We Ranked the Top Beers in All 50 States
You learn a lot about the state of American craft beer when you attempt to rank the top three beers (give or take) in every state. Thrillist assembled a panel of our best beer writers, experts in their own respective regions, to pick the finest brews in each state. We’ve got tasting notes for them all, plus reasons why each is worthy of distinction.
Our criteria? We looked for the pioneers, beers that made history, paved the way for others to excel--and beers that are simply the most beloved in that state.
We’ve included everything from milky porters to jammy lambics, IPAs both hazy and crisp. Some of these beers have been around for decades, some get better when aged for decades, and others are brand spankin’ new. You see how daring experimentation pays off, you see influences coming from everywhere, you see an astonishing amount of diversity, and that’s pretty much the story of America, isn’t it?
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
Alaskan Smoked Porter
Smoked Porter, 6.5%
Alaska’s most famous beer was created when a brewer decided to hand-smoke malts on the same smoker the pub used for their fish and meats. Far from the German-style Rauch biers of yore, Smoked Porter is a burlier beer that stands up to intense food as well as intense Alaskan winters.
Anchorage Bitter Monk
Belgian-style Double IPA, 9%
Hop bitterness and tart sour flavors should not work together, but in Anchorage Brewing’s Bitter Monk the pairing is a revelation. Aged in chardonnay oak barrels, fermented with Belgian yeast and then wild brettanomyces, this farmhouse ale is dry-hopped with the aptly named Citra hops for a complex melange of flavors.
Midnight Sun Arctic Devil Barleywine
English-style Barleywine, 13.2%
Not wine, but definitely made with barley, this classic take on the malt-forward English-style Barleywine is a must have to keep warm on those cold Alaskan nights. Midnight Sun’s Arctic Devil is as ferocious as a wolverine and just as deadly at more than 13% ABV.
Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
Firestone Walker was ahead of the lager resurgence when they launched Pivo Pils in 2013, against all odds at the time it became a runaway hit. The secret ingredient in the case of Pivo was Italian, or rather an Italian brewer's new school hopping with emerging fruity and grape-like hop varieties added in a very American way. Somehow the traditional German-style Pils base worked wonderfully with elements from America and Italy and helped start the new Italian-style Pilsner trend.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
American-style Pale Ale, 5.6%
You cannot talk about Pale Ales or even American ales without talking about Sierra Nevada’s breathtaking Pale Ale. Launched in 1980 before hoppy beer was popular, SN Pale Ale defined what American Pale Ale was and could be, and it continues to inspire brewers to this day.
Russian River Pliny the Elder
American-style Double IPA, 8%
One of the first big hop bombs and earliest examples of American-style hop creep that created bold, bitter, and strong Double IPA’s was Pliny the Elder. Though it’s been around for a while now and considered old school compared to the hazy milkshake IPA’s of today, Pliny is still amongst the most popular and sought after double IPA’s in the world.
Maui Brewing Imperial Coconut Porter
Imperial Porter, 9%
Forget bakery products, curry and candy bars, the best use of Hawaii’s plentiful fruit is in this Imperial Porter from Maui Brewing. Under a dark tan head and layers of bittersweet chocolate and coffee is the same fruit that lines the beaches of the island where Polynesian settlers first planted them in the 1800s.
Big Island Brewhaus White Mountain Porter
Coffee Porter, 5.8%
Thomas Kerns of Big Island Brewhaus likes to make coffee with local Hawaiian beans, he uses coconut milk for creamer and local honey rather than sugar. Kerns takes the same approach with his White Mountain Porter, a coffee and coconut beer that highlight’s the big island’s natural bounty.
Lanikai Brewing Route 70 Saison
Every beer at Lanikai Brewing is built around a local Hawaiian ingredient - a common thread among breweries. But while most Hawaiian breweries are using local coffee or coconuts, Lanikai sources lightly tart-spicy hibiscus and sweet and creamy Big Island honey for this lovely floral fruity saison.
Breakside Brewery Wanderlust IPA
American-style IPA, 6.2%
It’s hard to choose which IPA from Breakside Brewery is the best representation of the style from hop crazed Oregon but let’s settle on Wanderlust. While both the flagship IPA and Wanderlust have racked up competition medals, it’s Wanderlust that has lead the charge in love from the beer geeks for its lighter touch on malt character and fruity but dank hops that really showcase what the Pacific Northwest flavor is all about.
Upright Brewing Oregon Native
Farmhouse Ale Wine Hybrid, 8%
While most brewers strive to showcase hops or malt, Upright’s Oregon Native is an exquisite expression of Pinot Noir wine grapes. To get to the heart of the grape, Upright filled wine barrels with whole grapes before covering them with beer and allowing it to ferment in oak with only the natural yeast present on the fruit skins.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter
American Porter, 5.2%
Deschutes helped popularize the English-style Porter in a slightly Americanized revision in the early years of this country’s craft beer revolution. Though created in 1988, Black Butte Porter is still a mainstay, still delicious, still inspiring brewers and still the best-selling porter in the country.
Georgetown Brewing Bodhizafa IPA
American-style IPA, 6.9%
Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing reinvented their image with this Great American Beer Festival gold-medal winning IPA that now can be found in cans all over the Pacific Northwest. Crafted to please old and new school hopheads alike, Bodhi IPA uses rolled oats for body and a slight haze with west coast citrus/piney hop varieties along fresher tropical and juicy strains.
Fremont Brewing B-Bomb
Barrel-Aged Imperial Winter Ale, 14%
While they make just about all the styles of beer in the world, Fremont Brewing has become inextricably linked with barrel-aged beers like B-Bomb. The two brewer Matt’s of Fremont Brewing are barrel-aged beer wizards, able to coaxe magical flavors out of the oak without overwhelming the beer and this series is amongst their best and most popular work.
Chuckanut Brewing Pilsner Lager
With the resurgence of craft lagers (and Pilsners especially), it’s important to remember that Will Kemper has been doing it for decades without mainstream popularity. Ever since the world realized that Pilsner is not all just light cheap lager, Chuckanut’s Pilsner has become a touchstone for beer fans and brewers around the country.
by Kate Bernot
Wren House Spellbinder
Phoenix-based Wren House brews this hazy IPA with Citra and Mosaic lupulin powder, wheat, and gallons of oat milk per batch, but it actually finishes cleaner and drier than one might expect, a bridge between New England IPAs and classic American versions.
