THE BEST BEER BY STATE

This map does NOT reflect the list below. Let me save you the confusion…

The explosion of craft beer in the US has given us close to 2,000 operating breweries and brewpubs. There are now dozens of breweries in states that, just a few short years ago, might have only had one or two. That fact, combined with my love of inane lists, inspired me to research one of the single most useless topics we’ve ever tackled at Aleheads (and that’s saying something). I wanted to know which beer was the “best” from each of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia). That list is below.

Before we get there, let me unleash my usual plethora of caveats. First of all, I certainly don’t claim that these are “actually” the best beers found in each state. Beyond the fact that it’s a completely subjective argument, I’ve also only had about a dozen of these mostly rare brews. I culled this list from the raw data on BeerAdvocate (one of the largest on-line rating sites). Generally, when I do these kinds of “research projects”, I eliminate any beer that doesn’t have at least 10 reviews from one of those sites to eliminate the “small sample size” issue. I made that my cut-off here as well since it has worked fairly well in the past. Because of that arbitrary number, there are beers on this list that might have only 12 or 15 reviews that “just” beat out a highly-popular prestige beer with over 1,000 reviews. Does that slightly higher overall rating “really” mean that the beer with a dozen reviews is better than the one with 1,000? Probably not. If I’m at a package store and I’m waffling between a beer with a 4.4 rating and 10 reviews versus one with a 4.39 rating and 700 reviews, I’m likely choosing the latter. Nevertheless, when you decide on your criteria for a project like this, you have to stick with it. Don’t blame me. Blame science.*

*Seriously though, you can blame me.

Then there’s the “homer” problem. Lots of small-town breweries get inflated ratings on these sites because the only people writing about their beers are homers. I can’t really account for that unless I eliminate all of the small breweries or make my cut-off number much higher. Since I wanted to be able to account for every production-level brewery (so as to include some unheralded gems), I just went all-in. I looked at every brewery in every state, checked the overall ratings for every beer that had at least 10 reviews, and then found the one with the highest overall rating. Problematic? Yes. Pointless. Absolutely. But you don’t come to Aleheads for logic and pragmatism. You come here because you’re bored at work and need to kill 10 minutes before your next strategic planning meeting. Hey, we aim to please!

So here it is, folks. The “best” beer from every state in the country. Enjoy!

