The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2014
Last year, we rounded up the 25 Best Craft Breweries in America, and while that list remains solid in 2014 — and several of last year’s winners are featured again this year — we decided to expand and develop our list of all-star U.S. What better way to begin than by doubling the list (more of a good thing being, of course, excellent), and taking into account the year’s most interesting craft beer trends? So go ahead, crack one (or two, if they’re session beers!) open and enjoy.
The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America (Slideshow)
So what’s changed this year that we should consider when determining the best craft breweries of 2014? Well, for starters, those aforementioned sessions beers have made a major impact this year: low-alcohol brews designed for people who love to drink beer — and keep sipping it all day long with impunity. The beers are also an interesting brewing challenge: creating a beer that maintains the intensity of the main style’s flavor with a lower alcohol content is quite difficult, and we’ve been excited about the number of impressive successes that have come out in the past year.
The relatively new Citra and Mosaic hops have made a big splash, as breweries across the board have been discovering these varieties and featuring them in more and more beers, especially IPAs.
Another pleasant shift in the craft-brew zeitgeist has been a new focus on collaborations: many breweries have begun collaborating with other breweries or homebrewers, often resulting in some fantastic, specialty one-off beers. Stone Brewery, for instance, launched W00tStout 2.0 this month, a collaboration with Drew Curtis of Fark.com, Wil Wheaton, and Aisha Tyler. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.
So how does one go about actually determining which breweries are the best in the U.S.? While this is an admittedly subjective subject — and one that our readers appear have some very strong opinions on, we might add — we started the process as impartially as possible: by asking our panel of craft beer experts to nominate breweries they believed in. They chose from among new breweries that have really started to make a name for themselves, as well as older standbys that continue to brew excellent, consistent beer year after year. In the end, we tried to focus on craft breweries that offer a range of great brews, rather than those that offer one particularly stand-out beer.
Once the nominations were in (all 118 of them), we asked you, dear readers, to weigh in on which breweries deserved to be recognized. And you responded with a deluge of your well-researched opinions: we received over 13,000 votes, and many write-in opinions: Left Hand, Hailstorm, and Port City Brewing Company, for instance, all received multiple shout-outs from craft beeraficionados who felt they should have been nominated (and we listened: next year, we promise you, they’re a lock for round one).
While we’re proud of our list, and while we believe that it represents some of the best craft breweries in America, we also know that it’s truly impossible to narrow down all of the great options to the absolute best brewery in the U.S. So much depends on personal taste, regionality, and your own associations. We’re lucky that the craft beer scene has grown exponentially in recent years, and that these days, there are great local craft beers to enjoy everywhere in the United States.
#50 Devils Backbone Brewing Company — Roseland, Virginia
This 15,000-square-foot brewery located in the lush, mountainous heart of central Virginia should be on every beer lover’s watch list. In the six short years they’ve been in operation, the pub has won seventeen medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Their Gold Leaf Lager, a hoppy, Bavarian-style beer, is an annual favorite, bringing home three of the company’s GABF awards. Additionally, Devils Backbone was named Small Brewer of the Year for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013.
#49 Cascade Brewing Company — Portland, Oregon
Brewmaster Ron Gansberg got his start making wine in the Pacific Northwest, but his attention eventually shifted to the growing microbrew movement, particularly sour brews, which rely on yeast and barrel aging instead of hops to produce flavor. These days, Gransberg’s risk has paid off. The New York Times recently named Cascade’s Kriek the best sour beer in America. Beer Advocate also rates the beer “Outstanding,” praising the tart/sweet flavor of the red ale, which is barrel-aged eight months with fresh Bing and sour pie cherries.
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Did your favorite brewery make this year's list? Tweet [email protected] using the hashtag #craftbeer2014
Jess Novak is the Drink Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesstothenovak
With research and reporting from Emily Alford and Marcy Franklin
The Top 50 Craft Breweries In America, According To The Brewers Association
Craft beer is having more than just a moment. It's reaching "all-time highs," according to Bart Watson, staff economist at the Brewers Association. Despite some considerable odds, craft beer continues to grow in popularity. Earlier this year CNBC reported that craft beer production "was up 9.6 percent in 2013, while overall beer production fell 1.4 percent."
With more than 2,700 craft breweries in the country, it's hard to know who's the best. Enter the Brewers Association.
Every year the Brewers Association -- the largest organization of brewers in the United States -- puts out a list of the top 50 craft breweries in the country, and this year's list (which is based on 2013 sales) has just been released. For comparison, you can also see a list of the top 50 overall breweries. The rank is based on 2013 beer sales volume.
This year, the top four breweries didn't change from last year: Boston Beer Co. is still number one, and behind it still follow Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co. and Gabrinus. A notable trend is the rise of Lagunitas -- the California-based brewery that was ranked number 17 in 2010 but has climbed all the way to number five this year.
Here are the top 10 craft breweries of 2013, and see below for this year's full list of the 50 best breweries. Did your favorites make the cut?
The 50 Best Craft Beers in the United States
If you think craft beer is played out, think again. American breweries are still creating inventive, unique, and deliciously local brews. From Alabama to Wyoming, below you’ll find the 50 best craft beers in the country.
The 76 Best Places to Drink a Beer in America
To come up with our list, we selected one new and innovative beer from a brewery in every state in the country: stouts, porters, IPAs, tasty session ales, sour IPAs, and plenty more bottles and cans you’ll want to stock in your beer fridge this year. Welcome to the new United States of Suds.
The 10 Most Influential Beer Drinkers in America
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These Are The Best Beers in America
The Great American Beer Festival is underway this weekend in Denver, Colorado. In addition to being one of the country’s largest beer festivals, the festival is also one of the nation’s largest beer competitions.
This year 2,295 breweries submitted 9,497 beers to be judged in the competition. Only 283 of those breweries walked away with medals, 37 of those for the first time.
