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The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America for 2015

The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America for 2015

In the late 1500s, Virginian colonists establishing their lives in America were making some of the most important discoveries in recent history. And perhaps it is fair to say that the year 1587 saw the most important of all. That was the first year that Virginians began brewing ale with corn, creating America’s original hand-crafted beer.

The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America for 2015

We’ve evolved immensely since then, adding layers of nuance and flavor to beers in all corners of the country. Today there truly is something for everyone in the beer department.

With hundreds of American craft breweries to choose from, it feels like an impossible task to determine the best. It’s like asking folks to choose their favorite star in the sky or their favorite flower from an extravagant bouquet; each is beautifully unique and appealing in its own way. But ask we did, and, boy, did we get answers.

The journey really began with last year’s vote. We started our 2014 list of the country's best craft breweries with producers nominated by beer advocates and experts, each of whom carefully selected his or her nominations with an eye to taste and variety. What resulted was a list of over 120 establishments worthy of notice. Then we asked you, the readers of The Daily Meal, to weigh in. While the amount of votes we received was impressive, what was even more amazing was the fact that there were over 4,000 write-in submissions for breweries that weren't on our shortlist.

This year, we combined last year's write-ins with our existing list, then whittled down the choices to 585 breweries situated everywhere from the tip of Maine to the southernmost point in Texas. Then, with the help of over 2,200 beer lovers from across the nation, we narrowed down that roster to 50 top breweries for 2015. More than 20 states are represented. While California is still king of craft brews, as it was last year, we saw a rise in Michigan spots, as well as those from Ohio and Colorado. Another cool trend? Out of the five New York-based breweries, three of them call Brooklyn home.

What is a craft brewery? According to the Brewers Association, in order for a brewery to be considered craft, it must be “small, independent, and traditional.” That means that it produces no more that six million barrels per year and that outside investors or part-owners have less than 25 percent control of the brand.

From your favorites that made it last year to new and exciting breweries on the verge of brewing (pun intended) up something special, from spots in Kalamazoo to Boonville, we cannot wait to share with you the best places to enjoy craft beer in 2015!

#50 Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kan.

When Jeff Gill and his wife Tricia pondered the age-old question “What do you want to do with your life?” in 2006, they immediately turned their thoughts to craft beer. It is a good thing too, because in 2007 they formed Tallgrass Brewing, a copper-clad brew house that is serving fans a unique array of tasty styles. Try the Buffalo Sweat, an oatmeal cream stout that is perfectly dark and decadent.

#49 Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., Decorah, Iowa

A growing giant in the industry, Iowa's Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. began only in 2009. Today they have a four- vessel, 30-barrel system that brews incredible styles that range from bold double IPAs to barrel- and-wood aged beers. Be sure to sample the Golden Nugget India Pale Ale made from Alt and Buggest hops for a medium-rich, easy drink.


By the Numbers: Small Beer's Big Year

If you’re a beer drinker and variety is your thing, you’re in luck. You could now drink a beer from a different American brewery every single day for more than thirteen and a half years (13.5 years!) and never have to return to the same brewery twice.

That’s because, according to a recent report from the Brewers Association, a trade association focused on small and independent United States brewers, the number of breweries in the U.S. has climbed, as of the end of November, to a record-setting 5,005.

Thanks to the craft-beer movement, the growth in the number of U.S. breweries has been ticking up steadily following a low point in 1978, when, according to an interactive association timeline, there were fewer than 50 brewing companies and less than 100 brewing facilities in America, and beer drinkers mostly drank big-company brew. But after the federal government legalized home brewing that year, the number of breweries started to swell.

By 1996, there were about 1,000 breweries in the U.S., marking a return to pre-Prohibition numbers. By 2011, that number had doubled to 2,000 breweries, and craft breweries constituted a 6 percent share in the U.S. beer market.

The next major milestone, 3,000 breweries, was reached in 2014, with craft brewers accounting for 11 percent of the beer market share by volume. And by the end of last year, there were a record 4,144 U.S. breweries, topping the previous record number: 4,131, in 1873, before the market began to consolidate.

A few other facts and figures, from the Brewers Association report, to put in your pint glass:

99: The percentage of all U.S. breweries that are small, indie craft brewers.

8: The percentage of growth seen by U.S. craft brewers.

25: The percentage of craft beer sales, by volume, that are IPAs.

5: The percentage of craft beer sales, by volume, that are “sessionable” beers, such as Pilsners and pale lagers and ales.

65: The percentage of craft beer fans who cite “variety” as the reason they drink craft beers.

63: The percentage of beer drinkers who choose their beer based on the food they’re eating with it.