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  1. Alabama – Good People Hitchhiker: Probably the only state in which I can say that I’ve probably tried almost every commercially available beer. Good People’s Hitchhiker is my personal favorite beer from the Yellowhammer State as well. It’s a well-balanced, satisfying, and very easy-drinking American IPA. If Good People’s El Gordo, a rich, decadent Imperial Stout, had a few more on-line reviews, it would take the top spot, but for now the Hitch is the pick.
  2. Alaska – Midnight Sun Bar Fly: Look, you’re going to be seeing LOTS of Imperial Stouts and DIPAs on this list. Might as well get used to them. The Bar Fly is a Smoked Imperial Stout aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?
  3. Arizona – Four Peaks Hop Knot: Arizona still has some work to do to make a name for itself in the world of craft beer. To be fair, the arid climate doesn’t really allow much in the way of hop or barley production in the state (or, you know, easy access to water). Nevertheless, Four Peaks has produced a solid American IPA which I was able to get my hands on during my last trip to the Grand Canyon State. Definitely worth seeking out.
  4. Arkansas – Diamond Bear Paradise Porter: Arkansas’s not exactly a craft beer mecca either, but people rave about Diamond Bear…particularly their Paradise Porter. Let’s hope Arkansas sees the same kind of craft beer growth as nearby Alabama and Tennessee in the coming years.
  5. California – Russian River Pliny the Younger: I mean…it’s the highest-rated beer on Earth, so it was fairly likely it was going to top the California list. A number of the Aleheads have sampled it recently and none have been disappointed. What more can you say about the Younger?
  6. Colorado – Avery Tweak: Colorado has become one of the best beer states in the country…on par with Oregon and behind perhaps only California. I had no idea which beer would top out in the Centennial State (what a perfect nickname for a craft beer destination state, by the way). In the end, I wasn’t particularly surprised by the winner. The Tweak, formerly known as Mephaddict, is a huge, coffee-infused version of Avery’s already incredible Mephistopheles. I had it on tap at the Thirsty Monk in Asheville, NC last Fall and fell deeply, madly in love.
  7. Connecticut – Thomas Hooker Liberator Doppelbock: The Professor has since moved to Maryland, but during his years in Connecticut, he lamented the fact that one of the most affluent states in the nation didn’t support much of a craft beer industry. That’s slowly starting to change with the addition of some well-regarded new breweries. Topping the list in CT? A Doppelbock of all things. Nice job, Thomas Hooker. Good to have a lager on the list.
  8. Delaware – Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA: To the surprise of absolutely no one, Dogfish Head’s beloved Imperial IPA, the 90 Minute, took top honors in Delaware. Just another feather in Sam Calagione’s gaudy headdress.
  9. District of Columbia – D.C. Brau On the Wings of Armageddon: No, I’m not bitter at all that this popular brewery that makes a world-class Imperial IPA with one of the coolest names in the craft beer world opened up shop AFTER I moved out of D.C. Not bitter in the slightest.
  10. Florida – Peg’s Cantina G.O.O.D. Rare D.O.S.: I’ll admit this one surprised me. A small brew-pub in Gulfport cranks out a whiskey barrel-aged Imperial Stout that actually has the highest overall rating of ANY beer on this list? I don’t know what’s going on down in Tampa, but between Peg’s and Cigar City, they’ve got a G.O.O.D. thing going.
  11. Georgia – Wild Heaven Eschaton: Makers of Wifey’s favorite beer, the Ode to Mercy, Wild Heaven also produces a giant Quad which beats all comers in Georgia. Eschaton is a generic term for the end of the world, but I’m hopeful that the Wild Heaven folks actually named the beer after the complex tennis/wargame hybrid in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
  12. Hawaii – Maui Imperial CoCoNut Porter: I was nervous that Kona Brewing, Maui’s notorious, Anheuser-Busch backed rival, would win “best beer in Hawaii” honors. But Maui won in the end thanks to this amped-up version of their delicious CoCoNut Porter. Sounds like a beauty.
  13. Idaho – Grand Teton 5 O’Clock Shadow: Idaho, as you might expect, does not have a myriad of craft breweries. Grand Teton is probably their most well-known and they produce Idaho’s #1 brew. The 5 O’Clock Shadow is a Double/Imperial Schwarzbier…a style that clearly needs to be mainstreamed.
  14. Illinois – Goose Island King Henry: I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but I had a sneaking suspicion that Goose Island was going to take top honors in Illinois. Despite their buy-out at the hands of Anheuser-Busch, Goose Island and its still-independent brewpubs continue to crank out some phenomenally well-received beers. The highest-rated of these is the King Henry (brewed at their Fulton Street-HQ), a high-octane Barleywine aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrels. If I wasn’t maintaining my personal boycott of all Goose Island products, this would be the first beer I would seek out.
  15. Indiana – Three Floyds Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord: Wait, you’re telling me that the best beer in Indiana is a barrel-aged, vanilla bean-infused, version of a prestige Imperial Stout produced by the #1 rated brewery in the US? What are the odds?!
  16. Iowa – Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget IPA: I had never heard of the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, but their Golden Nugget (made with Golden Promise malt and Nugget hops) is the highest-rated beer in Iowa. So the next time you head to the Hawkeye State, head to Toppling Goliath and pass over your money without even thinking about it. For it’s money you have and beer you lack.
  17. Kansas – Free State Old Backus Barleywine: I was mildly surprised by how many Barleywines were on this list, but the good ones are genuinely VERY good. And from what I’ve read, the Old Backus is a damn fine version of the style. We’ll have to ask Lady Jay and/or Herr Hordeum to grab a sample and report back to us from their Kansas-based lair.
  18. Kentucky – Lexington Brewing’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale: If you thought the #1 beer in Kentucky was going to be ANYTHING but a bourbon barrel-aged brew, you don’t know shit about the Bluegrass State. They brush their teeth, wash their faces, and perform enemas with bourbon.
  19. Louisiana – NOLA Flambeau Red: I’ve found the few NOLA (New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Company) beers that have made their way to Alabama to be pretty decent. But I haven’t had a chance to try the Flambeau yet. This hop-forward red ale outranks them all in Louisiana.
  20. Maine – Allagash Coolship Resurgam: I was happy to see the Resurgam top the Maine list after writing about Allagash’s coolship program in my sour ale post last week. Now if only I lived close enough to Portland to actually get these coolship brews…
  21. Maryland – Evolution Rise Up Stout: A straight-up stout from newcomer Evolution, the Rise Up has a reputation for an incredibly smooth body and rich, complex flavor. Between Stillwater, The Brewer’s Art, Flying Dog, DuClaw and Evolution, Maryland is becoming quite the little craft beer destination.
  22. Massachusetts – Samuel Adams Utopias: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Boston Beer Company knows how to brew. Their Utopias was seen as a bit of a marketing gimmick when the 27% strong ales were released in hand-numbered, miniature copper kettles a few years back. But the public approved and the Utopias are now one of the highest-rated beers in the country.
  23. Michigan – Founders CBS: When all of the clamor and hype of the Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout died down, the truth was finally revealed. And that truth is that the CBS is one of the tastiest beers there is. Of course, when you age your already incredible Breakfast Stout in bourbon barrels formerly used to age maple syrup, you’re probably gonna like the results.
  24. Minnesota – Surly Bourbon Barrel-Aged Darkness: Yet another example of a great brewery taking a great beer, tossing it into some bourbon barrels for awhile, and ending up with the highest-rated beer in their state. I think I smell a business strategy here…
  25. Mississippi – Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout: The most restrictive state in the nation in terms of beer laws JUST upped their allowable ABV from a ridiculous 5% ABW to a somewhat less ridiculous 8% ABW (~10%ABV). For now, Lazy Magnolia’s tasty Jefferson Stout is the top-rated beer in Mississippi, but expect that to change very soon as some bigger beers are brewed up.
