Every State’s Best Craft Brewery

Life is undoubtedly good if you have a beer in your hand. Life is much better if you have the best beer brewed in your state. But, with over 6,000 brewers in the United States, which beers are the best? To pile on the superlatives, we’ve assembled a superb team of specialists. What do we mean when we say “best brewery”? It goes without saying that brewing amazing beer is a must. Does it matter how big you are? To some extent, if two breweries we enjoy are very comparable in quality and one of them serves a larger number of people, that could tip the scale in its favour, but we might also opt with the smaller brewery that inspires admirers to travel long distances for its beers. Regardless, we believe the 50 breweries listed below are the finest of the best in each state (including the Show-Me State). In relation to that panel: We’ve divided the country into four areas and hand-picked specialists for each. Zach Mack, a long-time Thrillist contributor and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co., is in charge of the Northeast. Ale Sharpton, a famed beer writer and journalist, is leading the charge in the South. Kate Bernot, a former editor at DRAFT Magazine and current staff writer for The Takeout, is in charge of the Midwest. Ezra Johnson-Greenough, the originator of Portland Beer Week and The New School beer blog, brings up the west. Because FOMO is a lifetime condition, Thrillist editors Matt Lynch and Andy Kryza joined in on the action for real. Every state’s best brewery THRILLIST/JASON HOFFMAN Alabama TrimTab\sBirmingham Alabama is undeniably becoming a force to be reckoned with, and Birmingham is the driving force behind it. While Good People backs up their claims with beers like the legendary El Gordo imperial milk stout, which we covered in our recent The 32 Must-Have Stouts Right Now list, Trim Tab takes the win by a glass thanks to a stellar year of IPAs and European-inspired ales. From crossing state lines to tripling their capacity, fully utilising a new canning line, and becoming the first in Alabama to make and can RECwater (Recreational Effervescent Craft water), which comes in three fruit-infused tastes. If you visit their industrial-meets-chic headquarters, you’ll find a slick art gallery-tasting room combination as well as an exclusive “Cellar Patron” programme. (And a shout-out to Huntsville’s Straight To Ale.) I notice you.) AS IS Anchorage Brewing Company is a brewery in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage When Anchorage Brewing initially started making beer, they immediately gained a reputation for using wild yeasts and barrels in their brews. Gabe Fletcher, the brewer/owner of Midnight Sun Brewing, originally made some of Alaska’s most recognised beers, but has subsequently shifted his focus to the wild side with sour and funky beers. Anchorage Brewing was an aberration in a place where light and malty beers were the norm, and it soon gained a following. Fletcher’s excellent beers had to be sought out at specialist stores because the brewery was closed to the public and lacked a tasting area. Fletcher had hidden it beneath the Sleeping Lady Alehouse in the heart of town, where he diverted wort from the brewpub above into his own casks in the basement below. Perhaps it was working in this remote, cold, cave-like place with only bugs for company that inspired his peculiar beers, which ferment and age for three months to more than a year in just oak barrels. Anchorage Brewing now has its own facilities and popular taproom, produces more traditional varieties like IPA (in addition to the weird barrel stuff), and hosts an invitational festival that attracts brewers and beer aficionados from all over the world to Anchorage. — E.J.G. Arizona Gilbert, Arizona Wilderness Arizona is a large state with a lot of natural beauty, from its cactus-dotted scenery to one of the world’s greatest wonders. The brewers at Arizona Wilderness Brewing take inspiration from the environment and agricultural community, despite the fact that they are not recognised for their breweries or plant life. The brewers collect native herbs from their patio garden to use in beers like Garden Valley Gruit, which has lavender, thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, and pine, and Futures Saison, which contains locally foraged cacti and bay leaves; they’ve even used rare Sonoran berries. That’s how these guys went from window cleaners to naturalists and conservationists, as well as the founders of one of the country’s most recognised breweries. — E.J.G. Rogers, Arkansas Ozark Brewing Company I’ve got a lot more Arkansas brew drinking to do, especially now that the state’s beer sector is booming, but Ozark still reigns supreme. While their collection isn’t as diverse as some of the other brewers featured in this article, every ale and lager they do offer is not only good, but also authentic to the style. The Onyx Coffee Stout, brewed in collaboration with the state’s famed roaster Onyx Coffee Labs, is undoubtedly the brewery’s most remarkable year-rounder, with a 5.3 percent ABV; craft beer fans are eagerly awaiting the return of its spectacular imperial BDCS variant as well. They should, too. It has a world-class reputation. AS IS

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Jensen Ackles, star of ‘Supernatural,’ has opened a brewery in Texas.