1.2 million: The number of Americans who homebrew beer.

446,151: The number of barrels of American craft beer exported in 2015. (They’re worth about $116 million.)

1: The rank of Portland, Oregon, among major metro areas, for beer tourism. Apparently “beercations” are now a thing.


MAP: The State Of American Craft Beer – 2015

The popularity of Craft Beer has exploded in recent years &mdash moving the U.S. from 1,574 breweries in 2008 to 3,464 in 2014. Once concentrated in a handful of states, craft breweries have spread across America, with a dozen new ones opening seemingly every week. Our interactive map, based on 2014 data, reveals the state of craft beer in America.

The interactive visualization on this page requires a modern browser. Get one here!

Craft Breweries Per Capita (21+)

Number Of Craft Breweries

Barrels Of Craft Beer Brewed

Barrels Growth 2012 - 2014 (%)

The State Of Craft Brewing In America

A few things stand out on the map that deserve an explanation. For 2014, the Brewers Association updated their definition to include traditional, independent brewers who had previously been excluded. This change allowed Yuengling to vault above Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) as the nation's largest craft brewer. The change in volume in Pennsylvania is smaller than you might expect, in part due to where Samuel Adams is actually brewed &mdash Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The number of craft breweries at the end of 2014 stood at 3,418 up from 1,523 in 2008. Craft beer brewed and sold in the U.S. grew by 17.6% to 21.7 million barrels &mdash or 7.2 billion 12oz bottles!

Florida saw tremendous growth in volume, growing by nearly 10x over the past three years &mdash and vaulting from 100,000 barrels to over 1 million barrels in just the last year. The inclusion of Yuengling, which has production facilities in Florida, was a major part of this jump. The rise of Brew Hub, a contract craft brew firm, based in Lakeland, Florida, also played a role in this surge.

Craft brewing is surging all across America. This is reflected in the fact that Hawaii was the sole state in America that saw a decrease in volume over the prior three years.

Vermont leads the nation with 8.6 Breweries Per Capita. Mississippi comes in last place at 0.3. Breweries Per Capita are per 100,000 21+ adults.

Data via the Brewers Association. Visualization powered by D3, TopoJSON and DataMaps.


Ballantine IPA

Peak relevance: 1940s-1950s
Why it mattered: Showed future generations that Americans could appreciate “full flavor”

IPAs are red hot now, but there was obviously a time they were a completely novel. Cited as America’s first IPA, Ballantine somehow became extremely popular in the middle of the decade. Perhaps that was because it was 7.9% ABV—fairly alcoholic now, but a total booze bomb during the Leave it to Beaver era. It was also obviously much more bitter than the beers of the era, that being due to a unique hop oil utilized in the brewing process. This all eventually led to its brewery, P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company, becoming the third largest brewery in the country. By the 1960s, the country’s palate had switched to light lagers, and Ballantine sales began to plummet. (The recipe began to change to try and keep up with the times.) By 1996, the beer was dead, only remembered in nostalgic paeans from old guys. In 2014, Pabst, the current owner of the Ballatine brand, released a recreation of the IPA—it was honestly not bad!


The Most Influential Craft Breweries in America

In the early days of craft beer—was that even a term yet?—brewers weren’t focused on changing the world. They weren’t dreaming of a time where Michelin-starred restaurants would have beer pairing menus they weren’t thinking that eventually the President would have his own in-White House brewery they weren’t imagining a time where they'd be treated like rockstars. They were simply trying to make this country a decent place to finally grab a pint.

“The beginnings of craft beer were really about recreating in the new world the classic old-world styles of beer,” Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. told me. That’s why the first beers that propelled micro-brewing forward were a hopped-up pale ale, an all-malt Vienna lager, and a resurrected steam beer.

Of course, once the pioneers had begun laying the groundwork for the industry in the 1970s and 1980s, once these influencers had inspired others to hang up their own brewery shingles, once 92 breweries in 1980 had ballooned to over 1000 by 1996—only then was it time to truly revolutionize the beer of the old world.

Barrel-aging!
Over-hopping!
Punching through the alcohol clouds!

Now that they’re ubiquitous, it’s hard to remember there was once a time where double IPAs, bourbon barrel-aged stouts, double-digit ABVs, and extremely flavorful beers simply didn’t exist. A time where some brewery helmed by some man or woman had to innovate and actually create these things, and thus change the entire industry forevermore.

The following are the American breweries that changed the landscape of beer not just stateside, but abroad too. They weren’t just innovative because they made “flavorful” beer—whatever that means—but rather because they had a profound impact in how people produce beer, purchase beer, drink beer, and think about beer. (Hell, they’re the reason I have a job writing about beer.)

