The U.S. is in the midst of a craft beer revolution. In a country known for Budweiser, Coors, and Miller Lite, more consumers are trading cans of tasteless, watery swill for potent IPA’s and Belgian Tripels. According to the Brewers Association, locally made beer is up 18 percent from the mid-point of 2013. Bart Watson, chief economist for the BA, said: “This is the fastest mid-year growth we’ve seen in the current period of growth. I think it continues to show the sustainability of craft beer.” However, production increases are only the beginning of the craft beer renaissance. The Brewers Association also reported that 502 breweries opened between July 1, 2013 and June 2014. While “craft beer” was barely a term 30 years ago, this is clearly one of the best times to be a beer drinker in America. Here are 10 craft breweries that are changing the beerscape of the U.S.
10. Dogfish Head: Milton, Delaware
Dogfish Head is the granddaddy of all craft breweries. When it opened in 1995, it was the smallest brewery in the U.S. Today, Dogfish Head operates out of a 100,000-square foot converted cannery. “When I think of craft beer, Dogfish Head is the first brewery that pops into my head, says Jason Morgan, the founding partner of Craft Beer Business.
Dogfish Head is famous for its original 60 Minute IPA. The brewery has been featured on Beer Wars and Discovery Channel’s series Brew Masters. It distributes to over 25 states.
9. Victory Brewing Company: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s Yuengling Brewery is credited for being America’s oldest brewery (1829), but its lagers are better suited for college dorm rooms than brewpubs. But don’t worry. The Keystone State has more to offer than Yuengling or um…Keystone Light. Founded in 1996, Victory Brewing Company uses German malted barley and European and American whole-flower hops.
Victory brewmasters insist that whole-flower hops create a better flavor and aroma in the beer, and the company is one of only a few in the U.S. that use whole-flower hops. Popular beers include Victory Lager, HopDevil, Storm King, Prima Pils, and Golden Monkey
8. Rogue Ales: Portland, Oregon
Two fraternity brothers and their friends established Rogue Ales in 1988. The beer is not only described as “invariably fun and full flavored,” but the company’s offerings have won major awards in worldwide competitions. According to Jack Joyce, one of the founders, the company’s goals are “to keep making great products, keep trying to make our packaging great, keep trying to integrate ourselves in our communities, and keep creating unique thunder (in promotions).”
Part of what has made Rogue Ales so popular is that desire and willingness to change the status quo. Bottles of Rogue beer come with colorful labels that feature ingredients, food pairings, and tasting notes. While St. Rogue Red and Nut Brown Ale have both won gold medals in the Great American Beer Festival, one of Rogue’s most buzzed about beers is the VooDoo Chocolate, Banana, and Peanut Butter Ale.
7. Green Flash Brewing Company: San Diego, California
Established in 2002, Green Flash is a young brewery that has made a big impact on the craft beer scene with its rare beers and unique twist on traditional brews. Green Flash’s West Coast IPA spawned a loyal following of craft beer lovers, and the company took home gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival for its Le Freak and Tripel brews. Green Flash is known for its trailblazing approach to craft beer, consistently producing a wide range of experimental, limited edition, and seasonal offerings.
Green Flash recently released its “Hop Odyssey” series -6 diverse, draft-only, hop-centric beers that include a Black IPA, White IPA, and Red Rye IPA. “We wanted to hone our focus on the range of flavor that can be achieved with the use of different hop varietals,” explains Green Flash Brewmaster, Chuck Silva.
6. Cigar City Brewing Company: Tampa, Florida
The Sunshine State might be better known for mojitos and rum-runners, but Cigar City Brewing Company has fans far outside the Panhandle. John Holl, author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook, has this to say about Cigar City Brewing: “In a state known for theme parks, Cigar City Brewing has become a major attraction for those who appreciate and seek out excellent beer.
Many of the beers it produces – Jai Alai IPA, Improv Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale, Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale – reflect the sensibilities and ingredients of Florida.” In 2012, Cigar City Brewing opened an outlet in the Tampa International Airport, and it’s working on developing a Cigar City cider and mead.
