The men and women of Thrillist are obsessed with beer all over our great nation. Here are their picks from four regional brewing lodestars—the West, the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast—in one effervescent, eminently quaffable guide to the best breweries in America right now.
The 16 Best Breweries in the West
By: Ezra Johnson-Greenough
Credit: Flickr/Adam Barhan
When it came to the unenviable task of picking 16 of the best breweries in the West, our editors realized that there were just too many fantastic choices for us to come to a reasonable agreement without murdering each other. Luckily, Portland-based beer luminary Ezra Johnson-Greenough stepped up to the plate. One of the region’s most trusted voices in beer — he founded the popular New School Beer blog, along with Portland Beer Week, the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Ale Fest, and more — Ezra drank many beers (research!), debated long and hard, and picked 16 out of the hundreds of worthy brewers.
Credit: Flickr/Will Vanlue
Starting off in the little town of Bend in 1988, Deschutes has grown into the sixth largest craft brewery in the country — and cemented its status as a legend. It’s not their size that matters, but how they have grown on their own terms without losing quality. In fact, you could argue they have only gotten better. Black Butte Porter is still the best American example of the style, Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a classic, they broke open the barrel-aged imperial stout category with The Abyss, and they haven’t forgotten about cask beer while dabbling in gluten-free brews and sours on the side.
Upright was the first dedicated farmhouse-style brewery in Oregon, and among the first in the country after Ommegang Brewery, where Upright owner/brewer Alex Ganum earned his pedigree. Upright ferments in open-top vessels in an isolated room using techniques and vessels rarely implemented in the United States. Since opening six years ago, the brewery has branched out heavily into German-inspired beers and barrel-aged fruit beers. Fantasia — Upright’s annual Lambic-style barrel-fermented peach sour — is one of the most sought-after beers in the country.
Credit: Flickr/Greg Gunn
San Diego, CA
What started out as a small homebrew operation in San Diego County has blossomed into one of the most popular and fastest-growing breweries in the country. Best known for their Sculpin IPA — and variations like the crazy-popular Grapefruit Sculpin — Ballast Point has continued to branch out by starting their own world-class spirits program and distillery while still retaining their original homebrew spot and numerous tasting rooms and brewpubs around the county.
Not to be confused with Port Brewing, Pizza Port may be the only restaurant chain that also makes spectacular beer. Under the watchful gaze of brewmaster Jeff Bagby (who recently seceded to start his own Bagby Brewing), Pizza Port’s five locations around San Diego County have won more than a dozen medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Opened first as just a pizza joint in 1987, it became a brewery in 1992 and helped put San Diego on the map as arguably the world’s best beer city (well, number two in this writer’s opinion).
Credit: Flickr/Adam Barhan
Sierra Nevada and its founder, Ken Grossman, are among a small group of dignified luminaries in the industry who have neither retired or sold out. Perhaps more than any other brewery in the world, Sierra Nevada has focused its efforts on hops: hoppy beers, growing hops, new hop varieties, and finding better ways to utilize them. Ken and brewmaster Steve Dressler correctly pinpointed hops as the most important area of growth in craft beer, and, due to their continued innovation, Sierra Nevada has always remained on the cutting edge even after 35 years.
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Crooked Stave is making some of the most interesting sour, wild, and barrel-aged beers in the country. Owner/brewer Chad Yakobson has pioneered the increasingly popular hoppy sour ale, and has been utilizing wild strains of yeast with fruits, herbs, and spices, in innovative new ways using open fermentation. Crooked Stave’s newish taproom in “The Source” building in Denver is also a must-visit and among the best tasting rooms in the country.
Credit: Flickr/Adam Barhan
Avery Brewing Co.
Avery is one of the reasons why Colorado is the third-best state in the country for craft beer. Formed in 1993 — just in time for the dawn of the golden age of craft brewing — Adam Avery has become one of the pioneers of the industry, making a wide assortment of beers from IPAs to barleywines and porters that are all equally delicious. Highlights include Avery’s Hog Heaven barleywine, The Maharaja imperial IPA, and The Czar Russian imperial stout.