  26. Missouri – Boulevard Saison-Brett: As I said in the sour beer post, when used correctly, Brett yeast can be transcendent. Let’s just say that Boulevard used it correctly in their Saison-Brett.
  27. Montana – Big Sky Ivan the Terrible: Yup…another bourbon barrel stout. Hey, what do you expect? They’re delicious! Other than Doc, I’ve never heard anyone complain that there were TOO many bourbon barrel stouts out there. Oh, except for that guy whose parents were killed by falling casks of bourbon barrel stout. That was sad. What a waste of beer.
  28. Nebraska – Nebraska Brewing’s Melange A Trois: A 10% Belgian Strong Pale Ale aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels. Well played, Nebraska. Well played.
  29. Nevada – Big Dog’s Black Lab Stout: Based purely on overall ratings, Nevada might be one of the worst beer states in the nation. Any Alehead who has spent a weekend trying to wrangle up some high quality suds in Sin City knows how difficult it can be to find an even reasonably stocked beer bar. So it’s no surprise that the lowest rated of all of these “best” beers was Big Dog’s Black Lab Stout. That’s not a knock on what I’m sure is a tasty beer. I just think that Nevada has the same “lack of access to raw ingredients” problem as neighboring Arizona. Deserts just aren’t great places to make beer.
  30. New Hampshire – Portsmouth Brewery’s Kate the Great: Not even a smidgen of surprise here. One of the most lauded prestige Imperial Stouts in the world was all but guaranteed the top spot in New Hampshire. Smiley Brown grabbed some this year and said it was well worth the wait. I look forward to his review which, based on his usual level of output, should be posted sometime in 2017.
  31. New Jersey – Ramstein Winter Wheat Eisbock: This one came out of left field, but still…props to Ramstein for taking the coveted Jersey cup with a goddamn Eisbock. The reviews on-line sound absolutely delicious.
  32. New Mexico – La Cumbre Elevated IPA: The pride of New Mexico, La Cumbre’s Elevated IPA won gold at last year’s GABF and is considered one of the best American IPAs on the market. A worthy winner in the Land of Enchantment.
  33. New York – Southampton Publick House’s Berliner Weisse: With heavy-hitters from Brooklyn, Sixpoint, Ommegang, Captain Lawrence, Shmaltz and Southern Tier competing, imagine my surprise when the top-rated beer in the entire state of New York was a 2% (!) ABV Berliner Weisse from Southampton. And that’s why the play the games.
  34. North Carolina – Foothills Jade: There are so many good breweries in the Tar Heel State, but most of them are criminally unknown. With the new HQs of New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues opening in North Carolina, perhaps some good pub will rub off on the local ale factories. If that’s the case, expect to hear more about the Foothills Jade…a big-time American IPA that crushed the competition in North Carolina.
  35. North Dakota – Fargo Brewing’s Stone’s Throw: So…I really didn’t know what to do here. According to BeerAdvocate, there are only two production breweries in North Dakota. The first is Granite City which is a large, multi-state chain like Gordon Biersch or Rock Bottom. I made the executive decision NOT to include beers from such chains in this exercise since you never know if any particular beer is actually sold in a specific state. The other choice was the Fargo Brewing Company. The problem there is that they only have two rated beers, neither of which passes the 10 review cut-off point. Rather than give the nod to a chain restaurant’s beer which may or may not even have been served in North Dakota, I went with the higher-rated of the two Fargo offerings…the Stone’s Throw Scottish Ale. My point is, you REALLY need more breweries, North Dakota (cut to all North Dakota Aleheads nodding vigorously in agreement)!
  36. Ohio – Columbus Brewing’s Bodhi DIPA: I was thinking Great Lakes would take the Ohio cup with something like their Blackout Stout, but nope…Columbus swooped in for the victory with their big, brash Bodhi. I haven’t had it, but it sounds like a tropical fruit-bowl of goodness.
  37. Oklahoma – COOP Ale Works F5 IPA: Like La Cumbre in New Mexico, the small COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City decided to go big with a hop-forward American IPA. The proof is in the pudding and COOP has the highest-rated beer in all of Soonerdom.
  38. Oregon – Deschutes The Abyss: I’m not sure if the Abyss is my favorite beer in the world. Then again, I’m not sure it isn’t.
  39. Pennsylvania – Selin’s Grove Olde Frosty IPA: I know Slouch Sixpack will have some choice words about this one, but you can’t argue with the numbers. The highest-rated beer in the entire Keystone State is Selin’s Grove Olde Frosty IPA. I honestly have no idea how I feel about this pick. Some reviewers describe it as a classic, hop-forward IPA. Others liken it to a mellow, spiced winter warmer. Perhaps the Frosty takes top honors in PA because it’s all things to all people.
  40. Rhode Island – Trinity Decadence: A huge DIPA from the tiny Trinity Brewhouse in Providence. Reviews make it out to be a more malt-forward Imperial IPA then you might expect, but sometimes that’s a welcome change of pace if done well. And it sounds like the Decadence is indeed done well.
  41. South Carolina – COAST Carnie Fire: I suspected to see COAST’s name in the South Carolina slot, but I was more than a little surprised to see a beer called the Carnie Fire win the prize. It sounds like a moderately hop-forward red ale with a session-smooth finish. I love COAST’s beers, so color me intrigued.
  42. South Dakota – Crow Peak Pile O’ Dirt Porter: Can’t say I’ve ever had a Crow Peak beer, but they’re the winner of my personal “favorite craft can designers” contest. So I’m happy to see them on top in South Dakota with their Pile O’ Dirt Porter. Appetizing name too.
  43. Tennessee – Yazoo Sue: I love this dark, smoky brew, but was still a little surprised to see it as the #1 beer in Tennessee. Not that I’m arguing…it probably IS my favorite beer brewed in the Volunteer State. I think I was just taken aback because it’s fairly easy to find in these parts and most of the brews on this list are hard to come by.
  44. Texas – Live Oak HefeWeizen: The highest-rated American Hefeweizen is also the #1 beer in Texas. Hefeweizens were the “in” beer for years in the craft world, but have since been replaced by American Black Ales, Kölschs, and especially American IPAs. Despite their fall from grace, there are still some crazy-good American versions of the traditional German style out there and the Live Oak is supposedly the best.
  45. Utah – Uinta Labyrinth: Speaking of American Black Ales, the Labyrinth is one of the best in the biz. Amazing how good some of the beers being produced in a state that all but outlaws alcohol can be. Uinta should get extra props for the degree of difficulty in operating a brewery in Utah.
  46. Vermont – Alchemist Heady Topper: Yeah, it’s that good. One of the best DIPAs you’ll ever try. I’m still waiting for Doc to send me down a four-pack since the two I bought the last time I was in New England were gone in minutes.
  47. Virginia – Williamsburg AleWerks Bitter Valentine: Great name for a DIPA…the Bitter Valentine reviews make it sound like an extremely pine/resin-forward hop bomb. The kind of brew that Doc hates and Slouch worships. Regardless, it’s the winner winner, chicken dinner in the Old Dominion.
  48. Washington – Fremont Bourbon Barrel Abominable: I’ll just let Fremont describe this one: “Lovingly referred to by Fremonters as the B-BOMB, this bourbon barrel-aged edition of our winter ale has a warming spicy aroma and rich carmelly notes of bourbon, wood and vanilla added to dark roasty chocolatey malt flavors and subtle hopping.” OK then. I’ll take ten.
  49. West Virginia – Bridge Brew Works IPA: The Commander and Lord Copperpot gave rave reviews to two of Bridge Brew Works offerings, but alas, they didn’t get a chance to sample their best-in-the-Mountain-State IPA. Since they’re such good friends of the site, I’m sure Ken and Nathan will rectify that situation shortly. Right? Ken? Nathan? Hello?
  50. Wisconsin – Central Waters Fourteen Fourteen: I promise this is the last bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout on the list…in that there’s only one beer left. Wisconsin has a ton of magnificent craft breweries around, but the Fourteen Fourteen beat out every other offering in America’s Dairyland. Must be a winner.
  51. Wyoming – Snake River Zonker Stout: The top-rated American version of the Foreign/Export Stout style, the Zonker is famous for its rich roast character and smooth, easy finish. Sounds perfect after a long day of Wyoming-centric activities like fly-fishing, hiking, and getting shot in the face by Dick Cheney.