Lochiel Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale, 8.5%
Mesa-based Lochiel brews its Scottish ales based on family recipes that go back generations. This flagship wee heavy offers caramel and toffee sweetness countered by a quiet wisp of smoke.
Arizona Wilderness Terroir Project AZ
American Wild Ale, 9.9%
Combining two things the Gilbert brewery does best—local ingredients and spontaneous fermentation—this wild ale created for Firestone Walker’s Terroir Project is brewed with Arizona-grown Sangiovese grapes and a grain bill made with majority AZ-grown ingredients.
New Belgium La Folie
Fort Collins’ pioneering Belgian-style brewery knows its way around oak-aged, mixed-fermentation beers. This foeder-aged sour brown ale remains a pinnacle of the style, and a modern classic.
Bierstadt Slow Pour
Visit Denver’s German-style brewery Bierstadt during Great American Beer Festival, and the bar is three-deep with visiting brewers ordering glass after glass of this uber-classic German pilsner.
Weldwerks Juicy Bits
Multiple dry-hop punches of Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado hops stuff this Greeley-brewed hazy, fluffy IPA with citrus and tropical fruit character; variants like Extra Juicy Bits (an imperial IPA) and Double Dry-Hopped Juicy Bits (self-explanatory) riff on the theme.
Grand Teton Double Vision Doppelbock
German Doppelbock, 11%
Victor-based Grand Teton brews this rich, decadent German lager that’s worth savoring each winter -- keep an eye out for its bourbon barrel-aged cousin, too.
Payette 12 Gauge Imperial Stout
American Imperial Stout, 10%
Each winter marks the return of Boise’s most anticipated barrel-aged imperial stout, which slumbers in rye and/or bourbon barrels until it’s lifted enough vanilla, caramel, and toffee notes to complement its inherent roast. Payette also released S’mores and Orange-Chocolate variants this year.
Barbarian Elixir Of The Gods
Belgian Quadrupel, 12%
This annual winter release from Garden City- and Boise-based Barbarian ages a Belgian quad in port barrels with souring lactobacillus and funky Brettanomyces, adding a tart-fruit complexity to the base beer’s lush dark-malt flavors.
MAP Oatmeal Stout
American Stout, 6.2%
This Great American Beer Festival gold-medal-winning oatmeal stout is the only dark beer Bozeman-based MAP Brewing brews year-round—and for good reason. It’s roasty and dry, but with the silky mouthfeel and picture-perfect mocha-colored head the style demands.
German Pilsner, 5%
Brewed by a German-trained master brewer, this classic German pilsner is delicious in any form, but reaches its full aromatic potential served via “slow-pour” draft at Bayern’s Missoula taproom.
Lewis & Clark Miner’s Gold
Hefeweizen / Wheat Beer, 5.8%
Occupying a middle space between a hefeweizen and an American wheat beer, Helena-brewed Miner’s Gold is eminently refreshing but with enough yeast character to keep each sip interesting. There are few better hiking beers.
American IPA, 6.5%
The hop-obsessed team at this Sparks, Nevada brewery turns out nearly every possible IPA under the sun -- from hazies to doubles to triple IPAs -- but it’s the brewery’s flagship IPA that best threads the needle between approachable bitterness and waves of Simcoe hop flavor.
Great Basin Cerveza Chilebeso
Chile beer, 5.5%
An annual winter release for the Sparks-based brewery, this Kolsch brewed with jalapenos offers fresh-cut pepper flavor with just a smidge of heat on the finish. Is there a better taco-pairing beer on earth?
Big Dog Tripel
Belgian Tripel, 9.4%
Vegas isn’t most people’s first thought when it comes to craft beer, but Big Dog’s brewed award-winning beers there -- notably its strong and spicy Belgian tripel -- since 1993.
Black Tooth 1314
Scotch Ale, 11.6%
Sheridan-based Blacktooth brews this malty-rich strong ale each year for its anniversary. Though batches vary slightly, expect French toast-like maple and brioche notes, chased by a warming alcohol prickle at the finish.
Snake River Zonker Stout
Flavored stouts are seemingly a dime a dozen, but Jackson-based Snake River’s Zonker is a testament to the pleasures of an adjunct-free, rich-and-roasty foreign export stout, redolent with deeply toasted barley and dark chocolate.
German Altbier, 5.5%
This downtown Laramie brewpub has racked up numerous medals over the years, including a World Beer Cup gold in 2018 for its Dusseldorf-style altbier, an uncommon German style that’s evenly balanced between malt and hops. It’s easy-drinking, but with enough malt complexity to keep each sip interesting.
Rowley Farmhouse Germophile
Sour-Berliner Weiss, 5%
Serious beer fans know the name Rowley after the Sante Fe brewery cleaned up at 2019’s Great American Beer Festival. Ease your way into the brewery’s extensive mixed-fermentation line-up with Germophile, a tart and thirst-quenching Berliner weisse.
La Cumbre Project Dank
Revered for its hoppy beers, Albuquerque's IPA powerhouse impresses with its Project Dank series, a rotating lineup of American IPAs that typically offer a bold, clean, classic IPA experience.
This unfiltered German pilsner from Albuquerque-based Marble has taken home award after award. While some standard American lagers can taste thin and uninterested, the lack of filtration in this pilsner translates to more delicious malt, yeast, and Noble hop flavor in each sip.
Epic Big Bad Baptist
American Imperial Stout, 12.1%
Epic is an appropriate word to describe the Salt Lake City brewery’s Big Bad Baptist, an annual-release imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs and a rotating roster of coffee beans. Variants in various spirits barrels pile on additional, decadent flavors.
Uinta Baba Black Lager
German Schwarzbier, 4%
If you agree there isn’t enough schwarzbier in the world, Salt Lake City-brewed Baba is here for you. Available year-round, this dark, roasty, and chocolaty lager is more refreshing than its color might let on, making it an unexpectedly dead-on beer to pair with burgers and barbecue.
Shades Kveik Series
Fruited Sour, 6.5%
Beers flavored like egg nog or Thai tom kha soup? Nothing’s off limits for this Salt Lake City brewery, and that’s won them renown for beers including the Kveik series, which uses Norwegian-origin kveik yeast to create a line of special-release, often fruited sour beers.
By Meredith Heil
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
Imperial Stout, 14.5%
For the past 15 years, OG Chicago craftmasters Goose Island has been marinating their wickedly intoxicating Imperial Stout in a variety of spent bourbon barrels. This year’s batch hung out on a combo of Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Wild Turkey, resulting in a velvety brew laced with luscious layers of coffee, dark chocolate, and stone fruit. What can we say? You don’t mess with the G.O.A.T.
