Just for Beer-Lovers: Top Microbreweries Across America
Beer -- specifically craft beer -- is big business. The Brewers Association reported growth in 2011 in both volume (13%) and sales (15%) over 2010, as well as steady gains in barrels sold. Cheers for more beers!
If you are lucky enough to live within driving distance of -- or happen to be vacationing near -- a microbrewery, then by all means stop by for a visit, sign up for a tour and treat yourself to an on-site tasting. There is no better way to savor the flavor than having a freshly brewed beer -- and often quaffing with the people that brew it.
Some breweries like Stone Brewing Company (pictured) have made it a bit easier for the craft beer curious to sample their suds. Their "company store" concept takes the best beers from their main brewery to local retail shops, so you can try a taste or two, buy some Stone-branded merch, and grab a growler to go.
And if you're not lucky enough to be in proximity to a craft brewery? Don't fret. A good beer bar or bottle shop (beer store) is the next best way to expand your palate, from pilsner to pale ale.
Popular Microbreweries, From Coast to Coast
Stone Brewing Co - Escondido, CA
Brew to Try: Arrogant Bastard Ale, an American Strong Ale not exactly for the faint-hearted. The hops will knock your socks off.
Rogue Ales Brewery - Newport, OR
Brew to Try: Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, a stunning, well-balanced stout. Malty and smoky, with velvety chocolate undertones.
Wynkoop Brewing Company - Denver, CO
Brew to Try: Rail Yard Ale -- their flagship brew -- has the sweetness of an Oktoberfest brew balanced with ale fruitiness.
Harpoon Brewery - Boston, MA
Brew to Try: Only one? They're all so good. But one to try is from their UFO line -- the UFO Hefeweizen -- an unfiltered, characteristically cloudy hefe, with a clean, citrusy, mildly spicy finish. And if you can go for another, try the Harpoon IPA.
Mendocino Brewery - Ukiah, CA
Brew to Try: Red Tail Ale -- another flagship brew -- and from a true pioneer of the craft beer resurgence. Red Tail Ale is an amber beer with a clean, crisp yet delicate hoppiness at the finish.
Anchor Brewing Co. - San Francisco, CA
Brew to Try: Anchor Steam Beer -- Perhaps one of the oldest handcrafted American beers, this classic is amber in color with a nice balance between sweet malts and caramel, and tart apple with a hint of citrus.
Brewery Ommegang - Cooperstown, NY
Brew to Try: Hennipin Farmhouse Saison -- Cooperstown. Home of beer and baseball. Only the beer here is Belgian-style. Hennipin starts with the tartness of a lemon, giving way to a spicy, bready flavor with a clean finish. Full-bodied without being heavy.
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats - Rehoboth Beach, DE
Brew to Try: 60- , 90- or 120-minute IPA -- Once you get past the crazy name and matching artwork, the DFH IPA series is stellar -- especially the 90-and 120-minute varieties -- a hophead's dream, classically but pleasantly bitter with a nice malt balance.
Magic Hat Brewing Co. - Burlington, VT
Brew to Try: #9 -- Billed as a mild, "not quite pale ale," Magic Hat #9 is a classic English Pale Ale rather than the "hit you over the head with hops" American Pale Ale... not that there's anything wrong with that. Some of the magic in this brew comes from subtle hints of apricot. The presence of hops gives it a clean, dry finish.