THE BEST BEER BY STATE: PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS

Last 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 explaining how the list was culled from on-line rating sites and didn’t represent my personal opinion. I also tried to note that it was just a conversation-starter and that my purpose in posting it was to get people talking about the “real” best beers in each state. Despite those caveats, some folks got a wee bit angry.

In retrospect, I probably should have realized that the article was going to push some buttons. The post was basically genetically programmed to make internet denizens cranky. First of all, it was a list. Internet commenters love/hate lists. Nothing drives traffic like a list does. Honestly, I think the very act of numbering something immediately puts people on edge.

Second, it was a “best X” list. As soon as you add that “best” modifier, readers’ fingers start to twitch in anticipation of writing their first angry comment.

And finally, it was a “best X in each state” list. This is probably why the post exploded. When you make a “best X in each state” list, you’ve now made the list personal. Everyone has a soft spot for their home states and very strong opinions about them. By attempting to list the best beer in each state, I might as well have just kicked everyone’s dogs and spit in their sandwiches.

I knew I was in for an interesting day when the forums started heating up at 6am. Many people were angry that the map I included at the top of the post didn’t match up with the actual beer selections. Actually, some people didn’t even read the article…they just commented on how terrible it was that I picked a certain brewery to represent their state in the map. For the record, the map doesn’t match up to the post because I created it months ago for an entirely different post. I slapped it up on top of the Best Beer By State post because I’m incredibly lazy and that seemed easier than creating a new one. I didn’t foresee the problems this would cause because, aside from being lazy, I’m also quite stupid.

Another interesting (but wholly anticipated wrinkle) were the responses from people who didn’t read the actual preamble, but jumped straight to the list. I fully understand this approach. If you see a post entitled “The Best Beer By State”, most of us are just going to skim down to our home state in preparation for being angry. I got attacked for rating beers I had never tried before. I got attacked for picking too many rarities, draft-only offerings, Imperial Stouts, and barrel-aged beers. I got attacked for being a hipster beer snob. I got attacked for typos. On the plus side, no one accused me of being worse than Hitler, so that’s something.

Once people went back and read the preamble, they were generally kinder. They realized that the selections weren’t my own…just the highest-rated beers based on on-line reviews. My selection process was dubious at best and many commenters had a thing or two to say about that. People that had problems with how I made my picks made good points about how I should have increased my review cut-off number, or should have only selected seasonal or year-round beers, or should have perhaps focused on best beer by style in each state rather than just best overall beer. All of these were worthwhile critiques, but like I said in the original intro, I had to pick SOME set of criteria for my research. Otherwise the results wouldn’t have been consistent.

Ultimately, what I was really hoping for were suggestions for what the “real” best beer was in each state. And man…did I get a lot of suggestions.

Based on those suggestions, and as promised in the original article, I’m now posting the “People’s Choice Awards” for the best beer from each state. These suggestions were pulled from comments on our own site, from BeerAdvocate and RateBeer forums, from a few smaller, non-beer related forums that just happened to be talking about the post, and, most importantly, from the hundreds upon hundreds of suggestions made in the Reddit Beer forum. The latter is, to the Aleheads at least, one of the best beer-related forums on-line. We get some of our best compliments and critiques from there and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more engaged, passionate group of beer geeks anywhere on-line (except for in our own comments section, of course). After sifting through the mounds of suggestions, I culled things down and came up with a new list. I hope it makes you want to murder me “slightly” less than the last one. Enjoy!