Fort Collins, CO
New Belgium Brewing might be the most underrated regional brewery in the country. From the moment they hired brewmaster Peter Bouckaert away from Rodenbach in Belgium, they staked their claim as innovators and leaders in the industry. Even before Russian River, New Belgium began their barrel-aging and sour beer program that culminated in the release of their famous La Folie, a Flanders brown. Since then, Peter and his team of world-famous brewers and blenders have shepherded in a new age of innovative Belgian-inspired beers and the largest collection of wood-aging vessels outside of Belgium. Top that off with the fact that New Belgium is run by one of the few women CEOs — Kim Jordan, who recently led the company into employee ownership.
Paso Robles, CA
Firestone Walker is becoming almost as famous for their pale ales as its co-owner’s family is for tires. From humble beginnings brewing beers for Trader Joe’s, brewmaster Matt Brynildson has brought home numerous medals for the brewery’s pale ales and new dry-hopped Pivo Hoppy Pilsner, and FW’s now become equally as famous for its barrel-aged beers and annual anniversary offering blended by local winemakers.
Thai Me Up
Thai Me Up/Melvin Brewing may be the most unsuspecting little brewery that will blow your socks off. Founded by Jeremy Tofte out of a Thai restaurant, it’s just a nanobrewery that has taken the world by storm winning numerous competitions for their double IPAs including medals at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, and the hoppiest competition of all, the Alpha King Challenge.
Credit: Flickr/John Holzer
San Diego, CA
AleSmith’s been brewing out of an unassuming business park since day one. You wouldn’t expect their world-class beers to be coming out of a space that looks like a DHL office, so its even more shocking to find Speedway Stout — one of the best coffee beers in the world — on tap, plus a Wee Heavy that I call the finest smoking beer in the US: it could replace your nicotine patch.
Breakside’s just under five years old, but, in the last two, it has really grown out of its meager beginnings as a nano brewpub in an obscure residential neighborhood of Portland. The brewery graduated to a 30-barrel brewhouse and has won medals at the World Beer Cup and GABF in a variety of styles from stouts to sours; they officially hit the big time in 2014 after winning a gold at the Great American Beer Festival for American-style IPA, the most popular and highly contested style in the fest’s history.
Credit: Flickr/Steven Severinghaus
Elysian was one of the most talked-about breweries in the country before being purchased by AnheuserBusch earlier this year. But regardless of who’s paying the bills, Elysian’s innovative use of pumpkins at their now-famous Great Pumpkin Beer Fest, exploitation of New Zealand hops in Space Dust IPA, and inspired comic book and record label team-ups with Fantagraphics and Sub Pop Records help them stand among the best.
Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen
Worldly beer experts often argue the best pilsners, Helles, and Oktoberfests come out of Germany or the Czech Republic. And while they may be right, the miniature Chuckanut Brewery in the small city of Bellingham makes lagers to rival them. In fact, Chuckanut makes the finest lagers in America. Founded by Will Kemper of the famous Thomas Kemper soda empire, Chuckanut’s lagers often blow away the competition — in 2009, they scored Best Small Brewpub & Brewer in the nation at the Great American Beer Fest. Sadly their beer can be difficult to find, even in Seattle.
Credit: Flickr/Christer Edvartzen
Russian River Brewing
Santa Rosa, CA
Russian River almost needs no introduction, since they’re the creators of the most cultishly sought-after beer in the country, Pliny the Younger. Still, if you’re not a fan of the triple IPA beer geeks all over the world still seek out, there’s their regular Blind Pig IPA and their double Pliny the Elder. Russian River also led the industry with one of the first sour beer programs in the United States, making more than a dozen different barrel-aged fruit beers of world-class quality. In other words, they tickle beer geeks in all the right places.
Maui Brewing proves Hawaii is not all surf, sand, and Mai Tais: they also make some pretty damn good beer. Touted as Hawaii’s largest brewery, Maui Brewing Co. brews and cans 100% of their beer in the state unlike competitor Kona Brewing now owned by Widmer’s Craft Brew Alliance in Portland. Maui beers of note include the delicious Coconut Porter and the Maui Onion Mild Ale brewed with the world-famous sweet Maui onions grilled to perfection and only made once a year for the annual Onion Festival.
