If you’re like me, you got pretty pissed when you saw Budweiser’s commercial during the Superbowl, which kind of talked smack about the Craft Beer Breweries throughout America. After working behind the scenes and getting to know quite a few of the craft brewers, I can tell you one thing that never lacks in those breweries: Passion. In case you missed it, here’s that commercial:
Now, I’m going to take the high road here and say that, yes, I do enjoy a Budweiser from time to time when I’m feeling pretty mindless or want a beer without much “fuss.” But, with that being said, I can tell you right now that pressing a button over and over again on a factory line is not brewing the “hard” way. I’ve seen the work that goes into craft beers. I’ve seen the hours spent by the people who make beer their passion in life. Passion from the little guys can be a scary thing to a big corporation like Budweiser, who just got passed up in kegs shipped. Don’t believe me? Check it out here. Whether you’re someone new to the craft scene or a seasoned veteran of the hop, it’s time to check out some new beers or support some old favorites.
While there are plenty of great craft breweries out there, here are a few that stand out to us, and never seem to let us down on quality. No “fuss” or “dissecting” about it.
17. Surly Brewing Company – Minnesota
Oh, someone told you that craft beers were feminine? Well, friend, you have been mislead. While there are plenty of beers for the ladies to enjoy on the menu, Surly Brewing Co. has plenty of strong, traditional beers that will leave your thirst satiated without asking you to go on too much of an adventure. We recommend keeping it simple here. If you’re not completely ready to dive head first into craft brews, start with the Abrasive Ale. It’s different, and the quality is apparent, but there are some recognizable traits from beers from large corporations. Welcome to the right side of American Ales.
16. Epic Brewing Company – Utah
Salt Lake City doesn’t exactly seem like it would be home to one of the most impressive beers in the country, but Epic Brewing Company has put Utah on the radar. The winner of medals across the board, it’s pretty incredible to consider how quickly this company has grown. The Smoked Porter and Hop Syndrome Lager have both won gold medals, and for good reason, so don’t be afraid to try one of those two to get things started. We also like Big Bad Baptist, which is both humorous in name and complex in taste.
15. Hair of the Dog Brewing Company. – Oregon
I saw something else the other day that irked me a bit. Someone *cough* Huffington *cough* decided that they’d make a list of the “best” beer cities in the country, and somehow left Portland off the list. This is blasphemy, and breweries like Hair of the Dog prove why. Serving up a plethora of unique beers, this company puts originality first. Nothing makes this as apparent as Cherry Adam From The Wood which features locally grown black cherries and is aged in bourbon in cherry casks for fifteen months… yeah, sounds amazing, right? We’ll be back. We’re going to go get some more.
14. 21st Amendment Brewing Company – California
21st Amendments has made a name for itself across America for multiple reasons. We gotta show some love to the designs on their cans and cases, which really makes them stand out in the crowd, but their beer speaks for itself as well. These guys are apparent traditionalist when it comes to brewing, but the resulting beers are nothing short of crisp and clean. While Bitter American and Brew Free or Die are their most popular beers, we’re going to have to say that the Back in Black is my favorite by far. This is another great brewery to break into the craft scene with.
13. Sweetwater Brewing Company – Georgia
Most people don’t exactly think of Georgia as a place that’s prime for craft brewing. It would seem, however, that even the traditionalists down south are ready for something new in regards to their beer. Recognized by their unmistakable fish taps, Sweetwater has won the love of many craft lovers with their 420 IPA, and it has a lot to do with consistency. You certainly won’t find any fruit beers in the arsenal of Sweetwater, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about keeping it simple, but still being complex, and I dig that.
12. Revolution Brewing Company – Illinois
Chicago’s pride and joy, Revolution Brewing Company has big aspirations and a brewery to match it. Not only has Chicago taken notice, but the Midwest has a love affair with what Revolution has been able to pull off. After taking a trip to their brewery a few weeks ago, it’s become apparent to me that Deth’s Tar is my favorite by far, but it’s only available at limited times, but this loaded Russian Imperial Stout will give you something to look forward to until it comes back. You can’t go wrong with a classic like their Anti-Hero IPA, though.
11. Highland Brewing Company – North Carolina
Asheville is known as one of the most successful beer cities in the entire country, and that’s pretty incredible considering it’s not even the largest city in North Carolina. Maybe it has to do with the artistic culture within the city or maybe it’s the fact that these people really love their beer, but they’ve been at it with the craft brewing scene before craft beers blew up. With that being said, Highland Brewing is slowly becoming a classic. In my city alone there are tap takeovers from this company that usually leave the bars sold out in a matter of two hours. A lot of people are feeling their Devil’s Britches Red IPA, so maybe you should give it a try as well.
10. Green Flash Brewing Company – California
Hops on hops up in here! Really, though, Green Flash must be full of hops-maniacs, because they have perfected the art of taking your palate for a ride. Each beer has its own precise blend of hops, which leaves you feeling as if you’re drinking a work of art more than anything. These are beers that I recommend getting on draft and allowing your taste buds to go for a ride. The West Coast IPA is everything you’d expect from the style and then some. This is their go to, and the quality shows it.