Pipeworks Brewing Company Ninja Vs. Unicorn
Double IPA, 8%
A devilishly dank bouquet of Citra, Simcoe, and piney Columbus hops lurk beneath the surface of this potent Chicago-born double IPA’s eye-catching can. Crack one open and the room is instantly seeped in orange blossoms, resin, and fresh peaches delivered to the senses on a silky, surprisingly light caramel malt-fueled body.
Mikerphone Brewing Mikerphone Check 1, 2
New England IPA, 8%
Milwaukee native Mike Pallen, who cut his teeth at area mainstays Pipeworks and 18th Street Brewery, is the music-obsessed genius behind this suburban Chicago superstar. This cloudy, ridiculously juicy banger, first brewed in 2017, beguiles curious quaffers with its creamy, double dry-hopped depths, explosive blood orange and tropical fruit flavor, kick of bitter spice, and tantalizing golden tangerine hue. Now that calls for a mic drop.
3 Floyds Brewing Co. Marshmallow Handjee
Russian Imperial Stout, 15%
Honestly, if it weren’t so unfair to the other Hoosier contenders, we’d devote this entire list to these fearlessly independent rabble rousers. But alas, rules are rules, and thus Marshmallow Handjee, a bourbon barrel-aged big boy stout dosed with earthy vanilla beans, takes the crown. Ranked number two in the world by BeerAdvocate with a gleamingly perfect score of 100, this renowned white whale begins life as the brewery’s already stellar Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout before getting the tropical treatment with a heavy hit of bittersweet and epically aromatic vanilla.
Upland Brewing Company Pawpaw
Barrel-aged Fruited Sour Ale, 6.4 - 6.7%
The cream of this pioneering favorite’s sours is Pawpaw, a beautifully tart tribute to the state’s esteemed native fruit. The golden sour ale is rested on freshly harvested Indiana-grown pawpaw fruit, evoking a magic carpet ride of lush tropical fruit, green apple, dried grass, and lively lactic acid-induced tang. And at 6% to 7% ABV depending on the vintage, it hides a surprisingly boozy punch beneath all that calming smoothness.
Sun King Brewing Company Velvet Fog
Belgian Quad, 11.6%
The Velvet Fog, a bourbon barrel-aged Belgian-style Quadruple stands out among Sun King’s creative, genre-defying concoctions, not only because it took home the Gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup, but also because it’s plain delicious. The 11.6% elixir pours a bewitching dark purple color, ushering in a tsunami of plum and fresh juicy cherry flavors followed by a drying ebb of peppery baking spices, biscuit malt, and that distinctive Belgian yeast. Bold and belly-warming, it sure takes the sting out of yet another Colts loss.
Bell's Brewery Two Hearted Ale
American IPA, 7%
Bell’s helped to put Michigan on the craft map back in 1985 and after nearly 35 years, they’re still very much alive and kicking. Their beloved flagship IPA is a straight bill of American Centennial hops merges merrily with Bell’s fruit-forward proprietary yeast to give this crowd-pleasing IPA its signature grapefruit pith and pine needle aroma while the caramel malt solidifies each sip’s staying power.
Dark Horse Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel-aged Plead the 5th
Russian Imperial Stout, 12%
This full-bodied 12% ABV whopper from 24-year-old Michigan frontrunner Dark Horse boasts a 100% rating on BeerAdvocate. The brew bursts with roasty, malty goodness balanced out by a huge helping of earthy, herbaceous hops. Each draw engulfs the palate with vanilla, anise, toasted hazelnuts, light molasses, and a curious root beer note that lingers until the last drop. Plead the 5th’s secret lies in its complex woodsy char, a refreshing change from the many syrupy sweet chocolate bombs that tend to dominate the ever-popular category.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Oro de Calabaza
Golden Ale, 8%
This Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale, rated the best Belgian Gold in the world by the New York Times in 2010, represents the very tip-top of their top-shelf fleet. Peppered with hearty noble hops and rested for several months on oak before a bout of bottle conditioning, it pours out Goldylocks yellow, with stone fruit, spice, and yeasty funk wafting up through a dense, inch-thick white foam cap. Lemon, apple cider vinegar, and peach preserves follow, along with a bit of must and worn leather to keep things grounded.
Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi
Double IPA, 8.5%
Columbus Brewing Company’s hopped up ales and crispy German lagers have been leading central Ohio’s beer charge since 1988. Named 2014’s GABF bronze medal-winner for American-style IPA, arguably the competition’s toughest category, the copper-hued trendsetter brings the house down with a combination of plump peach and citrus aromas backed by a pleasantly verdant bitterness on the palate. It’s liquid proof that old-school doesn’t always mean out of date.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Edmund Fitzgerald
American Porter, 6%
Despite taking its name from a famously deadly 1975 Lake Superior shipwreck, this bittersweet brew (winner of 12 World Beer Championships and five GABF medals) from Cleveland gamechanger Great Lakes is nothing but smooth sailing all the way. Inside, roasted barley and nutty coffee beans sing their siren’s song, ushering in layers of warming chocolate buoyed by a tingly effervesce for maximum drinkability no matter the forecast.
Jackie O's Pub & Brewery Bourbon Barrel Black Maple
Imperial Porter, 11%
Jackie O’s might be the best thing to happen to beer in Athens since Paul Newman was expelled from OU in 1943 for rolling a keg into the university president’s car. This 11% ABV boozer oozes with succulent caramel, charred marshmallow, vanilla bean, poached plums, smoky American oak, and the deepest, darkest, fudgiest chocolate. And just when you think you’ve gotten things figured out, here comes the finish: A snap of nutty bitterness mellowed by a subtle yet persistent sweetness that screams for another sip.
Funk Factory Geuzeria Frampaars
Belgian-style Lambic, 6%
This inventive and delightfully tart ale, a jammy, purple raspberry-spiked piquant charmer, is a gift to the senses, from the seductive, dark fruit-forward nose and bubbly, waxy oak body to the crisp pang of green apple and a touch more signature funk on the close. A brewery built expressly for beer nerds located smack dab in the capital of one of the country’s greatest beer states? It doesn’t get much better than this.