The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest
By: Matt Lynch
It’s indisputable that people from the Midwest are the best at drinking beer — have you ever entertained guests from, like, California and watched them earnestly attempt to keep up? It’s adorable!
But there’s also an argument to be made that the region is without peer when it comes to making the stuff. Just look at the beer-based excellence of these 16 breweries that represent the best the region has to offer. It’s no wonder some of them are hard to find on the coasts — we’re thirsty here.
Dark Horse is hardly a secret, despite the name. Scotch ale Scotty Karate is somehow more enjoyable to drink than it is to say, and, anytime you can get your hands on any variation of their Plead the 5th stout, buy as much as you can.
St. Paul, MN
With a history dating back to the fledgling days of the craft movement (i.e. the mid-’80s), Summit has evolved into a 240,000 barrel-a-year behemoth, sending its beer far and wide while still retaining its cred on the strengths of selections like their Sága IPA and their Fest Bier, a fine rendition of a Märzen.
Credit: Flickr/WFIU Public Radio
The Hoosier State’s second largest brewery (and for all intents and purposes, Three Floyds really functions as a Chicago brewery, sending the bulk of its beer there from just over the border), Upland has become a fixture in Bloomington since opening in 1997. They’ve captured a growing following in recent years on the strength of their excellent sours.
From a pair of friends who apprenticed under a Master Brewer in Belgium, Pipeworks is one of Kickstarter’s great brewery success stories. This small-but-mighty Chicago outfit produces a dizzying array of large-format selections that have become seriously sought after, particularly double IPAs like their Square Grouper and Citra.
Credit: Flickr/Ali Eminov
New Glarus, WI
Flash a six-pack of Spotted Cow smuggled across state lines to a Wisconsin native, watch them politely attempt to rob you, and you’ll get a sense of the state’s devotion to this brewery, now in its third decade of brewing excellence. Fruit beers like Raspberry Tart and Serendipity draw the most fanfare among the beer geek set, but then they went and dropped Scream (a double IPA) this summer and, of course, nailed it. They’ve steadily eschewed expansion opportunities, noting they can barely keep up with demand in their home state.
Grand Rapids, MI
The Grand Rapids outfit combines with Bell’s and a host of other breweries to make Western Michigan one of the country’s true brewing hotbeds. Their Kentucky and Canadian Breakfast Stouts have developed into genuine objects of obsession, but they don’t shine solely when it comes to the heavy stuff. Their now ubiquitous All Day IPA is a lawnmower beer that will please even the staunchest beer snob.
Tracing its roots back to a homebrew supply shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the early ‘80s, Bell’s is one of the OGs of the craft brewing scene — not just in the Midwest, but nationally. Their Oberon has come to define summer in a way few beers can. Their Black Note is as fine an example of a barrel-aged stout as you’ll find. Their Hopslam makes you want to do exactly what the name says. There isn’t much they don’t do, and they do it all exceedingly well.
The second Wisconsin brewery to grace this list is a little more amenable to out-of-state distribution than New Glarus, which is a good thing, because an ambitious and wide-ranging barrel-aging program has earned them a devoted following. Also, if you have the chance to get one of their Anniversary beers, do that.
Such was the demand among Minnesotans for Surly Furious and other aggressively hopped tallboy cans that the brewery had to pull out of Chicago for a few years to meet demand back in its home market. They’re back in the Windy City now, and as of March 2015, invading Iowa, though, as per usual, beer drinkers will be invading Minnesota when Darkness comes out.
Few breweries have ever been more presciently named. Since opening in 2009, the comparatively tiny Iowa-based brewery has caught the attention of many an aficionado with big, bold brews like Kentucky Brunch and Assassin.
Credit: Flickr/Jamie McCaffrey
Certain segments of beer geekdom will hem and haw about Goose Island’s craft cred after its acquisition by AB InBev, but most of those same segments are still scrambling to get their hands on BCS variants each fall, so they don’t have much to stand on. From the aforementioned sought-after stouts to sours like their blackberry-infused Juliet, Goose still brings it.