Jensen Ackles, co-star of the science-fiction television show Supernatural, will open Family Business Beer Co., his and his family’s new Texas brewery, on January 10 in Dripping Springs. The name refers to the group of persons that own and operate the 15-acre brewery at 19510 Hamilton Pool Road. Danneel Ackles, her brother Gino Graul, and their parents Ed and Debby Graul are all involved. The Ackles, who live in Austin, are avid beer fans. Jensen stated, “I enjoy the variety that’s here.” “Cookie-cutter brewers aren’t the only ones. It adds to Austin’s variety of experiences. Jensen continued, “Everything has its own flair, but I don’t feel like there’s any competition.” We’re all on the same team. It’s ‘welcome to the table,’ as long as there’s quality.” Jensen and Gino regularly made their own beers at home when living in California. The family relocated to Austin and wanted to create their own restaurant. They discovered the Dripping Springs property in 2014, connected with current head brewer Nate Seale, and set to work. Seale, who previously served as the lead brewer at (512) Brewing Company in Austin, views Family as a “destination brewery.” “We want to create the kinds of beers we want to drink every day,” Seale added. “We’re trying to make beers that are approachable and appealing to a wide range of individuals, but we’re not trying to dumb things down for consumers.” “Do what you like to do, and you’ll find an audience,” he continued. That means a wide range of beers, including IPAs (both permanent and rotational), sour ales, brown ales, barrel-aged brews, rye lagers, and more. Barrels from Texas whiskey company Garrison Brothers will be used in the barrel-aged beers. The Hamilton Pale Ale, according to Seale, will become the brewery’s hallmark beer. The whole beer lineup is listed below. “We came in at the perfect time,” Gino explained, “where there’s been this explosion of creativity and new people are coming up with intriguing new brews.” He teased potential collaborations with friends and other breweries. For the time being, Family’s beers are exclusively available at the taproom, though there are plans to offer canning and specialty bottling in the future. Seale decided to return to Austin because of the city’s beer community after working in Portland’s beer scene (particularly at Mt. Tabor). “Texas came up a little later,” Seale explained. “Texas has never been considered a great brewing capital, but it has been underestimated.” “What that’s created is a really hungry scene,” Seale explained, “where people are working incredibly hard and making some of the best beers out there.” The opportunity to do so came in the form of a family business. “We want people to come not just for the beer, but also for the experience,” Jensen added. The sleek wood bar at Family’s indoor taproom was designed by craftsman Adam Young and his company Old Crow Custom Works. A Los Angeles artist, Kenton Parker, painted an abstract painting on the opposite end of the room, which is flanked by a platform for live music performances. There’s a view of the actual brewery through the window (yes, tours will be held). There are currently five fermentation tanks, three of which are 30-barrel and two of which are 15-barrel. Family also offers non-alcoholic drinks and local wines as alternatives to beer.

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Protesters in Mexico fear that a US-owned brewery will drain their land dry.

