Illinois: Half Acre Beer Company
With Goose Island now the property of Anheuser-Busch, there are plenty of contenders for the state's craft crown -- Revolution, Two Brothers, Pipeworks -- but at the moment, Half Acre gets the nod for its double threat of great flagship brews (Daisy Cutter is one of the most reliable pale ales you'll find on tap in Chicago) and a steady stream of interesting special releases.
Michigan: Founders Brewing Company
When the interwebs are flooded with complaints that retailers are price-gouging with your beer (as happened with the highly coveted Canadian Breakfast Stout), you know you're doing something right. But aside from highly sought-after barrel-aged releases (Kentucky Breakfast Stout being another), Founders also kills it with more readily available offerings like Double Trouble, Red's Rye, and Dirty Bastard. They also have a barrel-aged Backwoods Bastard, but not an Ol' Dirty Bastard. Get on that, Founders!
Indiana: Three Floyds Brewing
Some of these were tough. This one was not. They're the epicenter of the craft beer universe once a year on Dark Lord Day when they release their coveted imperial stout, bars literally fight (it sounds tough, but they do!) for the right to carry them on tap. And if you're ever at the brewery and they're selling Zombie Dust, whip out the Discover card and buy as much as they'll let you.
Ohio: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Apologies to Hoppin' Frog and other Ohio outfits, but the portfolio of brews Great Lakes does exceedingly well is tough to top. From their barrel-aged Blackout Stout, to the slightly self-effacing Burning River Pale Ale, to the just straight-up tasty Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, they seem to be able to do anything. And holidays in the Midwest feel incomplete without their Christmas Ale.
Nebraska: Nebraska Brewing Company
Located in what would presumably be Steven McQueen's favorite Nebraska town -- Papillion -- there is no... waitforit!... escaping the conclusion that NBC is the state's best suds maker. It racks up awards, makes a slew of creative brews (some of 'em are aged in Chardonnay barrels), and does the funny name thing with Melange A Trois and Infinite Wit, which you probably have to have to get that Steve McQueen joke.
Kansas: Free State Brewing Company
Kansas City has Boulevard Brewing, which we mentioned above, but it's in Missouri, so the Kansas nod goes to Free State. It was the first legal brewery in the state when it launched in 1989, and turns out award-winning suds like their signature Copperhead Pale made with a four-hop blend.
Wisconsin: New Glarus Brewing
New Glarus beer may just be the best excuse to visit Wisconsin, aside from the obvious chance to run into PGA golfer Steve Stricker, and congratulate him on his amazing line of branded polo shirts at Kohl’s. You literally can’t get the stuff anywhere outside Dairyland, and yet it’s established itself as one of the most respected craft outfits anywhere. Cask-conditioned Spotted Cow farmhouse ale is the flagship, but if you’re in Wisco, see if you can track down the Stone Soup abbey ale, Snowshoe Irish amber ale, or the all-too-rare, palate-smacking IIPA.