By: Kristin Hunt
Our nation’s oldest breweries seemingly either started in the 1800s… or the 1980s. Due to that public nuisance known as Prohibition, very few pre-Volstead breweries survived the 1920s. And even after booze was mercifully restored to Americans, the specter of Prohibition lingered in local legislation for decades. As a result, the “oldest” brewery in your state might be ancient, or it might be younger than you.
A quick disclaimer: while we counted breweries that temporarily shuttered in the ‘20s, or for a few years due to natural/financial disasters, we had to count out “oldest breweries” that had been, until recently, dead for decades. We also disqualified contenders who moved or began out of state. That left only these stalwart breweries, all of which are pumping out fresh suds as we speak. Drink up!
Good People Brewing
Birmingham (Est. 2008)
The oldest brewery in Alabama is an infant compared to other places on this list, but they’ve accomplished plenty in their modest seven years of existence. Like expanding distribution to Nashville, brewing three of the South’s top 10 beers (according to BeerAdvocate), and being recognized as the best brewery in the state.
Credit: Flickr/Antti T. Nissinen
Alaskan Brewing Company
Juneau (Est. 1986)
As the story goes, two ambitious 20-somethings named Marcy and Geoff were looking for a way to put down roots in Alaska when a friend suggested they open Juneau’s first brewery since Prohibition. They went for it, drawing on a Gold Rush-era recipe for their first beer, the Alaskan Amber. They now have seven year-round players and four seasonals, including this summer ale featuring one majestic orca.
Prescott Brewing Company
Prescott (Est. 1994)
John and Roxane Nielsen cater to all tastes at Prescott Brewing. There’s pub food ranging from fajitas to pizzas, beers all over the color spectrum, and even a nice selection of Scotch, in case you stumbled into a brewery expecting Lagavulin.
Little Rock (Est. 1993)
While Vino’s has been slinging New York-style pizza since 1990, they didn’t become Arkansas’ OG brewery until three years later, when the state finally made brewpubs legal. Nowadays, you can choose from 13 of their handcrafted brews, one of which (Rock Hopera Imperial IPA) is a Great American Beer Festival winner.
Credit: Flickr/Gideon Tsang
San Francisco (Est. 1896)
Anchor’s lengthy history reads like a Lemony Snicket book. Ten years into their run, co-founder Ernst Baruth died out of the blue. Two months after that, a historic SF fire swallowed up the entire brewery. Then in January 1907, just as they were reopening, the other co-founder got run over by a streetcar. Some locals adopted the brewery, but guess what happened in 1920? Say it with me: Prohibition. Even after Anchor recovered from that national crisis, there was still one brief shutdown and another near bankruptcy before the place was in the clear.
Golden (Est. 1873)
Adolph Coors’ search for the very best water for his brewery landed him in Golden, Colorado. He was impressed with the local mountain H20, so he set up shop with partner Jacob Schueler in the 1870s. Before long he bought Jacob out and rechristened their Golden Brewery in his name. Clearly, it stayed in the family.
Willimantic Brewing Company
Willimantic (Est. 1993)
Most people consider drinking beers in an old post office a shady recreational activity. But for Willimantic, it’s a business model. The CT brewpub is located in a historic USPS building that was abandoned by the feds in 1967. Nowadays there’s steak and rye ale where the lost mail used to be – but if you wanna hang out in the postmaster’s office, you’ll need to book their private dining room.
Credit: Flickr/Bernt Rostad
Dogfish Head Brewery
Milton (Est. 1995)
Sam Calagione has been called a trailblazer for his daring beers, but he’s also the founding father of beer in DE. That’s not hyperbole – operating a commercial brewery in the state was illegal until Calagione convinced the local government to update the ancient Prohibition-era laws and let him open Dogfish Head. Clearly, this dude has no qualms about boldly going where no man has gone before.
District of Columbia
Washington, DC (Est. 1997)
We do have to shout out Capitol City, which was the first brewpub in our nation’s capital since Prohibition when it opened in 1992. But they’ve since moved brewing operations to their Arlington location, leaving the District ChopHouse as the oldest standing DC brewery. Led by sculptor-turned-brewmaster Barrett Lauer, the place offers pretty standard fare like an IPA, amber, and oatmeal stout – but if you’re feeling fancy, order the “Velvet Ale.” It’s not a beer brewed with velvet swatches; it’s a nitrogenated version of one of their suds.
