The 50 Best Beers in America
It’s American Craft Beer Week, and what better way to celebrate than by bending an elbow with 50 of this great country’s finest brews? Whether you’re a fan of decadent imperial stouts, mouth-puckering sours, or floral India pale ales, there’s something for everyone on this list. In no particular order, here are our picks for how to stock your beer fridge:
1. BOMB!, 13% // PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES, TULSA, OKLAHOMA
Prairie’s flagship imperial stout is a potent combination of coffee, chocolate, ancho chili, and vanilla beans that is surprisingly drinkable for a beer that checks in at 13 percent ABV. The chili peppers give it just enough of a spicy burn that you won’t want to take down a whole bottle in a single gulp, but it’s tempting. If you’re really lucky, you’ll turn up one of the limited variant bottlings Prairie occasionally rolls out, like Christmas Bomb!, a version made with cinnamon, or Pirate Bomb!, which has been aged in rum barrels.
2. UNRELIABLE NARRATOR, 7.5% // THREES BREWING, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
With an unreliable narrator, you never quite know if you’re getting the full, unvarnished truth. You can count on Threes’ Unreliable Narrator to consistently deliver something awesome any time the Brooklyn brewery releases a canning: An IPA that’s juicy and full of papaya and other tropical fruit flavors.
3. HAZE, 8.2% // TREE HOUSE BREWING COMPANY, MONSON, MASSACHUSETTS
It’s tough to get your hands on the beer coming out of what must be the most heavily hyped brewery in the country. You have to show up early at the brewery in western Massachusetts, stand in the line that forms each day, and hopefully collect a few precious pint cans or a growler fill for your trouble. It all sounds like more trouble than it’s worth until you get a sip of the brewery’s trademark cloudy, juicy IPAs. Then it suddenly makes a lot of sense.
4. MAPLE BACON COFFEE PORTER, 6.4% // FUNKY BUDDHA BREWERY, OAKLAND PARK, FLORIDA
The name isn’t false advertising. You get a full spectrum of breakfast flavors in each sip, with distinct layers of roasted coffee, sweet maple, and smoky bacon coming together in a surprisingly seamless experience. It’s an impressive feat that is all the more memorable because it’s not just a novelty beer where one sip is enough. It’s so delicious that you can easily enjoy a pint even well after breakfast.
5. SPOTTED COW, 4.8% // NEW GLARUS BREWING COMPANY, NEW GLARUS, WISCONSIN
It’s not the strongest beer on this list. It doesn’t have the fanciest label. And it’s definitely not the most widely available—you can only pick one up in Wisconsin. But it only takes one bottle of this beloved local brewery’s “naturally cloudy farmhouse ale” to see why Wisconsin’s drinkers swear by Spotted Cow. It’s light, crisp, pleasantly fruity, and pairs well with everything.
6. DAISY CUTTER PALE ALE, 5.2% // HALF ACRE BEER COMPANY, CHICAGO
Don’t let the flowers on the Chicago staple’s iconic pint cans fool you. This pale ale packs more of a piney, aromatic hop punch than many boozier India pale ales, and its dry, pleasant finish makes it endlessly drinkable.
7. DINO S’MORES MARSHMALLOW IMPERIAL STOUT, 10.5% // OFF COLOR BREWING, CHICAGO
What do you get when you brew a beer with marshmallow fluff, vanilla beans, graham flour, molasses, and cocoa nibs? A smart way to enjoy a campout classic without running afoul of any fire codes or ending up with sticky fingers.
8. PHILADELPHIA PALE ALE, 4.6% // YARDS BREWING COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA
Looking for an introduction into the world of pale ales? Look no further. This classic Philadelphia brew is hoppy without being overly bitter, making it the perfect approachable choice. It’s undeniably a pale ale, but instead of sharp hops, each sip rewards you with a pleasant grapefruit aroma and flavor with a crisp finish.
