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What's the Best Craft Brewery in America? You Tell Us

What's the Best Craft Brewery in America? You Tell Us

What was once just a trend is now a full-blown, happening movement that's swept the country: craft beer. Ask just about anyone with an of-age license and taste buds, and people will have an opinion about who makes the best beer around. And despite the fact that craft beer still makes up just less than 7 percent of the total beer market in the U.S., the number of craft breweries has imploded in just the past decade: now at 2,360 operating breweries in 2012, according to the Brewer's Association.

Which is why we want to know: what is America's best craft brewery? You can narrow it down by the most medals won, or the most beers sold, but a great craft brewery is more than that. It's a commitment to quality, of course — that can't be ignored. But we at The Daily Meal think a great craft brewery "taps" into its hometown roots and delivers a beer that brings people together. Whether it's your classic lager or your favorite summer seasonal, the best craft breweries will engage both the "craft beer curious" and the connoisseurs and satiate everyone's palates.

YOU TELL US: What's the Best Craft Brewery in America? Take The Daily Meal's Survey!

But of course, while we have our own ideas of who the leaders are in craft brewing, we want to know who your picks are — what are the craft breweries that you'll order no matter what at the bar? We asked some of the country's top craft beer experts to share with us who they think are the craft breweries making waves. Some breweries (we won't tell you which ones) were nominated over and over again, and some breweries were hometown favorites that our panelists themselves admitted were obscure. But no matter how big (Sierra Nevada) or small (Chicago's Piece Pizzeria and Brewery) they are, these craft breweries our panelists believe should be recognized.

Over the past week, dozens of authorities in the craft beer space have assisted us in nominating the best craft breweries in the country. Now whittled down to the top 25, we are asking YOU to cast your vote and decide what, you feel, is the best craft brewery in America. You can select your five favorites among the nominees, and in one week, we will unveil who YOU chose as America’s Best Craft Brewery.

Each one of these 72 breweries, from 21 different states from coast to coast, is already a winner — and we know it's difficult to choose just one favorite. (One panelist noted that choosing a favorite American craft brewery is as hard as choosing a favorite film, or a favorite Beatles song — nearly impossible.) But we want you readers to weigh in and tell us: what is your favorite craft brewery?

Click here to take the survey and tell us which breweries deserve to be recognized (American Idol-style), because we want to recognize who we think is the best.


Courtesy of Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.

Situated in the picturesque town of Newport, this operation specializes in a lot more than just craft beer. While brewing began in 1999, the staff started to experiment with distilling in 2006, recreating spirits using recipes sourced from local historical archives. Today, the facility offers a wide variety of cane distillates, including gin, vodka, moonshine, and a rum distilled using a method standard in 1700s-era Newport. In terms of beer, the brewery offers a diverse spread of products, including the new Watermelon Freez, a tart Berliner Weiss style, and Iron Horse, a seven-month barrel-aged double IPA.


Proletariat

Address and phone: 102 St. Marks Pl, New York, NY (212-777-6707)
Website: proletariatny.com
Taps: 12
Specialty: “Rare, new, and unusual beer”
Favored breweries: Grimm Artisanal Ales, De Dolle Brouwers , BFM (Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes )

Every time I step foot in the East Village’s Proletariat, I know I’m not just going to encounter many beers I’ve never had—I’m going to come across quite a few I’ve never even heard of. The hallway of a space can only accommodate a couple dozen drinkers, old-school rap music blasts loudly, and, most importantly, the beer list is way too esoteric for an Average Joe to wanna hang. You come to Proletariat to challenge your palate and have the informed bartenders make you realize there’s so much about beer you still don’t know.


The 50 Largest Craft Breweries in the U.S.

It&rsquos a heady time for craft brewing in America. In the past 15 years the market share for craft beer has risen from 1% to nearly 6%, and the country now supports over 2,000 different breweries.

