The recent explosion of craft breweries in the US has shifted the beer industry’s attention to quality, not quantity. May 11-17 is American Craft Beer Week, which means it’s the perfect time to discover a new artisanal brew.
We found the 22 coolest American craft brewers making waves in the industry.
We went by the Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewery,” which is a brewery that produces no more than 6 million barrels a year.
Melia Robinson contributed to a previous version of this article.
Located outside Chicago, the first Latin American-style brewery, or
cervecería, in the country infuses its brews with ancho chilli, piloncillo cane sugar, and other Latin flavours.
5 Rabbit was inspired by an Aztec myth, and the names of the beers all coincide in some way with the Aztec calendar. The brewmasters believe in enjoying and savouring life, so every few weeks they publish a recipe on their website that would pair well with one of their beers.
Alchemist sells just one beer: Heady Topper, which is found only in Vermont. They say they'd rather focus on doing one beer perfectly instead of doing many imperfectly.
Heady Topper is a double IPA brewed with a proprietary blend of six hops that blend together to make a great beer.
Ommegang's popular Belgian-style beers hail from the same upstate New York town as the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In addition to creating classic perennials like Witte and Hennepin, the brewmasters also find inspiration from the HBO show and book series 'Game of Thrones.' The first couple of beers were released in 2013, and Ommegang has made several others since then. The fifth instalment, a dark saison-style beer they're calling Three-Eyed Raven, was released in April.
Bridge and Tunnel, a relatively new, Queens-based microbrewery, was started by Rich Castagna, a lifelong New Yorker who named each of his beers for a neighbourhood story. For example, his flagship beer, Angry Amel Dunkelweizen, recalls his angry childhood neighbour, who would threaten the kids playing in the street.
Now with 11 beers in rotation, Bridge and Tunnel has been getting its brews out by distributing kegs to local bars around New York City, but the brewery will soon be opening its own brick-and-mortar location in Ridgewood, Queens, complete with a taproom where locals can come and enjoy a cold one.
'In a state known for theme parks,' Cigar City Brewing pays tribute to its location's Latin roots through beer. The names of the beers, like Jai Alai IPA, Cubano-style Espresso Brown Ale, and Café Con Leche Sweet Stout, are examples of Cigar City's appreciation for Florida's Cuban culture.
The brewery's Hunahpu imperial stout, which comes out once a year, is so popular that the ticketed beer release event turns the brewery into a crowd-swarmed madhouse each year.
Inspired by 'old world brewing methods,' Crooked Stave 'blends science and art through creativity and passion' to make some of its exclusive beers.
Denver residents can apply for an annual cellar reserve membership, which gets them some cool stemware glasses, members-only apparel, 15% off taproom purchases, and access to brews not sold in stores.
Founders once tried brewing beer for the masses -- beer it described as 'well-balanced but unremarkable' -- but, on the verge of bankruptcy, decided it needed to reinvent its image with innovative new brews, and is now considered one of the stalwarts of the craft beer biz.
Its highly drinkable All Day IPA, boozy Dirty Bastard Scotch ale, and the dark and barrel-aged (yet evasive) Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) are some of the brewery's most popular offerings, and some of the biggest brand-builders for Founders Brewing Co.
Hair of the Dog, like many other craft breweries, is very involved with members of the craft community, but in HOTD's case, it has a tendency to name its beers after some notable members of the community.
The brewery's beer Matt, for example, a slightly smoked and very boozy American strong ale, is named for two prominent Pacific Northwest brewers named Matt; and the highly coveted Dave, a rarely released barleywine the strength of some liquors, gets its name from Dave Keene, owner of craft beer bar The Toronado.
Idle Hands moved into a run-down warehouse on the outskirts of Boston and turned it into a place where people can not only just gather and hang out with a great, Belgian-inspired beer, but can help out behind the scenes as well.
Idle Hands has a loyal group of volunteers who come and assist on bottling days. Lunch is usually provided, and 'no one walks away empty-handed.' The Belgian-inspired beers range from pale ales to brown ales to IPAs, wheat beers, and abbey-style ales.
Maui Brewing Co. infuses its beers with Hawaiian flavours like Maui gold pineapple, hand-toasted coconuts, and lemongrass to create ales such as its Coconut Porter and Bikini Blonde Lager.
The Hawaiian brewery prizes sustainability: Its cans are designed by Maui artists, manufactured on Oahu, and packaged in a unique, recyclable plastic carrying case -- which is safer for marine life if not disposed of properly. It also donates processed grains to local ranchers for cattle feed and composting.
A small-batch brewery in the heart of America, Perennial Artisan Ales brings craft beer to a region not often associated with the craft industry. Perennial specialises in Belgian- and American-style ales, particularly the barrel-aged variety.
Its most popular one, the barrel-aged Abraxas, is a hard-to-find, chocolatey gem. Abraxas, a word of mystical origin, perfectly describes the 11% alcohol-by-volume stout, which ages for nearly a year in whiskey barrels.
Snake River bottles up the local flavours of Jackson Hole in beers brewed 'to match the scenery.' Even though it brews just 5,000 barrels a year, it has a crazy number of different beers available, and some of them can be bought online and shipped to you.
The brewery's Zonker stout has won multiple accolades, and is considered one of the best foreign-style stouts in the country.
SweetWater is a sustainable southern brewery that makes every effort to minimise waste and pollution. The trucks it uses for distribution are part of a fleet of green vehicles, the brewery donates its spent grain to local farmers for cattle feed, and all cardboard packaging is made from post-recycled materials.
Named grand champion at the 2012 US Open Beer Championship, SweetWater takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to brewing and drinking, with beers, like the Take Two Pils pilsner, whose slogan is 'call us in the morning,' or the 'drink 'em if you got 'em' 420 extra pale ale.
Tallgrass Brewing Co. was founded by a husband-and-wife team, who pursued their dreams and quit their jobs to move to a small town in Kansas's Tallgrass Prairie and open a microbrewery.
They serve creative beers like the 8-Bit, a hop-rocketed American pale ale that
comes with its own 'video game,' and Buffalo Sweat, an oatmeal cream stout, in funky-looking cans.
The 15-barrel brewery in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighbourhood just launched in the fall of 2014, making its guests comfortable at tables in the brewery space, at the bar, or on the outdoor patio under a canopy of string lights.
Threes excels in flavorful saisons and IPAs, and gives its beers names that are fun to order at the bar (think beers like the Superf*ckingyawn IPA, the Hereyago pale ale, or the Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More imperial stout). The brewery also brings in a rotating cast of local chefs to share their food with brewery guests.
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