http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/media/press-releases/show?title=brewers-association-releases-top-50-breweries-of-2012 The Brewers Association released its annual list of top craft breweries based on sales for the past year. Everyone loves a good list, and everyone (I hope) loves searching out new beers to try, so how much more awesome could it get to combine the two?? I’ll tell you: it couldn’t possibly get any awesomer!!!
Even if you don’t fancy driving all over creation to visit each of the breweries (I can’t even fathom not wanting to, but to each their own), there will likely have to be some travel involved to get your hands on products from each of these breweries, due to distribution areas and what not. So, that being said, let’s take a look at this little list, shall we?
1 Boston Beer Co.-they make Sam Adams…they sell nationwide. This is one of the easier check-offs. Readily available, quality brews, and responsible for bringing many craft beer drinkers over to the good side.
2 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.-another agent of craft beer recruitment, Sierra Nevada was one of the first in the biz. With an East Coast brewery in the very near future, their offerings will be even easier to get your hands on.
3 New Belgium Brewing Co.- Fat Tire was one of the first craft brews I ever had, not even knowing what craft beer really was. Ranger IPA is fantastic, as well. New Belgium also planning an East Coast set-up soon.
4 The Gambrinus Co.-owner and brewer of Shiner Beers, which are brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Gambrinus also owns the BridgePort Brewery in Portland, Oregon, the Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, California and the Pete’s Brewing Company. I’ve had my fair share of Shiner brews, as well as Bridgeport beers while living in Portland. I think everyone has had Pete’s Wicked something at this point.
5 Deschutes Brewery-having lived in Portland for a time, I more than immersed myself in what Deschutes has to offer. The result? I miss it terribly. Abyss is amazing, and their flagships are tremendous. Bill Murray commonly sings the praises of Mirror Pond, and if you can’t trust Mr. Bill Murray, who can you trust?
6 Lagunitas Brewing Co.-some of my favorite beers, being the hop head that I am. Hop Stoopid, Lagunitas Sucks, Brown Shugga, etc, etc…another brewery looking to spread east shortly.
7 Bell’s Brewery, Inc.-always finding itself on “Best Beer” lists, commonly with multiple representations. Two Hearted is an all-time favorite of this author.
8 Matt Brewing Co.-having family in New York, I am frequently enjoying the Saranac offerings. I have been pleased to see a more expansive number of styles coming from Saranac/Matt.
9 Harpoon Brewery-another Boston brewery, their IPA came on the scene 20 years ago, and they have been going and growing ever since. A new beer hall recently opened in Boston, making visits even more tempting to all. The UFO series is very popular, as well as their Leviathan line and Barrel Series.
10 Stone Brewing Co.- amazing West Coast brewery with a surprisingly far-reaching distribution. That’s a good thing, because Ruination is my all-time favorite beer. Their Enjoy By IPA has brought waves of anticipation throughout the craft beer scene, and they continue to innovate.
11 Brooklyn Brewery- currently celebrating their 25th anniversary, and I know this because I have a bottle of their 25th Anniversary Ale in my beer fridge right now…in fact, I may go crack that while I finish typing this. Brooklyn cranks out great beers from a ton of styles, from lagers to stouts.
12 Boulevard Brewing Co.-I’ve only had three of their beers, but each was very different from the others, and all three were damn good. Chocolate Ale, which is not a Porter or Stout that you would normally expect to see, but is a Strong Ale; Dark Truth Stout, which is rich, dark, and delicious; and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, a funky, tasty brew that hits all the marks for the Farmhouse/Saison style.
13 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery-“off-centered ales” is the DFH specialty, and owner Sam may be one of the more recognizable people in the craft beer world. Their IPAs and World Wide Stout rank as some of my favorite beers out there, and the uniqueness of their new products continually coming out challenge the beer drinker’s palate, as well as introduce MANY to ingredients never seen in beers before.
14 Abita Brewing Co.-had for the first time going through NOLA on a cross-country trip. Fell in love with TurboDog, while being also impressed with the bevy of drinkable offerings from other styles, including Purple Haze, Jockamo IPA, and AndyGator. Now, I’m hard pressed to celebrate Fat Tuesday without stocking the fridge straight from the bayou.