New Glarus Brewing Company Wisconsin Belgian Red
Fruit Beer, 4%
Fiercely small and independent since day one, New Glarus has been living and breathing the craft beer ethos for the past 27 years. The tap that truly topples them all is the Wisconsin Belgian Red. Over a pound of whole Montmorency Cherries goes into every bottle, contributing a rush of bold berry flavor and an unforgettable color akin to Dorothy’s prized pumps. The malt bill, a blend of Wisconsin wheat and Belgian roasted barley, provides a perfect, palate-soothing platform for showcasing the complexity of the fruit and the high carbonation level is just icing on the ultra-quaffable cake.
The Brewing Projekt Resist
New England IPA, 7%
This otherworldly baby brewery is dedicated to breaking down style barriers and pushing the limits on what’s expected. Their diverse and lengthy output applies some focus to hazy New England IPAs, specifically those of the craveworthy milkshake variety like Resist and its fruited variants. The cream of the creamy crop, the brew is dry hopped to the moon and back with a dank, mango- and melon-rich bouquet then dosed with vanilla and lactose for a one-of-a-kind mouthfeel that keeps you coming back for more.
Toppling Goliath Brewing Company Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout
Imperial Stout, 13%
The Decorah-based IPA and barrel-aged ale specialist has been lighting up beer nerd bucket lists from the jump, and the ever-indulgent KBBS, ranked number one in the world by both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, is the undisputed granddaddy of them all. It drinks like a sweet breakfast landslide, oozing onto the palate on a 13% ABV bed of woodsy maple syrup, rich, nutty espresso, creamy milk chocolate, and soft wheated bourbon. Goliath, consider yourself toppled.
515 Brewing Company Passé
American Pale Ale, 5.9%
There’s truly nothing meh about 515 Brewing Co’s single-hopped citra explosion from their “Meh” series. Pouring a foggy orange with sunny tangerine undertones, the crushable Pale Ale is almost as pretty to look at as it is to imbibe (almost). With bursts of fresh vine-ripened citrus erupting in every gulp, these guys have figured out how to make a beer that steers clear of any dank, resiny bitterness while also remaining impressive, interesting, and well-balanced, not a small feat in the age of dime-a-dozen creamsicle rippers.
Pulpit Rock Brewing Company Loopy Lynn
Double IPA, 8.14%
Pulpit Rock is threatening to turn sleepy Decorah, Iowa, population 7701, into a veritable beer geek destination, especially when it comes to the hoppy stuff, like the neon orange tropical oasis known affectionately as Loopy Lynn. Mango, pineapple, guava, clementines, ripe kiwis -- you name it, it’s in there, countered by a smack of drying grapefruit pith and a cozy wash of fluffy, medium-bodied sweet malt. Pulpit Rock + Toppling Goliath = the ultimate Iowan taproom crawl.
Defiance Brewing Co. Awesomeness
Double IPA, 8%
A small but mighty craft community has started to creep across Kansas in recent years and six-year-old Defiance represents the most ambitious of the lot. Awesomeness backs up its bombastic name with an even more bombastic hop profile, an 100+ IBU eruption of fruit-forward American hops coming together in sticky, zesty, and juicy harmony atop a balancing layer of dank, herbaceous resin. Rock chalk, indeed.
Free State Brewing Co. Old Backus Barleywine
College town Lawrence has been cranking out some of the very best brews in the entire Midwest for the last 30 years. Kansas’s first legal brewery since before Prohibition, Free State focuses primarily on straightforward, approachable taproom standards like IPAs, stouts, and goldens, but their most celebrated bottle by far is the Old Backus Barleywine. Over 2,000 pounds of malt and 55 pounds of hops go into each batch of this savory, fully-loaded sipper, resulting in a beautifully balanced combination of woody earthiness, sweet, roasty malt, and a long, bran muffin-laced finish. If you’re fortunate enough to snag one, try to keep your greedy paws at bay -- true to style, Old Backus ages finer than a fine wine.
Surly Brewing Company Abrasive Ale
Double IPA, 9.2%
It only makes sense that the adventurous makers behind Minnesota’s most recognizable craft outpost would be the first to introduce their home state to the sudsy wonders of the Double IPA. Abrasive Ale was an instant hit when it debuted in 2008, drawing crowds with its sparkling golden hue, enticingly assertive citrus and tropical fruit aromas, sharp, cleansing Warrier hop bitterness, and soothing oatmeal-backed malt bill. Save your pleasantries for the debate stage -- we’d take Minnesota abrasive over Minnesota nice anytime.
Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Cold Press Black Ale
American Black Ale, 6%
Duluth’s own Bent Paddle’s standout Cold Press Black Ale veers off the beaten track in the best way possible, harnessing the mind-bending powers of locally-roasted direct trade cold-press coffee from nearby Duluth Coffee Company to create a bewitchingly fragrant, dark walnut-colored brew imbued with a boatload of roasted malt, nutty coffee, and creamy, semi sweet mocha notes. All that’s missing is a piping hot plate of bacon and eggs.
Summit Brewing Company Keller Pils
German Kellerbier, 5.1%
Saint Paul oldie-but-goodie Summit turned it up to 11 when they whipped up this head-turning German lager in celebration of their 30th anniversary in 2016. The rustic unfiltered pilsner thrust the reliable yet somewhat predictable brewery squarely back into the craft spotlight, reviving Summit’s name while calling attention to this drastically underrated beer style. True to form, crackery malt lays the foundation here, flecked with bitter orange peel, potpourri, delicate honey, and waxy white blossoms.
Perennial Artisan Ales Barrel-Aged Abraxas
Imperial Stout, 11%
Determining the top three brews coming out of a state that was quite literally built on beer is no easy task, but at least we can count on heavily-decorated Perennial Artisan Ales to alleviate some of the guessing work. This coveted Imperial Stout retains a shockingly well-honed balance despite its blatant beefiness, leading lucky drinkers on a journey through layers upon layers of bittersweet malt balls, baking spices, warm vanilla, Mexican chocolate, and a smattering of fiery chile peppers just to mix things up. Tote one of these bad boys to your next winter gathering you’re guaranteed to be the most popular flannel-clad reveler in attendance.
Side Project Brewing Fuzzy
Wild Ale, 8%
This groundbreaking microbrewery’s business model is simple, if a tad unconventional: Screw boring old pilsners and hop-monsters and instead devote 100% of their efforts to barrel-aged and barrel-fermented Saisons, Wild, and other wood-kissed beers. The risk paid off and Side Project has since become one of the Show Me State’s most esteemed operations. Fuzzy is one of Side Project’s shiniest golden boys, a dry sour bubbler matured in a hulking French Oak foeder for two years then rested on tangy Missouri-grown white peaches for an extra seven months before further conditioning in the bottle. In the end it’s elegance personified, like brunching on the canals of Venice with a bottomless carafe of spritzy Bellinis.