This week, the Brewers Association completed their tally of 2011 beer sales and published a list of the 50 largest craft breweries, by sales volume. Boston Beer Co. maintains its impressive seat atop the pack, with Samuel Adams distributed in all 50 states (it ranks fifth overall, even when big macrobrew companies like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are included).

The group includes a wide variety of companies that are spread over 25 different states. California&rsquos Sierra Nevada is number two on the list, followed by New Belgium (based in Colorado but soon to build a new brewery in North Carolina). Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR ranks fifth, Delaware&rsquos Dogfish Head rings in at number 12. Flying Dog, now in Frederick, MD is number 26, follwed immediately by Downingtown, PA&rsquos Victory Brewing at position 27.

By our rough estimation, the West Coast is home to the highest number of the breweries on this list, with California claiming a dozen within its borders alone. Around 13 on the list are East Coast operations, and approximately another 15 are heartland businesses. Overall, it&rsquos exciting that great beer is being appreciated by so many people.

Did your favorite brewery make the list? Check it out below, and let us know in the comments!


The 20 Best Pilsner Beers You Can Drink, According to Brewers

Why a good pilsner is the true mark of brewing greatness, and 20 great examples to try.

Brewers have a deep appreciation for Pilsners. Many will agree: A good pilsner, with its brisk, subtle flavors and crisp, snappy bitterness, is a difficult to make exercise in technique and precision. The style&rsquos simplicity and lack of fuss leaves little room for even the slightest flaw.

&ldquoIt&rsquos hard to brew a subtle beer that comes across as tasty, complex and ripe with texture,&rdquo Dan Suarez, the owner and brewer of Suarez Family Brewery, told PUNCH in 2016. Suarez is known for producing excellent pilsners, like Palatine and Qualify. &ldquoIt&rsquos true what some people say: there aren&rsquot any strong flavors to hide behind [with a pilsner], and your process has to be on point. The margin for error is razor-thin.&rdquo

No doubt, part of the pilsner&rsquos admiration among beer makers around the world is the challenge in creating a memorable one it&rsquos a true measure of brewing greatness. It&rsquos also because pilsners are delicious and refreshing, and low in alcohol, making it an ideal beverage of choice in many situations. Ask a brewer what they&rsquore drinking after a shift, or what they&rsquore sipping on while working an event, and you&rsquoll likely get this response (and proudly): crisp, clean pils.

We asked 20 beer makers to share the one pilsner that holds a special place in their heart, and their glass. Did your favorite make the list?

Editor&rsquos Note: Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Live Oak Pilz

ABV: 4.7%
From: Austin, Texas
&ldquoA classic from the oldest brewery in Austin. Great malt character from single-decoction mashing and beautiful hoppiness from Saaz hops. I love the firm bitterness. Squeaky-clean. My go-to beer in Austin. Eminently crushable. This being put in cans a few years back made my life better.&rdquo &mdash Jeffrey Stuffings, co-founder of Jester King Brewery

Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle

ABV: 5.1%
From: Grafenhausen, Germany
&ldquoWe&rsquore spoiled with pilsners here. Thanks to Berlin&rsquos drinking culture you will find a decent selection of German and Czech pilsners, and even Franconian lagers, in every corner shop. My favorite is quite simple, though: Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle. It&rsquos fresh, consistent, available pretty much everywhere, and it has the perfect balance of sweet, crisp and bitter. Plus a cool label.&rdquo &mdash Lukasz Wiacek, founder of FUERST WIACEK

Notch Brewing At the Swans

ABV: 4.2%
From: Salem, Massachusetts
&ldquoSome of the most enjoyable pilsner moments I&rsquove experienced over the last few years have been sitting along the water in Salem, Massachusetts. On the west side of Salem Harbor, near the back of South River, lies Notch&rsquos brewery and taproom. This is holy ground for me in regards to lager, as a showcase of intent and passion. A brewhouse specifically designed for arduous decoction mashing, open fermentation vessels, and a taproom that not only serves a most proper mug of lager but also creates a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere. Lagered in horizontal tanks until maturation is complete, At the Swans is hopped solely with Žatec-grown Saaz and showcases a beautifully round, soft intermingling of bright and snappy noble hop character and a complex yet subtle malt flavor brought out by double decoction.&rdquo &mdash Sean Towers, owner and brewer at The Seed