Below are the 10 most influential American craft breweries of all time.


Modist Brewing

Modist Brewing takes us to the Twin Cities, one of America's most underrated beer cities. At Modist, they toss the play-book out the window and go their own way. They modify most of their recipes on beers, they themselves, would like to try.

Creativity and experimentation is the name of the game here, putting them in the conversation as one of the best new breweries in America for craft beer. They reverse engineer many of their offerings, leading to some interestingly tasty ales and IPAs.


Beer and a massage? Count me in. New Day Craft Mead and Hard Cider offers its customers $10, 10-minute massages on Wednesdays, with a glass of any year-round brew. I don't know about you guys, but beer already has the power to calm me down, so if you pair it with a massage, I'm in heaven.

Big Grove Brewery has been praised for its exemplary customer service, food, and of course, their beer. The company operates in two locations, one in Iowa City, and the other in Solon. Both venues are casual places to grab a drink and some killer eats with friends.


The Daily Meal Celebrates National IPA Day with America’s 50 Best Craft Breweries

NEW YORK- July 29, 2015– The Daily Meal, the world’s largest food and drink lifestyle site, just unveiled the 2015 edition of its 󈬢 Best Craft Breweries in America” — just in time for National IPA Day, August 7. To arrive at this definitive ranking, The Daily Meal asked readers and craft beer lovers to weigh-in with a survey unlike any other they had curated before.

“With hundreds of American craft breweries to choose from, it felt like an impossible task to determine the best,” said Lauren Gordon, managing editor at The Daily Meal, who spearheaded the project. “It’s like asking folks to choose their favorite star in the sky or their favorite petal on a flower each is beautifully unique and appealing in its own way.”

The list started with last year’s roster of best craft breweries, enhanced with more than 4,000 write-in submissions from Daily Meal readers for breweries that didn’t make the list. We whittled this number down to 585 breweries from more than 20 states. Some 2,200 beer lovers voted on their choices, with an eye to taste and variety. When the results were tabulated, California was still king of craft brews, as it was last year, but there was a rise in Michigan spots, as well as those from Ohio and Colorado. Another cool trend? Out of the five New York-based breweries, three of them call Brooklyn home.

Did your favorite American brewery make the cut? You can let The Daily Meal know which brewery on the list is your favorite — or if we missed one that you love — by tweeting @TheDailyMeal using the hashtag #50bestbreweries.

Final Ranking:

RANK BREWERY 2015
50 Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kan.
49 Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., Decorah, Iowa
48 Abita Brewing Company, Abita Springs, La.
47 Uinta Brewing, Salt Lake City
46 Yuengling, Pottsville, Pa.
45 Elysian Brewing Company, Seattle
44 Terrapin Brewing, Athens, Ga.
43 Prairie Artisan Ales, Tulsa, Okla.
42 Alaska Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska
41 Dark Horse Brewing Company, Marshall, Mich.
40 Smuttynose Brewing Company, Hampton, N.H.
39 Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Md.
38 Jester King Brewery, Austin
37 AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego
36 Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn
35 Tröegs, Hershey, Pa.
34 Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland
33 Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
32 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco
31 The Bruery, Anaheim, Calif.
30 Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg, Calif.
29 Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn
28 Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, Ore.
27 Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver
26 Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
25 Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
24 Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Ill.
23 The Alchemist Brewery, Waterbury, Vt.
22 New Glarus Brewing Company, Green County, Wis.
21 Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, N.Y.
20 Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego
19 Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.
18 Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, Colo.
17 Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
16 Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colo.
15 Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, Pa.
14 Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
13 New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
12 Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, Fla.
11 Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, Calif.
10 Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colo.
9 Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, Calif.
8 Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego
7 Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
6 Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
5 Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
4 Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
3 Stone Brewing Co., San Diego
2 Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
1 Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Del.

About The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal covers all this food and drink, creating a complete epicurean experience for cooks, food lovers, wine, beer and spirit connoisseurs, discerning diners and everyone in-between. Comprised of original content and video from Award winning editors, industry insiders, tastemakers and the user community, features range across the site’s multiple channels: Cook, Eat/Dine, Drink, Travel, Entertain, Best Recipes, Holidays, Lists and Community. The Daily Meal also produces much anticipated annual reports including the 50 Most Powerful People in Food, America’s Most Successful Chefs, 101 Best Restaurants in America and 150 Best Bars in America. Helmed by editorial director Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal is one of the largest food sites on the Web and the first property of Spanfeller Media Group, founded by Jim Spanfeller. Visit The Daily Meal on Facebook follow us on Twitter.