Perennial Artisan Ales
St. Louis, MO
While this St. Louis brewery with a Belgian bent has developed a devoted following on the strength of its saisons and sours, its barrel-aged Abraxas has become as fiercely hunted a trophy beer as you’ll find in the country, a rye-aged imperial stout with a perfect balance of cocoa nibs, vanilla, cinnamon, and ancho chile.
Kansas City, MO
Another one of the Midwest’s brewing powerhouses to be snatched up by a larger operation (in this case, Duvel), Boulevard remains the pride of Kansas City. Their Tank 7 was famously brewed by accident, which turned out to be a delicious mistake that resulted in a funky, hoppy variation on a saison. In general, if you’re drinking anything remotely Belgian from them, you’re in good hands.
The little Warren brewery with the big, award-winning beers is moving towards not being so little anymore, with a massive expansion, meaning more drinkers will be able to get their hands on the likes of their Simcoe Silly, Raspberry Eisbock, and Fourth Dementia.
Apologies to Drew Carey and Buzz Beer, but Great Lakes is the true king of the Cleveland beer scene. They excel in a variety of styles (their Chillwave Double IPA attracted much positive attention when it dropped last year), and it wouldn’t be the holiday season in Ohio without their Christmas Ale.
Dark Lord Day was one of the forerunners of the contemporary phenomenon that is the crazily anticipated beer release party, and it still draws thousands of devotees to an otherwise nondescript industrial park in NW Indiana each spring. Zombie Dust and Dreadnaught continue to be objects of obsession for hop lovers across the country. Not content with simply making nearly unrivaled beers, an in-progress expansion will have them getting into the distilling game as well.
The 16 Best Breweries in the South
By: Brandon Underwood and Dave Infante
Credit: Flickr/Dave Goldberg
There are plenty of reasons to make fun of the South. Petey Pablo, for example — that dude hasn’t had a hit in years. Beer, however, is not one of those reasons. Some of America’s very finest breweries do business beneath the Mason-Dixon line, and, to make sure we found the very, very finest Southern suds-makers, I tapped an expert. Brandon Underwood is the dining room manager at Edmund’s Oast — a real-deal Charleston beer mecca that we named one of the best new bars of 2014. He knows beers of all provenances, but these are the best of his own region that the rest of the nation should be sipping.
Credit: Flickr/Paul Narvaez
Launched in 2003, Yazoo is a mainstay in Music City and Tennessee at large, plus parts of ‘Bama. Its sour program (lovingly named “Embrace the Funk”) has yielded a slew of wild-yeast beauties, including Cherry Deux Rouges, which earned a bronze at the GABF. Yazoo’s year-rounders are just as lauded — its Hefeweizen has won both gold and bronze, and Sue is Tennessee’s first-ever legal high-gravity ale. Plus, they partnered with a local restaurant to bring back Gerst, a pre-Prohibition Nashville beer that’s now brewed in their expanded Nashville digs.
Good People Brewing
Born on the Fourth of July… in 2008, Good People makes damn good beer in a state that, frankly, doesn’t have a whole lot of it to go around. Luckily, the tide rolls strong with this one: three of BeerAdvocate's five highest-rated Southern beers carry the GP label, including a big-boy Russian imperial stout that clocks in at 13.9% ABV. Distribution is slim for now — 'Bama & Tennessee only — but keep your fingers crossed that there'll be good people drinking Good People throughout the South soon enough.
Credit: Flickr/Four Brewers
Founded by a pair of brothers back in 2012 with the admirable goal of becoming “the chubby Midwestern version” of Mikkeller or Evil Twin, Prairie has come on strong with a vast battery of 500mL stouts, sours, and IPAs. But saisons are the house specialty here, and exotic hops like Galaxy & Nelson Sauvin are the mesmerizing flames that have captured and kept the beer world’s attention.
As a production microbrewery in a state SweetWater all but owns, Southbound has an uphill battle, but, with a tight selection of beers that include moves like Secrets Shared (a wild-yeast IPA) and The Reaper (a Belgian-style quad with notes of chocolate and raspberries), they’re already making a name for themselves.
