Texas: Jester King Brewery
Because you root against a brewery with beers named Black Metal, Commercial Suicide, and Weasel Rodeo, Jester King gets the TX nod over the state's wealth of crafters (Deep Ellum, Peticolas, Shiner, Austin Beerworks, Real Ale, Live Oak...) for its USDA organic certification, crazy use of barrel-aging and wild yeast, and big, bold flavors that embody Texas.
Kentucky: Against the Grain Brewery
Bluegrass Brewing Co might be the most well-known KY brewery (and the most awarded at GABF), but their Louisville counterpart Against the Grain consistently pushes the envelope and challenges the bourbon-drinking population of KY to pay attention. To wit: the Golden Sower, an amazingly named Brett beer, an imperial stout made with a Danish brewery, and a much-loved smoked beer aged in bourbon barrels called Bo and Luke.
Louisiana: NOLA Brewing
Though it's only about five years old, NOLA Brewing's doing its damnedest to put New Orleans on the map for something other than it's celebrated Beads for Boobs program; it's giving Abita a solid run for its money by actually making beers with the best ingredients regardless of cost, resulting in beers like the six malt, six hop IPA Hopitoulas and a citrusy, sweet, 8.8% ABV double IPA with one of the best beer names ever: Mechahopzilla
Florida: Cigar City Brewing
The Tampa brewery stands head and very tan shoulders above other Sunshine State brewers, hitting a home run with just about every beer it touches (and that includes beer aged on baseball bats
). Their Hunaphus Imperial Stout, with subtle, perfectly executed hints of chili, is one of the best beers you'll find anywhere.
Alabama: Good People Brewing Company
So endorsed by the fine people of Alabama that they actually have a pub in the airport, Good People's standout is the big, bold double IPA Snake Handler, whose orange-flavored bite matches its surprisingly floral bite.
Mississippi: Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
MS isn’t exactly a hotbed of craft brewing activity, but it is
a hotbed of Larry the Cable Guy tour stops. Presumably. Still, Lazy Magnolia has a nice following among beer drinkers in the state, as they’ve won a couple of World Beer Cup medals and won over people with their ongoing barrel-aged series that includes the Southern Belle, which takes the Southern Pecan Nut Ale and ages it in Pinot barrels.
Georgia: SweetWater Brewing Company
Winning medals at GABF the past few years for their brown porters and American-style wheats (Exodus and Sch'Wheat, respectively), the ATL-based craft brewers with a hippie/smart-ass vibe have been doing the damn thing for 16yrs, and recently expanded production to a 250-barrel brewhouse to meet the high demand. And they win massive bonus points for the bizarre, acid-trip-like stories behind their Dank Tank limited release beers.
Arkansas: Diamond Bear Brewing Company
This Little Rock brewery has scored at the World Beer Fest and GABF with a variety of their beers, all of which adhere to the strict German purity laws that require beer to have but a few ingredients. It doesn't mean they only brew German-style, however, as they're also pouring a Paradise Porter and an Irish Red, in addition to a Honey Weiss that uses local bee nectar.
Tennessee: Yazoo Brewing Company
After interning under Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver, a Nashville brewer opened the whimsically named Yazoo in '03. Any brewery that gets a distillery license to put out a high-gravity beer deserves hero status, and Yazoo did just that in order to release the "big, rich, smoky malt bomb of a beer" named SUE that clocks in at 9.1%. And their Hop Project beers also deserve attention, as every release uses a different mix of hops.
Virginia: Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Located a few hours South of DC in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Devils Backbone brews beer that'll take your mouth straight to heaven (even though drinking beer will likely send you straight to h-e-double-hockey-sticks!), like the Danzig Baltic-Style Porter that all mothers presumably love, and their GABF medal-winning Gold Leaf and Vienna lagers.
West Virginia: Bridge Brew Works
It can't be easy operating a craft brewery in WV, as Bridge Brew has to run this disclaimer on their website: "Belgian-style beers made in West Virginia? No. It’s not a joke." But they do said brews well (a dubbel, a trippel, and a Belgian-blonde trubell), in addition to a highly praised Peregrine Porter that's in competition at this year's Great American Beer Fest.
North Carolina: Foothills Brewing
At the 2011 GABF, Foothills took home some hardware for their incredible 2010 Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout. And at 126 IBUs, their much-loved Seeing Double IPA will do damage to your palate while living up to its name. Sharing a state with creative outfits like Duck-Rabbit and Wicked Weed made it difficult to name them the tops, but Foothills has been cranking out great brews in Winston-Salem for nearly 10yrs. Most importantly, Joel McHale agrees with our pick
South Carolina: Thomas Creek Brewery
Westbrook Brewing Co. is certainly operating in the 1% of SC breweries with offerings like their "Old Time" series, but Thomas Creek gets the nod with year-round standouts like the Up The Creek Extreme IPA with a mind boggling 143 IBUs, which is somehow possible, and rarer releases like the Banana Split Chocolate Stout and the imperial Belgian-style porter Conduplico Immundus Monachus, which likely translates to "more please".