The first micro boom—and bust (1997)

By the mid-1990s, good beer was becoming red hot and microbreweries were opening left and right. Between 1985 and 1997, microbrewery growth was exploding at the rate of 20% per year minimum, with years like 1987 seeing a whopping 100 percent growth. And many folks were getting very rich doing it. Jim Koch, who started his Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) in 1984, was even able to go public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995. (Today he’s a billionaire.) Investors and finance guys wanted in on the action, seeing beer as an easy get-rich-quick scheme. Who cares if they actually liked the product? Of course, this led to a lot of fly-by-night operations scrambling to open, often producing poor quality beer that was usually contract-brewed then shipped to stores as fast as it could be produced. By 1997 there were 1,396 breweries in America and, quite frankly, many of them were awful. The next decade would see countless breweries close, very few new ones open, and beer sales begin to decline compared to wine and spirits sales. An industry that had once been on a rocketship to the moon was plateauing.


Craft Breweries Share Their Homebrew Clone Recipes

The professional beer industry is unlike any other. Instead of guarding their recipes under lock and key, craft brewers are usually happy to discuss their recipes, especially if you’re a homebrewer!

We snooped around the internet and reached out to the AHA Forum to find commercial breweries that generously offer a selection of their recipes online. If you know of other breweries posting homebrew clone recipes, share them in the comments below and we’ll add them to the list!

    | Boulder, CO | San Diego, CA | Hendricks, MN | Brooklyn, NY | Bend, OR | Seattle, WA | Portland, OR | Austin, TX | Cincinnati, OH | Freeport, ME | San Diego, CA | San Antonio, TX | Escondido, CA | Saint Paul, MN

Browse our Homebrew Recipes archive and access past issues of Zymurgy magazine for even more commercial clone recipes!


Great Craft Breweries from Coast to Coast

Craft breweries around the country have opened their doors to the public, inviting beer lovers to get a taste of the process.

Craft Breweries: Behind the Scenes

Craft breweries around the country have opened their doors to the public, inviting beer lovers to tour the breweries and learn what it takes to make a great brewski. Whether you are a beer geek or a novice, these craft breweries will certainly school you in the production of a solid pint.

Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery

Atlanta: Red Brick Brewing

Laughing Skull and Divine Bovine are just a couple of the unique craft beers you may sample on the Red Brick Brewing tour. This spot is the oldest operational brewery not only in Atlanta but in all of Georgia. Since releasing their (now retired) Red Brick Ale in 1993, they&rsquove enjoyed experimenting with hibiscus, matcha, chai and barley wine &mdash beer aged in liquor barrels for several months, changing the flavor profile. Tours run Wednesdays through Sundays at $12 per person, which includes a souvenir glass and six 6-ounce pours. After tasting, play a round of cornhole or twirl a hula hoop.

Brevard, NC (and Longmont, Colo.): Oskar Blues Brewery

Thirty-five miles from thriving Asheville, at the foot of the Pisgah National Forest, Oskar Blues cranks out America&rsquos first hand-canned craft brew. The beers' funky names &mdash Mama&rsquos Little Yella Pils, for one &mdash reflect this brewery&rsquos creative and indie spirit. Tours are offered each weekday (starting at 4 p.m.) and on weekends (beginning at 2 p.m.). There you can touch, smell and taste the malted grains and hops, and sample specialty beers only available onsite. Coming with the kids? Food trucks and homemade root beer will keep them satisfied. You big kids can take a spin on the adult-sized Drift tricycles.

Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery

Brooklyn: Threes Brewing

There&rsquos been lots of buzz about this Brooklyn newcomer that focuses on farmhouse ales. Part of the lure is likely the communal vibe extending from the welcoming space to the food. Their beers on tap feature their own label as well as what co-founder Andrew Unterberg calls beers of "friends and heroes." The residency program brings in a rotation of restaurants for two to three weeks at a time. You can expect fare from borough darlings: Franny&rsquos, Dover, Roberta&rsquos and Battersby. For now, tours are of a casual nature (just ask for a look-see), but they are soon to run on a more formal schedule.

Photo courtesy of Pamela Masters Photography

Chicago: Goose Island Beer Company

Goose Island has been pouring their craft beers for Chicagoans since 1988. Their roster grows by roughly 100 to 150 unique brewskis per year, ranging from malty to hoppy to sours, stouts, cask-conditioned, nitro spouts, steam ales and IPAs. Unfamiliar with those styles? Take the tour (Saturdays and Sundays) at Clybourn, where it all began, and for 10 bucks you&rsquoll get a keepsake pint glass and six samples of suds. Don&rsquot miss their Stout Fest celebration on a Saturday near St. Patrick&rsquos Day, when they feature brands from around the country that compete for the title of best brew.

