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
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.
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.
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