Seedstock Czech Pilsner

ABV: 5.8%
From: Denver, Colorado
&ldquoRun by brothers Ron and Jason Abbott, Seedstock is a small brewery in Denver that refuses to give into the hype of hazy IPAs, instead paying homage to their European ancestors &mdash farmers who settled in Nebraska and began making the beers from home in their barns by focusing on traditional German and Czech styles. The pair produce an array of outstanding old-world lagers, like this Czech-style pilsner, a brilliant example with the perfect amount of bitterness. I feel like Seedstock&rsquos great work is often overlooked, which is a shame. Don&rsquot sleep. &mdash Paul Mahoney, head brewer at Launch Pad Brewery

Redlight Redlight Side-Pull Pils

ABV: 4.0%
From: Orlando, Florida
&ldquoThis is brewed and served to perfection in the Czech style, and each mug beautifully topped with a sweet, creamy head of foam transports me back to my honeymoon in Prague and all the crispy bois [sic] we drank on that unforgettable trip. It pours bright gold and has a medium-light body, with notes of water cracker and a floral hop bitterness. Now, that&rsquos if you decided to go for the crisp version. The brewery serves it two ways, and if you go for the smooth option you&rsquoll get a beer with a rounder, maltier taste and silkier finish. Even better, both ways go for only $4 a pour during the brewery&rsquos happy hour.&rdquo &mdash Haidar Hachem, head brewer at Strange Beast

Suarez Family Brewery Cabana Pils

ABV: 5.0%
From: Livingston, New York
&ldquoA pilsner with wheat? Yup, it works. Cabana checks all the boxes of those familiar pilsner catch terms of being &lsquocrisp&rsquo and &lsquoclean,&rsquo but also adds a really cool citrus and grassy hop presence that&rsquos presented through a softer and creamier mouthfeel than most pilsners you&rsquoll encounter. I really wish it weren&rsquot a limited seasonal offering, but Dan Suarez and his team easily fill the void by offering several top-notch lagers.&rdquo
&mdash Dave Martin, owner and brewer at Mindful Ales

Hill Farmstead Mary

ABV: 4.75%
From: Greensboro Bend, Vermont
&ldquoFive years ago, I graduated from brewing school and my future wife drove up to meet me in Middlebury, Vermont. We drove the next day across the state, ultimately to Portland, Maine, and stopped at Hill Farmstead along the way. It was there I first encountered Mary, the perfect intersection between the balance you can bet your life on from a Hill Farmstead beer, and the archetype of a craft pilsner. You almost have to talk about pilsner in the abstract, because, even when done unspectacularly, they exhibit similar characteristics. There are only so many ways to combine continental Pils malt, noble hops and one of a handful of yeast strains. But what separates the best from the rest is process and water chemistry. Mary is an exquisite little offering: delicately balancing floral and subtly spicy hops with crisp, vaguely doughy malt, and with the soft mouthfeel you expect from his works despite being dry and smooth.&rdquo &mdash Brett Taylor, partner and head brewer at Wild East Brewing Company

Pivovar Kout na Sumave Koutska 12

ABV: 5.0%
From: Kout na Sumave, Czech Republic
&ldquoThis is among the 200-year-old recipes of Pivovar Kout na Sumave, named for the small town in the Bohemian forest the brewery is in. Shuttered for over 40 years and then reopened, its lagers are open fermented, unpasteurized and utilize all local ingredients, including well water. The balance of rich maltiness and hops paired with process is ever inspirational.&rdquo &mdash Chris Deapo, head brewer and blender at Schilling Beer Company