15 Shipyard Brewing Co.-I’m from Maine, I could talk about Shipyard until I’m blue in the face. Shipyard now brews all the Sea Dog beers, so that would keep me going even longer. Fan favorites are Sea Dog’s Blue Paw and Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead. Also worth searching out are the Pugsley Series, specifically Imperial Porter, Smashed Pumpkin, and Smashed Blueberry.
16 Alaskan Brewing Co.-the wife and I lived in Alaska for 3 months, and the longer time goes by the more I crave the offerings from Alaskan. You can’t be there and not have their Amber, and the Smoked Porter they put out every year is legendary. They are another brewery that has really been spreading out their line-up with new styles and year round offerings.
17 New Glarus Brewing Co.-amazingly still missing this fine brewery…it has been on my radar for some time, and I need to delve a little deeper into their distribution regions to figure out where I can pick some up. I’m coming for ya NGB, I’m coming for ya…
18 Long Trail Brewing Co.-“Take A Hike!” One of the better known and more widespread offerings from Vermont. Actually went to a Long Trail tasting where pint glasses were handed out with tree seedlings inside…pretty cool. Long Trail does a good job of switching up their sampler packs with each season, so it’s possible to get to try a lot of what they have to offer. Very solid Pale Ale, and their Brewmaster Series is damn strong.
19 Great Lakes Brewing Co.-Edmund Fitzgerald. Nuff said.
20 Firestone Walker Brewing Co.-California brewery known best for their Union Jack IPA, which is delicious. Also, their Reserve Series is borderline amazing, some of my personal favorites being the Porter and Wookey Jack. Also, I finally got my hands on some Sucaba this very evening, which I am very much looking forward to. I’ll keep you posted…
21 Anchor Brewing Co.- Originators of the Steam Beer, a style known from other breweries as California Common due to Anchor having exclusive rights to the term “Steam Beer.” Anchor Steam is a great beer, and they put out an annual brew around Christmas time called Our Special Ale, which changes its recipe each year.
22 Rogue Ales-more beer styles and offerings than I have ever seen from one brewery! In the Oregon area, it’s impossible not to know Rogue. Most know Dead Guy, but the favorites around this house are the Double Chocolate Stout, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, and Chipotle Ale. Rogue also has their own farms (http://roguefarmsblog.wordpress.com/category/crops/) where crops are produced for their beers and other projects.
23 Summit Brewing Co.-from the Land of 10,000 Lakes…haven’t had any yet, so it appears I need to find a pen pal in Minnesota…
t. 24 Full Sail Brewing Co.-some of my favorite session beers, and oddly enough, they are called Session. Available in 3 styles, Red, Black, and Fest. Great brews.
t. 24 SweetWater Brewing Co.-I’ve only had the 420 Extra Pale Ale, but it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to getting some more of their brews, because any brewery that can land it’s products on an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ is right up my alley.
26 Victory Brewing Co.-love the Storm King and Hop Wallop. A lot of very hoppy, yet very unique brews. Also, the Dark Intrigue, which is their Russian Imperial Stout, is wicked good. I have a bottle aging, so it will be interesting to see how patient I can be before tearing into it.
27 Oskar Blues Brewery-behold the power of the can! Dale’s Pale, Deviant, and Ten Fidy are all delicious…really can’t go wrong with anything they make. Pretty solid distribution area, too, so most can get their hands on the flagship brews.
28 Cold Spring Brewing Co./Third Street Brewhouse- honestly hadn’t heard of this one until this list…apparently Minnesota is calling my name.
29 Flying Dog Brewery-strong beers adorned by label art inspired by Hunter S Thompson. Gonzo and Pearl Necklace are the two I recommend keeping an eye out for, but any of the dog-themed brews are tasty, too.
30 Founders Brewing Co.- Founders makes BIG beers. I have yet to try one of their brews that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. Backwoods Bastard, Breakfast Stout, Double Trouble…I could go right down their entire list of beers. Currently in a raffle for a shot at Doom and KBS…keep your fingers crossed for me.
31 Ninkasi Brewing Co.-Ninkasi is the ancient Sumerian matron goddess of beer, and also a brewery in Eugene, OR. Sadly, I’ve only had Oatis, their Oatmeal Stout, but it was delicious. Always keeping an eye open for more from them.
32 CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc.-operates 14 different chains/brands of brewery/restaurants, including Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, and Old Chicago. I have visited each of these establishments separately, and the beers are decent. These types of places are safe bets for traveling folk trying to avoid the shitty beer offerings common to a Chili’s/Applebee’s/Friday’s, etc.