Boulevard Brewing Co. Saison-Brett
Belgian-style Saison, 8.5%
While it’s tough to crown just one king among Boulevard’s diverse and consistently solid fleet, this dry-hopped funk machine’s many Stans prove its utter worthiness. Injected with a healthy dose of lemony Amarillo hops then conditioned for three months on everyone’s favorite horse blanket-inducing yeast (AKA Brettanomyces), this 8.5% Saison gracefully straddles the line between crisp Champagne dryness and rounded, earthy complexity with a smidge of cooling citrus.
Zipline Brewing Co. DAAANG! IPA
Double IPA, 8%
This eight-year-old innovator seems to be plotting a statewide takeover -- and hey, if that means more hop-sposive brews like DAAANG! IPA, that’s A-OK with us. The makers describe this tropical, Juicy Fruit-laden wunderkind as “so dank and tangy its name was instantly obvious,” and obvious it sure is. A muted malt backbone gives way to a highlight reel of American hop flavors, from tangerine, honeydew, guava, and mango to evergreen, resin, and bone-dry grapefruit pith.
Nebraska Brewing Company Barrel-aged HopAnomaly
Belgian IPA, 9.3%
Papillion truly struck gold when they decided to drop their already-fabulous HopAnomaly Belgian-style IPA into French Oak Chardonnay barrels for a six-month spell, a move that enhanced the original’s alluring floral scent and sultry peach and apricot flavors while adding incomparable tannic depth and sophistication. It’s no wonder the coveted release has earned the crew five major awards and counting, not to mention scoring in the 90s on both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.
Drekker Brewing Company Freak Parade
New England IPA, 8.2%
Viking-themed Drekker Brewing Co. sure let their freak flag fly when they blessed their beloved Fargo with Freak Parade, an aggressively hopped haze-lover’s dream swarming with ample servings of Vic Secret, El Dorado, and Mosaic. Luscious stone fruit, cantelope, and overripe citrus aromas seep through a blanket of fluffy white foam, wrapping the senses in an outlandishly hoppy bear hug with each vibrant orange sip before sliding down the gullet with an ever-so-slight bitter farewell.
Fargo Brewing Company None More Black
Russian Imperial Stout, 9.99%
For the last six years, local mainstay Fargo Brewing Company has raised a glass to that hectic, post-Thanksgiving retail frenzy called Black Friday with this decadent, motor oil-esque Russian Imperial Stout. Heavily roasted malt provides the sexy onyx hue, while a lingering khaki-colored head fills the air with blackstrap rum, toasted fruit cake, and sharp espresso aromas interspersed with threads of impossibly dark chocolate. Pro tip: Instead of joining the masses at mall next year, settle in with a couple pints of this stuff and watch as the wild-eyed stampedes fight over half-priced KitchenAids. Now that’s entertainment.
Lost Cabin Beer Co. Lord Grizzly
Scotch Ale, 8.2%
Lost Cabin’s lineup pays homage to South Dakota’s rugged terrain and Western roots with this supremely malty Scotch Ale. Figgy pudding, stewed plums, and flecks of tobacco dominate the nose, setting the tone for the maroon red flood of toffee-rich deliciousness to come. Much like its carnivorous namesake, an run-in with this 8.2% ABV beast is not for the faint of heart.
Crow Peak Brewing WICCA (Wickedly Charming Chili Ale)
Chile Beer, 6.6%
Who would have guessed that a couple of Northerners would be the ones to drum up one of the country’s most mesmerizing chile beers? Strange but true, the squad behind Spearfish’s Crow Peak earned their spot at the fiery top when they gussied up this 6.6% ABV seasonal ale with heaping handfuls of locally-sourced and impeccably fresh roasted Anaheim and jalapeño peppers. But don’t let the presumed heat scare you right out of the kitchen -- the devilish brew is deceptively keenly balanced, featuring a bold malt bill and refreshing sprinkling of hops armed and ready to keep the flames at bay.
Fernson Brewing Company Wagonplane Porter
This fantastic log cabin crusher, a warming yet easygoing porter tailor made for watching wintery mixes drift onto the Great Plains. Snuggle up next snowstorm with can or six and let all those mellowing coffee and chocolate notes work their magic -- you’ll be toastier than sweet roasted malt in no time.
by Zach Mack
New England Brewing Co. Fuzzy Baby Ducks
Connecticut may have been in the middle of the pack when it came to New England beer notoriety a decade ago, but thanks to beers and breweries like this, it didn’t stay that way for very long. This still manages to be a standout crowd-pleaser in a region flooded with top tier IPAs.
Kent Falls Danny Boy
Leave it to one of our favorite breweries in the entire country to come up with a well balanced German-style pilsner that practically anyone can appreciate. Kent Fall’s lineup has yet to produce a disappointing beer, and they’re not showing any signs of that changing anytime soon.
OEC Brewing Nepenthes
One of the most exciting, unique breweries in the Northeast just so happens to function as the stateside production project of one of the most respected import companies in the country. Is it any surprise they’re able to make a saison this good?
Allagash Coolship Red
If you ever find yourself sitting back and wondering how far American beer has actually come in the past two decades, you probably could just ask yourself “where would we be without Allagash?” This brewery’s claim to fame may be their phenomenal witbier, but it’s this brilliant lambic that will forever remind you that the beer-making talent here is world-class.
Maine Beer Lunch
Of course, the eponymous brewery of one of the best beer states in the country has a lot to live up to, but when their entire lineup is so good that it makes picking out just one of their beers to highlight incredibly difficult, you know they’ve gone above and beyond. Despite changing trends in the industry at large, Lunch remains a pre-haze-craze-style pitch-perfect IPA.
Mast Landing Gunner’s Daughter
Stout Imperial/Double Milk, 10%
How do you get Americans to go nuts for a dark beer without tossing it into a bourbon barrel? Make it tastes like milk chocolate and peanut butter with a dry finish that keeps you coming back for more.
Tree House Brewing Julius
When your brewery becomes so popular that you have to open a brand new multi-million dollar facility to keep up with demand in the span of less than a decade, you know you’re on to something with your beer. Those long lines you still see forming out in Monson have a lot to do with how well this delicious juicy IPA drinks.
Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
American Pale Ale, 6.6%
Speaking of quick expansion in the Bay State: How do you talk about the past decade in Boston-brewed beer without bringing up the almost overnight success that Trillium has experienced? Fort Point remains a truly well-balanced and refreshing pale ale, earning its position as a flagship in a deeply impressive and diverse lineup.
Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pils
If we’re being honest, being one of the first breweries to enter the craft industry as a strict “lager only” outfit doesn’t earn Jack’s Abby the credit they deserve for being pretty courageous. Post Shift’s nearly universal appeal and drinkability stands as a testament to their ability to make enjoyable beers for the masses with substance.
Stoneface Brewing IPA
The Old Man of the Mountain may be long gone, but these days another rocky visage is popping up all across the Granite State. It’s hard to match the local popularity of this impressive IPA.
Deciduous Brewing Lambent
Berliner Weisse, 4%
New Hampshire’s climate may not scream “easy-drinking Berliner Weisse,” but the way this brewery handles this tart, refreshing beer, you would never know it.
Magnify Vine Shine
Sporting itself as an “East Coast/West Coast hybrid IPA,” it’s easy to see why so many people find something to love in this flagship beer.
Carton Boat Beer
Session Ale, 4.2%
Wait a minute: A low-alcohol, complex, crisp ale that actually has flavor? And it’s been around since way before the session IPA trend took hold? And it’s still amazing?! What a beer!
Kane Sunday Brunch
Imperial Milk Porter, 9.2%
One of Jersey’s most beloved beers comes in the form of a robust imperial milk porter that’s made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Sure, it might say brunch in the name, but it’s perfectly at home during and after dinner, too.
Threes Brewing Constant Disappointment
The ironic name behind this piney, tropical IPA should become self-evident one sip into a fresh can or pour, especially when you consider the entire lineup of remarkable beers that roll out of Gowanus tanks. This one stands as a testament to their ability to be a leader in the burgeoning New York City beer scene.
Family Suarez Palatine Pils
It shouldn’t be too surprising that one of the breweries we’ve named “essential” would make an appearance here, but it bears repeating that Family Suarez’s approach to beer makes them a welcome respite from haze craze. Even amongst their uniformly impressive lineup, Palatine is a masterfully made pilsner that deserves the credit so many beer writers seem eager to heap onto it.
Gun Hill Void of Light
An import stout decked with more medals than most entire breweries will see in a lifetime is reason enough to take note of Void of Light. The fact that it comes from one of the country’s most underrated breweries is another.
Brew Gentlemen General Braddock’s IPA
From their early days as young upstarts to their current status as proven brewing whiz kids, the gentlemen behind Brew Gentlemen don’t waste time putting out beers that don’t match their high level of expectations. And while their rotating seasonal beers are more than enough to keep you coming back year in and year out, it’s their “soft, balanced, and elegant” flagship IPA that you know you can always count on to lift your spirits.
Victory Prima Pils
According to beer marketer Chris McClellan, Victory Brewing is “in the realm of regional infallible breweries we can never, ever discount.” That’s probably why Prima Pils, the sturdiest of classic craft releases if there ever was one, still feels so relevant in today’s industry -- especially when it floats on a sea of sturdy one-off and experimental releases that roll out of the very same facility.
Tired Hands Alien Church
As a brewery that proudly proclaims to be in the business of “strange & beautiful” beers, Tired Hands has succeeded in pushing the envelope in more ways than envelopes knew they possibly could be pushed. That’s why Alien Church stands as an example of their ability to set the tone of the conversation in beer: As a deeply dank and fruity IPA with not-so-subtle haze and a thick fluffy white head on each pour that has made it so famous, there’s a reason why people still travel to get their hands on this.
Tilted Barn The Chosen One
American Double IPA, 8.5%
From starting as a hop-growing operation on a cofounder’s family farm to quickly establishing a name that is becoming synonymous with Rhode Island beer, Tilted Barn has plenty of things to be proud of these days. At least one of them should be their practically flawless The Chosen One NEDIPA, with citrusy aromas, tropical fruit flavors, and a well-rounded, dry finish.
Double IPA, 8.3%
Maybe it’s cheating to put a rotating hop series of IPA as a pick for one of the best releases to come out of a state. But would it help if all of them are really, really good?
Hill Farmstead Anna
Farmstead Ale, 6.5%
As we’ve said before: The holiest of holies, the hilliest of farmsteads, the brewery that launched countless beer pilgrimage road trips really, truly does make some of the best beer in the world. Picking Anna, their Belgian-farmhouse-style ale, in a lineup of gold standard offerings just helps to show the true depth of their brewing abilities.
Alchemist Focal Banger
Vermont is the kind of place that makes it practically impossible to narrow down greatest hits, and it’s largely thanks to legendarily fantastic breweries like the Alchemist. Going with Focal Banger is the best way to deepen your appreciation for one of the best breweries in one of the best beer states in the land -- and depending on who you’re asking, it just might be their very best beer.
Coming up with an IPA that’s suitable to be poured just about anywhere across Vermont is no easy feat. That’s why it’s worth including longtime local favorite Fiddlehead in your beer bucket lists: If it’s good enough to be the ubiquitous house beer of the Green Mountain State, then it’s actually just great.
By Ale Sharpton
Good People Snake Handler
Double IPA, 10%
Boasting 100 IBUs, it’s the most popular beer of one of the best breweries in the state. If it wasn’t so rare, their world-class El Gordo Imperial Stout would be right there.
Trim Tab Paradise Now
Berliner Weisse, 5.2%
Yep, B’Ham is doing the damn thing in the beer industry, and Trim Tab’s often called the city’s best. This gorgeous ale brewed with raspberry and tart cherry puree seamlessly surfed the new sour wave both beginners and advocates love. Don’t sleep on their small-batch varieties of hazy and New England IPAs from their Light Visions Collection, plus growing line of imperial sours straight killing it!
Straight To Ale Monkeynaut
American IPA, 7.2%
Evidently, Alabama loves some IPAs and this spaced-out simian is one of the state’s most beloved, counting for 66 percent of this brewery’s production. Potent, yet well balanced, Huntsville’s got something to say!
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Milk Stout, 10%
Just because Arkansas is not mentioned as one of the most highest-producing craft beer states in the nation, it doesn’t mean they don’t make good shit. Ozark has been doing the damn thing since 2013, and they just opened a new location Historic Downtown Rogers to produce more of their solid lineup of imbibing goodness, including this latest phenomenon; the BDCS is like a silky chocolate and vanilla ice cream float with a shot of bourbon. Mic drop.
