude, but in a positive way. When a brewery produces so many delicious, decadent, award- winning beers that push the envelope off the edge of the table, the company rightfully earns immediate bragging rights. Some may call Stone Brewing a little arrogant, but I consider it a company that is merely taking pride in its exceptional work.” says Bryan Carey of Great Beer Now. The 99-rating on Beer Advocate calls this brewery "World Class," and that can be intimidating. “No brewery casts a bigger shadow over the San Diego beer scene than Stone. With their constant collaborations and experimentations, it seems like they put out a new beer every week. Here's the rub: they're all great.” Don Ayres explains.
#1 Founders Brewing — Grand Rapids, Michigan
Founders set out to make "complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor" — and they’ve done just that. “Founders Brewing embodies the excellent quality that has helped place Michigan among the best states for craft beer. Its Centennial IPA and Porter are among the best beers I have ever tried in their respective categories. Founders can barely keep up with demand for its products and its mind- blowing brews continue to attract legions of new fans, many of whom cannot believe the excellence of Founders beer when they try it for the first time,” Bryan Carey of Great Beer Now tells us. The founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, say their beer is for the renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that “pushes the limits,” but Founders has earned huge fans for their stand-out brews all over the map. "This brewery is so, so solid. Their porter is a favorite: rich and velvety, with roasted hazelnut and unsweetened chocolate flavors." Maggie Hoffman, Senior Editor at Serious Eats, explains. And the beer alone isn’t all that makes this brewery great. According to Kelli Williams of Momma Needs a Beer, the brewery experience is just as good. “Founders is one of those rare gems that lives up to the hype; from KBS to newer offerings like the single-hopped Mosaic Promise, the beer is consistent and solid,” she says. “But what I truly adore about the brewery, even as it continues to grow beyond everyone's wildest dreams is that, as a local, I can walk into Founders Taproom alone, or with my family or friends, and still feel like a local.”