  1. Alabama (Original Choice  – Good People Hitchhiker, People’s Choice Award – Good People Hitchhiker): Not a lot of controversy with this selection. Probably because I noted in my write-up that I live in Alabama, have tried almost every beer produced here, and would have picked this kick-ass American IPA myself. There were a few nods for Good People’s Snake Handler (a great IPA that is a lot easier to come by than the Hitchhiker) and one suggestion for Straight to Ale’s massive Old Ale, the Unobtanium. But the Hitch held on strong.
  2. Alaska (OC – Midnight Sun Bar Fly, PCA -Midnight Sun Bar Fly): One of the few states I didn’t get any other suggestions for. People seemed pleased that I had selected a Midnight Sun beer and didn’t see any problem with this particular offering. Or maybe Alaskans are just really nice and don’t like to correct you.
  3. Arizona (OC – Four Peaks Hop Knot, PCA – Four Peaks Kilt Lifter): There were some other great suggestions for Arizona. Nimbus got a lot of love with their Old Monkeyshine and Oatmeal Stout. Prescott Brewing got support with their Petrified Porter and Achocolypse. There was also some noise for Sonoran’s Inebriator, and Papago’s El Robusto. In the end, most people felt that Four Peaks deserved the nod, but for their tasty Kilt Lifter (a Scotch ale, naturally) instead of the Hop Knot.
  4. Arkansas (OC – Diamond Bear Paradise Porter, PCA – Diamond Bear Paradise Porter): The only other suggestion for Arkansas was some love for the beers at Tiny Tim’s Pizza and West Mountain Brewing Company. Otherwise, the Paradise Porter from Diamond Bear was seen as the right choice.
  5. California (OC – Russian River Pliny the Younger, PCA – Russian River Pliny the Younger): With more brewery and beer options than any other state, I thought there would be more criticism about my California pick. But considering that the Pliny the Younger is basically the top-rated beer on Earth, I guess most Californians figured it wasn’t worth trying to come up with an alternative. There were admittedly some complaints about selecting a beer that was so hard to find, and a few more accessible options like North Coast’s Old Rasputin and Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA were suggested. But in the end, Pliny won as it always does.
  6. Colorado (OC – Avery Tweak, PCA – Dry Dock DIPA): Loads of good suggestions from Colorado natives. Great Divide got a lot of love, as did Oskar Blues and Odell. But the most support went to Dry Dock Brewing out of Aurora. People raved about their beers and the ones everyone kept coming back to were their Wee Heavy and their DIPA. The DIPA had just a few more recommendations so that’s the People’s Choice.
  7. Connecticut (OC – Thomas Hooker Liberator Doppelbock, PCA – Thomas Hooker Liberator Doppelbock): The ONLY other suggestion I got for Connecticut was a half-hearted plug for New England Brewing’s Sea Hag IPA. There are other great CT beers out there, but I wasn’t feeling much passion from Connecticut-area Aleheads. Considering how zealous the craft beer geeks are in neighboring MA and NY, I’ve always been puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm in Connecticut.
  8. Delaware (OC – Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, PCA – Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA): No one dared to cross Sam Calagione in the forums. Granted, Dogfish Head is by FAR the most well-known craft brewery in Delaware…and their 90 Minute is easily their most popular brew. Still, I was expecting at least a few alternatives. Ah well, the cult of Calagione lives on.
  9. District of Columbia (OC – D.C. Brau On the Wings of Armageddon, PCA – D.C. Brau On the Wings of Armageddon): This was probably my favorite exchange on Reddit:
    t3chpoint0: How about the “51st state”? DC still doesn’t get any representation? I hereby submit DC Brau to represent the nation’s capital! They may be only a year old, but they represent a growing DC craft beer community and have lots of years of experience behind the brewmasters that own the place.
    stephenbory: Unfortunately for you, the article beat you to the punch! Much love for DC Brau here.
    t3chpoint0: I only looked at the map and not the article. I’ll just see myself out.
    Stephenbory: This is reddit after all. Not reading the articles is practically the default, right? ;)
  10. Florida (OC – Peg’s G.O.O.D. Rare D.O.S., PCA – Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout): No one really complained about the ridiculously high-rated G.O.O.D. Rare D.O.S. because, as near as I could tell, no one had actually tried it. Most of the love from Floridians went to Aleheads’ favorite, Cigar City. While at least a dozen Cigar City brews were mentioned, the otherworldly Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout took the prize.