Dunedin (Est. 1995)
Dunedin has a little bit of everything: vaguely medieval decor, Ramones tribute concerts, and several interesting beers. They also let you bring your dogs along, so frankly, we’re not sure why people go anywhere else.
Red Brick Brewing
Atlanta (Est. 1993)
A former Guinness exec founded Red Brick Brewing, so there was already reason to trust them when they opened their doors in the early ‘90s. But they proved themselves quickly by brewing new suds ‘round the clock, and taking on daring partnerships like Malone’s, a beer they created with a Belgian brewery that was produced in Europe and then shipped across the ocean on a tanker truck to ATL. We only hope their Flemish partners got some Divine Bovine milk stouts in return.
Credit: Flickr/Barbara Monroe
Kona Brewing Co.
Kailua-Kona (Est. 1994)
Since a '90s launch, the father-son team behind Kona have opened a flagship brewery, an East Oahu bar, and a Honolulu International Airport “air pub” – but they’re just getting started. Kona recently announced a $15 million expansion plan, so prepare to see a lot more Longboard Island Lager.
Boise (Est. 1992)
Originally a pizza place called The Brass Lamp, Highlands Hollow is now a brewhouse welcoming mountain bikers and less athletically-minded patrons alike. There’s a growler special every Monday and happy hour every day from 3-6pm. Get on that at your earliest convenience.
Libertyville (Est. 1993)
Like any brewpub worth its salt, Mickey Finn’s is known for good beer and burgers. And while most of the suds are still draft-only, Mickey is making retail strides with their canned Amber Ale, currently dominating the local Piggly Wiggly.
Broad Ripple Brewpub
Indianapolis (Est. 1990)
The lovechild of an Englishman and a lady Hoosier, Broad Ripple is meant to resemble a UK pub with its dark paneling, tin ceiling, and fireplace. But it’s also got a huge outdoor cafe so you can sun out with your Some Like It Bock, which sadly doesn’t sing “Running Wild” like Marilyn.
Millstream Brewing Co
Amana (Est. 1985)
Trios are central to Millstream lore. Carroll F. Zuber and brothers James and Dennis Roemig jumpstarted the place in the ‘80s when they decided it was high time Amana got a new brewery. (The town hadn’t had one since 1884.) Then in 2000, the gang sold Millstream to Chris Priebe and Tom and Teresa Albert. They’re still running the place today, but don’t be surprised if another threesome (Wilson Phillips?!) swoops in to take the reins next.
Free State Brewery
Lawrence (Est. 1989)
When Chuck Magerl opened the first brewery in Kansas in a century, he was simply following in his family’s footsteps. His grandfather had also been passionate about the booze biz in his day… only he went about it in less-than-legal ways. Grandpa Magerl’s bootlegging during Prohibition eventually earned him a cell in Leavenworth prison. Chuck’s managed to keep things above board at Free State, while still preserving a little of that hellion spirit.
Bluegrass Brewing Company
St. Matthews (Est. 1993)
Founder Pat Hagan spent years touring the California beer scene and took a Sieble Institute brewing course in Chicago before settling in St. Matthews to start his own brewery. With the help of his dad Monte, he’s grown the place into a three-brewpub operation with a nearly 1,000-member “Worthog Club” to boot.
Credit: Flickr/Casey Bisson
Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs (Est. 1986)
Abita Springs has less than 3,000 residents to its name, but it does claim the oldest brewery in the entire Pelican State. Home brewers Jim Patton and Rush Cumming brought the company to life in 1986, when the craft beer scene was still incredibly sparse. Almost immediately, a scrappy 17-year-old by the name of David Blossman caught wind of the place and invested all his savings ($2,500) in Abita. Back then, he was just a smart investor/cool teenager. Now, he’s the president of the company.
D.L. Geary Brewing Company
Portland (Est. 1983)
You know the old story: you meet the Laird of Traquair, he sets you up with a bunch of gigs at breweries all over the UK, you come back to New England with all this new knowledge and decide to open the first post-Prohibition brewery East of the Mississippi. Whatever, David Geary. Come back to us when you have something involving a viscount or higher.
Baltimore (Est. 1993)
There used to be a lot more competition for this title, but several contenders folded. Fordham merged with Old Dominion and moved to Delaware in 2009, Gunther Brewing Company became a bunch of apartments, and even Natty Boh booked it out of MD in 1996. That leaves Oliver Breweries as the Old Line State’s eldest brewery. They currently operate two brewpubs (Pratt Street Ale House and The Ale House), where you’ll find selections like the Draft Punk, Coventry Cream, and Cherry Blossom Ale.