Here’s the official list of winners:
Category 1: American-Style Wheat Beer - 80 Entries Silver: Cumberland Punch, East Nashville Beer Works, Nashville, TN Bronze: Termes Beer, Spearfish Brewing Co., Spearfish, SD
Category 2: American-Style Fruit Beer - 144 Entries Gold: Salt River, Historic Brewing Co., Flagstaff, AZ Silver: Quat, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. - Ybor City, Tampa, FL Bronze: Boom Dynamite, O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery, Phoenix, AZ
Category 3: Fruit Wheat Beer - 109 Entries Gold: Bitchin’ Berry, Great Basin Brewing Co. - Production Facility, Reno, NV Silver: Cherry Wheat, Sierra Blanca Brewing Co., Moriarty, NM Bronze: Smash, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, OR
Category 4: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer - 52 Entries Gold: Foxy Lady, Silver City Brewery, Bremerton, WA Silver: All the Goodness, Gezellig Brewing Co., Newton, IA Bronze: Cherry Valley Farmhouse, Heritage Hill Brewhouse & Kitchen, Pompey, NY
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Category 5: Pumpkin/Squash Beer or Pumpkin Spice Beer - 51 Entries Gold: Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale, Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point, WI Silver: Pumpkin Rumble, Mistress Brewing Co., Ankeny, IA Bronze: Pumpkinator, Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Houston, TX
Category 6: Field Beer - 104 Entries Gold: Scoring Discrepancies, Listermann Brewing Co., Cincinnati, OH Silver: Dessert Station: Cherry Almond Cookie, Corporate Ladder Brewing Co., Palmetto, FL Bronze: Grandma’s Pecan, The Dudes’ Brewing Co., Somis, CA
Category 7: Chili Beer - 96 Entries Gold: Jalapeno Pineapple Pils, Brickway Brewery & Distillery, Omaha, NE Silver: Bringin’ Da Heat, Devil’s Creek Brewery, Collingswood, NJ Bronze: Oyster Jalapeno Porter, Bull Island Brewing Co., Hampton, VA
Category 8: Herb and Spice Beer - 119 Entries Gold: Kveik Thai Tom Kha, Shades Brewing, Park City, UT Silver: One Night in Bangkok Smoothie IPA, Midland Brewing Co., Midland, MI Bronze: Deck Daze, Vail Brewing Co. - Vail Village Pilot, Vail, CO
Category 9: Chocolate Beer - 68 Entries Gold: Old Balltown Bulleit Bourbon Barrel Aged Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Brownie Milk Stout, PIVO Brewery, Calmar, IA Silver: **Contains Chocolate**, Corporate Ladder Brewing Co., Palmetto, FL Bronze: Somebody Else’s Dream, Fort Myers Brewing Co., Fort Myers, FL
Category 10: Coffee Beer - 97 Entries Gold: Duluth Coffee Pale Ale, Earth Rider Brewery, Superior, WI Silver: Clear Sky Daybreak, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, Columbus, OH Bronze: Central Perk, Ambitious Ales, Long Beach, CA
Category 11: Coffee Stout or Porter - 100 Entries Gold: There is No Cow Level, GameCraft Brewing, Laguna Hills, CA Silver: Portola Breakfast Stout, Tustin Brewing Co., Tustin, CA Bronze: White Russian, SunUp Brewing Co., Phoenix, AZ
Category 12: Specialty Beer - 67 Entries Gold: Rye Hipster Brunch Stout, Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven, MI Silver: Agavemente, SouthNorte Beer Co., San Diego, CA Bronze: I Did It All For The Cookie, FiftyFifty Brewing Co., Truckee, CA
Category 13: Rye Beer - 53 Entries Gold: Rye Dawn, Breakwater Brewing Co., Oceanside, CA Silver: Unite the Clans, Third Space Brewing, Milwaukee, WI Bronze: Suss it Out, Level Crossing Brewing Co., South Salt Lake, UT
Category 14: Honey Beer - 66 Entries Gold: A&M Honey Bock, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery - Boulder, Boulder, CO Silver: Honey Hole, SpindleTap Brewery, Houston, TX Bronze: Jetty, Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore, NY
Category 15: Non-Alcohol Beer or Alcohol-Free Beer - 17 Entries Gold: Enough Said N/A, Two Roots Brewing Co., San Diego, CA Silver: Bravus Oatmeal Stout, Bravus Brewing Co., Newport Beach, CA Bronze: Bravus Barrel-Aged Bourbon Stout, Bravus Brewing Co., Newport Beach, CA
Category 16: Session Beer - 50 Entries Gold: Texas Lager, Community Beer Co., Dallas, TX Silver: Lite It!, Light the Lamp Brewery, Grayslake, IL Bronze: Peacekeeper, Launch Pad Brewery, Aurora, CO
Category 17: Session India Pale Ale - 94 Entries Gold: Gravity Check, Kern River Brewing Co. - The Backyard, Kernville, CA Silver: Trump Hands, Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, CO Bronze: That IPA, Community Beer Works, Buffalo, NY
Category 18: Other Strong Beer - 29 Entries Gold: Northstar Imperial Porter, Twisted Pine Brewing Co., Boulder, CO Silver: False Hope, Spilled Grain Brewhouse, Annandale, MN Bronze: Double Brown Ale, Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, Santa Fe, NM
Category 19: Experimental Beer - 124 Entries Gold: Fungus Shui, Meadowlark Brewing, Sidney, MT Silver: Shibbleshabble, Primitive Beer, Longmont, CO Bronze: Fluffernutter, Kings Brewing Co., Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Category 20: Fresh Hop Beer - 40 Entries Gold: Fresh Hop Green Battles, Pinthouse Pizza North, Austin, TX Silver: Hop Stalker, Fat Head’s Brewery - Canton, Canton, OH Bronze: Aqua Seafoam Shame, Cloudburst Brewing, Seattle, WA
Category 21: Historical Beer - 47 Entries Silver: Afterburner Smoked Lager, Four Day Ray Brewing, Fishers, IN Bronze: Decorah Nordic Gruit, PIVO Brewery, Calmar, IA
Category 22: Gluten-Free Beer - 59 Entries Gold: Boombastic Hazy IPA, Holidaily Brewing Co., Golden, CO Silver: Co-Conspirator Apricot Sour, Revelation Craft Brewing Co., Rehoboth Beach, DE Bronze: Grandpa’s Nap, Evasion Brewing - Production Facility, McMinnville, OR
Category 23: American-Belgo-Style Ale - 41 Entries Gold: Wit-Tington, Central District Brewing, Austin, TX Silver: Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO Bronze: White Rainbow, Red Rock Brewery - Production, Salt Lake City, UT
Category 24: American-Style Sour Ale - 42 Entries Gold: Low pHunk, MobCraft Beer, Milwaukee, WI Silver: Alegria, Millersburg Brewing, Millersburg, OH Bronze: Citra Acid Test, Triple C Brewing, Charlotte, NC
Category 25: Fruited American-Style Sour Ale - 215 Entries Gold: Roxanne, St. Elmo Brewing Co., Austin, TX Silver: Hoochie Mama, Storm Peak Brewing Co., Steamboat Springs, CO Bronze: Sour Blackberry Raspberry, Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co., Charleston, SC
Category 26: Brett Beer - 58 Entries Gold: Who’s Brett?, The Hold By Revelry Brewing, Charleston, SC Silver: St. Eldritch, Cellar Works Brewing Co., Sarver, PA Bronze: C’Mon Sunshine, Birds Fly South Ale Project, Greenville, SC
Category 27: Mixed-Culture Brett Beer - 94 Entries Gold: Standard Issue, Central Standard Brewing, Wichita, KS Silver: Farmer’s Reserve No. 5, Almanac Beer Co., Alameda, CA Bronze: Côte d’Or - Double Cerise, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, NM
Category 28: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer - 66 Entries Gold: Amburana Dream, Denver Beer Co. - Olde Town Arvada, Arvada, CO Silver: Gran Muckle, Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, IN Bronze: Bourbon Barrel Aged Lady In Red, Bombshell Beer Co., Holly Springs, NC