Credit: Flickr/Adam Barhan
Everything is bigger in Texas, including Jester King’s bottles: bombers and bombers alone. The brewery is farmhouse in both its location (the hills outside of Austin) and its brewing style. That means wild yeasts and super-funky flavors, which lead to beers like Noble King ale or Atrial Rubicite, a barrel-aged sour beer re-fermented with raspberries that owns a GABF bronze.
The three-man team behind this year-and-a-half-old brewery are mad scientists when it comes to incorporating ingredients from the Carolina wilderness that surrounds their bus stop-turned-brewpub. FF is constantly pushing boundaries with sorta weird, defiantly tasty brews (carrot IPAs, fig saisons, imperial stouts laced with black walnut…), as well as taking home traditional accolades in the form of a GABF gold medal for their Irish Table dry Irish stout. Charlotte & Asheville get most of the North Carolina brewing attention right now, but expect little Morganton to become its own mecca in the coming years thanks to FF and crosstown brewer Catawba.
So, Four Peaks is from Arizona, a state that really isn’t in the Southeast. (In fact, it’s pretty definitively in the Southwest.) But we needed to put it somewhere, and here it is. Sorry. Or whatever. But enough about geography, because FP’s got the goods. If you can only drink one of their beers, well… that sucks, but you should definitely opt for the Kilt Lifter, a Scottish ale with four GABF medals to its name. In the likely event that you’ll drink a few, go for a Hop Knot IPA or an 8th Street Pale Ale (both multi-medalists at GABF and the World Beer Cup).
In a town practically built on fine brewing, WW has consistently been an innovator, delivering excellent, hopped-the-hell-up West Coast IPAs alongside wild sour-hop hybrids like Amorous. GABF’s judges have hung both their honey-laced Mampara and their all-Brett Serenity with gold medals.
Credit: Flickr/Casey Bisson
Abita Springs, LA
Purple Haze, Turbodog, and Jockamo are the Abita brews everyone knows and loves, but Louisiana’s best established craft hope has a portfolio deeper than the freshwater springs from which the brewery draws both its name and its super-fresh agua, and it often doesn’t get the love it deserves outside the state. They’ve been brewing strong since the second Reagan administration (1986!), which makes them the oldest craft operation in the Southeast. Thirty years of consistently badass beers have made them the largest, too.
Against the Grain
We’ve been saying it for a while now: Louisville is a world-class city for eating & drinking. AtG has been pushing the city’s beer community forward with a staggering array of hilariously named, meticulously brewed seasonals and year-rounders like Hot for Peacher, Rico Sauvin, and Wowzer Snake (100% pale ale, 100% innuendo). The brewpub is stationed inside inside Louisville Slugger Field and open year-round, even when the impossible-to-Google AAA Louisville Bats aren’t playing. Get yourself a Hot Brown and an Against the Grain beer, and you’re living the good life.
Credit: Flickr/Christer Edvartsen
The older of the two Sunshine State outfits on our list, Cigar City makes beer so good you’ll forget all the bad things people say about Florida. Well, maybe not forever, but definitely while you’re drinking one of their delightful brews, like the hoppy, well-balanced Jai Alai IPA, which clocks a 99 and 95 from RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, respectively. CC also boasts a solid nitro lineup (Café Con Leche milk stout, y’all), and is constantly rolling out seasonals, like their just-dropped Puppy’s Breath Porter. The latter boasts a trio of labels designed with the likenesses of three real-life Florida pups, by the way, which is frankly just adorable.
In a largely beer-barren state, La Cumbre is an utter gem. It’s got medals (Elevated IPA & Project Dank ale brought back gold & bronze respectively at GABF), attitude, and cans covered with badass Lovecraftian art.