I expect…nay, demand…angry, heated comments after this post. Tell me which beers are “really” the best in your home state, readers. Make sure all of Alehead Nation knows how stupid the above list is as you tell us which brews truly reign supreme in your homeland. I’d love to follow up this post with an “Aleheads’ Choice” list, so don’t be shy with your suggestions!

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94 comments

  1. Were there enough bourbon barrel-aged beers on this list? Yeesh. Okay, for Wisconsin, how about MKE Brewing Company’s O-Gii (formerly named Godzilla), a wit flavored with Rishi chamomile and green tea. Weighs in with an ABV of 9.2% methinks.

    1. What exactly is Rishi chamomile?

      1. Rishi is an organic tea brand that’s based in Milwaukee. MKE Brewing Co. is also brewing a version of their Louie’s Demise flavored with Rishi Blueberry Roibos tea. Great summer beer.

    2. That’s a pretty big witbier, Mark! Sounds a little like Westbrook’s White Thai which is a wit brewed with ginger and lemongrass. I’m a fan of Asian flavors in beer. I’m still waiting for a hoisin-infused Imperial Stout. Yum.

      1. Hoison-infused Stout. Me likey!

      2. Sriracha Porter?

  2. Just a correction for Mississippi. They actually raised their ABW to 8% which translates to around 10% ABV.

    1. Leave it to an already antiquated state as far as beer laws are concerned to ignore the fact that the entire rest of the country measures in alcohol-by-volume and not alcohol-by-weight.

    2. Thanks, Nick. Correction made…

  3. As an NC gal, I have a lot (too much?) pride for NC beer. Yet I hang my head in shame now – I’ve never had Jade. I do love that brewery though, so I’m sure it’s stellar.

    1. What would be your pick for NC, Tiff? I’m a huge fan of the Highland Tasgall…

      1. Jade is phenomenal and I can’t fault anyone who says it’s their favorite. If I had to choose my own favorite from NC, though, I’d have to go with Olde Hickory’s Event Horizon.

        Charlotte’s cranking out some great beers also that could contend for the title.

      2. Anonymous · ·

        Highland’s Cold Mountain.

  4. Texas- you spelled shiner bock wrong.

    1. What IS the general opinion of Shiner Bock in Texas? I always equated it to the Texan version of Yuengling (i.e.: a local treasure that’s light-years better than the macros, but not on par with some of the newer craft outfits). Is it actually considered one of the better craft beers in the state?

      1. Anonymous · ·

        I’m from Texas, and among the general public it is one of the best beers, but among beer snobs (such as myself) it is a fairly mediocre beer. Shiner makes some great beers other than its most popular Bock, though.

  5. King Henry was not brewed by a Goose Island brewpub. It was brewed at the Fulton production brewery.

    1. Thanks, beerinator. Will correct that…

    2. Anonymous · ·

      Not only that but GI does not have any independent brewpubs. The entire company, pubs and all, are 100% owned by ABInbev.

      1. This is not true. The brewpubs were not part of the ABInbev deal.

  6. Nice review on BIG beers…ONLY. But you truely missed quite a few GREAT beers with your bias toward Bourbon barrel-aged, Imperials and Stouts. Maybe next time take a walk outside your comfort zone and try real beers that incorporate more then high ABW’s or ABV’s.

    1. Did you even read the preamble? These beers have nothing to do with his personal taste, these are just culled from the overall tasting notes at beeradvocate. All this reflects is that big beers and barrel-aged stuff tends to be rated highly.

    2. I know the instinct is going to be to jump straight to the list, but please take a second to read the intro. This is NOT my personal list of favorite beers. I’ve only had about a dozen of these brews. This is the list of the highest-rated beers based on on-line reviews (from BA and RB). Hence the bias towards “big” beers.

      I would absolutely love to hear what you think the “real” best beers are on a state-by-state basis.

    3. Anonymous · ·

      Trollolololol.

  7. Wisconsin-New Glarus Belgian Red-the cherry infused sour is amazing.
    Missouri-Boulevard’s Love Child No. 2 may have passed the Saison Brett.
    Kansas-LB Brewing has a stout that trumps the Free State beer. And Tallgrass has a mushroom infused beer (Oasis) that’s better too.

    1. I love the Oasis, but I had NO Idea it was mushroom-infused?

      The Belgian Red has crazy-high ratings as well. That really is one of the great American beers.

    2. Anonymous · ·

      The mushroom infused version of Oasis was a firkin, named PsychOasis. It was infused with candied mushrooms that gave the Double ESB a maple syrup flavor, that was different, however too intense to drink on a regular basis, hence the firkin.