Category 29: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer - 155 Entries Gold: Knotty Dog, Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV Silver: Double Barrel Louie, Westbound & Down Brewing Co., Idaho Springs, CO Bronze: Bourbon Legend, Great Heights Brewing Co., Houston, TX
Category 30: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout - 172 Entries Gold: Barrel Aged Imperial Pajamas, Begyle Brewing, Chicago, IL Silver: Ales from the Crypt: Te Quiero, O.H.S.O. Brewery - Gilbert, Gilbert, AZ Bronze: Señor Rhino, Alesong Brewing & Blending - Tasting Room, Eugene, OR
Category 31: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer - 82 Entries Gold: Sour Brown Aged on Palo Santo, Hi-Wire Brewing - South Slope, Asheville, NC Silver: Agent Orange - Apple Brandy Barrel, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, NM Bronze: Reserve Doree, The Chamber By Wooden Robot Brewery, Charlotte, NC
Category 32: Fruited Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer - 128 Entries Gold: Midnight Choir, Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, IN Silver: Crimson Cherry Variant, Upland Brewing Co. - Bloomington Brewpub, Bloomington, IN Bronze: Rossano, Kings Brewing Co., Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Category 33: Aged Beer - 38 Entries Gold: A Creator’s Calling, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA Silver: Belgian Quad, Green Mountain Beer Co., Lakewood, CO Bronze: Mob Barley, Meadowlark Brewing, Sidney, MT
Category 34: Kellerbier or Zwickelbier - 96 Entries Gold: German Pilsner, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA Silver: Loral Zwickelbier, Haas Innovations Brewing, Yakima, WA Bronze: Stand By, Rockwell Beer Co., St. Louis, MO
Category 35: Smoke Beer - 60 Entries Gold: Red-Fish Rauchbock, Sockeye Brewing, Boise, ID Silver: TF Brewing Rauch Bier, Templin Family Brewing, Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Up In Smoke, Fat Head’s Brewery - Canton, Canton, OH
Category 36: American-Style Lager or American-Style Pilsener - 153 Entries Gold: Lite Reading, Pollyanna Brewing Co., Lemont, IL Silver: Valley Beer, Wren House Brewing Co., Phoenix, AZ Bronze: Schaben’s, Thunderhead Brewing Co., Kearney, NE
Category 37: Contemporary American-Style Pilsener - 61 Entries Gold: Lazy River Pils, New Trail Brewing Co., Williamsport, PA Silver: Citra Pils, Saint Archer Brewing Co., San Diego, CA Bronze: Citraveza, Alvarado Street Brewery, Salinas, CA
Category 38: International-Style Pilsener - 108 Entries Gold: Torcido, Barebottle Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA Silver: Upslope Craft Lager, Upslope Brewing Co. - Flatiron Park, Boulder, CO Bronze: Party, MAP Brewing Co., Bozeman, MT
Category 39: Light Lager - 90 Entries Gold: Altitude Banquet, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, Laramie, WY Silver: Sif’s Light Lager, Odin Brewing Co., Tukwila, WA Bronze: Lightner Creek Lager, Carver Brewing Co., Durango, CO
Category 40: India Pale Lager or Malt Liquor - 55 Entries Gold: Timbo Pils, Highland Park Brewery - Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA Silver: Go Kart Mozart, MotoSonora Brewing Co., Tucson, AZ Bronze: Yeah Buoy IPL, Logboat Brewing Co., Columbia, MO
Category 41: American-Style Cream Ale - 87 Entries Gold: Sea Señor! Mex Lager, SouthNorte Beer Co., San Diego, CA Silver: Los Dudes’ Cerveza Lager Mexicana, The Dudes’ Brewing Co., Somis, CA Bronze: Gold Style, Ballast Point Brewing Co. - Chicago, Chicago, IL
Category 42: American-Style Amber Lager - 101 Entries Gold: Märzen, Sudwerk Brewing Co., Davis, CA Silver: Oktoberfest, Huss Brewing Co., Tempe, AZ Bronze: Grist Maerzen, Grist Brewing Co., Highlands Ranch, CO
Category 43: German-Style Pilsener - 183 Entries Gold: Parliament Drive, Blind Owl Brewery, Indianapolis, IN Silver: Golden Age Pilsner, Family Business Beer Co., Dripping Springs, TX Bronze: Pils, Hardywood West Creek, Richmond, VA
Category 44: Bohemian-Style Pilsener - 123 Entries Gold: Bohemian Shine, Castle Island Brewing Co., Norwood, MA Silver: Bo Pils, East Brother Beer Co., Richmond, CA Bronze: The People’s Pilsner, Sudwerk Brewing Co., Davis, CA
Category 45: Munich-Style Helles - 138 Entries Gold: Altstadt Lager, Altstadt Brewery, Fredericksburg, TX Silver: Florida Sunshine, Crooked Can Brewing Co., Winter Garden, FL Bronze: Wayfinder Hell, Wayfinder Beer, Portland, OR
Category 46: Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest - 96 Entries Gold: Schnitzengiggles, New England Brewing Co., Woodbridge, CT Silver: Lindauer Lager, Wit’s End Brewing Co., Denver, CO Bronze: Chuckanut Fest Bier, Chuckanut Brewery - South Nut, Burlington, WA
Category 47: Vienna-Style Lager - 93 Entries Gold: Jomo, Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA Silver: Vienna Lager, Grains of Wrath Brewing, Camas, WA Bronze: Moonlight Sonata, Chilly Water Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
Category 48: German-Style Maerzen - 165 Entries Gold: Oktoberfest, Bear Chase Brewing Co., Bluemont, VA Silver: Rocktoberfest, Hutton & Smith Brewing Co., Chattanooga, TN Bronze: Festie, Starr Hill Pilot Brewery & Side Stage, Roanoke, VA
Category 49: German-Style Dark Lager - 127 Entries Gold: Pious Monk Dunkel, Church Brew Works - Lawrenceville Brewery, Pittsburgh, PA Silver: Black Lager, Bingo Beer Co., Richmond, VA Bronze: Don’t Drop That Dun Dun Dunkel, TAPS Brewery & Barrel Room, Tustin, CA
Category 50: International-Style Dark Lager - 31 Entries Gold: Dark Horse, Snake River Brewing Co., Jackson, WY Silver: El Corn, The Post Brewing Co., Lafayette, CO Bronze: Schwarzbier, Hofbräuhaus Cleveland, Cleveland, OH
Category 51: Bock - 45 Entries Gold: Tackle Bock, Bobbing Bobber Brewing Co., Hutchinson, MN Silver: Maibock, Dry Dock Brewing Co. - South Dock, Aurora, CO Bronze: Dunkel Bock, Pilot Brewing Co., Charlotte, NC
Category 52: German-Style Doppelbock or Eisbock - 57 Entries Gold: Eis Nine, Sun King Brewing - Fishers Small Batch, Fishers, IN Silver: Doppelbock, Scorched Earth Brewing Co., Algonquin, IL Bronze: Eis Vienne, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA
Category 53: Baltic-Style Porter - 51 Entries Gold: Snap Yo’ Baltics, Freetail Brewing Co. - Brewpub, San Antonio, TX Silver: Dark Reckoning, Morgan Territory Brewing, Tracy, CA Bronze: Murder Ballads, Noble Beast Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH
Category 54: Golden or Blonde Ale - 150 Entries Gold: 1956 Golden Ale, Bootstrap Brewing, Longmont, CO Silver: MadeWest Standard, MadeWest Brewing Co., Ventura, CA Bronze: Luke’s Original, Lucky Luke Brewing Co., Palmdale, CA
Category 55: German-Style Koelsch - 167 Entries Gold: Altstadt Kolsch, Altstadt Brewery, Fredericksburg, TX Silver: Ice Cutter Kölsch, Joyride Brewing Co., Edgewater, CO Bronze: Dry Creek Blonde Ale, Santa Clara Valley Brewing, San Jose, CA