9. Two Brothers Brewing Company – Illinois
It’s a shame that I hadn’t tried Two Brothers sooner than I had. Luckily, they’re hard at work, always ready to make something new. What makes them amazing is the fact that they’re really set on perfecting the traditional beers we all know in love, but slightly tinkering with the way it’s made. A fine example of this is their Atom Smasher, which is an Oktoberfest beer that has a bit of a caramel undertone to it. While this isn’t available all year, it’s certainly worth investigating once it comes back around. Until then, Cane and Ebel Red Rye IPA more than fits the bill for a beer deserving of the title “amazing.”
8. Deschutes Brewing Company – Oregon
Is there anything better than a cold Twilight Ale on a warm night? I’m starting to wonder. Deschutes is one Oregon-based brewery that isn’t trying to be “trendy” or move mountains, but their loyal fan-base has spread their reputation all the way to the east coast. While the Twilight is an instant classic for us, the Black Butte Porter has a smoky nature to it that goes well with BBQ or Chipotle meal pairings as well. Versatile and true, it won’t be long until everyone is drinking this stuff.
7. Cascade Brewing – Oregon
When it comes to artfully crafted fruit beers, few can even come close to Cascade Brewing. With beers offering everything from apricot to honey ginger lime, the possibilities seem to be endless with Cascade. Where some see this behavior as “blasphemy” to the name of all things beer, they’ve embraced the originality in their style, and the rest of the world is impressed. There’s no way to describe many of their beers. You’re just going to have to check them out for yourself. We commend you for your creativity, Cascade.
6. Rhinegeist Brewery – Ohio
Cincinnati is the true hidden gem in America when it comes to craft beers. In fact, there are fifteen breweries in the Cincinnati area alone, each with its own unique personality. The fastest growing one, Rhinegeist, is the pride of many beer lovers from around the region, and every time they see the ghost head on a tap, they know where to go. Their specialty, in my eyes, comes in the form of IPA’s, which are plentiful in their arsenal. Whether you’re looking for something with a punch (Sabertooth Tiger) or something a little more mellow (Truth), you’ll find something complex in every beer you try.
5. Southern Tier – New York
I have a love affair with Southern Tier, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Every season, I patiently await the return of the seasonal collections from this brewery to come back to the shelves. While some attribute the company to fall and winter, they have a plethora of year-round options to keep you occupied until then. The true beauties of this piece, to me, come through in their Blackwater Series. They actually have a beer, Warlock, that’s a stout that’s infused with pumpkin. This beer is easily one of my favorites I’ve ever had, and it’s only the beginning. These guys just know how to make solid stouts and porters.
4. Dark Horse Brewing Company – Michigan
I’ll be the first to admit that Dark Horse is a new company in my repertoire of beer, and I’m only bummed that I haven’t discovered them sooner. Michigan has been known to produce some high-quality beers, but Dark Horse seems to take things to the next level in my mind. A fine example of this comes from their Tres Blueberry Stout. Quite a few companies have tried to master this style of beer, but none of them have made one that comes anywhere close to this. The blueberry flavor is subtle beneath the frothy nature of the stout. While this isn’t the only great beer that Dark Horse has, this is one that I won’t soon forget.
3. Fat Head’s – Ohio
Whoever thought up the labels for this company obviously has a sense of humor, and it’s sheer genius when it comes to branding. The fat man with his odd choices of hairstyle and fashion show up all over the place these days, and it can be traced back to the fact that the this company obviously cares just as much about their beer as they do their branding. Bumbleberry, with its mix of blueberry and honey, has become a favorite among fruit beer lovers around the country. You won’t find anything too off the wall at Fat Head’s, but they simply understand that it’s not about reinventing the wheel, but making it better.
2. Flying Dog Brewing Company – Maryland
When it comes to style, we find Flying Dog right on the corner of tradition and experimentation, and the results give the company a mark of sheer genius. There are few beer companies in the entire country that can reach such a broad audience as Flying Dog. You want a fruity beer? They’ve got it. You want a strong, unique stout? Yet again, you’ve got it. Don’t worry, they have their go-to beers like everyone else, but we highly encourage that you think outside the box when you grab some of their beer. One of their newer beers, Bloodline, is a Blood Orange Ale, and it’s phenomenal. Yes, you need to give it a try.
1. The Traveler Beer Company – Vermont
Now, I’m just going to go ahead and say that if you don’t like shandies or experimental beers, then the Traveler Brewing Company may not be your thing. With that being said, however, even those who don’t traditionally drink these types of beers find something to love about them. Their most recent addition, the Forbidden Traveler Apple Ale, has been an instant hit, and it’s been the case for most of their beers that people are generally wowed by what they can do with flavor. Whether they have a mad scientist in a lab or they’re just that good remains to be seen, but we see Traveler as a new evolution in beers that’s about to sweep the nation.
What other craft beers do you think people should give a try? Let people know in the comment box below!