O/O Ekta Pils

ABV: 5.2%
From: Göteborg, Sweden
&ldquoIt&rsquos insanely refreshing and crispy AF, just as I like it. Just a real, real, real good pilsner, you know? It&rsquos one of those pilsners that remind me of the second day at beer festivals, when you&rsquore desperately looking for the crispiest crispy boi to kill that hangover. If I could find something like Ekta every time, I&rsquod be so much less hungover.&rdquo &mdash Nanna Birk Ackermann, sales and distribution manager at Broaden & Build

La Trappe Puur

ABV: 4.5%
From: Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands
&ldquoAs a brewer, you need to twist the rules every now and then. My moving out of the Netherlands made me rethink all my recipes and go-to beers, of course, because of availability or resources. In the United Kingdom, I have plenty of pilsners to turn to but I miss having the availability of La Trappe Puur. Two years ago I went to the brewery and during the tour they said this was their take on a Pilsner, but they couldn&rsquot call it one because it doesn&rsquot use classic Pilsner yeast. Again, sometimes you need to twist the rules. So, La Puur is a Belgian Pilsner, fermented with Trappist yeast. It uses only organic malts and organic noble hops, which leave a dry, bitter finish. When I go back to Nijmegen it&rsquos the first beer I&rsquoll order in the pub, with a big cheese platter to feel truly at home.&rdquo &mdash Do Bongers, head brewer at Fierce Beer

Threes Vliet

ABV: 5.2%
From: Brooklyn, New York
&ldquoI first visited Threes in the fall of 2016, while visiting some family and friends in Brooklyn. At this point we were building our space and I was obsessively observing what other brewers were up to. To say I was impressed with everything Threes was doing would be an understatement. I recall thinking everything felt thoughtful and true. But my biggest takeaway was its beer, in particular its Pilsner Vliet. Much like the experience Threes offers, Vliet feels deliberate and authentic. One of the cleanest, most drinkable American pilsners I&rsquove had the opportunity to enjoy, it has classic cracker-like malt flavor and a truly balanced and subtle hop profile, which I feel a lot of breweries putting out great IPAs struggle to achieve with their pilsners.&rdquo &mdash Ryan Lavery, co-owner and head brewer at Widowmaker Brewing

Pilsner Urquell

ABV: 4.4%
From: Plzen, Czech Republic
&rdquoGreat beer often reminds you of a time and place, and having been to Prague, I can say Pilsner Urquell is a perfect reminder of the beauty and delicateness of that wonderful city.&rdquo &mdash Adam Robbings, co-founder and brewmaster at Reuben&rsquos Brews

Upland Brewing Company Champagne Velvet

ABV: 5.5%
From: Bloomington, Indiana
&ldquoThis is delicious and crisp, with a perfect hop balance. Matt [Mitchell, director of sales operations] from Upland visited us earlier last year with some delicious beers, and Champagne Velvet was my favorite. The story behind &lsquoThe Beer with the Million Dollar Flavor&rsquo intrigued me, and to think the recipe was over 100 years old and it was once one of Indiana&rsquos most popular beers, and Upland brought it back to life, it&rsquos such a neat thing. And the packaging echoes its roots in a grand way. Big fan of both this beer and Upland.&rdquo &mdash Todd DiMatteo, co-owner and brewer at Good Word Brewing & Public House

Jever Pilsener

ABV: 4.9%
From: Jever, Germany
&ldquoMy favorite pils? Many, luckily. There&rsquos one, though, that influenced my life. The one that, approximately 30 years ago, first made me experience the hop punch! I still remember that feeling of dry, sharp bitterness, suspended into a mellow flow of caressing malt sweetness and texture. That pils was Jever. At the time I was traveling to Germany and I would always try to spot a place that had Jever on tap or in bottles. It was hard, but every time I found it, it was simultaneously a joy and a shock. I felt like I was being tested, like if that bitterness would trial me for the admittance to a new world, the one of &lsquoreal beer.&rsquo Beer with plenty of character, bold and tasty. It was so good! Years later, while trying to brew a Jever of my own, I found my way to that sort of a pils, that &lsquosomething&rsquo I called Tipopils. In the end, Tipo had nothing to do with the &lsquoGerman bomb,&rsquo but it was in searching for the idea of Jever that I found the hidden doors and hop treasures that led me to Tipo.&rdquo
&mdash Agostino Arioli, founder and brewer at Birrificio Italiano