Category 56: English-Style Summer Ale - 39 Entries Gold: Organic California Blonde Ale, Eel River Brewing Co., Scotia, CA Silver: Quid, Rhinegeist - Innovation Brewery, Cincinnati, OH Bronze: Breakside Wentworth by the Sea, Breakside Brewery, Portland, OR
Category 57: English-Style or International-Style Pale Ale - 104 Entries Gold: Ferment Pale Ale, Ferment Brewing Co., Hood River, OR Silver: Annadel Pale Ale, Third Street AleWorks, Santa Rosa, CA Bronze: Endless Summer Nights, Cloudburst Brewing, Seattle, WA
Category 58: Australian-Style Pale Ale - 61 Entries Gold: Australian For Pale, Green Cheek Beer Co., Orange, CA Silver: Mountain Standard IPA, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO Bronze: Pete’s Stash, Vail Brewing Co. - Vail Village Pilot, Vail, CO
Category 59: American-Style Pale Ale - 169 Entries Gold: Johnny Utah, Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle, WA Silver: Acclimated APA, La Cumbre Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM Bronze: Breakside Woodlawn Pale Ale, Breakside Brewery, Portland, OR
Category 60: Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale - 114 Entries Gold: Gulp, Tribus Beer Co., Milford, CT Silver: Itsy Bits, WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley, CO Bronze: Mo-Haze-Ic, Migration Brewing Co. - Wilkes, Portland, OR
Category 61: American-Style Strong Pale Ale - 131 Entries Gold: Superpower IPA, Comrade Brewing Co., Denver, CO Silver: NoPac IPA, Crossbuck Brewing, Walla Walla, WA Bronze: JAF IPA, JAFB Wooster Brewery, Wooster, OH
Category 62: Juicy or Hazy Strong Pale Ale - 106 Entries Gold: Breakside What Rough Beast, Breakside Brewery - NW Slabtown, Portland, OR Silver: Kaaterskill, West Kill Brewing, West Kill, NY Bronze: Goofy Boots, Penrose Brewing Co., Geneva, IL
Category 63: American-Style India Pale Ale - 342 Entries Gold: More Dodge Less RAM, Comrade Brewing Co., Silver: Radiant Beauty, Green Cheek Beer Co., Orange, CA Bronze: Weekend Vibes IPA, Coronado Brewing Co. - Production Facility, San Diego, CA
Category 64: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale - 348 Entries Gold: Beezer, Old Irving Brewing Co., Chicago, IL Silver: Hazy IPA, City Lights Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Bronze: Devil’s Gulch, Pond Farm Brewing Co., San Rafael, CA
Category 65: Emerging India Pale Ale - 124 Entries Gold: Pure Tropics, Parish Brewing Co., Broussard, LA Silver: Vladimir Brutin, Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, CO
Category 66: Imperial India Pale Ale - 173 Entries Gold: Double Cone, Alvarado Street Brewery, Salinas, CA Silver: Westbound Double IPA, Westbound & Down Brewing Co., Idaho Springs, CO Bronze: Sharrow, Brew Hub, Lakeland, FL
Category 67: Juicy or Hazy Imperial India Pale Ale - 165 Entries Gold: Extra Extra Juicy Bits, WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley, CO Silver: Juice Jockey, Phantom Ales, Anaheim, CA Bronze: Chaos Emeralds, Lone Pine Brewing Company - Gorham, Gorham, ME
Category 68: American-Style Amber/Red Ale - 127 Entries Gold: Diablo Rojo, Boneyard Beer, Bend, OR Silver: 1890 Founder’s Ale, Grayton Beer Co., Santa Rosa Beach, FL Bronze: Red Alert, Aftershock Brewing Co., Temecula, CA
Category 69: Double Hoppy Red Ale - 49 Entries Gold: Station 101, Claremont Craft Ales, Claremont, CA Silver: Side Hike, Kern River Brewing Co., Kernville, CA Bronze: Cannon Ball, Migration Brewing Co. - Glisan, Portland, OR
Category 70: Imperial Red Ale - 38 Entries Gold: Bone Head Imperial Red, Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, North Olmsted, OH Silver: Frogs Like Possum, King’s Court Brewing Co., Poughkeepsie, NY Bronze: Gifted Gunslinger, Big Sexy Brewing Co., Sacramento, CA
Category 71: English-Style Mild Ale - 40 Entries Gold: Hold The Reins, Brink Brewing Co., Cincinnati, OH Silver: Sliding Rock, BearWaters Brewing Co., Canton, NC Bronze: Saddle Bronc Brown, Black Tooth Brewing Co., Sheridan, WY
Category 72: Ordinary or Special Bitter - 41 Entries Gold: Chronic Amber Ale, Pizza Port - Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad, CA Silver: Cousin Jack, Dostal Alley Brewpub & Casino, Central City, CO Bronze: Milford Pub Ale, River’s Edge Brewing Co., Milford, MI
Category 73: Extra Special Bitter - 63 Entries Gold: ESB, Hillman Beer, Asheville, NC Silver: Bridgeview, Henderson Brewing Co., Henderson, KY Bronze: Red Ale, The Vanguard Brewpub & Distillery, Hampton, VA
Category 74: English-Style India Pale Ale - 39 Entries Gold: Hop’lin IPA, Southbound Brewing Co., Savannah, GA Silver: Shanghai’d IPA, Old Town Brewing, Portland, OR Bronze: Hoppy Poppy, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
Category 75: Scottish-Style Ale - 56 Entries Gold: Taildragger Clan-Destine, Saddle Mountain Brewing Co., Goodyear, AZ Silver: Yarmouth, Arkane Aleworks, Largo, FL Bronze: Thistle Dew, Ursa Minor Brewing, Duluth, MN
Category 76: Irish-Style Red Ale - 82 Entries Gold: Outraged Daughters, Wise Man Brewing, Winston-Salem, NC Silver: Balefire Irish Red, Mirror Image Brewing Co., Frederick, CO Bronze: Red Molly Irish Red Ale, Pale Fire Brewing Co., Harrisonburg, VA
Category 77: English-Style Brown Ale - 67 Entries Gold: Bobcat Brown Ale, Bridger Brewing, Bozeman, MT Silver: Eclipse Brown Ale, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins, CO Bronze: Mischievous Brown, Helltown Brewing, Export, PA
Category 78: American-Style Brown Ale - 99 Entries Gold: Naked Sunbather, Mad Swede Brewing Co., Boise, ID Silver: Bull Creek Brown Ale, Springfield Brewing Co., Springfield, MO Bronze: Browner Than Ivan, Chula Vista Brewery, Chula Vista, CA
Category 79: American-Style Black Ale - 35 Entries Gold: Alpha Force Double Tap, Überbrew, Billings, MT Silver: Bowie Knife, Thunderhawk Alements, San Diego, CA Bronze: Turmoil, Barley Brown’s Beer, Baker City, OR
Category 80: German-Style Sour Ale - 63 Entries Gold: Meier, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, NM Silver: Meersalz, Narrow Gauge Brewing Co., Florissant, MO Bronze: And the Award Gose to. Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV
Category 81: Specialty Berliner Weisse - 82 Entries Gold: Midwestern Exotic, Barrel Theory Beer Co., St. Paul, MN Silver: Jungalow Juice, Arrow Lodge Brewing, Covina, CA Bronze: Raspberry Vermonter Weiss, 14th Star Brewing Co., Saint Albans, VT
Category 82: Contemporary Gose - 102 Entries Gold: Cruise to Nowhere, Town Brewing Co., Charlotte, NC Silver: Mimosa Gose, Pilot Brewing Co., Charlotte, NC Bronze: Galactic Minotaurt, True Vine Brewing Co., Tyler, TX
Category 83: German-Style Altbier - 64 Entries Gold: Rhine Heights ALT, Vintage Brewing Co. - Madison, Madison, WI Silver: Howitzer Amber, Red Leg Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, CO Bronze: Jeremy Altbier, The Royal Oak Brewery, Royal Oak, MI
Category 84: South German-Style Hefeweizen - 150 Entries Gold: Prosperity Wheat, Market Garden Brewery - Production Brewery, Cleveland, OH Silver: Hug Deal Gone Sideweiss, Gezellig Brewing Co., Newton, IA Bronze: Leisel Weapon, Noon Whistle Brewing Co., Lombard, IL