  11. Georgia (OC – Wild Heaven Eschaton, PCA – Wild Heaven Eschaton): Georgia was a tough call. The Eschaton got plenty of love, but there were also about a dozen other suggestions from Terrapin, Sweetwater, O’Dempsey’s, and Red Brick. In the end, there was no clear favorite, so I left the Eschaton as the victor. There were a few complaints about Wild Heaven being selected since they’re still contract-brewed out of South Carolina. But they’ll be opening up a production facility very shortly so I’m giving ‘em the benefit of the doubt.
  12. Hawaii (OC – Maui Imperial CoCoNut Porter, PCA – Maui Imperial CoCoNut Porter): Hawaiians seemed pretty content with my selection of this amped-up version of Maui’s tasty CoCoNut Porter. I didn’t even get a suggestion for another brewery, let alone another beer.
  13. Idaho (OC – Grand Teton 5 O’Clock Shadow, PCA – Sockeye Daggerfalls IPA): I offended some Idaho natives when I insensitively wrote that Idaho “does not have a myriad of craft breweries”. It turns out that the Gem State is actually quite a gem when it comes to craft and has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years. I suppose this should make sense since Idaho sits smack dab in the middle of the major barley-producing states (the Dakotas, Montana, and Idaho itself) and borders the major hop-producing states (Oregon and Washington). While a variety of beers were listed, there was a strong undercurrent of support for the Sockeye Brewery’s very well-rated Daggerfalls IPA.
  14. Illinois (OC – Goose Island King Henry, PCA – Two Brothers Cain & Ebel): My selection of a Goose Island brew spawned the usual heated debate about whether the brewery should even be considered “craft” after the Anheuser-Busch buy-out. But even the haters mostly gushed about the King Henry. Nevertheless, a number of other Illinois brews were suggested as replacements. Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter and Two Brothers’ Domaine DuPage and Cain & Ebel received the most votes with the Cain & Ebel just beating out the Daisy Cutter.
  15. Indiana (OC – Three Floyds Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord, PCA – Flat 12 Lacto-Matic Milk Stout): Three Floyds probably suffered from the “well of COURSE they won” mind-set…so most folks spent their comments listing other breweries and beers instead of just accepting Three Floyds as the winner. While no one bashed the pick, the Dark Lord also didn’t get nearly as much love as I expected. Instead, there was an upswell of support for the Lacto-Matic Milk Stout from Flat 12 Bierwerks. I love the name and the Indiana beer geeks seem to love the beer. So it gets the nod.
  16. Iowa (OC – Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget IPA, PCA – Toppling Goliath ZeeLander): I got a ton of great comments from Iowa Aleheads. They loved the Golden Nugget pick but had some other suggestions as well. I had a few comments about Peace Tree’s Hop Sutra, Blonde Fatale and Hop Wrangler, but Toppling Goliath maintained the win with a strong showing for their ZeeLander IPA.
  17. Kansas (OC – Free State Old Backus Barleywine, PCA – Free State Old Backus Barleywine): Free State’s Oatmeal Stout and Tallgrass’s mushroom-infused PsychOasis garnered some interest, but the Old Backus Barleywine seemed to be an acceptable selection. Lots of Kansas Aleheads wrote in to express their love of the big brew.
  18. Kentucky (OC – Lexington Brewing’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, PCA – Bluegrass Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale): I got some heat for this one. It seems many Kentuckyians really love Lexington’s Bourbon Barrel Ale, but a number of them were utterly flabbergasted by the pick. While Against the Grain and Apocalypse got some support, the majority of Kentucky Aleheads said that Bluegrass Brewing was the best craft brewery in the state and that any beer from their Bourbon Barrel series should get top billing. Of those, the Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale (aged for 100 days in Knob Creek barrels) got suggested the most.
  19. Louisiana (OC – NOLA Flambeau Red, PCA – NOLA Irish Channel Stout): No complaints about the choice of NOLA as the Louisiana representative, but there were LOTS of suggestions about which NOLA beer I should have picked instead of the Flambeau. The Irish Channel Stout had the most support by far, so it’s the choice.
  20. Maine (OC – Allagash Coolship Resurgam, PCA – Allagash Coolship Resurgam): Other than some half-hearted commentary about Geary’s, no one complained about Allagash’s position as the Princes of Maine. I didn’t read any alternative suggestions, so the Coolship Resurgam retained its top spot.
  21. Maryland (OC – Evolution Rise Up Stout, PCA – Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon): Maryland Aleheads were some of the most active in the comment boards. People both loved and hated my pick and more than a few Old Line Staters called me an idiot. While beers from Flying Dog and DuClaw were bandied about, by FAR the most votes for any one single beer was for Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon. In fact, I think the Loose Cannon was name-dropped more times than any beer from any state.
