Recently an online site called Thrillist published their take on the best brewery in every state.
It’s a pretty good list, but this kind of list is always good for some idle debate. I’ll limit my comments to the four states I’ve lived in. I still have friends in all of these places and I wonder what the multitude of fans of my new blog think about those picks. I look forward to some feedback. If you read the forums on Beer Advocate two of those states, Oregon and New York, are among the most controversial.
Ohio – Great Lakes Brewery
I would find it illogical to make any other choice for Ohio. Sure there are other breweries in the state who make great beers: Columbus Brewing Company (IPA and Bodhi hold their own with any hoppy beer in the world), The Brew Kettle (White Rajah is a world class IPA), Rockmill (great Belgian style beers that cost even more than the ones from Belgium), Hopping Frog (a lot of people like their stouts), Indigo Imp (unique funky spontaneously fermented beers from Cleveland, a place where one has to question the wisdom of using what is floating in the air to ferment your beer). However, none of these breweries comes close to having a strong lineup across a number of beer styles that matches Great Lakes.
Idaho – Grand Teton Brewing
When I moved out of Idaho in 1991 the closest thing to an Idaho brewery was the Budweiser plant in Idaho Falls. Things have progressed since then, but for a state that ranks #3 in the nation in hop production, I think Idaho still lags behind its neighbors. I’m not sure how much research they did on this pick because their first statement is “They have a beer called Bitch Creek, which is the best beer name that has ever been slapped on a label.” I could name a half dozen better names off the cuff (This one goes to 11 by Bells, Modus Hoperandi by Ska, Monk Suffers Serious Sugar Rush on Barbados by Evil Twin, perhaps even Bitch School, which as far as I know is not the name of a beer but is the name of a Spinal Tap song). Laughing Dog is a popular pick for Idaho in these kind of lists. I did once see the Dogfather (a Godfather themed Imperial Stout) on tap in Washington DC. Probably the best Idaho beer I’ve had is the super hoppy Dagger Falls IPA by Sockeye Brewing.
New York – Brooklyn Brewing
I do love a few of the offerings from Brooklyn. Brooklyn Local #1 is in my top 10 list, and Sorachi Ace is a unique single hop IPA made with relatively rare Sorachi hop. I think many people would make a different choice here. Flower Power by Ithaca Brewing is one of the best IPAs bar none. Ommegang should be in the top 3 of anyones widely distributed Belgian Style beers made in North America. Southern Tier is tops in crazy beers that taste like deserts (Pumking, Choklat, Creme Brulee) and does a decent job on quite a few other styles. Sixpoint has those cool skinny cans. New York is kind of a toss up for me.
Oregon – Rogue
For a good brewery Rogue is probably the most dumped upon beer on the online beer forums that I read. A lot of people love to hate Rogue. True their beers tend to be on the expensive side and some of them are not that special. Beers like Voodoo Donut Bacon Maple Porter and its follow up Voodoo Donut Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Butter Ale haven’t helped their case. On the other hand they do have some very good beers. Shakespeare Stout is perhaps my favorite stout. Dead Guy Ale is both good and the most popular Maibock in the US by a landslide. Some of the Chatoe Rogue beers, particularly Dirtoir Black Lager, are very good. The other nice thing about Rogue is that they are distributed widely. Here in Ohio about the only Oregon beers you can find are Rogue, Widmer and Pyramid. Among that group I’d take Rogue any day. Interestingly a lot of the best breweries in Oregon have a pretty limited focus. Logsdon make great beers with funky Belgian yeasts like Brettanomeyces. Hair of the Dog make great old style strong beers. Cascade makes great barrel aged sour beers with fruit. Heater-Allen makes great lagers. None of these breweries has a lineup diverse enough to be the best brewery in the state. I would say it is a typical Oregon kind of stance to make a great beer and also make sure that it is not widely distributed. Someone suggested Pelican. I went to the Pelican Brewpub on the coast this summer and the location was stunning, but the beer was frankly mediocre. I do think you could make a strong case for Deschutes though.
Enough of my ranting. I’d like to hear what everyone else thinks is the best brewery in your state.