Category 85: German-Style Wheat Ale - 37 Entries Gold: Krystal Clear, TAPS Brewery & Barrel Room, Tustin, CA Silver: Dunkelweisse, Swashbuckler Brewing Co., Manheim, PA Bronze: HefeWeizen, Live Oak Brewing Co., Austin, TX
Category 86: Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale - 51 Entries Gold: Nènette, Kern River Brewing Co. - The Backyard, Kernville, CA Silver: Hell’s Keep, Squatters Craft Beers, Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Suddenly a Saint, Moonraker Brewing Co., Auburn, CA
Category 87: Belgian-Style Witbier - 94 Entries Gold: Way West Wit, Zuni Street Brewing Co., Denver, CO Silver: Boeman Belgian White, Ogopogo Brewing, San Gabriel, CA Bronze: Under a Blood Orange Sky, Temblor Brewing Co., Bakersfield, CA
Category 88: Classic Saison - 106 Entries Gold: Meadowlark, Metazoa Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN Silver: Summer Opal, Firestone Walker - The Propagator, Marina Del Rey, CA Bronze: Gray Matter, Aspetuck Brew Lab, Bridgeport, CT
Category 89: Specialty Saison - 91 Entries Gold: Obeisance, Von Ebert Brewing - Glendoveer, Portland, OR Silver: Westfield, Cellar West Artisan Ales, Lafayette, CO Bronze: Palisade #2, Fortside Brewing Co., Vancouver, WA
Category 90: Belgian- and French-Style Ale - 47 Entries Gold: Junebug, Echo Brewing Co., Erie, CO Silver: Swingin’ Single, Piece Brewery, Chicago, IL Bronze: Industrial Gris, Resident Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Category 91: Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale - 95 Entries Gold: Get The Funk Out, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver, CO Silver: Olly, Free Will Brewing Co., Perkasie, PA Bronze: Saison Apothēca, Yeast of Eden, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
Category 92: Belgian-Style Dubbel - 26 Entries Gold: Dedication, Vintage Brewing Co. - Madison, Madison, WI Silver: Belgian Dubbel, Sugar Creek Brewing Co., Charlotte, NC Bronze: OB Bubble Dubbel, Kilowatt Brewing, San Diego, CA
Category 93: Belgian-Style Tripel - 83 Entries Gold: Princeps Pacis, Save The World Brewing Co., Marble Falls, TX Silver: Marvella, Red Rock Brewery - Production, Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Triple-Whirl, 217 Brew Works, Wilson, NC
Category 94: Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale - 44 Entries Gold: Fu Fighter, Good River Beer, Denver, CO Silver: Sandy Dunes Saison, River Bluff Brewing, St. Joseph, MO Bronze: Stay Gold, Bluebird Brasserie, Sherman Oaks, CA
Category 95: Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale or Belgian-Style Quadrupel - 62 Entries Gold: Quad Damn It, Chicago Brewing Co. - Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV Silver: Séréneté Grand Cru, Bruz Beers, Denver, CO Bronze: Sisters Quad, Bitter Sisters Brewing Co., Addison, TX
Category 96: Other Belgian-Style Ale - 30 Entries Gold: Very, Very Far, Off Color Brewing, Chicago, IL Silver: Conquer Then Divide, Barrage Brewing Co., Farmingdale, NY Bronze: Pentuple, Hoppin’ Frog Brewing, Akron, OH
Category 97: Brown Porter - 61 Entries Gold: Maduro Brown Ale, Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL Silver: Brown Claw, Kern River Brewing Co. - The Backyard, Kernville, CA Bronze: Honey Porter, Cape May Brewing Co. - Rio Grande, Cape May, NJ
Category 98: Robust Porter - 87 Entries Gold: Tabula Rasa, Second Chance Beer Co., San Diego, CA Silver: Powell Street Porter, Bartlett Hall, San Francisco, CA Bronze: Shadowcaster Porter, Folklore Brewing & Meadery, Dothan, AL
Category 99: Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout - 43 Entries Gold: SeaSide Stout, Pizza Port - Solana Beach, Solana Beach, CA Silver: Shooter McMunn’s, Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA Bronze: O’Dark Thirty, 6 Bears & A Goat Brewing Co., Fredericksburg, VA
Category 100: Export Stout - 42 Entries Gold: Correspondent, Wander Brewing, Bellingham, WA Silver: Thor’s Shadow Imperial Stout, Odin Brewing Co., Tukwila, WA Bronze: Void of Light, Gun Hill Brewing Co., Bronx, NY
Category 101: American-Style Stout - 55 Entries Gold: Black Cliffs, Boise Brewing, Boise, ID Silver: Stone Liberty Station Cimmerian Portal, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station, San Diego, CA Bronze: Kilgore, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach, CA
Category 102: Sweet Stout or Cream Stout - 67 Entries Gold: Moozie, Brink Brewing Co., Cincinnati, OH Silver: Emperor Norton’s Sweet Stout, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Leandro, CA Bronze: Volcano Mudslide Sweet Stout, Feather Falls Brewing Co., Oroville, CA
Category 103: Oatmeal Stout - 69 Entries Gold: 80 Chain Stout, MAP Brewing Co., Bozeman, MT Silver: Yonder Mountain Stout, Vine Street Pub & Brewery, Denver, CO Bronze: Shaman Stout, Toltec Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
Category 104: Imperial Stout - 93 Entries Gold: The Russian, 2SP Brewing Co., Aston, PA Silver: Black Cauldron Imperial Stout, Grand Teton Brewing, Victor, ID Bronze: Rescue Buoy Imperial Stout, Rip Current Brewing, San Marcos, CA
Category 105: Scotch Ale - 52 Entries Gold: Knuckle Dragger, Dueces Wild Brewery, Colorado Springs, CO Silver: Real Heavy, Real Ale Brewing Co., Blanco, TX Bronze: Wee Heavy Metal, Hutton & Smith Brewing Co. - M. L. King, Chattanooga, TN
Category 106: Old Ale or Strong Ale - 36 Entries Gold: Private Stock Ale, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA Silver: Old Scrooge, Silver City Brewery, Bremerton, WA Bronze: Last Will and Testament, Monday Night Brewing - Garage, Atlanta, GA
Category 107: Barley Wine-Style Ale - 59 Entries Gold: Old Diablo, Morgan Territory Brewing, Tracy, CA Silver: Freebooter Barleywine, Coronado Brewing Co., Coronado, CA Bronze: Three Ryes Men, Reuben’s Brews - The Taproom, Seattle, WA
Scaling Beer Recipes for Commercial Use with BeerSmith
I am often asked about using BeerSmith for Craft brewing and in fact BeerSmith is used by a large number of commercial breweries. Also, many passionate home brewers who make the leap from home to professional brewing then write and ask how to scale up from 5 gallons to 3 barrels or more? So I thought I would provide this article to explain the process.
The Pilot Brewing System
Most craft breweries develop and test recipes on a “pilot” brewing system, which can range in size from 5 gallons (19 liters) to several barrels in capacity. Even for professional brewers, every idea they have in beer may not be a great one, so the pilot batch lets them test and perfect a recipe before scaling up. They don’t want to be left with an experiment that went wrong on a commercial scale.
Commercial brewers maintain two equipment profiles in BeerSmith – one for their test/pilot system and one for their production system. Then they use the “Scale recipe” command and select the larger system to scale their recipes up to full scale.