  22. Massachusetts (OC – Sam Adams Utopias, PCA – Pretty Things Jack D’or): Utopias didn’t sit well with the masses. Some felt it shouldn’t even be considered a beer since it drinks more like a port or sherry. Others felt that having the Boston Beer Company behemoth representing Massachusetts was insulting. Lots of good things were said about Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Clown Shoes, and Mystic Brewery. The most votes went for Pretty Thing’s flagship, the Jack D’or. So there you go.
  23. Michigan (OC – Founders CBS, PCA – Founders CBS): There were probably 50 suggestions put forth for Michigan including Bell’s HopSlam, Expedition and Black Note, Founders Backwoods Bastard and KBS, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk, Short’s Huma Lupa Licious, Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja, etc. And, of course, there were a ton of commenters who agreed whole-heartedly with the original choice. When I tallied everything up, the CBS still held the edge…but just barely over Bell’s HopSlam.
  24. Minnesota (OC – Surly Bourbon Barrel-Aged Darkness, PCA – Surly Abrasive): Basically every beer in Surly’s impressive line-up was mentioned. Clearly Minnesota’s Aleheads LOVE them some Surly. While the Furious, Coffee Bender and Darkness got tons of votes apiece, the Abrasive rose above the rest.
  25. Mississippi (OC – Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout, PCA – Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout): I got an interesting suggestion for the Lazy Magnolia Southern Gentleman, a bourbon barrel-aged version of their Southern Pecan. But other than that, the Jefferson Stout was universally praised as the pick for Mississippi. I actually got an e-mail from Lazy Magnolia shortly after the post which thanked me for the selection and said that I should start getting excited about the new beers coming down the pipeline in Mississippi. I can’t wait to see what starts coming out of the taps at Lazy Magnolia and Lucky Town now that the ABV law has been changed.
  26. Missouri (OC – Boulevard Saison-Brett, PCA – Boulevard Love Child No. 2): Boulevard and Schlafly battled for the top spot in Missouri in the beer forums. And while I actually got more comments about the latter over the former, the single beer that was suggested more than any other was Boulevard’s Love Child No. 2. I can understand that…it’s a pretty damn tasty beer.
  27. Montana (OC – Big Sky Ivan the Terrible, PCA – Big Sky Ivan the Terrible): Big Sky’s big Imperial Stout maintained its position as the best in Montana, but two other beers got lots of support. Kettlehouse’s Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and Blackfoot’s Single Malt IPA tied for the silver with many Montana Aleheads absolutely raving about them.
  28. Nebraska (OC – Nebraska Brewing’s Melange A Trois, PCA- Nebraska Brewing’s Melange A Trois): Nebraska’s beer geeks were far too polite to correct my choice. They simply nodded in agreement and then went back to their corn.
  29. Nevada (OC – Big Dog’s Black Lab Stout, PCA – Big Dog’s Black Lab Stout): I thought I had been a tad harsh to Nevada’s craft beer scene in my original write-up, but the long-suffering Nevada Aleheads actually agreed with me that their state needed to step up their game. I had one submission for the Great Basin Icky IPA (named for the Icthyosaur…a Mesozoic-era marine reptile), but otherwise the Big Dog maintained its position as the big dog in Nevada. I did get some encouraging comments about a small craft revolution occurring in Reno. Hopefully it becomes a beacon to the rest of the state.
  30. New Hampshire (OC – Portsmouth Brewery’s Kate the Great, PCA – Portsmouth Brewery’s Kate the Great): No complaints from any Granite Staters, but the day after publishing the original post, Slouch Sixpack sent out some surprising news. It seems that Tod Mott, the head brewer at the Portsmouth Brewery, is leaving his position to start up his own ale factory. That in itself isn’t particularly shocking, but as part of the arrangement, Mott actually retains the rights to his award-winning creation, Kate the Great. The Aleheads had never heard of a brewer actually taking his beer with him after leaving his place of employ so this is pretty interesting stuff. We’ll be looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
  31. New Jersey (OC – Ramstein Winter Wheat Eisbock, PCA – Kane Head High IPA): No one seemed that enamored by my choice of Ramstein and most Garden Staters suggested either Kane Head or Flying Fish offerings instead. The Kane Head High IPA was listed much more often than the others, so it takes the pole position.
  32. New Mexico (OC – La Cumbre Elevated IPA, PCA – La Cumbre Elevated IPA): This really must be a solid brew since the only comments I got about it were in the vein of, “Yes, that is the correct answer.”
