If you needed proof that Americans and beer have a special relationship, you could check out the sleeveless "Red White & Brew" tee in my closet purchased at a Wal-Mart for $2.39. Or just, you know, watch a sporting event sometime. But which beers most embody America? That's a more complicated quest. From the cheapest of 30-packs to the most painstakingly crafted barrel-aged masterpieces, they all have a place in the spectrum of quintessentially American brews. Here are the 50 that most embody this great nation made up of... hey, 50 states! Great how that worked out. And so you can keep track of your patriotic progress, here's a convenient printable checklist.
Plead The Fifth, Dark Horse Brewing Company: Sip this impeccable imperial stout out of Michigan while you realize you can't remember most of the amendments in the Bill of Rights. Keep drinking.
Liberty Ale, Anchor Brewing: The storied SF brewers first debuted this American IPA in 1975 to commemorate the bicentennial of Paul Revere's ride. Captain & Tennille also released "Love Will Keep Us Together" that year. Coincidence? Yes.
Commodore Perry, Great Lakes Brewing Company: When you make a rock-solid IPA that's named for a legendary naval officer and your brewery is named after the greatest bodies of fresh water known to the planet, you get to be on the list.
Daniel Boone, Olde Hickory Brewery: So you mean to tell me there's a North Carolina brewery using Andrew Jackson's nickname with a bourbon barrel-aged ale named for a legendary coonskin cap-wearing frontiersman? Well, I guess that's okay. It'd be nice if they quoted Ben Franklin on their website. They do?! Sold.
Yuengling Traditional Lager, Yuengling Brewery: America's oldest brewery in operation, founded by a German immigrant in Pennsylvania in 1829, was originally named Eagle Brewery, which in retrospect would have been even more on-theme.
Moon Man, New Glarus Brewing Co.: This pleasantly hoppy session ale (or "No Coast Pale Ale" as they call it) is beloved in Wisconsin, and sought by anyone who's ever been to Wisconsin only to bemoan the fact that they don't distribute elsewhere. Also, who got to the moon first? Oh, yeah. America.
Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale, Yards Brewing Company: No disrespect to their General Washington's Tavern Porter, but this Philly outfit's well-balanced English strong ale named for Mr. Declaration of Independence himself takes the spot, even despite its English-ness.
Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewery: With a name like Founders, it has to be patriotic. It doesn't hurt that it's also an incredibly rich and smooth imperial stout made with oats, chocolate, and two kinds of coffee. If you seek something more rare, try the barrel-aged Kentucky Breakfast Stout, but the Canadian Breakfast Stout is not eligible for this list.
Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch: Okay, so yes, Budweiser is totally no longer American-owned, but that's capitalism, right? And capitalism is American, is it not? And, I mean, look at the American flag cases in the shape of a tank!
Utopias, Samuel Adams: You could sample any of the various brews from this largest American-owned brewery named for one of the Sons of Liberty and imbibe patriotically, but, if you can get your hands on it, you might as well make it the one that comes in at nearly 30% ABV.
Lincoln's Logger, Rolling Meadows Brewery: This relatively new brewery incorporates ingredients from its farm outside Springfield, Illinois, where a certain slavery-ending president once made his home. Also, puns are super patriotic.
Pilgrim's Dole, New Holland Brewing Company: This bourbon barrel-aged wheat wine actually refers to a 14th-century term for the rations of bread given to religious pilgrims, but still -- pilgrims! Thanks for giving America this beer, New Holland. Amirite?
Lone Star: Sure, it's the self-proclaimed "National Beer of Texas", and sure, Texas makes occasional noise about seceding, but for now you're part of us, Texans, along with your cheap beer of choice.
Bald Eagle Brown, RJ Rockers: A South Carolina brewery founded by a Gulf War vet (the first one), RJR also has on-theme offerings like a Star-Spangled Stout and Patriot Pale Ale, but we'll take their fine spin on an English brown ale, just to make the Brits angry.