Credit: Flickr/Chris Martino
Boston (Est. 1984)
The company frequently billed as the granddaddy of craft beer is also unsurprisingly the oldest brewery in MA. Highlights from Samuel Adams’ 30-year history include their heroic intervention in the hops crisis of ‘08, the launch of Utopias, and of course, Julia Child’s hot endorsement.
Frankenmuth (Est. 1862)
Oddly, the usual complaints like “an 1800s fire” or “Prohibition” didn’t pose the biggest problem for Michigan’s legendary brewery. It was an F3 tornado in ‘96 that really took them out for a few years. They recovered in the new millennium, though, and are back to doing their founding father John Matthias Falliers proud.
Credit: Flickr/Amy Meredith
New Ulm (Est. 1860)
While we can’t be sure what was running through August Schell’s mind when he left his native Germany for America in 1848, we’d like to think he had beer on the brain. And if he didn’t then, it was certainly dominating his thoughts by 1860. That year, Schell and Jacob Bernhardt opened a new brewery two miles outside the brand, umm, new town of New Ulm. Schell bought Bernhardt out just six years later and made sure everyone knew it by naming the place after himself. It’s stayed within his family all these years later. They even acquired a hobo band along the way.
Kiln (Est. 2003)
Lazy Magnolia was born out of a slightly selfish Christmas gift. Leslie Henderson bought her husband Mark a homebrew kit because she couldn’t think of anything else to get him – but, as Mark maintains, she really wanted those malts for herself. After Mark made just one batch, Leslie took over brewing responsibilities. It was cool, though, ‘cause Mark worked on the equipment and gadgetry until they had a series of homebrews so good, their friends insisted they go pro. They did, and quickly became the pride of MS.
St. Louis (Est. 1852)
Like so many major beer corps, Anheuser-Busch traces its roots back to a soap manufacturer named Eberhard. In this case, we’re talking Eberhard Anheuser, who teamed up with his son-in-law Adolphus Busch to conquer the St. Louis beer market in the mid-1800s. Busch’s kid would steer the company through Prohibition by marketing a non-alcoholic “cereal beverage” called Bevo, and then the next Busch would make it through the Great Depression with the fancy new metal can. They went on to become the biggest brewer in Missouri, and, you know, the world.
Missoula (Est. 1987)
Bayern refers to the German name for Bavaria, which happens to be brewmaster and owner Jürgen Knöller’s hometown. The man relocated to Montana after graduating from Doemens’ Masterschool for Brewing and Soft Drink Technology. He was originally just in charge of Bayern’s beers, but bought the place from the original owner in 1991. He soon hired another German master brewer and together, they make authentic Reinheitsgebot beers. Prost.
Empyrean Brewing Co.
Lincoln (Est. 1990)
Empyrean began as Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, Nebraska’s first brewpub. But it quickly grew so popular that they spun Empyrean off as a whole separate entity. It would become the first NE craft brewery to bottle beer in 1999 and the first to distribute statewide in 2002. It’s now available in nine Midwestern states, but look out West and East Coasts – this heavenly beer is coming for you next.
Great Basin Brewing Co.
Sparks (Est. 1993)
Great Basin has something for everyone. Like a little bit of spice? Try the Cerveza Chilebeso. More about dark beers? Test out the Outlaw Milk Stout. And if you’re a hardcore dinosaur freak, there’s the Ichthyosaur India pale ale, named for the state’s official fossil.
Portsmouth (Est. 1991)
Billed as the state’s “original brewpub,” Portsmouth has been serving beers under its cartoonish banner since the early ‘90s. It was started by the brother-sister team of Peter and Janet Egelston, whose other hits include Northampton Brewery and Smuttynose. You can enjoy one of their many, many beers at the site’s brewhouse, or the beer garden, or the openly voyeuristic “Fish Bowl,” or even the ‘40s-inspired Jimmy LaPanza Lounge, located in the building’s basement.
Climax Brewing Company
Roselle Park (Est. 1996)
After running a homebrew supply store for years, Dave Hoffmann decided to step out from behind the counter and make beer on a professional scale. He got his dad Kurt (who was already making his own German hard cider) on board, and they started things off with an Extra Special Bitter. It’s still in their roster, along with a Hoffmann Helles and Doppel Bock.