  33. New York (OC – Southampton Publick House’s Berliner Weisse, PCA – Ommegang Abbey Ale): Hoo boy…although some people expressed praise at the out-of-left-field pick of a 2% ABV Berliner Weisse, most New Yorkers took the suggestion as an affront to their manhoods (or womanhoods I suppose…although I suspect the ratio of men to women in craft beer forums is somewhat higher than 1:1). In my defense, the Southampton Berliner Weisse IS the highest-rated New York-based brew on BeerAdvocate AND it’s the highest-rated low-ABV beer overall at RateBeer. So clearly it’s a pretty tasty brew. Nevertheless, New Yorkers wanted something a little bigger and bolder representing their state. Almost everyone listed Ommegang as a worthy choice, although Ithaca, Middle Ages and Sixpoint also got some love. The Abbey Ale from Ommegang got the most votes so it takes the Empire State.
  34. North Carolina (OC – Foothills Jade, PCA –Foothills Olde Rabbit’s Foot): With the exception of Ohio, no state’s denizens offered up more suggestions than the good citizens of North Carolina. The Tarheel State has become a true craft beer mecca of late thanks to the explosion of the craft beer scenes in Asheville and the Research Triangle. What’s more, North Carolina’s Aleheads are absolutely in love with their local beers and they’re not afraid to show it. Unlike the Ohio natives (which you’ll see in a bit), North Carolina’s commenters weren’t willing to actually bash my selection. In fact, I don’t think I read a single negative comment about any beer brewed in North Carolina. Like I said, they LOVE their local beer. While the Jade got lots of great comments, there was also a lot of support for a variety of brews from Duck Rabbit (particularly their Baltic Porter), Foothills Sexual Chocolate, Olde Hickory’s Event Horizon, and a bunch of beers from Fullsteam and Highland. But the #1 recommended beer in North Carolina was the Olde Rabbit’s Foot. This ridiculous sounding beer is brewed by mixing together wort from three of North Carolina’s signature stouts: Foothills Sexual Chocolate, Olde Hickory’s Imperial Stout, and Duck Rabbit’s Rabid Duck. Honey and cocoa nibs are then added and the resulting elixir is then aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. This actually sounds like it might be the greatest beer ever brewed by anyone anywhere at any time.
  35. North Dakota (OC – Fargo Brewing’s Stone’s Throw, PCA- Fargo Brewing’s Stone’s Throw): North Dakota was the only state that didn’t even have a brew that qualified for my criteria for selecting a best beer (Fargo’s beers didn’t meet my minimum number of reviews needed). Every North Dakotan I heard from agreed with me in one respect…North Dakota needs more goddamn breweries! Since I didn’t get any other suggestions, I just kept the Stone’s Throw where it was.
  36. Ohio (OC – Columbus Brewing’s Bodhi DIPA, PCA – Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA): For a moment last week, I almost thought my selection of Columbus Brewing’s Bodhi might break the internet. Ohio’s Aleheads were appalled. Ohio’s Aleheads were elated. Ohio’s Aleheads called me an assortment of unfortunate names. No state elicited more commentary or debate than Ohio on the craft beer forums. I can see why Ohio is such a swing state in Presidential politics…Buckeyes are apparently a contentious lot. What’s interesting is that, unlike North Carolina, Ohio natives seem to have no problem bashing their local breweries. I was told in no uncertain terms that the Bodhi absolutely sucked. And then when another suggestion was thrown out, the new beer was said to be horrible too. I love the rough and tumble world of Ohio craft beer. There’s a lot of excitement, anger, passion, and insanity there. While the Bodhi actually DID get strong support, Hoppin Frog’s Barrel-Aged B.O.R.I.S., Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout, Jackie O’s Dark Apparition and Maumee Bay’s Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout also got a lot of love. But the #1 beer in Ohio according to the commenters? Slouch Sixpack’s all-time favorite IPA, the Fat Head’s Head Hunter. He’ll be happy about this one. And I, for one, look forward to more ad hominem attacks directed at me from the state that’s round at both ends and pissed off in the middle.
  37. Oklahoma (OC – COOP Ale Works F5 IPA, PCA – COOP Ale Works F5 IPA): Like the New Mexico pick, Oklahoma’s Aleheads seemed thrilled with the selection of the F5. I didn’t get any alternative suggestions and most folks acted like it was the obvious choice. I love it when a plan comes together.
  38. Oregon (OC – Deschutes The Abyss, PCA – Deschutes The Abyss):  I was a bit taken aback by the amount of people who thought Deschutes was a terrible choice to represent Oregon. I get that Oregon has dozens of world-class breweries, but still…I’ve always thought of Deschutes as a pretty well-respected ale factory. Maybe they’ve just been around so long and have become so familiar to most people that they don’t seem quite as exciting as all the new kids in town. Still, the Abyss was the easy favorite amongst commenters although there were a few nods for some other Deschutes beers like the Jubel and Chainbreaker. Ninkasi, Double Mountain and Cascade also got some love. One of my favorite tangents while reading the message boards was the battle between Oregon and California Aleheads about which state was the “best” for craft beer. The answer? Not North Dakota.