Birrificio Italiano Tipopils

ABV: 5.2%
From: Lurago Marinone, Italy
&ldquoI took a road trip with my family to Italy this past summer and called my good friend Agostino Arioli at Birrificio Italiano to let him know that I was going to stop by for dinner and a beer or two. He sent me on my way with a case of his Tipopils and the vacation was elevated to an entire new level. Drinking fresh Tipo is as close to pilsner perfection as I know. It&rsquos in no way a typical or traditional German pilsner. Ago, in his magical way, created a new beer and in my mind a new style of lager. Tipo was the beer that inspired me to create Pivo Pils and will forever be one of my most influential lagers.&rdquo &mdash Matt Brynildson, brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Bellwoods Bellweiser

ABV: 4.8%
From: Toronto, Ontario
&ldquoThis is one of the nicest pilsners out there, and it&rsquos made by some of the finest folks in the industry. It has everything I want in a pilsner: a nose full of hops that aren&rsquot trying to be cool, which makes them so very cool a soft malt character that my dad would appreciate and a clean yeast character that doesn&rsquot care if you pay attention to it. When I plan my trip to a deserted island, my suitcase will be full of this beer.&rdquo
&mdash Daniel Endicott, co-founder and brewer at Forest & Main Brewing Company

PFriem Family Brewers Pilsner

ABV: 4.9%
From: Hood River, Oregon
&ldquoWe were stationed next to pFriem at Rhinegeist&rsquos Rare Beer Fest last year and I was quickly reminded of how good the pilsner is. It has a wonderfully soft mouthfeel with a creamy head, and the pFriem team really nailed the carbonation. We seek it out every time we head out to the West Coast for hop selection, making the stop at pFriem&rsquos brewery on the drive from Portland to Yakima Valley.&rdquo &mdash Collin Castore, co-founder of Seventh Son Brewing and Antiques on High

Heater Allen Pils

ABV: 5.2%
From: Portland, Oregon
&ldquoThis is my go-to pilsner that&rsquos not ours. It&rsquos Czech style, so expect a good punch of hops and a sturdy amount of Bohemian malt. I love that I can get cans and draft of a beer that&rsquos lagered for eight weeks pretty much anywhere worth going to in Portland. Although I adore other Heater Allen beers, I can&rsquot seem to get enough of the Pils. Also, I have a pretty big crush on head brewer Lisa Allen.&rdquo &mdash Kevin Davey, brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer

Victory Prima Pils

ABV: 5.3%
From: Downington, Pennsylvania
&ldquoPicking one pilsner isn&rsquot easy because I really enjoy the style and feel many breweries create consistent, well-balanced versions. However, one that stands out to me is Prima Pils. This is a classic pilsner and a go-to beer for me, thanks to its wonderful hop character that I think contributes nicely to the crisp, dry finish.&rdquo &mdash Ryan McVeigh, brewery operations manager at Kona Brewing Company

Station 26 Saaz Pilsner

ABV: 5.3%
From: Denver, Colorado
&ldquoIn Denver, we&rsquore home to so may great pilsners, with some really obvious top choices. I was recently able to experience a beautifully crafted example from a brewery I wouldn&rsquot have expected that deserves some love: Station 26 and its Saaz-hopped pils. It&rsquos so damn crisp and clean. It pours a beautiful, pristinely clear straw color (I&rsquom a sucker for clear beer) with a great floral aroma, followed by an ever-so-sweet, honey-like taste. It finishes with a slightly earthy hop bitterness. Really everything you could want from a good ol&rsquo pils.&rdquo &mdash Bess Dougherty, head barrel troll at The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe & Brewery


