The New Top 10 Beer Cities
When it comes to craft beer, America’s love for the IPA has not waned. But sours, Saisons and farmhouse ales are also hitting the beer scene in a big way. Cities that have helped to pioneer the movement from mass to craft are shaking things up, and some smaller cities in big beer states are making their mark on today’s brewing landscape.
Photo By: Courtesy of Laughing Monk Brewing
Photo By: Courtesy of Deschutes Brewery
Photo By: Courtesy of Ghostfish Brewing Co.
Photo By: eal
Photo By: Alexis Mersel
Photo By: Courtesy of Infusion Brewing
Photo By: Courtesy of Panther Island Brewing Co.
Photo By: Courtesy of Bissell Brothers
Photo By: Courtesy of Trillium Brewing Company
Photo By: Michael Oppenheim
San Francisco Bay Area, California
While San Francisco proper has been on the beer map for a bit, its new suite of craft breweries is shaking things up daily. IPAs are still king, boasting a flavor profile that is something so very Californian, but sours are moving in quickly. Many brewers are moving away from the strictly hoppy stuff that has been done before and are playing around with Belgian styles, sours, and rustic farmhouse ales, which are all making their way onto the scene in full force. Laughing Monk in the city’s Bayview district is working with local community gardens to create one-off beers that connect with the neighborhood and bring urban agriculture to the forefront of their persona. Their Bayview Gold adds chamomile at the end of the boil, giving it a soft floral aroma and light pineapple citrus flavor. This fall they’ll add local pumpkin to the Imperial Belgian stout. Their neighbors next door in San Francisco’s new Urban Point area, Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery, are distilling beer into whiskey, while also brewing their own and creating a virtuous circle they call a “Beerception: A Beer Within a Beer Within a Beer”— a beer that has been aged in a whiskey barrel that was made from that same beer. The Rare Barrel in Berkeley recently took home awards for its Apropos of Nothing and Ensorcelled – both American-style sour ales, and Headlands Brewing Co. in Mill Valley won accolades for its Pt. Bonita Rustic Lager.
In laid-back Central Oregon, Bend is proving that big brother Portland isn’t the only city in this Northwestern powerhouse brewing state worthy of acclaim. The Deschutes Brewery overlooks the river of the same name, and is home to their adventurous lineup of pioneering beers—from the hoppy Bond Street series to the experimental, small-batch Reserve series. The Ale Apothecary ferments beers in old oak trees that they hollow out themselves. 10 Barrel Brewing Co. took home a prize at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for its Crush Cucumber Sour, as did Bend Brewing Co. for its creation in the same category of German-style sour ales called Volkskeet. When hunger sets in, head to the North Rim Brew Pub in the Old Mill District for good brews and good eats.
Although Washington is often known for wine, the beer scene in Seattle is nothing to sneeze at. Not surprising since the state is one of the top in the country for growing hops. Ghostfish Brewing Co. won awards for its Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA and Watchstander Stout (both gluten-free beers) at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015. Rueben’s Brews Taproom took home honors at the same festival for its Gose German-Style Sour Ale and Dry Stout. Others to watch among the countless number of city hot spots: Stoup Brewing, Peddler, Urban Family Brewing Company, and don’t miss the urban beer garden at Fremont Brewing.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Unlike its famous neighbors Denver, Colorado Springs, and Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado is home to some of the first craft breweries in the state—and some of the newest. Odell Brewing got started in 1989 in a 1915 grain elevator. Its roots are built on British styles. 90 Shilling Ale is the brewery’s top-selling flagship, and they just released Drumroll, a citrus-inspired American pale ale in the spring. Fat Tire put New Belgium Brewing Company on the map, but their Lips of Faith releases and citrusy, hoppy IPAs are getting everyone’s attention now. Don’t miss Funkwerks’ award-winning Belgian-Style Saison, barrel-aged golden Deceit, and Raspberry Provincial. Snowbank Brewing opened in 2014 by a group of self-described nerds and tech enthusiasts, and is a second home to local outdoor groups—staying true to its mission to focus on the passion for the Colorado lifestyle.