Setting up an equipment profile for a large system is not much different than the small one – you just need to enter the correct volumes/weights/losses for the larger system, and then of course go through a process of adjusting and tweaking the profile until it matches up well with your actual brewing process and volumes. There are, however, several key considerations that come into play when developing an equipment profile for commercial scales:
Recipe Scaling Considerations
- Hop utilization is much higher at craft brewing scales, because large boils simply extract more bitterness. This is the largest change that hits most new craft brewers. If you simply scale up a 5 gallon (19 liter) batch to craft brewery sizes you will get a beer that is way too bitter. The “Hop Utilization Factor” listed in your equipment profile is the number you adjust to correct this. By default it is 100% for batches under 20 gallons (80 liters), but it can easily be 125%, 150% or possibly more for a multi-barrel brewing system. Unfortunately I can’t offer a hard guideline here since each system is different, but you can consult the manufacturer or other brewers using similar systems to get a starting point for scaling your hop utilization.
- Brewhouse/total efficiency is usually higher for a commercial system – perhaps 1-5% higher depending on the system. This is due to the fact that you will often get better extraction of sugar from the wort both in the mashing and lautering phase that you get on a small pilot system. This is a number you may have to dial in a bit as you gain experience with your particular setup.
- For really high gravity beers (like barley wine or imperial IPA) you may need additional adjustments to total efficiency (usually downward) for that particular recipe since the mash efficiency and efficiency scaling can be much different than a traditional brew. This is due to the fact that you are mashing/sparging with significantly less total water relative to the amount of grain you have added to this large batch. This is an effect you will also see on smaller batches – your brewhouse efficiency will go down for very high gravity beers.
That’s it – if you set up your equipment profiles properly you can use “Scale Recipe” to select the new equipment
profile and scale everything up.
Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. You can get a trial version of BeerSmith here if you don’t already have one. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.
The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2014 - Recipes
The list shows the top beers, based on our weighted average formula, which effectively rates all beers against each-other. A beer must have 150 ratings or more to qualify for this list. For more information on our rating system, please view our ratings explainer.
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
For Beer : Barrel : Time 2018, we chose a blend of our stout recipes that consisted of O.W.K. aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 20 months, … (Ellipses)… Read More
For Beer : Barrel : Time 2018, we chose a blend of our stout recipes that consisted of O.W.K. aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 20 months, … (Ellipses) aged in Heaven Hill barrels for 23 months and Derivation Blend #3 aged in Knob Creek barrels for 17 months. Whereas BBT 2017 spent a little less time in barrel, the additional average age for the 2018 blend let the rich chocolate and sweet coconut notes of the beer and oak come forward a bit more, resembling some of the older, non-adjunct Derivation Blends. Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
The barrel stock we tasted through to choose the 2019 BBT blend is the exact same stock that we pull from for the Derivations and all of our stouts. We… Read More
The barrel stock we tasted through to choose the 2019 BBT blend is the exact same stock that we pull from for the Derivations and all of our stouts. We have brewed 15 different stout recipes, aged them in a variety of barrels, and then always thoughtfully selected and blended to achieve our goals, whether it be Beer : Barrel : Time, a new blend of Derivation or the Barrel-Aged Stouts by Shared Brewing.
O.W.K. recipe aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 21 months
O.W.K. recipe aged in Eagle Rare barrels for 21 months
Derivation Blend #3 recipe aged in Knob Creek barrels for 22 months
Derivation Blend #3 recipe aged in Knob Creek barrels for 28 months
Derivation Blend #2 recipe aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 20 months Read Less
This beer is the real McCoy. Barrel aged and crammed with coffee, none other will stand in its way. Sought out for being delicious, it is notoriously… Read More
This beer is the real McCoy. Barrel aged and crammed with coffee, none other will stand in its way. Sought out for being delicious, it is notoriously difficult to track down. If you can find one, shoot to kill, because it is definitely wanted. dead or alive. Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
Aged 2 years in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels. A true rarity—savor and share it only with those you hold dear, as it will never be made… Read More
Aged 2 years in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels. A true rarity—savor and share it only with those you hold dear, as it will never be made again. Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is meant to show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago – the loyal and adventurous fans whose… Read More
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is meant to show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago – the loyal and adventurous fans whose support helped bring Bourbon County Brand Stout to towering new heights.
2014 variant - Made in Rye barrels with Cassia Bark, Cocoa Nibs, Panela and Coconut Water Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
First brewed for the legendary festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago, drinkers enjoyed this Bourbon County Variant so much we bottled it the… Read More
First brewed for the legendary festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago, drinkers enjoyed this Bourbon County Variant so much we bottled it the next year (2010). People flocked to stores to get their hands on a bottle and have this one of a kind barrel aged stout. Over the past few years we have heard our fans express their love for this version and we are extremely proud to bring it back in 2014. This year's version features a little twist of aging the stout in Rye Whiskey Barrels with a mix of Mexican and Madagascar vanilla beans! Read Less
To continue with our 4th Anniversary celebration, we brewed an extra kettle hop and extra dry hopped version of King Julius! The result is an incredibly… Read More
To continue with our 4th Anniversary celebration, we brewed an extra kettle hop and extra dry hopped version of King Julius! The result is an incredibly intense citrus hop blast unlike anything we've experienced here at Tree House. Mango, orange, and sweet grapefruit are predominant in the aroma with hints of pineapple and blended tropical fruit juice. The taste mirrors the aroma with a juicy mouthfeel and a proper bitterness. Fluffy. This beer challenges the sense and rewards the palate as it warms in the glass. Complex, raw, and beautiful, the amplified King is a beer we are excited to share with you to celebrate four years of Tree House. Thank you! Read Less
14% Orange Blossom Honey-wine with Wild Blueberries and Cashew
14% Orange Blossom Honey-wine with Wild Blueberries and Cashew Read Less
Blessed is a blend of 1 and 3 year old bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stouts finished on TONS of coconut and Madagascar vanilla beans. It tastes like if… Read More
Blessed is a blend of 1 and 3 year old bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stouts finished on TONS of coconut and Madagascar vanilla beans. It tastes like if you took a waffle cone and filled it with bourbon soaked German chocolate cake then drizzled it with burnt caramel. Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
Back in 1979 the folks at Heaven Hill Distilleries filled a handful of new freshly charred American white oak barrels with some of their finest whiskey.… Read More
Back in 1979 the folks at Heaven Hill Distilleries filled a handful of new freshly charred American white oak barrels with some of their finest whiskey. It is rare for Bourbon to age in barrels for more than twenty-three years. But these barrels patiently sat for over thirty years. The extra years developed a distinct and complex character that makes them truly one-of-a kind. We filled those barrels with Bourbon County Brand Stout, and then stored them away in our Chicago Barrel House to age for two more years. With these rare barrels from our friends at Heaven Hill we believe this is one of the finest beers we have ever produced. This is Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout for 2015. Read Less
For Beer : Barrel : Time 2020, we chose a blend of our stout recipes that consists of: O.W.K. recipe aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 15 months O.W.K.… Read More
For Beer : Barrel : Time 2020, we chose a blend of our stout recipes that consists of:
O.W.K. recipe aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 15 months
O.W.K. recipe aged in Eagle Rare Bourbon barrels for 32 months
O.W.K. recipe aged in Weller 12 Bourbon barrels for 24 months
Derivation Blend #2 recipe aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels for 36 months
Vibes recipe aged in Knob Creek Bourbon barrels for 28 months Read Less
Stout - Imperial / Double Milk
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Sweet Stout with Coconut, Hazelnut, and Coffee
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Sweet Stout with Coconut, Hazelnut, and Coffee Read Less
This beer is no longer being produced by the brewery
Imperial Stout brewed with Toasted Coconut and aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels.