10 best craft brew states in America

Oregon certainly does its part in carrying on the beer heritage of the Pacific Northwest. When you land in Portland, you'll find a Rogue Brewery right in the airport, and you can easily take a beer tour of the state just as easily as a wine tour. Don't miss Deschutes in Bend, Ninkasi in Eugene, Full Sail in Hood River and the original McMenamins in Portland. (Photo: Jeff Alworth)

The craft beer movement continues to boom across the USA. 10Best editors have compiled this state-by-state guide so you can plan your next beer pilgrimage.

1. California, 268 craft breweries

Wine isn't the only libation California is known for. With 268 craft breweries and counting -- more than any other state in the USA -- there's bound to be a brew for every taste. While labels like Stone, Sierra Nevada and Anchor have become household names across the country, smaller breweries with more limited distribution are holding their own.

2. Washington, 136 craft breweries

Coming in at a respectable second, Washington state has 136 craft breweries, including the well-known Pyramid Brewery, headquartered in Seattle. It's no surprise that this evergreen state has such a passion for beer, as the first American microbrewery -- Yakima Brewing & Malting Co -- was based here.

3. Colorado, 130 craft breweries

Left Hand in Longmont, New Belgium in Fort Collins, Avery in Boulder. Colorado's craft brewery list reads more like a roundup of the best breweries in the country. If that's not enough, Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival where you can sample 2,200 beers from 500 of the country's best breweries.

4. Oregon, 124 craft breweries

Oregon certainly does its part in carrying on the beer heritage of the Pacific Northwest. When you land in Portland, you'll find a Rogue Brewery right in the airport, and you can easily take a beer tour of the state just as easily as a wine tour. Don't miss Deschutes in Bend, Ninkasi in Eugene, Full Sail in Hood River and the original McMenamins in Portland.

5. Michigan, 102 craft breweries

Michigan is quickly moving up the ladder in the world of craft beers with over 100 breweries in the state. You may not find the big name craft brews of other states, but what you will find is some hidden gems -- and maybe your new favorite -- at local institutions like Bells Brewery and Founders Brewery.

6. Pennsylvania, 93 craft breweries

German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought with them a love of good beer, and the state already had six breweries pre-Prohibition, more than any other state in the country. Beer lovers will probably be familiar with Pennsylvania's Golden Monkey and Hopdevil from the Victory Brewing Company, but the state has a lot more than just these heavy hitters.

7. Wisconsin, 75 craft breweries

With a Major League Baseball team called the Brewers, it's a safe bet you'll find a good beer to drink in Wisconsin. Sure, Wisconsin's home to the likes of Pabst Blue Ribbon -- hardly a craft beer -- but you'll find a slice of microbrew heaven at Ale Asylum in Madison, Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee and plenty more.

8. New York, 72 craft breweries

Whether you're cooling off in the summer or warming up in the winter, New York's hoppy libations have you covered. With 72 breweries, you probably don't have to go far to find one. Some of the best include Brooklyn Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing Company and Ithaca Beer Company.

9. Texas, 59 craft breweries

From St. Arnold, the oldest brewery in Texas, to the new microbreweries popping up in Austin every other day, Texas is quickly becoming a beer heaven. It's also one of the fastest growing states when it comes to craft beer, so expect the Lone Star State to be moving up the list in years to come.

10. Illinois, 54 craft breweries

Illinois is starting to make a name for itself in the microbrewing world, and you'll find many of its 54 breweries in the Chicago area. If you want to sample what's available, plan to attend the Chicago Craft Beer Week in May.


