2014 was the United States’ year in beer, and these breweries are the best of the best.
It took temerity to open a brewery in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, where old-timers like Harpoon and Samuel Adams rule the roost. Four signature beers, including an oatmeal stout, and rotating seasonal beers, including the barrel-aged Pot&Kettle porter (which was offered with a two-bottle max limit), showcase the talents of local artisans who collaborate with Trillium to enhance the craft beer they produce.
Food lovers can appreciate brewmaster Jared Rouben’s approach to making beer. The Per Se alum follows a “culinary brewing” philosophy to make Moody Tongue’s unique portfolio of beers, including some infused with chocolate, rhubarb, tea, and even peas. His beers share flavor and aromatic characteristics with those found in wines and ciders, but are balanced with a variety of hops and malts. His beer-making classes give fans a chance to see how his beer brain works.
Ecliptic Brewing is the brainchild of John Harris, an Oregon craft brewing icon. His résumé dates back over 20 years, so he knows a thing or two about brewing a good beer. Ecliptic combines his passion for beer with his love of astronomy. All the beers are named after stars and the seasonal menu rotates every six weeks according to the Old World calendar.
Anyone with taste buds and a hardy liver is obsessed with Asheville, N.C. these days. The city has been dubbed the craft beer capital of the America and breweries like Hi-Wire are the reason why. RateBeer named Hi-Wire the best in the city and owners Chris Frosaker and Adam Charnack won the most medals at the 2014 NC Brewer’s Cup. A fan favorite is the Hi-Wire LAGER, which takes eight weeks to produce, and is made with 100-percent Pilsen malt.
Tennessee Brew Works is the first to utilize the Meura Micro Mash Filter with a U.S.-made Aegir Brewing System to prepare their entire menu in-house. This means greater energy and raw material conservation and a seasonally changing beer menu that highlights flavors like sweet potato (which is actually mashed into the grains) and basil. Down some during their live music events from Thursday through Sunday.
Brewmaster Tim Sciascia focuses on small batch production, one beer at a time, at Cellarmaker Brewing Company. The limited output and disregard for a set production schedule means that he can focus more time on experimenting with different barrels, yeast, and hops. Hops are a fan favorite, so their will always be a version of hop-driven beer on hand and, if you’re lucky, will get a taste of creative crafts like Coffee and Cigarettes smoked stout. Eventually they will hand-bottle barrel-aged beers. But for now, it’s all about the taproom.
Aptly named Side Project Brewing is actually Perennial Brewing Company head brewer Cory King’s side project. Here, he specializes in unique, small-batch brews that are completely barrel-aged. Their Abricot du Fermier was aged in oak with apricots and their Blanc de Blancs is a beer that wine lovers will scratch their heads over (fermented in chardonnay barrels with Missouri-grown chardonnel grapes — a hybrid of chardonnay and the French-American hybrid seyval).
Their first year out of the gate, Creature Comforts Brewing Co. won a bronze at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival for their American Brett Beer, Curiosity No. 2. The limited release ale featured kiwi and pineapple juice and solidified this new venture by David Stein (Twain's Billiards & Tap’s former head brewer), Adam Beauchamp (formerly of Sweetwater Brewing Co. and an almost Ph.D. in Genetics) and Chris Herron as one to be reckoned with.
Greg Engert is the only beer pro named Sommelier of the Year by Food and Wine. His Blue Jacket brewery is one “without borders.” So, expect constant experimentation and innovation, with nods to tradition and technique, from the rotating selection of beers, cask ales and more on offer at their home restaurant and bar, The Arsenal. If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot for a brewery tour, take it, because they are a hot ticket.
Spencer Trappist Ale is the first and only certified Trappist brewery in the United States. Run by monks, the place only makes one beer (because that’s the way the old-school Belgium monks did it back in the day). Their ale is unfiltered and unpasteurized, and made with only four ingredients: well-protected glacial waters, Washington state hops, a proprietary blend of barley, and a family yeast.