Santa Fe Brewing
Santa Fe (Est. 1988)
One of Santa Fe Brewing’s most well-known beers, Chicken Killer Barley Wine, has a label that features a poncho-wearing, gun-toting dachshund. Sure, they’ve won awards for their beer and they’ve lasted nearly 20 years, but did we mention the dog is wearing a poncho and carrying two smoking guns?!
Genesee Brewing Company
Rochester (Est. 1878)
When Mathius Kondolf acquired the place that would become Genesee, it was a bowling alley and “first rate saloon” with homemade lager. He later brought in a brewing prodigy named Louis A. Wehle to build the place out, but Wehle was forced into the baking biz when the Volstead Act rolled around. He ditched the pastries as soon as Prohibition looked set to end, reinvesting back in the company that would be passed down to his son Jack, and later his grandson Ted. We’re not sure which one of them made sure to catalog and release this trove of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s commercials, but they have our eternal gratitude.
Grandy (Est. 1986)
Calm down, no radishes were harmed in the making of this brewery. The name actually comes from a German pub snack that founder Uli Bennewitz is apparently quite fond of. If you couldn’t already tell, this guy takes his heritage seriously. All his beer follows the Reinheitsgebot purity law to the letter, and he created a farm-brewery-butchery complex to insure the sausages served in his pub were up to snuff. Obviously, his master butcher Frank is also an OG German.
Fargo Brewing Company
Fargo (Est. 2010)
For such heavy beer drinkers, North Dakotans really dropped the ball on the whole brewery thing. Their most historic is just entering its fifth year, but considering Fargo Brewing Company’s reputation, it was worth the wait. A pair of high school pals and a pair of brothers are responsible for the operation, which has gone from a garage to a brand-new brewery at an alarming speed. Somewhere along the way they made an IPA called Wood Chipper, because they have a deep reverence for the films of Steve Buscemi.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Cleveland (Est. 1988)
When Great Lakes was starting out, it made its name on a football player and a G-man. The Heisman and Eliot Ness Amber Lager were both instant successes for the brewery, and helped build it into the brand it is today. John Heisman is probably a little pissed his beer got renamed the Dortmunder Gold, but luckily, he’s also got that trophy named after him.
Credit: Flickr/Bernt Rostad
Krebs (Est. 1919)
Choc Beer was born out of a pretty nasty work accident. Pietro Piegari was forced into early retirement from the coal mines when his legs were crushed on the job, so to make ends meet, he started brewing Choctaw or “choc” beer in his home. It was such a hit with the miners that Pietro (who went by Pete) opened Pete’s Place in 1925 to serve food alongside the brews. Wily old Pete even continued brewing on the sly through Prohibition, a move that earned him two jail terms. The family continued slipping the stuff to regulars for decades, until brewpubs finally became legal in OK again in 1995. Today, you can order it alongside any of Pete’s famous pastas.
BridgePort Brewing Company
Portland (Est. 1984)
When BridgePort (originally called the Columbia River Brewery) opened in 1984 in an old rope factory, they produced 600 barrels. Three decades later, they’re making over 100,000 a year, still in the same building. Only now there’s a lot less leftover rope, and a whole lot more hops.
Credit: Flickr/Classic Film
D. G. Yuengling & Son
Pottsville (Est. 1829)
Yuengling might’ve started as a humble family biz in Pottsville 186 years ago, but since then it’s become so much more. America’s preeminent ice cream and beer conglomerate. The president’s favorite beer. The absolute only thing people from PA associate with the word “lager.” Oh yeah, and the oldest brewery in the whole damn country. Hopefully by the time its bicentennial rolls around, it’ll get the history textbook chapter it so richly deserves.
Providence (Est. 1995)
This crown would go to the old-timers at Narragansett, but ‘Gansett is no longer brewed in its home state. Picking up the mantle instead is Trinity Brewhouse. Located right next to the Trinity Repertory Theatre, Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and Rhode Island Convention Center, this brewpub is the ideal place to grab a beer in between a basketball game or a podiatrist conference. For patriots, they’ve got an American Pale Ale called Captain America. And for Satanists, there’s the Number of the Beast, which clocks in at a neat 6.66% ABV.