  8. Selina Grove for Penn its a bold choice! I would have picked something from Troegs but that’s me.

    1. I’m sure I would have too…or maybe a Victory brew. Like I said, these are just the highest-rated beers from the big on-line review sites (BA and RB). Definitely not my personal selections…

      1. Vincent · ·

        Troegs Nugget Nectar has a 97 on BA with 2115 reviews compared to Olde Frosty’s 93 with 17 reviews. On RB it’s 100/1216 vs 96/12. Not sure how your rating worked there.

        1. I looked at just the “raw” (i.e.: non-weighted) data. Olde Frosty has a 4.49 and Nugget Nectar a 4.36.

          As I said in the intro, claiming that a beer with 17 ratings and a 4.49 raw score is better than a beer with a 4.36 raw score and over 2,000 ratings is ridiculous. But this post really isn’t about the actual “best” beers in each state. That’s far too subjective. It’s about getting our readers to open up about their favorite beers. I know the title is a little inflammatory, but we’ve found the best way to stir up conversation is to make wild claims like “The Best IPAs” or “The Best Breweries” and then let our readers rip our choices to shreds.

          Plus, for what it’s worth, a truly “weighted” list wouldn’t have included so many cool, relatively unknown breweries. It may have been more accurate, but accuracy is hardly our strong suit at Aleheads. We specialize in horseshit.

  9. LooseCannonLover · ·

    No Heavy Seas mention for Maryland? For shame!

  10. Anonymous · ·

    NOLA Brewery’s Irish Channel Stout is my personal favorite. Hopitoulous sometimes fights for that title, but in the end the Stout wins it. Combining the two has given rise to a new flavor, which locals affectionately call “Brewer’s Crack”.

  11. Kelly S · ·

    How did you miss my favorite Heavy Seas Loose Cannon in MD? Its scores blow the Evolution rise up stout out of the water? Rate Beer: 98 score w/ 1100 ratings and Beer Advocate: 91 score w/ 1000+ reviews How can 25 good reviews on BA for EVO declare that the best beer in the state?

    Yes I read your preamble. If you can’t take the time to weight the scores and why put something like this together and make us all nuts? You’re driving me to drink :( Your list stinks

    1. I looked at both BA and RB ratings, but they very often disagreed. In the end, I often sided with the BA ratings since they “usually” have more ratings (although that’s becoming less and less common as BA continues to rub people the wrong way). In this case, the Rise Up Stout had a higher average than the Loose Cannon on BA, so I went with that.

      This was just a meaningless exercise designed to get people to tell me what the “real” best beer was in each state. Clearly you think the Loose Cannon is Maryland’s top brew (I happen to love that beer as well). I apologize if this post is affecting your mental condition. You’re more than welcome to write up your own list taking weighted scores into consideration. In fact, I’d love to read it!

  12. caucasian1975 · ·

    The only problem i have with the list is that the ratings on ba and rb are slanted greatly towards rare to impossible to find beers. Is pliny the younger really better than the elder? Is cbs that much better than kbs, or breakfast stout for that matter? That being said i now have to go find that selin’s grove old frosty.

    1. Of course. That’s the first thing you note when you start sifting through reviews…rarities and barrel-aged beers are put on pedestals.

      I’ve had all three breakfast stouts and would put KBS on top by far. Haven’t had the Younger, but I know many people that prefer the Elder. That said, I don’t see any problem with people giving higher ratings to things they had to actually put some effort into acquiring. That’s just human nature…

      1. caucasian1975 · ·

        While i agree sometimes the chase makes the catch sweeter, we’re talking about drinking beer, not collecting hummels.

        1. I drink all of my beer out of hollowed-out Hummels and Faberge eggs. I just assumed everyone did. What are you drinking out of? A mug?! Heavens! I just broke my monocle…

    2. Anonymous · ·

      To answer the first question- yes. PTY is much better than PTE. Yes, the hype surrounding that beer is insane but, in this case, it’s well deserved. Can’t answer your question about KBS vs. CBS, but KBS is one of the best beers I’ve ever had so I would love to find out.

  13. There someone goes using that word again (BEST), I personally believe there is no BEST only what YOU like the most. It is all a matter of opinion, although I must say there are some really tasty beers on the list…

  14. Great list. As an Imperial Stout fanatic, my “want” list has now grown exponentially. I’ll even add that anything non-bourbon barrel aged has piqued my interest to seek it out (a doppelbock? Hmm… must now try)! Being out of CA, I’m not surprised Pliny the Younger was #1, but I’m now curious to see what #’s 2 and 3 were (ah, Bruery’s Black Tuesday, FW’s Parabola, Ballast Point’s Sea Monster… we can dream or maybe a criteria search of only 1000+ barrels to eliminate special/rare releases? Ah, that’s too much math.) Nicely done! Step up your game, Iowa!

    1. Based on my half-assed research, the #2 beer in CA was Churchill’s Finest Hour from Port. You’ll be shocked to find out that it’s a barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

      1. I was about to hang my head in shame because I had never heard of it (and I’ve actually been to Pizza Port down in San Diego!), but according to BeerAdvocate it was only brewed once (and only has 19 reviews.) Still… I should have known… (sigh)… I should have known…

        1. Anonymous · ·

          It’s a beer specially brewed for Churchill’s Pub out in nearby San Marcos. They release it once a year at Churchill’s anniversary party. I’ve never actually seen it at Pizza Port. Haven’t tried yet but I’ve heard it’s pretty bomb.

  15. Personally being from Minnesota I agree with the surly beer. However the beer picked on this list is a seasonal beer with a severely limited supply put out around Halloween at a party called darkness day. It’s a great beer nonetheless but if your picking a beer to describe a state why not surly furious which is one of their most popular beers and available year round. But everyone should try any surly they can.

    1. I just had Surly Darkness (I’m in Seattle) that a friend from Minnesota had brought out as a treat, and I am in love with it. Absolutely delicious. He does a lot of homebrewing and tries to re-create his favorite beers and one of the bottles he brought out west with him was his version of Surly Furious. If his version is any indication, that too is one extremely delicious beer with a hint of pine on the back end.