33 Odell Brewing Co.-another brewery that frequents most “Top Beer” lists…and missing this brewery has actually been bugging me for quite some time. High on my list…
34 Bear Republic Brewing Co.-write this down: Café Racer 15, Hop Rod Rye, Racer 5, and Red Rocket. Now, go find them…you won’t be disappointed!
35 Stevens Point Brewery-I’ve only had a couple from here (Whole Hog and Nude Beach), but they were good. A lot of good things coming from this part of the country, which is steeped in American brewing history.
36 Blue Point Brewing Co.-good things can come from Long Island (sorry, that’s my hockey fan side coming through). Had the pleasure of seeing these folks at lots of festivals and events…I personally recommend the Toxic Sludge and Hoptical Illusion.
37 Southern Tier Brewing Co.-another solid brewery out of New York. A lot of their regular offerings are very tasty, but it’s their bombers that I have been gravitating towards recently, providing some more heavy and rich offerings, such as Choklat, Crème Brulee, and Iniquity.
38 Lost Coast Brewery and Café- Eureka! Okay, bad joke…introduced to Lost Coast while living in California, this one is a little tougher to find for those on the East Coast. Pretty decent lineup, and their Imperial offerings tend to get more of the focus.
39 Karl Strauss Brewing Co.-another restaurant/brewery, this one found around the San Diego metro. Very solid brews, and very tasty beer-infused menus. Parrot in a Palm Tree comes out around the holidays, and it is worth timing a visit around its release.
40 BJ’s Chicago Pizza & Brewery-another chain style brewery/restaurant establishment. When we first moved to San Mateo, CA, we stayed in a hotel while searching out housing, and there was a BJ’s across the street. Needless to say, we hit that a few times. Same as the other places like it, decent food and tasty brews that beat the normal options.
41 Breckenridge Brewery-Colorado representing once again. Most people really enjoy the Vanilla Porter, and they make some tasty IPAs, too.
42 North Coast Brewing Co.-Old Rasputin…my wife’s favorite beer. Old Rasputin is also available annually in a barrel-aged offering that is very tasty. Very solid IPA offerings that we have become accustomed to from Cali breweries.
43 Left Hand Brewing Co.-very large distribution area for this Rocky Mountain brewery. Get your hands on some Milk Stout and Sawtooth.
44 St. Louis Brewery, Inc./Schlafly Beers-haven’t had this one yet, but this is likely the first to come off of my current ‘to-do’ list…I am working out a trade with a friend in the Lou, so hopefully some of these beauties will be coming my way soon…
45 Saint Arnold Brewing Co.-Texas’ oldest craft brewery, located in Houston. Who do I know in Texas….hmmmmmmm……
46 Ballast Point Brewing Co.-another out of the San Diego area, they make a couple that are near and dear to this beer drinker’s heart (one more rhyming word in that sentence and I was going to jump off the nearest bridge). Specifically, Sculpin IPA and Sea Monster Imperial Stout are worth picking up. They also operate a distillery, making this a must-stop on your trip to San Diego.
47 Big Sky Brewing Co.-first ran into this brewery while driving through Yellowstone…my eye was caught by a big cold bottle of Moose Drool. It was a refreshing, tasty brew, and sadly the only one I’ve had from Big Sky.
48 Allagash Brewing Co.-bring on the funk! Allagash brings you beers with a heavy Belgian influence, including an array of Lambics and Wilds. A favorite gem nestled in the beer city that Portland has quickly become. My personal faves are Hugh Malone, Black, and Fluxus.
49 Uinta Brewing Co.-prior to this week, Uinta was a brewery I commonly bought when visiting beer shops in Massachusetts. As of this week, Uinta distributes to New Hampshire. Very excited. Baba and Dubhe are strong, tasty brews, and the Crooked Line series gives some more unique styles a spin. Uinta is also rolling out a canning line now, which continues to grow in popularity in the craft beer community.
50 Tröegs Brewing Co.-very easy to find on the East Coast….hit or miss on the West Coast. Nugget Nectar is a beast, and the Hopback Amber is not far behind. Located in Hershey, PA, drop the family off at the chocolate house and go get some beer!
Yet again, another reason to get out there and see the country while drinking some damn tasty brews! Travel safe and drink educated, my friends!