Before I begin my journey down the rabbit hole of our dark and depressing education system, I want to do another list. Yes, lists are completely and totally subjective. Am I doing this to gain readers? I don’t know. But after having some amazing beer during Memorial Day Weekend, I want to publish a list of my ten favorite craft breweries.
This list is going to have a west coast, California bias. Living in one of the headquarters of craft beer for the entire country (Southern California specifically San Diego County), my list is going to be a little top heavy with these breweries since this was my introduction into this world. I also know that there are going to be many breweries that may be your personal favorite that will be forgotten. Russian River is often ranked as the best but despite the quality of their beer, they did not make it into this list. I also added a few bonus listings of my favorite breweries visited in each state I have visited where I have gone to at least five craft breweries. Leave any that you recommend in the comment box below this article. Let us begin with Number 10 followed up by my favorite breweries in nearby states.
#10 HUSS BREWERY – TEMPE, AZ: Usually drop by here every time I am visiting my family in the Phoenix, AZ metro area. The Papago family of beers, the Orange Blossom Vanilla Mandarin Wheat and the Coconut Joe Coconut Coffee Stout, are amazing.
#9 BALLAST POINT – SAN DIEGO, CA: This one is likely to slide out of the top 10 by the end of 2021 if things do not change. At one time, this was my favorite brewery with an amazing rotating selection and a menu with not one single beer that had any significant flaw. After the major brewer Constellation Brands, Inc. purchased Ballast Point, the beer could be found everywhere but the era of innovation slowed to a crawl. Now that a small microbrewer has purchased Ballast Point (Kings & Convicts) from Constellation Brands, my hope that Ballast Point will stand out again among the ‘greats’ has been renewed.
#8 FLYING DOG – FREDERICK, MD: My only visit to Frederick, Maryland came before this brewery existed and was memorable for the bed bugs in our hotel and a bad customer service experience at Cracker Barrel. But this brewery has made up for it with their occasional special releases which are all fantastic. Now if I could only find them more often in Southern California!
#7 IRONFIRE – TEMECULA, CA: My hometown brewery. These beers have intense flavor and high alcoholic content. A few hours at Ironfire usually ends with me in a happy drunken stupor. This brewery has some of the most powerful tasting stouts I have ever had. A place that absolutely specializes in dark beer.
#6 FOUNDERS – GRAND RAPIDS, MI: These beers are commonplace at my local TOTAL WINE. Founders is always creating new flavors and interesting new ideas with their beers and no matter what bizarre idea they try; the beers always turn out magnificent. Truly one of our country’s best breweries!
#5 ALESMITH – SAN DIEGO, CA: What can I really say about Alesmith? The only reason they are this low is because two of their signature beers, .394 Pale Ale and the Sublime Lager (Named after Tony Gwynn’s batting average in 1994 and the So Cal ska band Sublime) are actually two of my least favorite beers on their menu. Everything else is top notch including their Speedway Stout which has been mixed with dozens of different types of coffee and it works every single time.
#4 CLOWN SHOES – IPSWICH, MA: Another company that is instantly bought whenever I find their beer locally. Known for their amazing beer names (The Exorcism of Rachel Well, The Ballad of Minnie Quay and Advent Party Crasher), Clown Shoes has unique labels and beers that have complex flavors. Don’t let the ridiculous name fool you. This is an amazing brewery.
#3 BOTTLE LOGIC – ANAHEIM, CA: Only discovered this brewery recently. Its reputation has skyrocketed in its few years of existence. Their Fundamental Observation is usually listed as one of the top beers in the state. Would be the best brewery in Orange County if it was not for our #1 selection.
#2 PORT/LOST ABBEY – SAN MARCOS, CA: Continues to be my favorite brewery in the San Diego County area. Everything that comes out of this brewery tastes like liquid gold. They have also created some of the most unique tasting beers I have ever had in my lifetime. If you come to San Diego County, this is a must stop if you are interested in craft beer.
#1 THE BRUERY – FULLERTON, CA: Right down the street from Bottle Logic is the best brewery in the country ironically called The Bruery. Going into this location is only part of the experience. They have hundreds of beers to their name with some specialties climbing into the 20% range. Everything has a wonderful taste and even when the beer is not one of your favorites, the effort put into it can still be admired. All their beer is always better than you think it is going to be. Until proven otherwise, this is the best brewery in the United States.
SOME OF MY FAVORITES FROM NEARBY STATES
NEVADA: TENAYA CREEK BREWING – LAS VEGAS, NV: This can be found in the Las Vegas casinos. For a brewery located in the middle of the desert, the beers are tasty, pure and memorable.
COLORADO: LEFT HAND BREWING – LONGMONT, CO: This brewery has a milk stout that can be found in almost every BEV MO, TOTAL WINE, and liquor store in the nation. In terms of cost, this brewery gives you more bang for your buck than any brewery in the country. How their beers taste so good at such a cheap price is a testament to this brewery.
ARIZONA HONORABLE MENTION: DARK SKY – FLAGSTAFF, AZ: Even though Huss beat this brewery out, this brewery is my favorite in northern Arizona by a longshot. Located in the Old West downtown of Flagstaff, they have wonderful selection and make good use of the fresh snow that lands on the city five months a year.
IDAHO: BEAR ISLAND – BOISE, ID: Idaho is becoming one of the best states for breweries. I would put it into my top 3 in my rankings right now (Behind Colorado and California). This brewery is the one that needs to be visited. That clean mountain rain and river water gives these beers a wonderful, purifying clean taste.
OREGON: GIGANTIC – PORTLAND, OR: If this state ever becomes a place to visit again (Riots and BLM are making it difficult), come to this brewery. Beer culture is one of the reasons to visit downtown Portland. Of the dozen or so breweries in the city, this one stands out easily above the rest.
Please leave your own suggestions in the comments. If you want to follow my on the beer social network Untappd, please send a friend invite to CroatianCritter. Cheers and enjoy the summer!
EXPERT OF SOME