  16. Good call on your selection from Georgia. Try to get your hands on any of the Brick Mason Series brews from Red Brick, Your Black Heart RIS from O’Dempsey’s, or a Dank Tank from SweetWater. You will not be disappointed.

  17. AnonBeer · ·

    It is Samuel Adams Utopias. Not “Utopia”. Rookie mistake.

    1. Correction made. Can I get in the game now, Coach?!

  18. [...] was reading Aleheads.com today and it had a feature titled “The Best Beer by State.” Of course I checked out Iowa and found that something called Golden Nugget IPA from Toppling [...]

    1. Being from Iowa originally, I had the same question (I’m out in the Pliny state now.) I’ve enjoyed Millstream and found it pretty tasty, but had never heard of TGBC. Another brewery to seek out, I suppose.

    2. Beer fan · ·

      It is an up and coming brewery in NE Iowa…big beers brewed in small batches. Check them out at http://www.tgbrews.com. Golden Nuggets is my favorite, and might just be the best IPA I’ve had. Really their entire Hop Patrol brews are incredible.

  19. Anonymous · ·

    I do find it interesting that you put La Cumbre at the favorite beer of NM, but have a picture for Marble Brewery on there.

    1. You’ll also notice the same thing with just about every state on the map. The map was produced for a “Best Brewery by State” post but it looks cool wherever it gets posted. We Aleheads are big on recycling. And laziness.

      1. Here here. Why create something new when you can confuse everyone with something old?

  20. You are right on with Live Oak. I’ve always been a Hefe fan, but THE best is Live Oak! Great call on Selins Grove. The best little brewery in the middle of nowhere PA!

  21. If you’re ever in Vegas check out the Freakin’ Frog. They only have a dozen or so taps, but over 1000 different brews ready to be consumed in back and over 600 different whiskeys. Had perhaps the best beer of my life there Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Rum Cask Scottish ale (all the more impressive since it came in a CLEAR BOTTLE! Oh the Blasphemy).
    If you’re in Phoenix check out Papago’s stouts, two of the best stouts I’ve had and there’s few AZ beers I’ve come to like since living here. Oak Creek in Sedona is great and Dragoon brewery in Tucson (just opened) makes delicious beer, the only other brewery I like here is SanTan (Thunder Creek in Tucson has a good, rotating selection though). Oh and Sonoran has one of the best imperial stouts (Inebriator) I’ve tasted, very unique as far as that style goes.
    I would also like to say that Big Dog in Vegas has a great stout (nowhere near Papago’s though), but it’s a shame that is their best beer, the desert needs to step their game up (which I can attest that AZ is!).
    Lastly, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery in Laramie, Wyoming is amazing… Totally caught me off guard while traveling through there, but their beer is amazing, delicious food and the only brewing I’ve been to that has a “Beer Evolution” tap. Which is, each pint poured from the keg is replaced with a beer of similar style (I think they had 4 or 5 IPAs rotating that day), so no pint tastes like another. I only had a pint, so u could fit in their sampler before bein on my way, but it tasted nothing like an IPA (which I was pleased with, looked and tasted darker, but very unique) and was delicious.
    Hope you liked my ramblings, beer is good :)
    P.S. The owner of Big Dog’s is a Wisconsin native and the bar has a lot of Packer memorabilia, which is a nice suprise if you grew up 30 minutes south of Green Bay (which I happened to!).

    1. Thanks for all of the info, Mark. I like that name, the Freakin’ Frog. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever get to Vegas.

  22. Michael · ·

    Barley: What are your thoughts on Kiltlifter from Four Peaks in AZ? I love most everything they brew, including the Hop Knot, but the Kiltlifter is definitely my favorite.

    On another note, I noticed somebody mentioned Shiner Bock from Texas, which is another beer I quite enjoy.

    1. The Kilt Lifter was my favorite from Four Peaks, though I liked the Oatmeal Stout as well. I noticed they come in cans now. We’ve got family in PHX, so we visit with some frequency. Next time I’m out there, I’ll have to stock up on some sixers…

      1. All the Four Peaks brews are worth checking out, but I do prefer 8th Street Ale myself. I wish they would bottle/can their Stout, as it is soooo smooooth…

        1. Michael · ·

          They’re opening up a new brewery in Tempe. 40,000 new kegs/year. Hopefully this will allow them to bottle/can their stout and widen their distribution to other states.

  23. Dustin Christ · ·

    California has more/better craft beers than Oregon? Thems fighting words, boy.

    1. Hey look…I LOVE Oregon beers. We just spent a week in Portland and it was amazing…

      But while I would say that Portland is the best beer CITY in the country, I think California is the best beer STATE by a wide margin.

      For the “more” part, California has 354 breweries to Oregon’s 132. For the “better” part, that’s completely subjective. But check out this murderer’s row: Russian River, AleSmith, The Bruery, Port Brewing, Bear Republic, Stone, Sierra, Lost Abbey, Ballast Point, North Coast, Lagunitas, Firestone Walker, Green Flash, Alpine, Kern River…

      The list just goes on (and on…and on). If you live in Oregon, you should be rightly proud of your craft beer scene. But California is just on a different level (and considering its massive population advantage over every other state, it SHOULD be).

  24. Quite the list. I wish as, a community, we could stray from the BA stouts. One day maybe.

    I’ve had 11 on the list. I’ll go ahead and contradict myself here, because my favorite I’ve had is CW Fourteen Fourteen, an absolute gem from my home state of WI. Other notes:

    Pliny (Younger) really is great. As is the Toppling Goliath offering from IA. Yazoo Sue is still one of my favorite beers ever. Live Oak hefe is legit as well.

    On the negative – I know it’s KY, but have you HAD Lexington Brewing’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale? Hate to be harsh, but Jesus H that beer is a disaster.