Twin Cities, Minnesota
The Twin Cities are exploding with great new breweries, especially for Saison lovers. Surly Brewing – the mecca – is one of the originals, and started as a smaller brewery in a suburb and expanded into a new location last year. The high-quality beer is worth the hype (try the Cynic Saison), as is the amazing space with outside seating, fire pits, a robust food menu, and outdoor events. Minneapolis’s downtown North Loop has a concentration of breweries within walking distance, including Fulton Beer, whose super drinkable Bourbon barrel-aged rye Saison called ExPat is only released once a year. Northeast Minneapolis is home to another hot spot of beer action. Go to Bauhaus for the really industrial vibe with garage doors that open up to a huge patio. Also check out: Indeed Brewing’s flagship Day Tripper Pale Ale and their Wooden Soul series of wild, sour, and barrel-aged beer; the results of locally grown seed, grain, malting, and brewing at Able Seedhouse + Brewery; and the peanut butter stout at Dangerous Man Brewing Co. Saint Paul staple Summit Brewing is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with four special limited-release beers, including a medium-bodied, floral, West London Style-Ale. And we hear that the seasonal S’Mores Porter at Flat Earth in downtown St. Paul is unreal.
A surprise candidate, Omaha is gaining national recognition as a top beer spot. Breweries are sprinkled throughout the city, so for the best taste of the beer scene start with a craft brewery tour of the area. Infusion Brewing has a taproom where hipsters drink its popular Vanilla Bean Blonde Ale and play beer pong. The Benson Brewery is a neighborhood favorite housed in a remodeled turn-of-the-century movie theater, and Farnam House Brewing Co. specializes in combining Old World styles with American hops for their artisan farmhouse ales. Or take a jaunt to Crescent Moon Ale House, Omaha’s original craft beer bar, for top brews from local producers like Zipline, Lucky Bucket Brewing, and Spilker Ales.
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, and its surrounding area, is having a major craft beer boom. Styles run the gamut from wild and sour ales to unfiltered American cream ales and wheat beers. Award-winning Rahr & Sons Brewing took home accolades last year for its Oktoberfest and The Regulator (a German-style Dopplebock), using family traditions and age-old recipes passed down from ancestors. Panther Island Brewing Co.’s Allergeez, an award-winning unfiltered American wheat beer, gets attention for its name and its Texas honey, chamomile flower and rose hip-infused flavors. Stop by the brewery/taproom at The Collective Brewing Project for snacks, corn hole, yoga, and some wild, sour and funky growlers to go.
While we will never dispute that the city that shares its name on the west coast will always rank at the top of any and every beer list ever, Portland, Maine is like the quiet, small (but strong!) little sibling of its Oregon counterpoint. Well-known local Allagash Brewing Company, who won awards for both their Triple and their White in 2015, brews some of the best Belgian-style beers around. Neighborhood brewery Rising Tide Brewing Company offers a variety of styles, anchored by a rye pale ale called Daymark, and a pilot program where new brews are tried out in limited batches. The buzzworthy Bissell Brothers are pushing the limits with their hazy, opaque, ultra-hoppy beers and their bold branding and release strategy. (They sell their coveted Swish Double IPA only in the winter). And newcomers Lone Pine, Fore River, and Austin Street are becoming fast favorites, even with Austin Street only brewing their beer one barrel at a time.
The Boston beer scene is making a comeback with Trillium, Lord Hobo, and Night Shift leading the charge. Trillium Brewing Company is gaining traction and reach in the area by adding a new 16,000 square foot facility and taproom in Canton to its original home in Fort Point. Draft highlights include wild ales (fermented with native New England mixed microbe culture), hazy west-coast style IPAs, along with well-received stouts and porters, and their beers can be found in more than 14 taps across the city. Night Shift’s Barrel Society membership is so popular that it is already closed for 2016 (sign-ups for 2017 begin in October), but their taproom is open daily with a solid lineup of staple and seasonal brews. And don’t miss out on Boom Sauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Company—the name says it all.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a beer lover’s paradise. Decades-old staples are being joined by a suite of newcomers and their award-winning experimental ales and lagers. Wicked Weed specializes in West-coast style hoppy ales, open-fermented Belgian beers, and barrel-aged sours. Their location trifecta includes a brew pub in downtown Asheville, a “Funkatorium” (a sour and funky beer-dedicated taproom) in the South Slope Brewery District, and a 50-barrel production brewery in West Asheville. Altamont Brewing models a pre-prohibition style neighborhood brew pub, which means their beer never sees the light of day before it is poured into your glass. New Belgium Brewing from Fort Collins, Colorado just opened its new outpost in Asheville. In addition to Fat Tire, its thirteen year-round beers, including Citradelic Tangerine IPA, Ranger IPA, Rampant Imperial IPA, Shift Pale Lager, Slow Ride Session IPA, and Blue Paddle Pilsner, are receiving rave reviews.