9. THREE PHILOSOPHERS, 9.7% // BREWERY OMMEGANG, COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK
Sometimes the extra two percent makes all the difference. Ommegang’s Belgian-style quadruple makes up 98 percent of each batch of Three Philosophers. The magic comes in the finishing touch: The brewery then fills out the blend with Belgian kriek. It may sound like a drop in the bucket, but those Belgian cherries shine through, giving you a rich, fruity finish that’s perfect as both an after-dinner drink or a companion for cheese and dark chocolate.
10. HIGH WEST-IFIED IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 12.2% // LAGUNITAS BREWING COMPANY, PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA
Putting whiskey in your coffee is generally a recipe for bad ideas. Putting your coffee stout in whiskey barrels, on the other hand, is almost always a good idea. Lagunitas’s coffee stout emerges from a nap in High West Distillery’s bourbon and rye barrels with a burly roast coffee flavor that marries beautifully with a kick of whiskey in the finish.
11. PRIMA PILS, 5.3% // VICTORY BREWING CO., DOWNINGTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
Pilsners may not draw the most beer-geek hype, but a clean, crisp example with just a bit of a floral hop bite on the finish can be heaven on a hot day. Or any day, really. If you’re looking for an American pilsner, look no further than Victory’s excellent take on the style that’s a little grassy, a little toasty, and extremely delicious.
12. TEMPTATION, 7.5% // RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING COMPANY, SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA
Thanks to fermentation with wild yeasts and a period of aging in used chardonnay barrels, Russian River’s iconoclastic blonde ale is not quite like anything you’ve ever tasted. Temptation drinks like a funky cross between beer, cheese, and a dry white wine. Bottles can be hard to find, and they’re even harder to forget.
13. BLACK BUTTE PORTER, 5.2% // DESCHUTES BREWERY, BEND, OREGON
Porters are perfect for those nights when you crave something dark, roasted, and robust but don’t want to tackle a behemoth of an imperial stout. They don’t come much better than Deschutes’s flagship, which backs an earthy chocolate flavor with just a bit of coffee and a subdued piney hop flavor.
14. COFFEE BENDER, 5.1% // SURLY BREWING CO., BROOKLYN CENTER, MINNESOTA
Surly’s Bender is a gem in its own right as a balanced, drinkable oatmeal brown ale with a chewy mouthfeel and pleasant caramel flavor. An infusion of Guatemalan coffee transforms this variant into something even better: a rich, aromatic pour that feels like the perfect choice for anyone who can’t decide if they’d rather have a beer or an iced macchiato.
15. LA FOLIE SOUR BROWN ALE, 7.0% // NEW BELGIUM BREWING COMPANY, FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
Up to three years of aging in large oak barrels gives this brown ale a character all its own. It’s complex and fruity, with cherry notes mingling with a bracingly sour blast that’s reminiscent of apple cider vinegar. We know: “Reminiscent of apple cider vinegar” doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but you have to trust us on this one. It is. By the time your senses have fully processed a sip, you’ll be surprised at how crisp, dry, and refreshing something this sour can be.
16. PSEUDOSUE, 5.8% // TOPPLING GOLIATH BREWING CO., DECORAH, IOWA
When you name your beer after the famed T. rex skeleton at Chicago’s Field Museum, it had better be aggressive. Luckily for Toppling Goliath, pseudoSue lives up to its name by delivering a pleasantly toothy rampage of Citra hop flavors. The Field Museum approves, and if you enjoy pale ales, you will, too.
17. CASCADE SANG ROYAL, 9.35% // CASCADE BREWING, PORTLAND, OREGON
Cascade’s incredible sour red ale ages for up to 30 months in cabernet and port barrels with cabernet grapes. The result is a tannic, sour pour that blurs the line between a sour beer and a tannic red wine. Grab some friends and pop the cork on a 750ml bottle of this Oregon treasure.
18. TWO HEARTED ALE, 7% // BELL’S BREWERY, COMSTOCK, MICHIGAN
Even if you only have one heart, this exceptional IPA will win it over. Named after a river in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that’s beloved by fly fishermen, Bell’s standout pale ale is an ideal showcase for the floral, just-bitter-enough magic and grapefruit notes of Centennial hops. It’s a strong contender for the crown of “Best American IPA with a Label Featuring a Fish.”