    1. Never had it. I was actually kind of surprised that Kentucky didn’t have more craft breweries. Perhaps bourbon has such a stranglehold on the drinking populace that beer is more of an afterthought. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…bourbon is the liquor of choice for most craft beer drinkers, after all.

      I don’t think the predilection for Imperial Stouts and DIPAs will ever go away entirely, but I DO think tastes are changing. As craft beer becomes more mainstream, lots of breweries are getting off of the “bigger is better” bandwagon and are beginning to focus more on session brews. A few years ago, craft breweries HAD to cater to beer geeks because that’s who was buying their products. But now, they can create more accessible, easy-drinking options because craft has “broken out” so to speak. Tastes seem to be changing year-to-year. Can’t wait to see what the future holds…

      1. Definitely. You hear ‘session-able’ being tossed around a lot lately. I’m considering doing a post of the best beer below 5% abv since I tossed back a 4 pack of Surly Bitter Brewer last week. Wish I had purchased a few more…

  25. I never heard of the NJ beer. I have to pick some up.

  26. Anonymous · ·

    I’m calling BS on the sample size. The beer from NY state is based on less than 50 reviews. At least require a beer to have enough reviews as there are states in the U.S. if you are going to give it the “best” rating.

  27. Sweet! Thanks a lot for the great write up. We love to make hop-forward beers like the Golden Nugget IPA, and we have our fair share of barrel aged beers as well! Hope you can join us in our little corner of Northeast Iowa someday for a pint!

    Cheers,

    Madison (Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.)

  28. Kristen · ·

    For NM, on the list it says La Cumbre, but the picture shows Marble Brewery?

  29. Why the Boycott on Goose Island products? Is it because AB/In Bev bought them out? It seems to me that the quality has remained the same and now I have the option of G.I. products where Bud products are sold, ie sporting events, movie theaters ect. To me (a fellow pro brewer) it seems on positive that G.I. can brew more, improve quality and distribute their product to more markets. I would never tell someone how, or how not to spend their money, but perhaps you should really examine your “boycott”. Its like in high school when your favorite band makes it big time, and now they are “sell outs” because they can actually support their families doing what they love.

    1. caucasian1975 · ·

      Go ask sam caglionne about ab/inbevs unethical business practices, maybe then you’ll understand the reason aleheads boycott g.i., and any other ab/inbev product.

    2. Happy to discuss this since I’ve had to address it numerous times in the past…

      First of all, I would NEVER tell someone else to boycott Goose Island. That’s a personal choice that I made and I don’t look down at anyone who disagrees with me. If you like Goose Island’s beers and don’t care in the slightest about the AB buyout then who am I to find fault with your decision?

      I personally support companies for one of two reasons: Because I like their products, or because I respect the company itself. In an ideal world, both of those conditions are met, but obviously we don’t live in an ideal world. I’ve had to purchase cell phones from carriers I don’t particularly like. I’ve had to buy hardware and software from both Microsoft and Apple…two companies who often engage in reprehensible business practices. And, like most people, I support a political party that often disappoints me.

      But in the world of craft beer, I have over 2,000 companies to choose from. That variety means that I can be VERY particular about which breweries I choose to support with my hard-earned money. In the case of Goose Island, they chose to align themselves with Anheuser-Busch InBev. They did this for a variety of reasons and I’m sure all of them were logical. If I were in their shoes, perhaps I would have done the same thing. I personally don’t think it has affected their products (at least yet), so if that’s ALL you care about, then keep on drinking Goose Island.

      As far as craft beer is concerned, however, I care about a lot more than that. I care about the growth of the industry and fair business practices. I care about encouraging companies to grow organically and to build up their capacity and their clientele in a way that I respect. AB InBev engages in horrific business practices. They engage in the most sexist, misogynistic marketing you will ever see. They strong-arm their distributors to the point that many of them have to engage in outright bribery and other underhanded tactics to force AB’s products to dominate shelf space and tap handles at the expense of smaller breweries. They actively lobby state legislators to pass legislation that cripples or kills the growth of craft brewing and favors a massive conglomerate that is headquartered overseas. They’re not an American company anymore and they’re clearly operating under completely different rules than any other brewery in the world. They’re too big, too marketing-driven, and too bottom-line focused to operate any other way. Simply put, I can’t support them.

      Unless you live in Chicago and can frequent the still-independent Goose Island brewpubs, you’re filling AB InBev’s coffers when you buy Goose’s products. As I said earlier, if that doesn’t bother you, then I certainly don’t hold it against you. But it bothers me. I don’t care if Goose’s offerings are even BETTER now than they were before the buy-out. I simply won’t support a company that engages in the kinds of business practices that AB InBev does. I have other choices and I prefer to spend my money buying beer from breweries that are run in a way that I respect. Craft beer is one of the few industries in which I can have my cake and it eat it too. So I plan on buying beer from breweries that make great products AND aren’t actively trying to hurt the industry that I love.

      I hope that kind of answers your question. Obviously I’ve got a lot more I could say about this topic, but those are my feelings in a (rather large) nutshell.

      1. And one other thing…there are a TON of craft breweries that have managed to grow exponentially WITHOUT aligning themselves with a macro. Clearly if you’re a good business-person and make a good product, you can grow incredibly fast in the world of craft beer without resorting to “selling out”. If the only way to make it big in craft was to sell to AB or MillerCoors, I would begrudgingly accept that. But the hundreds of breweries showing double-digit growth year after year prove that you can become a big dog in the world of craft on your own terms…

        Goose Island chose a different approach, so I’ve chosen not to support them. That’s my right as a consumer, just as it’s your right to think I’m a naive idiot.

        1. I never never stated that you were a naive idiot, and certainly I don’t think that. It is your right, to boycott or purchase whatever you wish. You are passionate about about your beliefs, I respect and commend that. I’m glad that you have a legitimate and intelligent reason for your decision.