Spring Hop, Mayflower Brewing Company: Brewed in Plymouth, Mass (where else?), this well-hopped red ale is a seasonal Spring offering reminiscent of how the pilgrims made it to Springtime after that difficult Winter in Valley Forge or something. Pocahontas helped them, right? Man, history class was a long time ago.
Busch, Anheuser-Busch: Okay, yes, another AB beer made the list, but it has the misspelled name of two American presidents AND does special hunting season-friendly camouflage releases. Something tells me they've done some market research on this patriotism thing. Also patriotic: market research. Capitalism!
Fillmore Fusion Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Company: This American pale ale was actually brewed to commemorate the legendary music venue and NOT one of our more adorably obscure presidents, though both are singularly American in their own way.
YuleSmith Summer, AleSmith: A special 4th of July-geared release from the excellent San Diego outfit -- there's also a seasonal YuleSmith release around Christmas (which makes more sense). Basically they love holidays.
American Patriot Beer: This brew was conceived in St. Louis in response to a certain previously mentioned brewery being sold to foreign overlords. Capitalism may be patriotic, but so is starting a protest brewery. There's room for everyone!
Homefront IPA: This special release IPA is a collaborative effort between numerous breweries (this is Cigar City's label from last year), with proceeds benefitting military families. Oh, and it's also aged on Louisville Slugger baseball bats.
Presidential IPA, Diamond Bear Brewing: Like a certain still-living ex-president, this brew hails from Arkansas, and, like said president, it's no stranger to being involved in certain indiscretions.
Brew Free! Or Die IPA, 21st Amendment: This San Francisco crew is definitely no stranger to American-themed brews, but it's hard to argue with their Mount Rushmore-flashing, liberty-touting flagship IPA.
120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head: Americans like excess, and with an ABV that hovers between 15 and 20% (last one I had was 18, I believe), this beer offers it. Also, like America, it ages well. Patriotism pun!
Founding Father's Lager: This is another brew whose sale benefits military charities and, well, I mean, look at the label.
Shift, New Belgium Brewing Company: This highly sessionable pale lager (think a cross between pale ale and a lighter lager) is an ode to the working man. Look at the gears! Industry!
American Amber Ale, Rogue Brewing Company: Sometimes it's just as simple as an impeccable blend of hops and malt and some quintessentially American label art, as it is with this longtime favorite from the prolific Oregon brewers.
Ale To The Chief, Avery Brewing: This "bipartisan blend of malt and hops" has been brewed to commemorate the last two elections, and, despite being 8.5% ABV, is careful to note that it is NOT an imperial IPA. Democracy!
Grizzly Brown Ale, Snowshoe Brewing Company: Noted America enthusiast Stephen Colbert would likely disagree on this, but the grizzly is an American treasure. As long as it keeps its distance. This brown ale, however, can get as close as it likes.
Victory At Sea, Ballast Point: So even though the label art makes it pretty much clear that they're leaning more towards pirates, was the Battle of Midway not also a victory at sea? Damn right it was! Also triumphant: this amazing coffee vanilla porter.
Pabst Blue Ribbon: Shortened to PBR by... pretty much everyone, its present association with hipsterdom to the point of cliche obscures the fact that it either won a blue ribbon at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, or lied and said it did for marketing purposes. Either way -- industrious!
Prairie Path, Two Brothers Brewing Co.: This Illinois-brewed golden ale was recently discovered to be gluten-free through a happy accident with enzymes involved in the brewing process. Looking out for your fellow man, even if he has wimpy gluten allergies, is very American. Like prairies.
Moose Drool, Big Sky Brewing: An American brown ale out of Montana containing no actual moose saliva, it still contains the spirit of the largest extant species of the deer family. Don't let anyone call it a Eurasian elk.