19. SCULPIN INDIA PALE ALE, 7% // BALLAST POINT BREWING COMPANY, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Then again, Ballast Point’s flagship IPA can make a strong, fishy case of its own. Its flavors are a little fruitier, with lots of mango and papaya, and it’s as easy to drink as any IPA you’ll find. Ballast Point bottles Sculpin variants made with grapefruit, habanero, and pineapple, but for our money, you can’t go wrong with the original.
20. SEIZOEN BRETTA, 8% // LOGSDON FARMHOUSE ALES, HOOD RIVER, OREGON
Historically, saisons were light, refreshing ales that were perfect for quenching the thirst of farm laborers. Luckily, you don’t have to put in a shift in the fields to enjoy this excellent example from Oregon’s Logsdon. The addition of brettanomyces yeast and a bit of pear juice gives Seizoen Bretta an extra layer of funky complexity that elevates the style to new heights.
21. BARREL AGED YETI IMPERIAL STOUT, 12.5% // GREAT DIVIDE BREWING CO., DENVER, COLORADO
In 1959, the United States embassy in Kathmandu issued a memo outlining the permits and licenses American hunters would need to acquire before stalking the famed cryptid within Nepal’s borders. Sounds like a lot of trouble. If you’re a stout fan, your time would be better spent hunting down this variant of Great Divide’s flagship. It wakes up from its hibernation in whiskey barrels with a revitalized flavor that boasts vanilla, oak, and just enough booze to let you know not to fight it.
22. WHITE RAJAH INDIA PALE ALE, 6.8% // THE BREW KETTLE, STRONGSVILLE, OHIO
Should you find yourself in the greater Cleveland area when a craving for an IPA loaded with tropical fruit flavors and a nice, lingering hop bite strikes you, head to the Brew Kettle. You won’t regret it.
23. BACKWOODS BASTARD, 11.2% // FOUNDERS BREWING CO., GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
You’ll have to wait until fall to track down this bourbon-barrel-aged Scotch ale, but it will be worth it. The malty, slightly smoky flavor of the base Scotch ale harmonizes with the vanilla and whiskey flavors to create something darn near perfect for spending a chilly night inside or huddled around a campfire. You probably won’t want to drink more than one in a sitting, but you’ll really savor that one.
24. COCONUT HIWA PORTER, 6% // MAUI BREWING CO., KIHEI, HAWAII
Sunny Hawaii may not seem like the typical breeding ground for a robust style like porter, but the addition of toasted coconut to this brew yields a flavor that’s loaded with chocolate, a bit of coffee, and just enough coconut to make each sip feel a tiny bit like a tropical vacation.
25. MELANGE NO. 3, 16.3% // THE BRUERY, PLACENTIA, CALIFORNIA
What happens when you blend a bourbon-barrel-aged wheat wine, a barrel-aged imperial stout, and a barrel-aged old ale? Magic! You’ll need to round up some friends to help you tackle a 750ml bottle of this gem, but the strong notes of fudge, bourbon, and plums will please any crowd.
26. DUCK-RABBIT BALTIC PORTER, 9% // THE DUCK-RABBIT CRAFT BREWERY, FARMVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina’s “dark beer specialist” is the brainchild of a former philosophy teacher and carries a name inspired by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, so maybe we’re predisposed to like their brainy beers. But even if you set aside their academic pedigree, the Duck-Rabbit’s offerings are smart buys because they’re so tasty. The Baltic Porter may be their best, a showcase of roasted malt, dark fruit, and just enough booze to liven up a chilly night.
27. GREAT LAKES ELIOT NESS AMBER LAGER, 6.1% // GREAT LAKES BREWING CO., CLEVELAND
The craft beer landscape is full of aggressive stouts, IPAs, and sour beers. While we’re clearly fans of those styles, sometimes you want something a little subtler. Great Lakes’s refreshing lager is a little toasty and a little nutty with a clean finish. It’s the perfect pour to cap off a long day of fighting bootleggers.