Credit: Flickr/Dave Goldberg
The Holy City boasts more than its fair share of excellent breweries (including one named Holy City, as well as perennial Mt. Pleasant powerhouse Westbrook). Of ‘em all, COAST stands tall in the Low Country with tightly run, limited-volume production in the town’s former naval yard, where they produce year-round excellence like HopArt IPA and 32/50 Kolsch. Then there are seasonals, including the hopped-up Boy King and Blackbeerd, a stout aged each year in different bourbon barrels. It’s the stuff beer traders across the country dream of laying hands on, and it was also one of South Carolina’s first legal high-gravity beers back in 2009, when the state passed legislation advocated by COAST’s husband/wife founding team. All those things make it an excellent brewery and give it the crowd-favorite status in Charleston.
North Little Rock, AR
Arkansas has been enjoying an explosion of solid craft upstarts lately, and that’s terrific news for thirsty Arkansans. But for over a decade before the Fayetteville Ale Trail became “a thing,” Diamond Bear has held it down as the Natural State’s craft leader. In 15 short years, it’s done serious work at the Great American Beer Festival, netting medals galore for its Pale Ale, Honey Weiss, and Irish Red. Plus, they just opened a brand-spankin’-new production facility in June 2014, meaning there’s much more to come from the brewery that makes Bill Clinton’s favorite IPA.
Credit: Flickr/Paul Narvaez
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
There’s been plenty of buzz about Richmond’s craft beer future since Stone selected the city as the site of its upcoming East Coast operation. But Hardywood Park, founded in 2011, was there first, and their brews have plenty of buzz all their own. Like the Raspberry Stout, which just took home gold from GABF, or the seasonal Gingerbread Stout, which earned a perfect 100 from BeerAdvocate Magazine.
Oakland Park, FL
With crowd-pleasing, food-forward beers like the French Toast Double Brown, and a peanut butter & jelly brown ale called No Crusts, it would be a fair assumption that Buddha is all about stunt beers. Not so. First of all, their experimental beers are often better than other breweries’ flagships (RateBeer ranked the maple bacon joint #4 porter in the world). Secondly, when they go traditional, they make stuff like Last Snow Porter, which is ranked — yep — even higher, at #2 worldwide. Fun fact: in true Florida fashion, Buddha began in an unassuming strip mall in Boca.
The 16 Best Breweries in the Northeast
By: Zach Mack
Credit: Flickr/Fábio Resende (edited)
The Northeast is known for lots of things: massive snowfall that cripples your ability to think and makes you cold and depressed for weeks on end to the point where you look at the sky and start screaming at God… and blueberries. Great blueberries. But it’s also a cauldron of creativity when it comes to brewing beer, thanks to a long history of craft innovation. To that point, I’ve selected the 16 breweries I think put out the best, most creative, highest quality beers in the region. After all, you’ve got to have something to drink with those blueberries.
Credit: Flickr/Allagash Brewing
The undisputed masters of Belgian styles have done more to elevate the status of American beer than many outside the Northeast will ever realize. Their beers can get as complex as the annual Confluence or as approachable as their year-round Saison, making them at once a traditional, innovative, and reliable brewery that never seems to fail.
Any discussion of craft brewery monster success stories could not possibly be complete without the Alchemist. Even after becoming famous as the “East Coast Russian River Brewing” for their hop-bomb Heady Topper cans, their lineup still has incredible depth with beers like Beelzebub imperial stout and Focal Banger IPA. It’s worth braving the epic lines to be able to see what all the buzz is about.
Credit: Flickr/Marius Watz
Say what you will about the borough itself, but Brooklyn’s namesake brewery has had a big year, helping to launch a sister brewery in Sweden and bringing even more bottle-conditioned beers to the limelight. Their quarterly Brewmaster releases keep their innovation game up (especially with the recent Quadraceratops), and heavy hitters like Black Ops have a rabid fanbase (even if that beer technically “doesn’t exist”), thanks in no small part to brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s unique methods and flavor tendencies.
Bostonian beer geeks had a collective panic attack when Trillium was forced to close for a few weeks in late 2014 due to a licensing snafu. But they’re back at it with solid beers, like Fort Point Pale Ale and Pot & Kettle porter, pouring out of their draft rooms and select lines throughout Beantown. After only a couple of years in operation, they’re already so popular that they’ve just announced construction of a second brewing facility in Canton, MA.