Grateful Harvest, Harpoon Brewery: This cranberry brew is naturally made available around Thanksgiving time because, unlike marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, cranberries were likely actually present at the first Thanksgiving.
Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Brewery: One of the first American craft brews out there to harness the transformative power of bourbon barrels when it comes to making delicious beer extra-delicious. Bourbon, as you know, can only be made in Kentucky. Which is in America.
Old Yankee Ale, Cottrell Brewing Co.: Not a brilliant bit of trolling directed towards the fans of a certain aging New York baseball team, just a nicely balanced, session-friendly amber out of Connecticut that can make anyone forget the size of Alex Rodriguez's contract.
Lexington Green East India Pale Ale, Battle Road Brewery: From an upstart Massachusetts brewing outfit, this brew takes its name from the nearby field where the opening shots of the American Revolution were fired. New England breweries really have an edge on patriotic stuff to name beers after.
Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Brewing Co.: As you might be able to tell from many other beers on this list, Americans have a pretty high opinion of themselves sometimes. Which is okay. Best to own it, just like this delicious American strong ale out of San Diego does.
Perseverance Ale, Alaskan Brewing Co.: I don't know where they make this imperial stout brewed with birch syrup from Sarah Palin's hometown that represents a celebration of the frontier spirit. Juneau?
Apollo, Sixpoint Brewery: I'm not saying this Bavarian wheat beer outta Brooklyn is an homage to the time Tom Hanks single-handedly saved the space program. I am saying I should probably watch Apollo 13 again as I'm a little hazy on the plot, and you should drink this beer.
Buffalo Gold, Boulder Beer: If buffalos had actually been made of gold, settlers probably would have been a little more careful with this noble symbol of the American West. You can make up for past sins by showing respect for this crisp golden ale.
U.S. Pale Ale, Capital Brewery: Discerning eyes will note it's actually the Wisconsin state capitol building that dons the handiwork of this Madison brewery, but its dome (obviously) drew heavy inspiration from the one in Washington DC. Hooray for division of state and federal powers!
Redhead, Fireman's Brew: This amber ale from a brewery started by actual firefighters gets the nod thanks to the colors of the American flag, but their Brunette (a German doppelbock) and Blonde (a pilsner) also possess some fine all-American qualities.
Hoponius Union, Jack's Abby Brewing: Combining West Coast IPA hops with lager-style fermentation, this unique brew achieves an impressive level of hoppiness for a lager. Lincoln spoke of a more perfect union, but if this brew had been around he might have sought a more hoponius one.
Presidential Pils, Two Beers Brewery: These super-limited edition suds from Seattle are essentially a take on the country's most popular red-white-and-blue-canned brew... except -- thanks to hops, malt, and yeast from... um, the Czech Republic -- this most American of beers is a little more... presidential.
Golden Ale, Alamo Beer Co.: Couldn't get through this list without giving Davy Crockett some love, albeit indirectly, via this San Antonio-made brew, even though their tour guides were kind of hard on Pee-wee when he thought his bike was in the basement.
Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale, Sea Dog Brewery: There may be an argument over whether the blueberry or the cranberry is the most patriotic berry (both are native to America!). There is no debate over the fact that America loves a dog wearing a hat.
American Beer, Pittsburgh Brewing Company: This looks like the beer Captain America would drink after a hard day of crime-fighting. Did Captain America drink? He probably didn't. I am not that well-versed in comic books. Either way, this seems like a good fit for him.
Tyranny, Lagerheads Brewing Co.: This American pale ale out of Ohio aims for subtlety in neither flavor nor packaging. Note the oblivious redcoat about to get devoured by a freaking rattlesnake. Join or Die, indeed.
Roosevelt, Cigar City Brewing & Swamp Head Brewery: A collab between a couple of Florida outfits, this American barleywine brewed with pecans was also released in a limited bourbon barrel-aged version, seen here. Working together, going the extra mile, and a beer named after our longest-tenured president seemed like a good way to close things out.