28. RAMSTEIN WINTER WHEAT, 9.5% // HIGH POINT BREWING COMPANY, BUTLER, NEW JERSEY
It’s easy to think of wheat beers as thirst-quenching summer refreshers, but Ramstein’s winter seasonal shows just how complex and dark wheat beer can be. This mighty weizenbock pours cola-brown and is loaded with chocolate, dark fruit, and caramel flavors. You’ll never look at wheat beer the same way after your first sip.
29. BOURBON COUNTY BRAND STOUT, 13.80% // GOOSE ISLAND BEER CO., CHICAGO
Aging an imperial stout in barrels that have previously held whiskey can lead to a brew that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Goose Island pioneered barrel-aging beers in the early 1990s, and although the brewery may no longer be independent, its flagship stout is still worth seeking out. Even better, it improves and mellows with age, so stash a second bottle somewhere cool and dark to enjoy in a few years.
30. SAMUEL ADAMS UTOPIAS, 28% // BOSTON BEER COMPANY, BOSTON
A bottle of Utopias checks in at 28 percent alcohol by volume and can set you back upwards of $200 if you can even find one. The viscous beer inside has spent up to 22 years carefully aging in bourbon, Madeira, cognac, Armagnac, and other wine and spirits barrels before being carefully blended. It all sounds excessive until you taste it. Then it makes perfect sense.
31. TROEGENATOR DOUBLE BOCK, 8.2% // TROEGS INDEPENDENT BREWING, HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA
As a style, doppelbock traces its roots back to German monks who would use the malty, sweet beers for sustenance during their Lenten fast. Luckily, today we don’t have to wait for Lent. We can hoist one whenever we want to enjoy their rich flavors of dark fruits and caramel. Pair this Pennsylvania classic with roasted or smoked meat for a divine combo that would make any 17th century monk jealous.
32. DAS WUNDERKIND!, 4.5% // JESTER KING BREWERY, AUSTIN, TEXAS
Tart, dry, and extremely drinkable, this Jester King saison is a blend of sour beer that has been aged in oak barrels with bacterial cultures and fresh beer. The resulting concoction is the perfect brew to take the edge off the heat of Texas or wherever you happen to pop the cap. And if you can’t find this particular bottle, you can’t go wrong with any of Jester King’s other farmhouse and wild ales.
33. HUNAHPU’S IMPERIAL STOUT, 10.2% // CIGAR CITY BREWING, TAMPA, FLORIDA
In theory, a stout aged on vanilla beans, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and two types of chili peppers sounds like a conceptual nightmare of clashing flavors. In practice, it’s a memorably decadent and complex experience, like a terrific stout crossed with the best Mexican hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted. It’s only released once a year, but the sublime combo of chocolate and spice is worth a trip to Tampa.
34. GOSE GONE WILD, 4.3% // STILLWATER ARTISANAL, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Looking for a refreshing summer beer that isn’t another light lager or blonde ale? It’s high time you got into gose, a slightly sour, slightly salty, slightly spicy style that originated in the German city of Leipzig. Stillwater’s version introduces wild yeasts for a funkier take on the style that’s still perfect for a hot summer day.
35. ZOMBIE DUST, 6.2% // 3 FLOYDS BREWING CO, MUNSTER, INDIANA
Zombie Dust isn’t the most heavily hopped pale ale around. It’s not the most bitter, and it doesn’t cram in the most juicy fruit flavors. None of that matters—it’s still the best pale ale you can get your mitts on. The nose is full of amazing orange and tangerine citrus, and each sip offers a master class on how to celebrate hops without overwhelming the palate. It can be hard to track down a bottle, but even if you had to fight an actual zombie to get a six pack, it would be worth it.