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
American Imperial India Pale Ale, 9%
Dogfish Head founder and CEO Sam Calagione is one of the most beloved pioneers in the craft beer industry worldwide, and this beer drafted the blueprint for a true Imperial American IPA. Named after the amount of time the beer is continuously hopped—a technique Calagione birthed initially using, no lie, one of those vibrating football games from back in the day—“90” also accurately reflects the amount of IBUs, hop additions during the boil, and “9” percent ABV. The 60, 75, and 120 versions follow suit and are equally gangster. Sam and his squad have been doing the damn thing in flawless, off-centered fashion since 1995.
Green Bench Sunshine City
Expertly dry-hopping the perfect balance of Citra, Mosaic and Azacca, the rapidly expanding Green Bench team embraces this vacation destination with tropical and citrus notes complete with a little punch on the ABV to kick the vibes up a notch. The saison-style Les Grissettes is quickly garnering more respect for G.B.’s inventiveness as well. (Hit up Cycle Brewing down the street for some of their gangster stouts as well.)
Cigar City Jai Alai
Hands down one of the best IPAs in the world and thankfully for us, widely distributed throughout especially the East Coast, so this sneakily potent sipper gets the nod. Of course, their world-famous Hunahpu’s I.S. deserves mention but, you know, good luck getting some.
*With this being my home state, I am exposed to a plethora of phenomenal beers, but narrowed down to what truly makes sense plus a few honorable mentions. In other words, don’t sleep on Georgia!
Creature Comforts Tropicália
American IPA, 6.6%
One of the most balanced American IPAs you would pour for both the truest hop head to the most stubborn naysayer of the style. It’s only available in the Peach State, but somehow Thor had one in hand while saving the world during the highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame.
Note: The Scofflaw Basement and Three Taverns Night on Ponce also hold their own as strong candidates in the IPA slot as well. All three are virtually flawless.
SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale
Extra Pale Ale, 5.7%
Frankly, Georgia’s craft beer scene was in its fetal stage until the rebellious 420 came along, ushering palates to some new shit they’ve been pretty much deprived of: a Cascade dry-hopped sipper showing Southerners how West Coast pale ales get down. And now it’s in 25 states and on domestic Delta flights throwing up a middle finger to the macros. Oh, and the exceedingly popular G13 Strain version is aromatherapy for bowl packers.
Wild Heaven Emergency Drinking Beer
Wild Heaven kicked Atlanta’s door in with two phenomenal beers with muscle—the Belgian-style Invocation strong ale and Ode To Mercy American Brown—back in 2010, but then this crushable pils-gose hybrid packaged in a captivatingly clever yellow can became their flagship sipper. It’s in seasonal variations now, too.
Against The Grain 35K
American Milk Stout, 7%
These cats kill it in all facets of the brew game and the 35K milk stout evened out with English Kent Goldings hops is one of the reason why, but its barrel-aged big brother—the 70K—plus Bo & Luke imperial stout, Citra Ass Down IPA, Brown Note brown ale, and numerous other inventive varietals have ATG kicking ass throughout the South.
Lexington Brewing Kentucky Bourbon Ale
Irish Red Ale, 8.2%
Barrel-aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and one of the first to truly embrace the process, they have been doing it since 2006, and still getting awards for this legendary recipe. This was a no-brainer.
Munich style lager, 4.5%
Sourcing their water from natural springs approximately 30 miles from New Orleans since the late 80s, Abita’s first and still most consumed beer is the Amber, but I’m sure y’all heard of the raspberry-laced Purple Haze, Turbodog brown ale and Andygator helles doppelbock to name a few others that further secured Louisiana’s clout in the craft industry.
American Lager, 4.6%
Originally founded in New Orleans in 1907, this lager became the state’s O.G. until the brewery got rocked by Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully, the brewery became a phoenix in 2017 by contract brewing in Memphis, before making NOLA home once again with a state-of-the-art brewery at the top of 2020. Now that’s a beer with a history.
Parish Brewing Ghost The Machine
Double IPA, 8%
Granted, Parish’s Canebrake wheat ale remains the statewide favorite since its introduction in 2008, but six years later, Ghost in the Machine’s perfection of double-dry hopping Citra had the rest of the world looking for it in the daytime with a flashlight. The artwork is dope, too.
National Bohemian ‘Natty Boh’
American Lager, 4.28%
Too easy. Since 1885, their beloved mascot brandishing the slicked hairstyle and single eye, Mr. Boh, has been in the hands of Maryland sippers. Its crisp body and crushability goes killer with Old Bay, the iconic spice that makes the state’s crabs the best in the world.
Heavy Seas Loose Cannon
American India Pale Ale, 7.25%
Even though there has been a lot of repackaging for this iconic brewery since its inception 25 years ago, the formula for this phenomenal IPA thankfully remained unadulterated; it’s a perfect tightrope walk of Simcoe, Citra, Warrior, Palisade, Centennial, and Cascade hops backed by a hefty malt backbone.
Pale Ale, 5.5%
Duckpin’s can flaunts “A true Baltimore original,” and hot damn, it’s alladat backed by the welcomed assertion of citrus-meets-tropical at a crushable 5.5%. Since 2011, Union has been highly respected for not only their craftwork, but fearlessness of breaking boundaries. Just ask African-American co-founder Kevin Blodger, a true pioneer.
Flying Dog Raging Bitch
Belgian-style India Pale Ale, 8.3%
Although they started in Aspen, Flying Dog eventually made Frederick their sole home more than a decade-and-change ago. I could’ve easily picked the Snake Dog IPA which is a co-flagship, but this bitchin’ sipper was the first to do a ton of shit, including mass-produce a brew in the state using a Belgian yeast strain in an IPA, pound its chest at a potent 8.3%, and get away with an expletive mothers cover their toddler’s eyes from in the grocery aisle. Oh, and stunning artwork by one of the most renowned to do it, Ralph Steadman.
Southern Prohibition Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA
Called “Breakfast” because you can get your day for sipping started at a gradual pace due to being a sessionable 4.9% plus the oats brewed in the batch. Their more muscle-flexing Thank You and Paradise Lost DIPAs are equally worthy of some love. It’s been a big 2019 for Southern Prohibition and this year promises to be even greater.
Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale
Pecan Nut Brown Ale, 4.3%
The state’s oldest craft brewery and their flagship Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale—the first in the US to use whole-roasted pecans as part of the grain bill—has been holding it down since 2003. Cheers to their innovation and gumption to introduce an entirely different style when things were not popping in the early 2000s.