      2. I respect your choice to boycott them – But i feel that sometimes beer gets over-politicized
        My feelings are – I want to drink something that tastes fantastic — so i will follow the mantra — is it good — drink it – if AB puts out a product on par with PtE – i will drink it – they are not — but if they do, i will.
        I think its a slippery slope – if you are going to boycott GI for aligning with AB/I, and translate that same scrutiny to other products or services you consume — then you wont be consuming much of anything – why do people all of a sudden claim a moral high ground when it comes to something as trivial (in the grand scheme of the world) as beer, but don’t care about seemingly more important consumables or topics
        using that same logic — you should never eat a fast food burger, or a a plethora of other good and services – which come from “evil” corporations.

        1. If only it were that easy, Armen. As I noted above, as consumers we don’t always HAVE that choice. I gave the example of Microsoft and Apple. I don’t particularly like either company, but like most people, I own products from both of them. The same is true for cell phone providers, airlines, and electricity. Sometimes we simply don’t have the option to balance our personal moral beliefs with our consumer needs/desires.

          But beer is different. The state of craft beer in America today means that you can have the best of both worlds. You can drink great-tasting beer AND purchase it from companies that you respect. If Goose Island were the only good craft brewery on the market, I’d purchase their products without much hesitation. But they’re not. There are thousands of other options out there, many of them as good or better than Goose Island. I feel the same way about Terrapin. They’re still independent and MillerCoors only has a small stake in the company. But I know when I buy a Terrapin product that some percentage of my purchase is going to MillerCoors. That bothers me as a consumer, particularly when I know there are 100 other equally good options on the shelf that WON’T support a company I dislike.

          Food is another interesting example, Armen. For the record, I haven’t eaten a fast food burger in over a decade and my wife and I try to buy most of our produce from the farmer’s market or at least from the organic section of the grocery store. It can be woefully difficult not to consume food from companies that I would prefer to avoid, but we do the best we can.

          I personally don’t think beer is trivial. It’s a passion of mine and the health and growth of the industry is vitally important to me. I support the industry in the best way I know how…by giving my money to companies I believe in.

  30. [...] Aleheads.com | Full List Share this:Share Tagged with: Lazy [...]

  31. Anonymous · ·

    Nope. Hardywood Park’s (RVA) Farm Pumpkin. Just amazing.

  32. [...] Aleheads combed BeerAdvocate and came up with their ranking of each state’s best beer.    The winner for Maryland:  Evolution Rise Up Stout.  I have to admit I was not familiar [...]

  33. Anonymous · ·

    So you didnt even try the beer from Virginia but you call it the winner? Thats terrible. If i were to make a list of the best (insert something) and went off of someone else’s word, i would just admit i never tried one. We don’t have a lot of options in virginia, but legend brown is pretty good and star hill makes some tasty beer also

    1. Hey, in a perfect world he would have added a preamble and added something like this: “I’ve also only had about a dozen of these mostly rare brews. I culled this list from the big on-line ratings sites”. That would at least show some admission that he hadn’t tried all the beers and maybe, just maybe, show that he was going off of someone else’s word. That would have been cool.

      1. Easy, Doc. We’re Americans here. We don’t actually have to “read” something to comment on it. That takes far too much time. Round these parts, our visceral, immediate opinions are far more important than actually taking the time to read the thing we’re opining on.

  34. As far as IA beers go, Peace Tree’s Hop Sutra DIPA is easily the best. By far my favorite new brewery.

    Toppling Goliath are awesome, too (see Virgin-Oaked Naughty 90 IPA).

    Thanks for the list!

  35. Regarding New York, I didn’t even realize that Southampton made a Berlinerweisse. It’s certainly not available in bottle stores.

    In terms of taste (amazing), availability (everywhere), and overall WOW factor (maybe the best East Coast IPA), it doesn’t get better than Ithaca Flower Power.

  36. [...] with the help of  from beer drinkers around the country at BeerAdvocate.com and determined the best beer in each state in the [...]

  37. Kristen · ·

    Excellent choice from NH…definitely worth the hours of waiting outside the brewery in the March cold to be part of the infamous tapping. (besides, it only lasts about 5 hours before it’s gone in the restaurant.) it’s definitely a pricey venture to be lucky enough to get to buy bottles. You have to buy scratch tickets for the chance to buy bottles. Lucked out big time this year though. We consider it an investment in future beer happiness. :) A true review of the 2012 batch of Kate should be expected in a few years after some good aging.

  38. Idaho does in fact have a myriad of craft brewery’s. 20 and growing. Not bad for a state that has just over 1 million people state wide. I get it though, only Grand Teton, and Laughing Dog distribute
    in multiple states. Stay tuned. Or better yet come to Idaho and check out some of our great brewery’s, large and small. Idaho produces the largest barley crop in N.A., and is third in hops. We are a beer state indeed. The geographic beauty of our state will look even better after a couple fresh Idaho craft brews. Cheers!!

  39. [...] Monday, I posted a list of the “best” beers from each state. The post was, shall we say, a little controversial. I tried to put in a number of caveats [...]

  40. Aleheads: The Best Beer by State « Larry Koestler · ·

    [...] Aleheads runs down The Best Beer by State via Beer Advocate ratings. This is eerily similar to the type of project I’d generally take [...]

  41. If it was out of left field or not, solid recognition for the Winter Wheat from Ramstein for New Jersey! Big fan of a lot of NJ brews, but man do the ‘delicious-sounding’ reviews match the actual taste! I even reckon a few more of their brews could have been in the running. If you’re ever in Northern Jersey… go have some samples at the brewery!

  42. The Top-Rated Beer Advocate Beers by State « Larry Koestler · ·

    [...] in mind when reviewing so-called “best-of” lists that are compiled via user reviews, all of which Aleheads covered more comprehensively than I could have hoped to do. That said, I will reiterate the fact that [...]

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