36. MOTHER OF ALL STORMS, 14% // PELICAN BREWING, PACIFIC CITY, OREGON
Coastal Oregon brewer Pelican’s English barleywine, Stormwatcher’s Winterfest, is an excellent beer that offers a malty, fruity take on a powerful English style. After spending a year in bourbon barrels, it emerges as a burly, brash version of itself with the volume turned up to 11. The classic English toffee and caramel flavors are still there, but the oak and vanilla notes that slip in from the barrel aging process make the Mother of All Storms a memorable beer that’s worth seeking out.
37. NARRAGANSETT LAGER, 5% // NARRAGANSETT BREWING CO, PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND
Lots of great breweries on this list are just a few years old. On the other end of the spectrum is Rhode Island stalwart Narragansett, which traces its heritage all the way back to 1890. Although the brewery cranks out a variety of styles, including a line of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired limited releases with horror themes, its classic lager is a staple of fridges throughout the Northeast. It’s tough to beat a cooler full of pint cans of this clean-finishing lager at a campout, picnic, or barbecue.
38. ALLAGASH COOLSHIP RESURGAM, 6.3% // ALLAGASH BREWING COMPANY, PORTLAND, MAINE
The brewery’s flagship Allagash White, a pitch-perfect rendition of a Belgian witbier, is widely available and a solid pick. But if you’re willing to put in some legwork, take the time to hunt down a bottle of Coolship Resurgam, a tart, funky ale created using traditional Belgian spontaneous fermentation methods. The brewery uses a huge shallow tub known as a “coolship” to expose unfermented beer to the air overnight. As the beer cools, the natural bacteria in the air enters the brew, which then spends up to three years fermenting in wine barrels. When it emerges, the beer is tart, with notes of peach, apricot, and apple leading into a dry finish.
39. BIGFOOT BARLEYWINE-STYLE ALE, 9.6% // SIERRA NEVADA BREWING CO., CHICO, CALIFORNIA
This aggressively hopped barleywine has been a staple of Sierra Nevada’s portfolio since 1983, and it only gets better with age. When fresh, it’s almost punishingly bitter, but there’s enough of a chewy malt backbone to make it an enjoyable sipper. Bigfoot really starts to shine with a few years on it, though. If you can stash a bottle somewhere dark and cool, those piney hops will gradually take a backseat to those malts, and the resulting pour will develop complex flavors of sherry, spice cake, caramel, and dark fruits. Sneak a few bottles into the basement and check back in 2022—you’ll be glad you did.
40. SOUTHERN PECAN NUT BROWN ALE, 4.39% // LAZY MAGNOLIA BREWING COMPANY, KILN, MISSISSIPPI
Lots of brewers make brown ales that showcase nutty flavors. Lazy Magnolia does them one better by brewing what it calls “the first beer in the world, to our knowledge, made with whole roasted pecans.” Tossing the quintessentially Southern nut into the recipe may sound like a gimmick, but the addition imparts a deep, nutty flavor that really rounds out the slightly sweet brown ale. You won’t mistake it for pecan pie, but you’ll still want to go back for seconds.
41. OLD CHUB, 8% // OSKAR BLUES BREWERY, LONGMONT, COLORADO
When you need a break from huge hop flavors, a good Scotch ale is just the ticket. And Oskar Blues’ staple Old Chub is a very good Scotch ale. It’s malty and smoky without being overwhelming, sweet and chewy without being cloying. Pair it with rich, roasted foods and doff your cap to the brilliant Scotsmen who pioneered this beautiful style.
42. HEADY TOPPER, 8% // THE ALCHEMIST, WATERBURY, VERMONT
You can’t look at many “World’s Best Beer” lists without seeing the iconic imperial IPA from Vermont’s the Alchemist. With so much buzz surrounding the silver-and-black pint cans, can the beer inside possibly live up to the hype? You bet. If anything, Heady Topper exceeds most reasonable expectations. It’s a dank, piney hop bomb that doesn’t feel gratuitously bitter. It packs quite a punch without feeling boozy. And for such a celebrated IPA, it’s surprisingly balanced. If you only drive to small-town Vermont for one beer, make it this one.