The Best-Selling Beers In America (2019)

Americans love beer. According to a 2019 poll conducted by global analytics firm Gallup, 38 percent of the nation’s drinkers who were surveyed named it their alcoholic beverage of choice. In 2018, the U.S. beer industry shipped an impressive 202 million barrels, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

To find out just who’s been selling all that beer, 247WallSt.com partnered with research firm Beer Marketer’s Insights to analyze shipping volume data and determine the current industry leaders.

The major takeaway from the study: Americans love American beer. A total of 82 percent of all beer consumed in 2018 was produced domestically, and just seven of the top 25 beer brands were imported. And while the big commercial brands have seen their sales decline 1.5 percent since 2017, Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev continue to dominate the industry, owning over two-thirds of the brands on the list.

Ready to find out which beers made the list? Here are the 25 best-selling beer brands in the U.S.

This story is a part of VP Pro, our free content platform and newsletter for the drinks industry, covering wine, beer, and liquor — and beyond. Sign up for VP Pro now!


The Best Craft Breweries in America From A to Z


Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui

There are around 2,400 craft breweries in this magnificent country, and we love each and every one of 'em. But in the spirit of scholarship, excellence, and "writing words about beer"-ness, we tapped nine beer experts* from around the nation to select** just one outstanding U.S. craft brewery for each letter of the alphabet. Of course, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet -- around 1 percent of the craft breweries there are in America -- which means there's a 99-percent chance you disagree with our findings. Be sure to tell us what your picks would be in the comments!

Location: Waterbury, VT
Year founded: 2003
Marquee beer: Heady Topper double IPA
This tiny brewpub in rural Vermont focuses all of its efforts on a single product: a chrome-canned DIPA so righteous that there's an actual black market for cans of it outside the Green Mountain State.
Runner-up: Allagash

Location: Placentia, CA
Year founded: 2008
Marquee beer: The seasonals. All of them.
"B" may as well have stood for "battle royale," because it was stacked with excellent contenders. Straight outta the ever-more-legitimate beer mecca that is Orange County, Bruery took the title thanks to its seemingly limitless stream of seasonals, annuals, and one-offs.
Runner-up: Bell's

Location: Tampa, FL
Year founded: 2007
Marquee beer: Jai Alai IPA
Between the Florida Cracker and the Jai Alai, CCB's year-rounders ain't nothing to scoff at. But if you're in the market for something truly special from the adolescent Floridian brewery, keep your eyes peeled for its hard-to-find Hunahpu's Imperial Stout.
Runner-up: Cascade

Location: Bend, OR
Year founded: 1988
Marquee beer: Black Butte Porter
As one of the beloved cornerstones of Bend's nationally relevant brewing scene, Deschutes keeps the West Coast and the Midwest blanketed in brew, and the East Coast thirsty. That's changing, though: you can now drink Black Butte on tap in DC, and some of their brews are available in Pennsylvania, too. Slow and steady.
Runner-up: Dogfish Head


Credit: Shutterstock/Drew Swantak & Jennifer Bui

Location: Brooklyn, NY (office)
Year founded: 2010
Marquee beer: Hipster Ale
Gypsy-brewing his way into the hearts and minds of our judges, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø's creations often sound more like titles from a particularly unhinged creative writing class than beers -- Ryan and the Gosling, Plastic Man, and The Porthole are all tasty drinkables, not novellas. That's precisely the sort of uncanny innovation he's capable of. Biscotti stout, anyone?
Runner-up: Elysian

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Year founded: 1997
Marquee beer: Kentucky Breakfast Stout
"F" was a talent-choked race, but it all came down to the masterful Michiganders and their super-deep roster. They've got it all -- critical acclaim in KBS and CBS, year-round drinkability in the All Day IPA, and winter domination via Imperial Stout and Dark Penance.
Runner-up: Firestone Walker


Credit: Shutterstock/Drew Swantak & Jennifer Bui

G: Green Flash
Location: San Diego, CA
Year founded: 2002
Marquee beer: West Coast IPA
This San Diego scene-leader beat out two big-timers (Goose Island and Great Divide) with our panel, who were clearly swayed by beastly seasonals like Green Bullet, a triple IPA that combines New Zealand's Pacific Gem and Green Bullet hops. New Zealand! That's commitment.
Runner-up: Great Lakes