Palmetto Brewing Company
Charleston (Est. 1993)
If it wasn’t for windsurfing, SC’s longest-running brewery wouldn’t exist. Ed Falkenstein and Louis Bruce were on a windsurfing excursion along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon when they stumbled upon Full Sail Brewing Company. Ed had a degree in chemical engineering, and when he glanced into the taproom, he told his buddy he could totally do the same thing. He wasn’t kidding. Once they got a bank on board, the pair opened Palmetto. Its name was inspired by a much older South Carolina brewery which went out of business sometime in the early 1900s.
Credit: Flickr/Christa Burns
Firehouse Brewing Co.
Rapid City (Est. 1991)
While South Dakota’s most storied brewery is barely old enough to drink, it resides in a building that’s been kicking since 1915. That building is a converted firehouse (imagine that), though as far as we know, patrons are not permitted to slide down poles of any kind.
Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery
Nashville (Est. 1994)
Kent Taylor and Stephanie Weins’ brewpub enjoyed enough success in its first 15 years to earn a separate production brewery by 2010. Now they’re available in most major TN markets, but Blackstone is currently doing much more than just serving suds. Taylor recently started a non-profit called Stephanie’s Fight to honor his late partner, who died of lung cancer in 2014, with all proceeds going towards research. Kent also made sure to give Weins a nod on the Blackstone menu with Stephanie’s Dubbel, a Trappist-inspired brew.
San Antonio (Est. 1883)
Texas has a couple breweries that could qualify for AARP benefits (including Kosmos Spoetzl’s pride and joy), but it’s fitting that the so-called national beer of Texas took this one. Lone Star was started by Adolphus Busch – remember him? – and his partners in 1883. It would shut down during Prohibition like everyone else, but reopen immediately afterwards, and go public by 1949. It’s now owned by Pabst, which makes some people wary of the “national beer” designation, but it remains contract-brewed out of Fort Worth.
Credit: Flickr/Don LaVange
Park City (Est. 1986)
When Greg Schirf moved to Utah from Milwaukee, he was horrified to find a total lack of beer culture. So he started his own brewery. He would later successfully lobby the local government to make brewpubs legal, and open one right on Main Street in Park City. He also capitalized on the more salacious parts of Utah lore with his Polygamy Porter, which just got a nitrogenated update.
Vermont Pub & Brewery
Burlington (Est. 1988)
Vermont Pub & Brewery helped revitalize the state’s beer biz in more ways than one. For starters, it was super early on the scene. For another thing, co-founder Greg Noonan’s 1986 tome Brewing Lager Beer helped out many newbie brewmasters. And finally, they directly inspired The Alchemist Pub & Brewery. Thank them for Heady Topper next time you’re in Burlington, presumably to drink all the city’s excellent brews.
Richmond (Est. 1994)
The Legend crew knows how to run a brewery. They offer free tours every Saturday afternoon, their Halloween parties are enormous, and they even name beers after Confederate generals’ amputated arms. (The “Strong Arm Ale,” dubbed in Stonewall Jackson’s honor.) After 20 years in Old Dominion, it’s safe to say they’ve become a bit of a legend themselves.
Credit: Flickr/brighter than sunshine
Woodinville (Est. 1981)
You’re likely familiar with at least one Redhook brew. You may have also heard about the cozy sweater koozies they knit for their beers. But you probably don’t realize just how long the place has been around. Redhook launched in the early ‘80s, taking up space in Seattle before moving over to Woodinville and opening an out-of-state brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As you can tell by reading about NH’s oldest brewery, that town loves good beer.
North End Tavern & Brewery
Parkersburg (Est. 1997)
The tavern itself is older than Abe Vigoda – it opened up shop in 1899 – but the “& brewery” part didn’t come along until the ‘90s. While their Roedy’s Red amber ale is the award winner of the bunch, they’ve also got blackberry wheat beers and classic porters on the docket.
Minhas Craft Brewery
Monroe (Est. 1845)
Minhas has changed owners and names so many times you’ll get whiplash just from reading the history page on their website. But it’s always stayed in the same WI location, earning it the esteemed title of oldest brewery in the Midwest. It could’ve gone for oldest in the nation, if it weren’t for that meddling D.G. Yuengling and his dang son.
Snake River Brewing
Jackson (Est. 1994)
Though they like to bill themselves as a small brewery in a small town, Snake River is no small potatoes. At least 14 of their beers have earned awards, and the brewery took an overall GABF honor two years in a row. These guys clearly know what they’re doing. Plus, their exec chef is named Mambo, and if you can trust anyone, it’s a guy named Mambo.
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