Everyone loves a good list. Top 10 that, Top 5 this. We like to rank things. It's kind of fun. Blame Casey Kasem.
Therefore, without further ado, we present our Top 25 American Craft Breweries for 2013. First...the rules.
#1. There are no rules. Nooo, kidding.
But there are really only two. First, the brewery's main operation must be located in the USA. So no classic Belgians here. Second, the brewery must have at least 3 year round offerings and is able to be found in stores and/or locals bars in the area they are located within. So basically, they're distributed in some shape or form.
Now, a disclaimer. These are merely our opinions set forth on paper. We do not claim to have tried every single beer in the country so this list may seen incomplete to some of you. Totally cool. We've never had Pliny the Elder or any other Russian River brew. We've never done a west coast beer tour to sample all of the inevitably great smaller breweries in California, Washington, and Oregon. Nor have we done so in Colorado or Maine. There's a ton of great beer out there. We have plenty of it left to try. This is what we know and nothing more. Deal with it.
The ranking criteria was nothing overly specific, just our general thoughts and experiences of each brewer with attention paid to overall quality of beer, quantity of great selections produced, and balance between well-made year round brews, seasonals, and specialties/one-offs. With that all said, just as explained above, we're not going to lie and say we are familiar with every beer produced by each brewer. Again, going on the ol' past experiences here.
Ok, enough jibber jabber. On to the list!
25. Victory Brewing Co. - These Pennsylvania brewers crack the list due to their excellent selection of year round beers. Highlights include the wonderfully hopped HopDevil, the Czech inspired Prima Pils, and the excellent Storm King imperial stout. Our personal favorite though? The best American made Belgian tripel that you can find at both ballparks and good gas stations...Golden Monkey.
24. Sam Adams - Near macro status aside, Sam Adams makes some solid brews. Year round standouts include the flagship Boston Lager and Cream Stout. Seasonals are highlighted by the Summer Ale (sorry, I like it!), and their list of good speciality and small batch beers is lengthy. Try the Thirteenth Hour Stout in the cool bottle!
23. Highland Brewing Co. - Hopefully I remember this story correctly from my brewery visit in Asheville, forgive me if not, but Highland's history goes back to Oscar Wong, an Asian born in Jamaica who had a dream to open a Scottish style brewery. World truly collided and great beer was the result. The Gaelic, Black Mocha Stout, and Kasmir IPA top the year round list followed by the excellent Cold Mountain winter seasonal.
22. Oskar Blues - All year rounds all the time here. Dale's is probably America's best nationally distributed pale ale and Gubna, Ten Fidy, Old Chub, and G'Night imperial red are all on-point. They can also claim fame to being the craft beer can pioneers. At least on a nationwide scale.
21. Pisgah Brewing - I just mentioned Dale's Pale Ale as the best of its style that can be found all over. Well, Pisgah's pale ale is the best we've ever had. Period. Problem is that most outside of western North Carolina rarely ever see it. Located in outside of Asheville in Black Mountain, Pisgah is a small all-organic brewery that churns out nothing but goodness. The Valdez imperial stout, Vortex IPA, and Solstice Tripel are all amazing. But our personal favorite? Red Devil, an incredible Belgian golden ale packed with sour cherries and raspberries. Also, the brewery always has at least 12 beer selections to choose from (including guests) and is a wonderful place to see a live bluegrass show.
Keep checking back as we unveil the rest of the Top 25!