If you grew up East of the Mississippi, chances are Dogfish Head 60 Minute was your first craft beer experience, but the Dogfish still has new tricks, releasing new, cutting-edge beers year after year, whether they’re inspired by jazz greats (Bitches Brew) or urns found in an ancient tomb (Midas Touch). They’re basically the brewery incarnation of that interesting high school friend that you actually want to keep in touch with.
Tree House Brewing
Once you’ve sampled one of Tree House’s beers, it’s usually hard to believe that they’re so young. They cover everything from hop-heavy (Julius IPA) to dark and roasty (That’s What She Said stout) in their tight lineup. Their strong reputation and their weekend growler-filling lines are enough for some to start dubbing Tree House the Alchemist of Massachusetts.
Credit: Jack’s Abby Brewing
Jack’s Abby Brewing
When they opened in 2011, Jack’s Abby’s position as a “lager only” craft brewery was the antithesis to the IPA craze driving the craft beer movement. But in the few short years since opening, they’ve racked up more than enough awards and public support to prove they were right to go against the grain, forging a trail with beers like Hoponius Union IPL and Framinghammer Baltic Porter.
As far as beer is concerned, Brian Strumke is the pride of Baltimore. His globe-trotting, gypsy brewing antics will continue to spring some of the most exciting beer collaborations for the foreseeable future. Very few breweries in the Mid-Atlantic have garnered as much praise as his, which is responsible for Cellar Door (an American farmhouse ale brewed with sage), Gose Gone Wild, and the very drinkable Classique, a post-Prohibition-style ale.
Credit: Evil Twin Brewing
Evil Twin Brewing Co.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that gypsy brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø set down roots in Brooklyn with Tørst, but he’s been winning over beer fanatics for years. His crazy collaborations and unique one-offs are as compelling as his mainstay beers, including Nomader Weisse, Falco, and Molotov Cocktail. Rarely will you browse a world-class beer list without coming across at least one Evil Twin brew.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Even though Lawson’s is in the difficult position of being in a state where two of the most adored craft breweries already hold most of the attention, they’re still a top local favorite simply because their beers are awesome: from their Maple Stout through their Double Sunshine IPA, everything remains memorably great. Of course, you still have to be lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a bottle to verify that for yourself…
Greensboro Bend, VT
Arguably the Northeast’s holiest of holies, the rarest of the rare, Hill Farmstead’s reputation has skyrocketed to global admiration in a very short amount of time. Everything they make, from saisons and stouts to pale ales and porters, is received as practically perfect. Even without easy access to their beers, their rabid following is second to none amongst beer nerds.
New England Brewing
If you’ve spent time drinking beer in Connecticut, there’s almost no way you haven’t come across at least one of New England Brewing’s brightly colored cans. Their 668 Neighbor of the Beast and Imperial Stout Trooper have kept them on critics’ lists for years, and recent expansion across New York State and New England has their list of fans growing.
Victory Brewing Company
Victory is popular for their year-round offerings like Prima Pils, but it’s in their limited releases and one-offs where they really begin to shine. Their single-hop Ranch series, Belgian-style one-offs like Moving Parts IPA #3, or barrel-aged beers like Oak Horizontal prove there’s a lot going on for them outside of cut-and-dry traditional styles.
Smuttynose Brewing Company
Smuttynose has a reliable following, thanks mostly to their consistently solid recipes and spot-on seasonals. The opening of Smuttlabs has elevated their game even further, giving them room to experiment with weird styles and one-offs that always seem to hit the mark.
The unsung hero of the New York beer scene is usually lauded around fall for their popular pumpkin beer, Pumking. But like any good dark horse, they’re able to keep things fresh with incredibly solid year-round offerings like Live and eye-opening seasonals like Old Man Winter.
Maine Beer Company
Getting lucky enough to snatch up a fresh bottle of Lunch or Peeper should be all the proof you need that Maine Beer Co. is a top-tier brewery, but why stop there? Mean Old Tom, King Titus, Zoe, MO, Lil One… each brings even more cred to an already crowded cred-table for this brewery.