Highland Gaelic Ale
American Amber, 5.5%
Slinging brews in what’s been reigned the best city for craft beer by numerous respectable sources of media, there has to be a pioneer who had to set things off. Enter Jamaica-born founder of Highland Brewing, Oscar Wong, and his Gaelic Ale, which is still the #1 selling brew since 1994. This well-balanced American Amber helped pave the way for developing sophisticated palates and, ultimately, adventurous brewing throughout Asheville and beyond. Now with Oscar’s daughter—president and CEO Leah Wong Ashburn—behind the wheel, Highland is still proudly family owned and forever iconic.
Burial Surf Wax
West Coast-Style India Pale Ale, 6.8%
Accolades are due for what Burial has accomplished in a little more than six years; it’s the can’t-miss destination in Asheville’s sea of breweries whenever in town. With the unmatched quality consistency and successful interpretations of beer styles, numerous beers from their catalog could have been chosen including the world-class Skillet Donut Stout Imperial Stout, but the Surf Wax IPA is just as phenomenal with year-round accessibility. It’s one of the best IPAs in the South, period. Peep their nearby Forestry Camp and Raleigh-based taproom, The Exhibit, to get more Burial goodness. David Paul Seymour’s can designs are bananas by the way. (That’s a good thing.)
NoDa Hop, Drop, n’ Roll IPA
American India Pale Ale, 7.2%
A World Cup gold medal winner and the most popular beer in Charlotte by far, it’s become a ritual to be at the brewery when this 81-IBU sipper hits the canning line. Wonderfully fragrant, and loaded with Amarillo, Centennial, Chinook and Warrior and Citra, it’s a hop head’s recurring dream come true.
Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout
Milk Stout, 5.7%
Since he first poured this delicious, creamy, slightly sweet stout from taps in August of 2004, Paul Philippon’s hobby invention was one of the first true craft beers to usher North Carolina’s imbibers to the dark side and keep ‘em there. Their potent Baltic Porter is also no joke.
Foothills Sexual Chocolate
Russian Imperial Stout, 9.6%
The packaging is just as sexy as the decadent, cocoa-blended stout it encases. Be it the original style or bourbon barrel-aged version, you can’t go wrong. Its annual launch date is like a holiday and for good reason. (This year it’s January 24-25.) If someone who knows their beer is listing the most gangster imperial stouts in the nation, this better come out their mouth.
Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb!
American Imperial Stout, 13%
This is one of the best stouts in the…hell, let’s say the world. Somehow flawlessly crafting the perfect blend of some very aggressive adjuncts—chocolate, coffee, vanilla beans, and Ancho chili peppers—this brew is exactly what it’s named, and better be yelled every time you order it: Bomb! Actually, don’t do that.
Westbrook Mexican Chocolate Cake
Imperial Stout, 10.5%
It was a tough pick because the White Thai helped set the bar for how even more awesome a wit could taste like with a few additions, but the chills stout heads get at the mere mention of “Mexican Cake,” well, takes the cake. Originally Westbrook’s first anniversary beer in 2011, their winning combo of vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, habanero peppers, and cocoa nibs has become legendary. And although Cake’s an annual release, those lucky enough to be in the area have limited access to its bottle-trading spinoffs as well.
One of the most balanced IPAs in the state, a captivating can to signify the name, and them proudly stating this as being the first all-organic beer to be commercially brewed in South Carolina alongside their 32/50 Kölsch. ‘Nuf said.
Bearded Iris Homestyle
Thriving on the hazy life but overall killing it with their entire roster, the Homestyle is showing how the right amount of oats and one of the most revered hops—Mosaic—can form a beautiful matrimony and exemplify how this style of IPA is done to perfection. The Double Homestyle is no joke as well.
Blackberry Farm Classic
Belgian-style Saison, 6.3%
Based on a luxurious resort in the Smokies, this brewing establishment’s mastery of producing especially saisons brought a whole new dimension to the Tennessee libation culture since its initiation in 2011. The Belgian-style farmhouse ale justly titled Classic is the go-to; they have a gold medal in the World Beer Cup and flying off the shelves in almost 40 states to confirm the accolades.
First served to thirsty Texans in 1909, we can drop the mic right there for Shiner’s pioneering and longevity in the Lone Star State. While still winning awards for their original bock formula, they are now expanding their portfolio by brewing with marshmallows, praline pecans, chocolate, grapefruit, and other innovations. – A.S.
Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
German-style Kölsch, 4.9%
Understandably, Saint Arnold boasts being Texas’ first microbrewery after setting up shop in the largest US city that didn’t have one at the time—Houston—back in 1994. German brewing styles dominate their source of inspiration; we’re going with their most popular one, the Fancy Lawnmower thirst quencher. – A.S.
Jester King Black Metal
Farmhouse Imperial Stout, 9.1%
2010 was Jester King’s birthdate, and a year later Black Metal became their first bottled beer encased in stunning packaging. This monumental year also marked the initial stages of being fully dedicated to mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation. Initially a Russian imperial stout, Black Metal went through a few transformations and was eventually classified as a farmhouse imperial version alongside the brewery’s legion of other amazing beers. In just a few years, having “King” in their name was vindicated.
Hardywood Gingerbread Stout
Imperial Milk Stout, 9.2%
Using locally-sourced ingredients including Casselmonte Farm’s baby ginger and Bearer Farms’ wildflower honey, plus world-class praise, there’s no way this Imperial Milk Stout would not be mentioned in the same sentence as Virginia, but don’t sleep on Hardywood’s other gangster concoctions from the darkside and their award-winning Singel Belgian blonde.
DC Brau Public
American Pale, 6%
If you’re pumping out the first beer to be collectively brewed, packaged and retailed in the Nation’s capital, there is no argument; you get love here. Besides accomplishing this historic feat in 2011, Brau also has some precious metal dangling in the trophy case thanks to this tasty Public, plus the Corruption IPA, Brau Pils, Belgian-style Citizen pale, Joint Resolution, Penn Quarter Porter, Armageddon DIPA, and expansive portfolio crafted under the roof of their recently expanded home base.
Greenbrier Valley Mothman
Black India Pale Ale, 6.7%
The prayers of West Virginian craft beer advocates were finally answered when the ABV limit was raised from 6% to 12% in 2009, opening the door for more inventiveness, experimentation, and styles for everyone to enjoy. The Mothman became the first West Virginian-canned six-pack since 1971—a Black IPA brewed with Columbus and Amarillo reaching 71 IBUS—and hop heads have been rejoicing ever since for being able to enjoy a brew anywhere they pretty much damn well please.