Imperial Stout brewed with Toasted Coconut and aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels. Read Less
The Heart of Darkness is our capstone mead, made from hand-harvested estate fruit grown by the Schramm’s. The cherries are of the Schaarbeek variety,… Read More
The Heart of Darkness is our capstone mead, made from hand-harvested estate fruit grown by the Schramm’s. The cherries are of the Schaarbeek variety, an intensely flavorful, European Morello type. The raspberries are Heritage and Latham, grown in Michigan by the Schramm family for three generations, and the black currants are Crandall and Consort. Production is extremely limited, as the amount of care and labor which go into each batch is substantial. This mead is the finest representation of our core commitments to fidelity and quality of ingredients. It pours a deep purple in color, has a dense fruitiness and a mid-palate with considerable tartness and a lingering, balanced finish. Your empty glass will be redolent of the honey component. The Heart of Darkness pairs well with spicy, grilled red meats, high quality dark chocolate, and blue cheeses.
Lost Abbey Veritas 013
From: San Marcos, CA
Brewed with peaches, nectarines, and three different strains of Brett, this sour has a lot going on. The fruit plays well with the Brett to contribute a nice juiciness to the front. It finishes with a lot of tart acidity and the different strains of Brett bring on a complex funkiness.—Bill Brooks (Photo: drinkingcraft.com)
Here's How A Six-Pack Of Craft Beer Ends Up Costing $12
I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's never been a better time to be a beer drinker in America. The skillful innovation of American craft brewers over the past decade has pushed beer in delicious new directions. It wouldn't be hard to argue that the craft beer renaissance is the most exciting development in the country's culinary world right now.
But this explosion in quality comes at a price. Literally. With few exceptions, prices for good craft beer are far higher than for mainstream macrobrews from brewing conglomerates such as MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch. A six-pack of beer from breweries like Dogfish Head, Ballast Point or Cigar City almost always costs more than $10 -- and routinely exceeds the $15 mark. You could easily get a 12-pack of Bud Light for that much.
Part of the price differential is due to pure marketing. Like vendors of designer clothing, acclaimed craft breweries can charge more because their customers expect to pay more for luxury goods. I recently spoke with more than a dozen people involved at all levels of the craft beer world to get a sense of the industry's cost structure. It turns out that craft brewers incur far higher costs than mainstream brewers. Indeed, once you learn about all the work and material that goes into each six-pack, $12 starts to seem like a bargain.
Here's an infographic that summarizes my findings, showing how much of the final cost of a typical six-pack of craft beer is due to each expense:
To give you a sense of what all these various expenses actually mean, I'll take you through the life cycle of a craft beer -- from grain to glass -- explaining, at each step, what's involved.
Most beers contain four basic raw ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast.
Beer brewing uses a great deal of water. About five gallons are required to produce one gallon of beer. And water access has become a problem for some growing craft breweries on the West Coast, which has been experiencing a major drought for the past couple years. But even in Southern California, water remains so cheap that it's not a serious concern for most breweries when it comes to pricing. So we'll leave that out of the equation.
The other three ingredients cost real money. Let's take them one at a time.
Malt: When it comes to malted grain -- the source of the sugars that become the alcohol that makes beer what it is -- macrobreweries have three key advantages over craft breweries. Their huge size lets them demand lower prices from malt suppliers. They mix corn or rice -- far cheaper than the traditional barley -- into their beer. And compared with craft breweries, they generally produce beers that are lower in alcohol, which require significantly less malt per barrel of beer. Craft breweries are also likely to use small amounts of specialty malts to add special flavors to the final product.
According to Bob Hansen, an executive at specialty malt powerhouse Briess, a medium-sized craft brewer can expect to pay 40 cents to 50 cents per pound for malt, while a macrobrewer will pay closer to 22 cents a pound. And while a macrobrewer uses about 40 pounds of malt to make a barrel of low-alcohol beer, a craft brewer might use 70 pounds to 100 pounds of malt to make a barrel of IPA or stout.
That means that a six-pack of craft beer contains about 65 cents of malt, while a six-pack of macrobrew contains about 16 cents of malt.
Hops: Hops are the herbacious plants that contribute much of the distinctive flavor to great beer, especially the hoppy IPAs that are the bestselling category in the craft beer world. They're best known for adding bitterness to beer, but there are hundreds of varieties of hops, each of which contributes its own flavor to beer. Certain hop varieties have become extremely sought after by craft brewers in recent years, driving prices to record levels. Though most hops cost $4 to $6 a pound, some specialty types cost as much as $20 a pound.
Macrobrews contain almost no hops that's why they taste so "drinkable" and un-bitter. A macrobrewer might add a pound of cheap -- say, $3 a pound -- hops to a barrel of beer. Meanwhile, a craft brewer could easily put four pounds of $7-a-pound hops into a barrel of hoppy IPA.
All told, a typical six-pack of craft beer contains 53 cents worth of hops, while a six-pack of macrobrew contains maybe 5 cents. And, of course, the sky's the limit on the craft beer side. A super-hoppy double IPA with ultra-premium hops could include more than $1 worth of hops.
Yeast: Another category that ranges wildly in price. Very large brewers -- and some craft brewers -- cultivate their own yeast, and rarely spend significant money on it. So let's call a macrobrewer's yeast cost nil.
But most others regularly buy fresh batches of yeast from the two companies that produce it for the beer market: San Diego's White Labs and Oregon's Wyeast. Overnighting a batch of yeast large enough to brew a 30-barrel batch of beer is extremely expensive -- around $800. Most brewers try to reuse the yeast as many times as possible, often around four times, which would imply a per-six-pack cost for yeast of 13 cents. It's less than malt or hops, but still significant.
It should be noted that a few breweries -- including hugely acclaimed Toppling Goliath brewery in Decorah, Iowa -- insist on buying fresh yeast every time they brew beer. Clark Lewey, the owner of Toppling Goliath, said the increased quality and consistency more than justifies 50 cent-per-six-pack cost of fresh yeast.
Additional Ingredients: Some specialty beers made by craft brewers include additional ingredients as supplemental flavorings. Coffee beans, for example, make regular appearances in certain stouts, and spices like grains of paradise and chipotle peppers have been known to add zest to various beers. In some cases, these ingredients can add as much as a couple dollars to the cost of a six-pack. The range here is too big to include in our normal analysis, especially because most beers don't include anything besides the big four, but it can be a major factor in the price of some beers.
Brewing, Aging and Packaging
Once all the raw ingredients get to a brewery, the beer-making can begin. That requires labor. Several people I spoke with cited a rule of thumb for labor costs that says it takes about 20 hours of work to make a batch of beer, regardless of the size. The going rate for a ground-level brewer at a non-union brewery is about $12 an hour, meaning it costs $200 in labor to make a batch. Assuming the 30-barrel batches that are standard at relatively small breweries, that means 15 cents of labor goes into a typical six-pack of craft beer.
Packaging -- whether in cans or bottles -- is surprisingly expensive. Even buying in bulk, a glass bottle with a beer label affixed to it can cost as much as 20 cents, and the cardboard container that holds a six-pack costs a few more cents. So packaging can add as much as $1.50 to the cost of a six-pack. Packaging is often one of the single-biggest expenses a brewery incurs. That amount drops significantly when a brewery is selling beer by the half-barrel to restaurants, but it's still considerable.
Some high-end beers undergo barrel-aging for six months to a year before being bottled. A brewery has to buy a barrel, usually from a bourbon distiller, for about $100, for this process. In addition, it takes up valuable time and space in the brewery, which is hard to quantify. Let's assume barrel aging adds about $1 to the final cost of a six-pack. But because relatively few beers undergo barrel-aging, we won't include this cost in our main analysis.