5. Oskar Blues Brewing Company: Colorado and North Carolina
Oskar Blues Brewery began as a Cajun-themed restaurant in Lyons, Colorado in 1997. Dale Katechis started brewing beer in the basement with a glorified home-brew system in 1999, and 5 years later began issuing craft beer in cans. Dale’s Pale Ale, which started out as a regional, cult beer, is one of the most recognizable craft beers in the U.S., and Oskar Blues Brewery is credited with leading the canned beer revolution. Until Dale’s Pale Ale, “canned beers were laughed at as the cheap vessels for cheap beer.” Today, Dale’s Pale Ale represents over 50% of the brewery’s production with 10,000 barrels of the well-balanced, aggressively hoped ale being made per month.
The brewery’s second biggest seller is Mama’s Yellow Lil Pilsner, a Czech-style beer with a 5.3% ABV. In 2013, Oskar Blues Brewery expanded and opened another brewery in Brevard, North Carolina.
4. Allagash Brewing Company: Portland, Maine
Rob Tod started Allagash Brewing Company as a one-man operation and sold his first batch of beer in the summer of 1995. Since its modest beginnings as a 15-barrel brewhouse, Allagash has quickly become the toast of the Maine brewing scene, an industry that has grown from two commercial brewers in 1988 to 48 in 2012. The National Brewers Association ranked Maine fifth in the country for the number of craft breweries per capita in 2012. Allagash produces six year-round beers, seven yearly releases, and has numerous one-offs and keg only options in its portfolio.
Allagash White is the company’s flagship beer, and it’s modeled after the traditional white or “wit” beers of Belgium. The brew, which features wheat instead of barley and a mix of Curacao orange peel, coriander and other spices, is the winner of seven beer awards.
3. Brewery Ommegang: Cooperstown, N.Y.
According to baseball legend, Abner Doubleday invented the game in a cow pasture in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839. Today, the village is best known as the home of The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. However, the area was once renown for its role in U.S. hop production, which made it the perfect place for Ommegang to build a brewery in 1997. Brewery Ommegang is the first farmstead brewery to be built in the U.S. in more than 100 years, and the building was constructed on 136-acres that was once used as a hop farm.
Brewery Ommegang specializes in Belgian-styled ales. It brews six year-round beers and numerous seasonal and special releases. The brewery distributes to 43 states and has begun exporting to Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2013, Ommegang released its “Game of Thrones Series,” which features Iron Throne Blonde Ale, Take The Black Stout, and Fire and Blood Red Ale.
2. Lagunitas Brewing Company: Petaluma, California
According to the Lagunitas Facebook page, the brewery is “capable of making beer out of goat’s milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the mood, if need be.” While beer lovers applaud a dedication to experimentation, let’s hope the “need” for brambles and asphalt never comes. Founded in 1993, Lagunitas is one of the fastest growing and most successful craft breweries in America.
The brewery’s distribution is so widespread that it recently announced it’s building a 250,000 barrel-a-year facility in Chicago’s Douglas Park neighborhood to cater to the East Coast. According to Tony Magee, owner of Lagunitas, sales increased 60 percent in 2012 and are up 78 percent over the past 12 months.
1. Stone Brewing Company: Escondido, California
In 2008, Beer Advocate named Stone Brewing Company “The All Time Top Brewery on the Planet.” Founded in 1996, the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States is as beloved as much for its envelope-pushing attitude as it is its portfolio of award winning craft beers. Stone’s beers are well known for their high hop content and heady alcohol percentages, with brews ranging anywhere from 4% to 13%. Stone Pale Ale is considered the company’s flagship beer, but it produces several year-round and special releases as well as a popular Anniversary Ale Series that comes out every summer.
In July 2014, Stone Brewing Co. finalized a deal to open a brewery and bistro in Berlin, Germany. It is the first craft brewer in America to independently own and operate a brewery in Europe. According to Greg Koch, Stone Brewing CEO and co-founder, “It’s a turning of the tables but only in the very best of ways.”