  39. Pennsylvania (OC – Selin’s Grove Olde Frosty IPA, PCA – Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar): While a few people lauded my pick of a Selin’s Grove brew, the Frosty left most people cold. Victory and Tröeg’s went neck and neck for the top spot, but the Nugget Nectar won out in the end. I can understand that…hard to argue with the Nug.
  40. Rhode Island (OC – Trinity Decadence, PCA – Trinity Decadence): I didn’t get a single, solitary recommendation for a Rhode Island brew. On BeerAdvocate, at least one commenter noted how distraught he was about the lack of quality craft beer in the Ocean State relative to its neighboring states. I did get some props from fellow Alehead Smiley Brown who said he loved Trinity’s brews, so that’s something. Without an alternative, I felt no obligation to change my pick.
  41. South Carolina (OC – COAST Carnie Fire, PCA – COAST Boy King Double IPA): Thomas Creek’s Appalachian Amber Ale got some nods as did R.J. Rockers Black Perle. But COAST got the bulk of the love from South Carolina’s commenters and most of them crowned the Boy King Double IPA as their favorite.
  42. South Dakota (OC – Crow Peak Pile O’ Dirt Porter, PCA – Crow Peak Pile O’ Dirt Porter): Not only did I not get any other suggestions for South Dakota, I literally didn’t get a single comment about South Dakota in any way, shape, or form. Do they have the internet in South Dakota?
  43. Tennessee (OC – Yazoo Sue, PCA – Yazoo Sue): Other than one comment for the St. Charles Porter from Blackstone, Yazoo dominated the Tennessee discussion. Lots of Tennessee Aleheads love the Dos Perros and Hop Project, but the Sue continued to reign supreme.
  44. Texas (OC – Live Oak HefeWeizen, PCA – 512 Pecan Porter): Texans were none too pleased with my selection of the Live Oak HefeWeizen (although it seems like that may be because not too many people have tried it). Saint Arnold, Jester King and Rahr got some submissions…as did Shiner Bock oddly enough. But the name I kept seeing again and again was the Pecan Porter from (512) Brewing. So there you go Texans…you can put your guns down now.
  45. Utah (OC – Uinta Labyrinth, PCA – Uinta Labyrinth): No problems with the selection of this tasty Black IPA from Uinta. It was seconded a number of times by Utah’s Aleheads and seems to be a local favorite. Easy peasy.
  46. Vermont (OC – The Alchemist Heady Topper, PCA – The Alchemist Heady Topper): Although I got lots of suggestions for Otter Creek’s Black IPA, Long Trail’s Double Bag, and Rock Art’s Vermonster, the Heady Topper was never really in danger of getting knocked off its perch. Vermont’s Aleheads have fallen in love with this nigh-perfect DIPA from the Alchemist and they have no trouble showing it.
  47. Virginia (OC – Williamsburg AleWerks Bitter Valentine, PCA – Hardywood Park Gingerbread Stout): One of the easiest calls for me. The Bitter Valentine got absolutely zero support from the comment boards while everyone and their mother lauded the Gingerbread Stout from Hardywood Park. Sounds like a must-try the next time I’m in Richmond.
  48. Washington (OC – Fremont Bourbon Barrel Abominable, PCA – Black Raven Wisdom Seeker): Another easy call. My choice of the Fremont Abominable wasn’t bashed too much, but a number of Washington Aleheads noted that the best brewery in their fair state was Black Raven in Redmond. A number of Black Raven beers were mentioned, but the Wisdom Seeker seemed to be the People’s Choice, so it got top billing.
  49. West Virginia (OC – Bridge Brew Works IPA, PCA – Bridge Brew Works Triple): West Virginian’s liked my pick of Bridge Brew Works, but they preferred the Triple to the IPA. I like it when I only have to change one word.
  50. Wisconsin (OC – Central Waters Fourteen Fourteen, PCA – New Glarus Belgian Red): This one wasn’t too surprising. Cheeseheads love Central Waters, but they LOVE New Glarus. I think it’s because New Glarus intentionally makes their beer hard to get out-of-state. Something about that “only in Wisconsin” mentality makes the locals go nuts for New Glarus’s brews. Oddly, because of that local love, there’s actually a small, but vocal backlash against the brewery. But that backlash couldn’t stop the tidal wave of support for New Glarus’s masterful Belgian Red. It took Wisconsin’s top spot in a landslide.
  51. Wyoming (OC – Snake River Zonker Stout, PCA – Snake River Zonker Stout): After making light of Dick Cheney’s face-shooting exploits, Wyomingites were quick to point out that he A) Is not a Wyoming native and B) Shot that guy in Texas. As for the Zonker Stout, they liked that just fine.