Location: Greensboro, VT
Year founded: 2010
Marquee beer: Abner imperial IPA
If you've tasted Shaun Hill's artisanal ales, you're either a Green Mountain native (like he is), a diehard beer guy (like he also is), or probably both, because HF's stuff rarely makes it beyond Vermont's boundaries. When your list of accolades includes World's Best Brewery, though, you can get away with being provincial.
Runner-up: Hair of the Dog

Location: Ithaca, NY
Year founded: 1998
Marquee beer: Flower Power IPA
Keeping Cornellians topped off since the Clinton years, Ithaca was the easy "I" winner thanks to its small, tightly focused crop of year-round labels including Flower Power, Nut Brown, and the punch-you-in-the-teeth hop-monster that is CascaZilla, named for a nearby gorge and the ludicrous amount of Cascade hops that go into it.
Runner-up: Iron Fist

Location: Austin, TX
Year founded: 2010
Marquee beer: Commercial Suicide
Tucked away in Texas Hill Country outside of Austin proper, carefully limited in both production and distribution, and passionate about making some crazy-ass beers, Jester is a bucket-list label for many a serious beer-drinker. Most if not all of their bottles are bombers, full of barrel-aged beers brewed with wild yeasts and oddball add-ins (mushrooms, anyone?). Oh, and there's a pizza place on the sprawling ranch facility. Which is basically cheating.
Runner-up: Jolly Pumpkin


The Beachy Beer Getaway: Dogfish Inn, Delaware

This summer, Dogfish Head opened a 16-room hotel a quick Frisbee toss from Lewes Beach. “It’s for people who embrace the beach lifestyle,” says Dogfish founder and president Sam Calagione. To that end, there’s a kayak launch and a library filled with beach reads curated by City Lights Bookstore, plus a fire pit for folks to gather round and drink beer. Since alcohol is not sold at the inn, you can stock up at the super-close R & L Liquors. “We want people to go out into the world, get their beer, and bring it back,” Calagione says.

Must-drink: Dogfish's gently sour, peach-infused Festina Pêche, preferably from the great glassware found in each room.

Best use of beer paraphernalia: Uh, where to start? From the Dogfish-brand soap and shampoo to Chicory Stout Coffee, the brewery’s touch is everywhere you look.

Drinking day trip: You’ll want to visit Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub and production brewery in Milton. Remember to grab some brews for the room.


Final Verdict

We found the Brooklyn Brewery’s Special Effects to be the most impressive. It has just enough citrus and hoppy bitterness to satisfy IPA fans, without being overwhelming on the palate for those who prefer something less assertive (view at Drizly).

How do they get the alcohol out of fermented beer?

There are several methods for creating nonalcoholic beer that involve interfering with the yeast during the fermentation process, which inhibits the creation of alcohol. The amount of fermentable sugar can also be reduced during this process by reducing the heat quickly and removing yeast before it can create alcohol.

Dealcoholization is another method for making nonalcoholic beer, using heat or reverse osmosis after the beer is made.

Are there any trace amounts of alcohol still left in nonalcoholic beer?

There usually is a negligible amount of less than 0.5% alcohol in nonalcoholic beer, which, while small, is an important thing to remember for those who want to avoid alcohol completely.

Is nonalcoholic beer made the same way as alcoholic beer?

Many nonalcoholic beers are made in the same way as regular beer, except they undergo one of the steps listed above to remove the alcohol. The basic ingredients usually remain the same, with some combination of water, yeast, malt and hops.

Does nonalcoholic beer naturally have fewer calories?

It is generally lower in calories, although this can vary depending on the type of beer. Sometimes it’s just a matter of 10 or 20 calories per beer, but there is a market for very low-cal nonalcoholic beer as well.