43. EVERETT, 7.5% // HILL FARMSTEAD BREWERY, GREENSBORO, VERMONT
However, if you have time to make a second beer pilgrimage on your swing through Vermont, you can’t miss the just-as-celebrated, just-as-tasty wares of nearby Hill Farmstead. The farm brewery has mastered everything from IPAs to saisons to wild ales to imperial stouts, but for our money, their chocolate-and-coffee-laden porter is the standout.
44. TERRAPIN MOO-HOO CHOCOLATE MILK STOUT, 6% // TERRAPIN BEER CO., ATHENS, GEORGIA
Adult life is tragically short on moments in which it’s socially acceptable to gulp down a glass of chocolate milk. Terrapin’s winter seasonal may not quite scratch your childhood dairy yearnings, but it’s the next best thing. There’s just enough chocolate to really round out the classic sweetness of a milk stout, and although you won’t want to dunk a cookie in it, you’ll probably want to order a second round.
45. KUHNHENN RASPBERRY EISBOCK, 15.5% // KUHNHENN BREWING CO., WARREN, MICHIGAN
Kuhnhenn’s website classifies this highly sought-after rarity as an “experimental high-gravity fruit beer,” but we’re content just to call it delicious. A recipe that includes fresh raspberries and raspberry juice yields a beer that’s syrupy, sweet, strong, and incredibly complex without being cloying. Each sip feels like it’s straddling the line between beer and raspberry cordial, so if you’re a raspberry fan, this is one you won’t want to miss.
46. MIDAS TOUCH, 9% // DOGFISH HEAD CRAFT BREWERY, MILTON, DELAWARE
Developing a good beer recipe can take time. In this case, the timeline ran to 2700 years. Dogfish Head partnered with molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania to brew this beer based on findings from a Turkish tomb that dates back to around 700 BCE. The tomb is thought to have contained the historical King Midas or his father. The archaeological evidence gave rise to a beer that drinks like a sweet hybrid of beer, mead, and white wine. It may not give you the golden touch, but you’ll still feel like a king after a glass.
47. DOUBLE DRY HOPPED DOUBLE MOSAIC DREAM, 8.5% // OTHER HALF BREWING CO., BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Brooklyn’s Other Half may only be three years old, but the small brewery near the Gowanus Canal cranks out a dizzying array of top-notch IPAs. Even though the brewery’s offerings rotate on a near-weekly basis, the double-dry-hopped variant of its Mosaic-hopped imperial IPA has already become a standby, and for good reason. The addition of lupulin powder to the recipe elevates an already great beer into something even better, with lots of mango and pineapple flavors bursting through.
48. RUMPKIN, 17.5% // AVERY BREWING CO., DENVER
Many brewers create a fall seasonal that tastes less like a pumpkin beer and more like pumpkin pie spices dumped into a beer. Avery takes a better approach, using roasted local pumpkins, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger to create a pumpkin brew, then aging it in rum barrels. The sweet, oaky flavors of the rum barrel are the perfect complement to the pumpkin and spice, resulting in an extremely potent beer that’s perfect for autumn sipping.
49. BLACKBERRY, 6% // UPLAND BREWING COMPANY, BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA
Indiana and Belgium don’t have a lot in common at first glance, but the Hoosier State’s Upland Brewing crafts sour, wood-aged fruit ales that would make many Belgian lambic brewers jealous. Upland has created exotic fruit sours using offbeat ingredients like kiwi and persimmon, but our favorite is the one made with whole local blackberries. The purple, tart beer is perfect for those days when you need a sour, fruity beer but don’t want to trek all the way to Brussels.
50. PM DAWN, 9% // TRILLIUM BREWING COMPANY, BOSTON
Not just any brewery can make a stout infused with cold-brewed coffee and have it come out tasting like the beer version of a café mocha. Even fewer can make a stout that shares its name with a beloved musical act and have it live up to expectations. Luckily for us, Boston’s Trillium Brewing is up to the task. It will only take one glass for you to feel like you’ve been set adrift on memory bliss.