Of the 51 “best” beers from my original list, the commenters decided that 24 of them needed to be changed. But hey, at least the majority of my picks still hold true! Thanks to everyone for your fabulous beer recommendations and your equally fabulous suggestions as to where I could stick my original list.

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36 comments

  1. I’m sure starting off with an 800 word preamble is the best way to ensure that people won’t skip to the list and fire off angry retorts. Nicely done.

    Alos, I’m shocked at how many OC’s matched up with the PC. I was under the impression that you were stupid, inconsiderate, and misguided. The forums lie!

    1. Well, most people spent so much time insulting me that they forgot to actually submit another choice for their favorite beer. And I really couldn’t put “Barley is an idiot” as the best beer for EVERY state.

  2. scary that no one in NC had a negative comment……

    1. Steve McC · ·

      That’s because we here in NC are all truly nice people who like ALL the beer our state produces. Could be why we snagged Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, AND New Belgium in one year, not to mention all the new locals.

      1. Or the incredibly favorable tax credits, including a renewable energy investment credit that I’m sure OB and New Belgium were salivating over. That may have helped.

        But yes, you are a very nice lot. Can’t argue with that.

        1. Steve McC · ·

          That’s called creating a “favorable business environment” in the local vernacular.

          Thank you for saying, Have a nice day, now, you hear?
          :)

      2. jimbeem · ·

        We’d all be genuinely nice with those state beers. :)

  3. Bonnie B. · ·

    Now I wish I had replied in the name of all Utah beer geeks. (There is roughly 12 of us. Ha!) While Labyrinth is a totally solid beer and I wasn’t mad at all about it’s appearance on the original list (I read your caveat); hands down the best beer to come out of Utah is Squatters Fifth Element. I could cite the fact that it won gold at the 2011 GABF, or talk about it’s perfect overall rating on my personal choice for beer rating sites, Ratebeer; but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I thought your list was fun, particularly because I didn’t agree with many of the choices. You can’t make everyone happy. :) Thank you for your wonderfully entertaining site, and for sharing your love of beer!

    1. I ran across Squatters while doing the original post and thought it looked like a pretty cool place. I’m thoroughly impressed with the breweries that manage to survive in thrive in Utah. It’s a hard enough business to be successful in without the additional element of a restrictive state culture. Thanks for bringing the Fifth Element to our attention. Would love to try some the next time I’m in Utah!

      1. Bonnie B. · ·

        I am going to try to not make this excessively long, but I think there are actually some benefits to the restrictions placed on Utah brewers. The kind of controls you have to have to keep your ABV low, also force them to be hyper-aware of the ingredients they use, fermentation temps, etc. The result of which is GREAT beer…and you can drink more of it without finding yourself underneath a table. :) The beer community here is also incredibly rad. Breweries kind of have the “we’re in this together” mentality, and for the most part really get along. They even do things like this http://www.slugmag.com/articles/3500/Suds-n-Studs.html. Ha! I was joking about not having beer geeks in Utah. I would challenge that we have some of the most passionate beer drinkers in the world…and perhaps that is due, in part, to the restrictive environment? All of that said, I am sure the headache of liquor licensing, distribution issues (everything goes through the state), and other backward laws does make it hard for our breweries. But we’re not alone in that, many states have some pretty silly red tape when it comes to beer production. I blame Carrie Nation. ;) Definitely check out Squatters if you are ever in Utah (and other great breweries that don’t distribute like Redrock, Hoppers, Desert Edge, Epic-if it’s not available in your area, etc.) they really do have a lot to offer. Chances are Fifth Element wont be available at the brewery however. There’s many reasons for that, but I think I have rambled enough. Feel free to message me if you’re in the area though; I am sure we have bottle in the cellar we’d be willing to share. :)

  4. I imagine you got so much response on the Maryland choice because Evolution just moved to Maryland from Delaware a few months ago. Give them a little time and I’m sure they’ll warm up to their new brewery. I’d definitely take a Lot #6 over Loose Cannon any day.

  5. Re Black Raven Brewing in Washington state: **Redmond** not “Redmont.”

  6. LovesMustard · ·

    I understand that this is a primarily American based web site but it still seems strange to list only American beers including those from US states that only have a handful of breweries and, at the same time, ignore some (or even all) Canadian provinces. British Columbia is a logical extension of the Pacific Northwest with a long history of craft brewing. The quality of beer from BC excellent and there are numerous breweries (per capita, at least). Ontario and Quebec also have quite a few breweries but, admittedly, I don’t think the beer is always as good. Surprisingly, I’ve had quite a few beers out of Saskatchewan.

    1. Perhaps we can do an entire separate post in the same vein for Canada. Best beer from each province. What do you think, Barley? Throw in the U.S. territories, while you’re at it.

      1. I need to know about the beer of Guam.

    2. We’re as provincial as they come, Mustard. I’d love to do a bigger exploration on Canadian beers, but I’m a newbie when it comes to brews from our neighbor to the North. Perhaps I’ll tackle a similar “Best Beer by Province” post as Kid Carboy suggests. Could be a fun learning experience for me!

      What are your favorite breweries/beers in BC?

      1. jimbeem · ·

        Unibroue makes some good stuff. They’re from Quebec, I can’t think of any other ‘crafty’ Canadian beers I’ve had. But I’d love to try some.