Finally, buying equipment and renting space for a commercial-scale brewery costs a ton of money -- at least several hundred thousand dollars, and often in excess of $1 million. And there are ongoing costs -- promotional events, advertising, R&D -- that are not included in the small amount of labor mentioned above.
Basic microeconomics tells us that it's unwise to explicitly account for these past expenses, called sunk costs, when pricing a product, but the owner of the brewery eventually has to recoup that investment, not to mention make a living. To do that, breweries typically add a healthy markup to costs before selling the beer to a distributor -- around 50 percent of gross costs, leading to a margin of 33 percent. Assuming raw ingredient costs of $1.31, labor costs of 15 cents and packaging costs of $1.50, the brewer's margin ends up adding about 91 cents to the final cost of the six-pack.
A brewery that mostly sells its beer in-state, or in a relatively tight group of states, won't incur much in the way of shipping costs. But prominent craft breweries are increasingly distributed across the country. You can now find beer from lots of San Diego and Portland breweries in New York City, for example. And trucking beer thousands of miles costs a lot of money.
Andreas Martin, a transportation broker specializing in the beer industry, said shipping costs vary significantly by season. Refrigerated trucks out of California are far more expensive in the summer, when vegetable producers in the Central Valley and Salinas Vally are competing for them. Martin said that, depending on the time of year and the type of truck, it costs $5,000 to $7,000 to send a truck across the country. A truck generally carries 18 pallets of goods, and you could fit around 80 cases of beer onto one pallet. That translates into shipping costs of 67 cents for each six-pack trucked across the country.
The federal government and each state government levy excise taxes on all alcoholic products, and beer is no exception. Federal excise tax is the rare cost that's actually lower for small breweries than large ones. Washington charges breweries $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels a brewery sells. After that -- and for all breweries that sell more than 2 million barrels a year -- the federal tax is $18 a barrel.
States vary wildly in the amount they levy, from 62 cents a barrel in Wyoming to $33 in Alaska. The median, though, is $6.20, which is what we'll use for the purpose of our analysis.
Federal and state excise taxes add about 23 cents to the price of a six-pack.
Thanks to a web of laws created in the wake of Prohibition, almost all beer sold in America must pass through a distributor before it reaches a consumer. Beer distributors are in charge of a wide variety of tasks: They help market beers to restaurants and shops, they teach retailers the proper way to serve beer, and they bring beer from their warehouses to retail locations. They're generally accountable for any loss along the supply chain -- theft, broken bottles and so forth -- which might account for about 5 percent of the total.
For these services -- and thanks to their legally-mandated monopoly, they generally mark beer up drastically -- 50 percent is normal. All the costs we've discussed so far mean that a distributor might buy a six-pack from a brewer for $4.75. The distributor's markup, plus the cost of the lost product, adds $2.73 to the price of a six-pack.
A typical retailer, then, would buy a six-pack of craft beer for about $7.48 from a distributor. The retailers I spoke with for this article said that, for sought-after craft beers, there's relatively little wiggle room on pricing at this stage, even for large companies. But as anyone who's comparison-shopped beer within a given city can attest, they have broad discretion on how much they will charge the consumer. A run-of-the-mill bottle shop is likely to mark up beer by around the same amount as the brewery and the distributor -- that is, 50 percent, or $3.75 on a $7.48 six-pack. Once you add the 7 percent sales tax, approximately the national median, you get almost exactly $12 a six-pack.
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Softly engaging nose of berry, melon, and banana, with a faint earthy and bready back note. The sip steers almost woody, with a mid-range bitterness for structure. Classically cohesive.
The good news—this is a light, flavorful, balanced beer with notes of toasted bread and earthy hops, lively carbonation, and a nice lingering biscuit malt flavor. It’s heavier on the malt side, but the dry finish ensures that it’s not too sweet or heavy. The bad news is that it is somewhat grainy. The astingency is mild, but despite looking crystal clear (pun intended), my mouth feels like I should pick out some husk.
“In an increasingly competitive and mature marketplace, these brewing companies continue to lead and pave the path for small and independent craft brewers,” says Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association.
The Brewers Association (BA), publishers of CraftBeer.com, is the not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers. The BA board of directors is the body that sets the definition of a craft brewer.
- Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
- Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
- Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
In June 2017, the BA released the independent craft brewer seal to help beer lovers recognize which brewers fit the craft definition. More than 3,000 breweries have adopted the logo in eight months. Look for the seal — an upside-down beer bottle — on packaging, labels, tap handles at more in breweries and at the grocery store.
Here’s a full look at the Top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies. And before you go sounding off in the comment section, this fact bears repeating: the Top 50 list is solely based on beer sales by volume — this list doesn’t rank breweries by ratings.
What’s changed since the Top 50 list released in March 2017? Here are a few things that jumped out at us.
- Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery joins the Top 50 at the 33 slot.
- Three Floyds Brewing Co. out of Munster, Indiana, and Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston join the Top 50 at No. 45 and No. 46, respectively.
You can read more about the list at BrewersAssociation.org. Watson will also be providing more insight into the state of the industry during the Craft Brewers Conference from April 30 – May 2, 2018, in Nashville.
20 Belgian Beers to Drink Before You Die
While the American craft-beer scene has changed the face of brewing worldwide with its sheer gumption and ingenuity, it’s important to remember the centuries-old traditions that laid the foundation for our own hops-cowboys to do their thing.
The Germans gave us lager and showed us the magic of brewing at its most pure, using nothing but barley, hops, water, and yeast to create a remarkable range of flavors. From the English, we learned subtly, the art of the session beer, and the beauty of cask-conditioning. But more than anyone else, it’s the Belgians who ignited the imagination that defines American craft. As Don Feinberg, who began importing Belgian beers into the U.S. in 1982, has told us in the past, “[Belgian beer] showed home brewers, craft brewers, and big brewers that it’s what’s in the bottle that counts, not some absurd adherence to an approved ingredient list or narrow stylistic guidelines.” Many of the tricks that our brewers have pushed to extremes—barrel-aging, bottle-fermenting, cranking up the alcohol content, flavoring with fruit, and so on—have their roots in the small, artisanal breweries of Belgium.
Looking through the best beers in the country, as well as the most exciting up-and-coming breweries right now, it’s impossible to miss the emphasis on Belgian styles, not to mention the trail of Belgian yeasts that threads through many of our most celebrated beers. And what’s especially cool is that the game is coming full circle, with American experimentation shaking things up back in Belgium and producing hybrids like Hop-Ruiter, a strong golden ale amped up with hops to appeal to the U.S. palate.
In short, exploring the Belgian classics is an essential part of being a beer nerd—to know where we’re at, you’ve got to know where we started. But with so many options, what to drink? To help you narrow the field, we gathered our panel of beer pros, including bar owners and writers, to pick their favorite Belgians that are available stateside.
- Joshua M. Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course and First We Feast contributor
- Mike Lovullo,specialty brands manager for Union Beer Distributors
- David Brodrick, founder of Blind Tiger Ale House
- Ale Sharpton, beer journalist and author of Cruisin’ for a Brewsin’
- Julian Kurland, Beer Director, The Cannibal Beer & Butcher
- Anthony Finley, beer server at Proletariat
- Niko Krommydas,beer writer
- John Holl, beer journalist and author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook
From Trappist ales to saisons that set the blueprint, these are the Belgian beers you need to try before you kick the bucket.