A pact between a state government and the third largest brewer in the United States might place beer ahead of water for Americans.   Carmelo Gallegos used to sow wheat in the Mexicali valley’s cold winters and cotton in the scorching summers. Water is so scarce these days that he can only plant one crop per year. But, in addition to drought and a declining water table, the 61-year-old farmer now has a new concern. Gallegos, like many others, is concerned that a massive brewery being built in the nearby city of Mexicali would suck up what little water is left to create beer for export to the United States.   Gallegos and other farmers saw themselves as victims of a shady pact between Baja California’s state government and Constellation Brands, the country’s third-largest brewer. He explained, “They’re controlling the water as if it were loot to be divided among them.” “The government’s goal is to deprive us of everything, including land and water.” The new plant is expected to begin production in 2019, producing almost 4 million bottles per day of Corona, Modelo, and Pacfico beers. However, the project has sparked a violent opposition among local farmers and citizens, who have formed the Mexicali Resists campaign. Thousands of people protested outside the state government offices last summer, blocking deliveries to the construction site.   After riot police and private security guards clashed with demonstrators who had obstructed the construction of a new water line to the industry, unrest has flared up again since the new year. A protest camp outside the building site has been set up by dozens of protestors, with large posters reading “Constellation go home.” “We already have water problems,” claimed Ana López, a demonstrator. “Imagine how much better things will be once the plant is up and running.” Foreign firms have flooded to Baja California since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented 25 years ago. Cities around the border, such as Tijuana and Mexicali, have grown significantly. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) turned Mexico’s closed economy into an export-oriented one. Farmers in the Mexicali valley, meanwhile, are dissatisfied, claiming that the country has lost sight of the concepts of sovereignty and self-sufficiency. Older farmers recall a time when the government supplied credit and fuel and fertiliser subsidies (even though such schemes were often plagued by corruption). By breaking up a large foreign-owned cotton-growing corporation in the Mexicali valley in the 1940s, more than 100 communal holdings known as ejidos were created. Water rights came with the land, which the farmers today guard with zeal. “Wouldn’t this brewery be [across the border] in Calexico or Las Vegas if it was such a fantastic deal?” farmer Eduardo Cisneros, 75, wondered. “All they care about is cheap water and cheap labour.” Many people are outraged at the prospect of valuable water rights being given over to gringos. “We consider our heritage what they consider a good,” said Ernesto Daz, a farmer and senior ejido official. “If they think this [brewery] won’t exacerbate water difficulties in the Mexicali valley, they’re being foolish.” Breweries have sprouted across Mexico’s arid borderlands since 2010, when it overtook the Netherlands to become the world’s largest beer exporter, and this isn’t the first time that concerns about the region’s water supply have been raised. Last year, the mayor of Zaragoza, in the state of Coahuila, accused another Constellation Brands brewery of sucking up so much water that his municipality ran out of it. Constellation Brands denies that its brewers pose a harm to the environment. Zaragoza, according to a company spokeswoman, has an issue with “ancient pipes.” According to him, the factory in Mexicali would be sustainable and will be developed with the necessary permissions and assistance from the city, state, and federal governments.   Constellation Brands claims it is paying reasonable pricing for water rights and that the plant will use only 0.1 percent of the region’s available water in its initial phase of operation. Farmers, on the other hand, are concerned that the brewery may cause long-term concerns. The area’s aquifer has been labelled overexploited by Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua), which has forbidden the digging of new wells. The brewery Constellation Brands is building in the borderlands isn’t the only one. Heineken, the owner of Mexican brands like Sol, Tecate, and Bohemia, has revealed intentions to expand its Tecate brewery, which will require water from the Mexicali area. “There hasn’t been a single project to address these water challenges until now.” The National Campesino Confederation’s local chairman, Rigoberto Campos, stated, “It’s been the opposite: to bring investments.” “We’re concerned because our aquifer is overexploited.” Opponents of the brewery have expressed concerns about a number of state infrastructure projects, including a huge desalination facility in Rosarito that is being developed in a public-private partnership. In 2016, the state administration attempted to implement a water privatisation law, which sparked widespread protests in Mexicali. Alejandra León, a lawyer who represents some of the farmers, claims she has been met with secrecy at every turn. To get the brewery’s environmental impact analysis, Léon had to sue the state of Baja California. The analysis uncovered some unpleasant surprises, such as the location of the brewery’s water supply wells. “Without the actual owners of the wells knowing about it, the firm conducted research to select the wells they wanted,” said León, a member of the state’s environmental protection committee. “It’s as if they’ve already seized control.”

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