        1. http://www.dieuduciel.com makes some really good beers too!

      2. LovesMustard · ·

        In BC, I love Driftwood Brewery. Their Belle Royale and Fat Tug IPA stand out among BC beers. Lighthouse Brewery’s Switchback IPA is a crisp, piney IPA that’s “as good” as any I’ve tasted. Moon Under Water makes great British style session beers – not mind blowingly exciting but very dependable and tasty.
        Crannog Brewery makes a great stout but they may only sell kegs. I’ve never seen it in the bottle.

        There’s plenty of other breweries and brew pubs (Hoyne, Swans, Spinnakers, Storm, Parallel 49, list goes on…). Definitely worth making the trip to Victoria/Vancouver if you are ever in Seattle.

        Hell, if you can get me a mailing address, I’ll try sending you some BC beers.

  7. Is Labyrinth a Black IPA? It struck me as being more of a barrel aged stout. You’re totally worse than Hitler though. (Just kidding, of course – these were great posts. It’s kinda weird to see some of the feedback you got. Keep up the good work…)

    1. They call it a “Black Ale”. I thought it was a pretty hopped-up stout, hence the Black IPA terminology, but I think the beer falls in that weird liminal place between American Black Ale and Imperial Stout.

      Either way, it’s pretty damn tasty.

      1. Bonnie B. · ·

        I tried to see if any further clarification style-wise was offered by Uinta on their website, but it doesn’t appear so. Beer Advocate lists it as an “Imperial Stout,” and Ratebeer has it as an “Imperial Porter.” I’d lean toward the latter as being a bit more accurate. It does have a nice firm hop presence, but Baltic Porter came to mind for me. Whatever it is, it is tasty…and if you’re not splitting the bottle, pretty much your plans for the night at almost 14% ABV. ;)

        1. I think they’re shooting for that weird gray area that is “American Black Ale,” whatever that means.

  8. Connecticut beer drinker who missed the voting process: Olde Burnside Brewery’s Ten Penny Ale is fantastic.

    1. Justin B. · ·

      I also enjoy a good Dirty Penny now and then.

  9. Speaking of GABF (Bonnie B) the tickets go on sale at 10am on a Thursday… Is it just me or is that ridiculous? Anyone know how fast they’ve sold out in past years (I’ll be asking Google next, perhaps you know though)? Is it considered wrongful termination to get axed for buying beer fest tickets during work time?

    1. Says on their site it took 10 days last year, so enough time to wait until after work, even though I’m sure they’ll go much faster than last year. I was more expecting a day, maybe two at most, it almost feels bad that I overestimated craft beer drinkers (a good music fest sells out in minutes)…

      1. Bonnie B. · ·

        Mark, are you a AHA member? If so you can actually purchase tickets on Tuesday July 31, and have access to what I consider the best possible GABF experience. The Saturday “Member’s Only” session is completely different than the others. At the Saturday afternoon session many of the brewers are pouring, and they often have something tucked away special. I have learned SO MUCH going to that session and chatting up some of the hardcore (“hopcore?” boo-I know) players from the industry. I think it’s absolutely worth becoming a member, even if you don’t home brew. Either way, I would recommend getting online to get your tickets as soon as possible after they start selling. They do always sell out, and who knows if this will be the year they set some kind of land speed record doing so. Cheers! :)

  10. Rare dos is better then hunhpu …but its not exactly common

  11. [...] Would Black Raven’s Wisdom Seeker be your number 1 Washington beer? via aleheads.com [...]

  12. While they do have the internet in South Dakota (at least they did last time I was back there), from my experience, it seems craft brew was always especially hard to find there. It looks like Crow Peak was starting up as I was leaving.

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

    [...] Aleheads follows that post up with The Best Beer by State: Peoples’ Choice Awards, which compares the Beer Advocate rankings with Aleheads reader [...]

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

    [...] — and manually filter by state. Aleheads recently did something similar in finding out what the number-one beer was for each state per Beer Advocate ratings, but I actually began this project before I read their post, and decided to go the distance. This [...]

  15. Rabble! Rabble Rabble Rabble!

  16. Reblogged this on Grapes on a Vine and commented:
    Peoples Choice Awards… The Best Beer by State. Read what is said about Idaho. >>> Idaho (OC – Grand Teton 5 O’Clock Shadow, PCA – Sockeye Daggerfalls IPA): I offended some Idaho natives when I insensitively wrote that Idaho “does not have a myriad of craft breweries”. It turns out that the Gem State is actually quite a gem when it comes to craft and has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years.

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