New Jersey: River Horse Brewing Company
Let’s be honest: NJ beer just isn’t that great. The scene simply hasn’t exploded yet, likely because everyone there is way too busy listening to The Boss and wondering exactly how many of the Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes Chris Christie could eat in one sitting. But there is hope. Flying Fish has been doing really good things since the '90s, and Carton Brewing does a righteous 12% Belgian strong, but River Horse comes out on top for us, mainly due to a nice spread (from Double IPAs to a pretty serious Tripel to an Oatmeal Milk Stout), and, perhaps more importantly, their mascot: the best hippopotamus mascot since you were seven and they were Hungry Hungry.
Pennsylvania: Tröegs Brewing Company
Yuengling is America's oldest brewery, mostly thanks to inexpensive brews that fill up many an East Coast college dorm mini-fridge. But for beers like Nugget Nectar Ale, which will pleasantly bitch-slap you in the face with hops (93 IBUs!), you've gotta hit up Hershey's Tröegs. And they're constantly innovating, releasing multiple brews each year as part of their Scratch Beer Series, like a Red Beet Saison and a Triple Mango IPA.
New York: Brooklyn Brewery
When Brooklyn Brewery started in 1984, the word hipster likely referenced something involving fanny packs. Almost 30yrs later, you can grab a Brooklyn Lager in Finland or Hong Kong, yet brewmaster Garrett Oliver refuses to stop creating innovative, liver-kicking beers, from readily available Blast! to the delightful Sorachi Ace Saison. Sure, Brooklyn isn’t the micro-est brewery anymore. And there’s plenty going on in the NY craft scene. Sixpoint does some great things, Cooperstown’s Ommegang makes fantastic Belgians (plus Game of Thrones beers!) AND allows Pete Rose in, and Captain Lawrence nails everything from Kolsches to Imperial IPAs. But Brooklyn gets points for being the bellwether, and if you haven’t had Black Ops yet, do that, and you’ll understand.
Delaware: Dogfish Head Brewery
Delaware is the state everyone drives through to get somewhere else. But since 1995, Dogfish has given you a reason to stop. If they put an amount of minutes before the word “IPA” and slap it on a label, it’s worth drinking the beer inside. And they release awesomely inventive one-offs, like an a beer/cider mash-up with producer Dan the Automator and an approximation of a beer brewed in China 9000yrs ago.
Maryland: Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Flying Dog certainly makes a case for being the best, having been listed with Stillwater as one of Ratebeer’s Top 100 brewers in 2012, and Union Craft Brewing is one of the more exciting brewers of the past year, but Stillwater’s dominated lately by opening a beloved brewpub in Baltimore, canning the “post-Prohibition style" Classique, and working with bands to create beers based on their songs in the ongoing Sensory Series. Rock!