Yes, there was the requisite rage and hand-wringing over Devil's Backbone's 2016 sale, but the roster of quality Virginia breweries is as deep as the Shenandoah Valley. Or something. Hardywood Park, AleWerks, The Veil (especially popular among Game of Thrones fans willing to overlook spelling) all have their merits. And then there's Lickinghole Creek, which has both a 200-acre farm on which it grows numerous ingredients that make their way into
Is Alaska perhaps the last frontier for great beer? No. But it might be the next, most unexpected one. Because up in Alaska, there’s time to be patient and barrel age. And when that happens, places like Midnight Sun emerge as masters of that craft. But there are dozens and dozens of amazing breweries throwing down on Alaska, though not dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens, as that would mean more breweries than people. Still, one of the least-populous states is one of the best places for beer tourism. These days, the yellow snow could well be spilled beer. But, you know, still don’t eat it.
Big Sky Brewing might be the ambassador for Montana brewing -- Moose Drool being an essential brown, and Ivan the Terrible being a badass of a Russian imperial -- but with rising stars like Flathead Lake, Bayern, Bitter Root, and Bozeman Brewing pouring high-quality wares, Montana’s continuing its slow climb to a destination for beer drinkers. We hear the scenery is also nice.
The bad news? Natty Boh is no longer brewed there. The good news? SO much other outstanding beer is, starting with the consistently excellent and experimental work from Stillwater Artisan Ales, which continues to prove that people will take you more seriously as a brewery if your name says "artisan ales." But for real, they're as tasty as they are artisanal. Throw in Heavy Seas, DuClaw, and Union Craft and you can have yourself one hell of a good time in Baltimore, though you should still sneak in a Natty Boh at some point just for nostalgia's sake.
Twin Cities represent! Everywhere else, represent harder! We kid, we kid. St. Paul/Minneapolis is bringing some serious thunder these days. Where once most of the conversation revolved around Surly, now the conversation revolves around... actually, still Surly, which keeps getting bigger and better. But it’s hardly the only notable game in town this days (we’re big into Dangerous Man’s stouts,) while breweries like St. Louis Park’s Steel Toe and Duluth's Bent Paddle are bringing the goods outside the big city. And hey, there’s always Schnell. It’s a good time to be a beer lover in Minnesota indeed. Also, there’s a very good brewery called Indeed. Minnesota's great!
We've occasionally ruffled the feathers of some Hoosier residents (who we all assume are wearing bright red Bobby Knight sweaters and destroying chairs as they type their missives) for touting breweries like Three Floyds and 18th Street, which, while very much in Indiana, are also part of the Chicago metropolitan area. And, look, Three Floyds in particular is still unquestionably the state's finest brewery, but that's not to take anything away from the rest of the state. Upland's sours can hold their own with anyone's, and Sun King represents the old guard in Indianapolis, which is emerging as a destination beer town in its own right.
17. North Carolina
You can kind of take the comments about Virginia, replace "Devil's Backbone" with "Wicked Weed," and basically go from there, except the key difference is that North Carolina's game is just a bit stronger overall. Heist, Green Man, Olde Hickory, Ponysaurus -- Asheville might still be the state's beer capital, but there's fine hop artistry being performed statewide. It's also worth mentioning that a bottle of barrel-aged Sexual Chocolate from Foothills pairs really well with repeated viewings of Coming to America.
When Lone Star and Shiner are a state’s two official beers, you’re already at an advantage. But Texas continues to grow from within, always finding new and amazing things to pair with BBQ and honky-tonk. Austin is an obvious hot spot, what with its hipsters and artisan everything, and it’s there that the barrel-aged majesty of Jester King reigns supreme over a wealth of greatness. But nowadays great beer is everywhere, with Lone Pint bringing the IPA thunder, Dallas representing with the likes of Community, and Real Ale Brewing transforming rural Blanco into a destination for sour lovers. And, when in doubt, there will always -- ALWAYS -- be a Shiner or Lone Star nearby, and probably a smoked hunk of meat.
Beer in Pennsylvania has come a long way since Yuengling got into the game in 1829, but having America's oldest continually operating brewery in your state ought to count for something. That said, Pennsylvania's non-historical beers stand out just fine on their own, with older outfits like Victory, VooDoo, and Troegs still excelling and newer spots like Tired Hands continually elevating their profile. There's a lot you need to be drinking, basically. If only someone had a giant sandwich filled with French fries or steak or something.
It's kind of odd that a snow-starved state like Florida excels so thoroughly at putting out dark, viscous beers that almost scream "drink me in front of a fireplace during a blizzard," but such is the case with places like Cigar City, Cycle, and the recently acquired Funky Buddha. But hey, Hunaphu's is the kind of beer you're thrillist to have in front of you regardless of the weather -- and it's not like the aforementioned breweries don't bring it when it comes to the thirst-quenching stuff, too. Speaking of thirst quenching, Miami Madness from J. Wakefield is a fantastic choice on the kind of sweltering Miami day that might drive a person to, well, madness.
Budweiser completely transformed the American beer culture (and delivery), and it deserves recognition and respect for that. But it’s not all fizzy and yellow in the Show-Me State. The craft world has genuine heroes in the form of Boulevard and Schlafly, while Perennial Artisan has honed its small-batch, Euro-inspired fare to such fanfare that it inspired the even smaller, crazier offshoot-turned-indie brewer Side Project. Meanwhile, Alpha has thrown down the sour gauntlet. Together, these brewers have taken a mass-produced legacy and built around it a genuinely great craft scene, making an already boozy state boozier… which might explain their affinity for Provel, actually.
In the past five or so years, Cleveland has transformed from a great town with a great brewery called Great Lakes into one of the most formidable beer towns in the country, becoming something of a Third Coast Portland thanks to joints like Market Garden, Masthead, and tons more. But it’s not just Cleveland changing Ohio’s beer scene: Akron’s birthed barrel-aged greatness in Thirsty Dog and a world-class whale in Hoppin’ Frog’s B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher. Jackie O’s might just be the best college town brewery in the US. Fat Head’s is not a national treasure. The number of breweries in the state as a whole has grown to damn near 250, meaning the Buckeye State’s creeping up to the volume of the Beaver State (that’s Oregon, for you folks not into state nicknames). Mark our words: If Ohio keeps it up with an eye on quality to match its growth, it’ll soon be cracking the top 10.