Photo courtesy of Goose Island Brewpubs

Cooperstown, NY: Ommegang

The Baseball Hall of Fame may be what put the hamlet of Cooperstown, N.Y., on the map, but it&rsquos Brewery Ommegang that keeps folks coming back. Located on a 136-acre hop farm, Ommegang was founded in 1997 by a husband-and-wife team and was the first farmstead brewery built in over a century. Now owned by Belgian beer giant Duvel, the scenic brewery hosts more than 85,000 people annually for concerts, festivals, tastings and tours. On a visit you&rsquoll learn the history of the brewery and the entire production process, and leave knowing the difference between a lager and an ale.

Photo courtesy of Brewery Ommegang

Everett, Mass.: Night Shift Brewing

Bordering Cambridge, Charlestown and Somerville, and 4 miles north of Boston proper, you&rsquoll find Night Shift Brewing. This 25,000-square-foot craft brewery serves culinary-driven suds like Viva Habanera &mdash rye ale sweetened with agave nectar and spiked with habanero chiles &mdash and offers tours daily. Participants learn every step of the process, from brewing to fermenting, barrel aging to packaging. Tours are free they ask only that you donate a canned good for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Should your stomach start rumbling, food trucks are onsite on a rotating basis. They include Munchmobile Kitchen, Daddy&rsquos Bonetown Burgers and Stoked Pizza.

Photo courtesy of Night Shift Brewing

Kansas City, Mo.: Boulevard Brewing Co.

Each year more than 50,000 people take the Boulevard Brewing Co. tour, and for good reason. The brewery, which was founded by John McDonald, a former woodworker who had an affinity for home brewing, is the 12th largest brewer in the U.S. The downtown brewery&rsquos 45-minute tours are free, with complimentary samples, and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Or opt for an in-depth 90-minute tour ($20), which includes both a guided food-and-beer pairing and a souvenir glass. If you just want to hang out, the gorgeous patio offers full pours and flights &mdash $5 will get you four 4-ounce pours. It's a steal.

Photo courtesy of Boulevard Brewing Co.

Longmont, Colo.: Left Hand Brewing

Just outside Denver sits Left Hand Brewing, ranked as one of the top five breweries in the state by the Brewers Association. Founded by two former Air Force officers, Dick Doore and Eric Wallace, for years the brewery was synonymous with English ales and German lagers. Today, Left Hand offers a variety of traditional and world-class styles. In 2011 Left Hand blazed a trail, becoming the first American craft brewery to bottle a nitrogenated beer &mdash 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent carbon dioxide &mdash resulting in a lusciously thick, foamy head. Curious? Don&rsquot miss the Milk Stout Nitro after getting a proper education on the tour.

Photo courtesy of Left Hand Brewing

Portland, Maine: Allagash Brewing Company

Twenty years ago, Rob Tod, a kid from New England with zero experience in brewing, decided to open Allagash, focusing on a less-than-popular style, Belgian ale. He stuck to it and created his Allagash White, a nod to the Northern Maine region about which author Henry David Thoreau waxed poetic. Today, tours and tastings at Allagash are free of charge, and each visit offers a behind-the-scenes look from grain to glass. An elevated walkway gives a bird&rsquos-eye view of the bottling line and leads to the original brew house, where guests taste small-batch, rare beers.

Photo by Mat Trogner, Allagash Brewing Company

San Leandro, Calif.: 21st Amendment Brewery

Appropriately named after the repeal of Prohibition, 21st Amendment started out as a tiny pub near what became the site of San Francisco's AT&T Park. As the neighborhood grew, so grew the brewery. In 2008, they started canning their craft beers, and in June 2015 they opened the doors to their new production house across the Bay, in the former Kellogg&rsquos factory (where Eggo waffles and Pop-Tarts were once baked). Visiting the massive facility, guests witness the canning line shoot out a whopping 500 beers per minute. The free 30-minute tours run on weekends, Friday through Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m.

Photo courtesy of 21st Amendment Brewery

Washington, D.C.: Atlas Brew Works

At Atlas Brew Works you can fill your growler, do a flight or sip a pint in the tasting room just 10 feet away from the tanks where the magic happens. There the brewmaster develops hop-forward rye ales, sours, wild yeast brews like their La Saison de Bret, and pumpernickel stout aged in old bourbon barrels. Free tours led by the tasting room staff run Fridays and Saturdays, and last about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how geeked out guests want to get. Don&rsquot miss their anniversary party, October 3, where the revelry includes live music, games and plenty of brews.


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