Best Craft Breweries
Unless you’ve been living under a Bud Light can for the past five years, you’ve probably noticed and enjoyed the explosive growth of the craft beer industry in the United States. Cities that were once brewery dry now boast ten plus breweries each offering something unique to the beerscape. With so many breweries, it’s hard to choose a favorite. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we all have one, whether it’s a brewery we make an annual beer pilgrimage to or a neighborhood Sunday afternoon haunt.
Below are four favorite craft breweries as chosen by some of the top beer bloggers in the country. Please note that for this post, a brewery is defined as the entire experience from tasting room to last sip. We’re not talking about your go to pint when out with friends or seasonal you hunt for each year (for those of you Hopslam guilty).
Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, CT – Brooklyn Beer Bitch
About 90 minutes northeast of New York City, nestled in the former industrial hamlet of Stratford, CT, is one of America’s best breweries, Two Roads Brewing. Both in terms of the facility itself— in a 170-year-old building that formerly housed U.S. Baird Company’s manufacturing plant on a nine-acre lot—and with the beers they are making, Two Roads offers up a superior model for brewing in America.
Perhaps it’s the team’s lofty background that gave them the audacity to build one of the nation’s largest craft breweries. Like the facility they occupy, the team behind Two Roads has combined experience of more than 100 years in the industry. Not a single business decision in their launch has been made in haste or whimsically. Owner and brewmaster Phil Markowski was New England Brewing’s original brewmaster; brewery partners Clem Pellani and Brad Hittle worked many years for Pabst, among other companies. CFO Peter Doering holds an MBA from Harvard and formerly was CFO of a large regional shipyard in CT.
Two Roads’ mission sounds simple enough: Create a brewery with ample capacity to grow and also offer room for so-called gypsy brewers to make even more great beer. Hence, you’ll find both Evil Twin (technically a Danish brand, but its owner/brewmaster calls Brooklyn, NY, home) and Stillwater brews in the bright tanks at Two Roads.
Additionally, the facility is one among a growing number of “green” breweries. From the repurposed building itself to the solar panels and recycled spent grains, environmental impact is considered in every aspect of Two Roads. While the innovation looks ahead (the brewery is monitored from an office that looks like the deck of a spaceship), the roots of the community aren’t forgotten. “There’s a strong industrial past in Stratford that we wanted to resurrect,” noted Markowski on a tour of the brewery while pointing out the building’s original maple floors.
The duality of Two Roads makes it unique. The fact that they’re creating some outstanding beers means they will be around to take advantage of all that room to grow.
Astrid Cook writes for several publications (both online and in print), including All About Beer Magazine and The Good Beer Seal. She also blogs at brooklynbeerbitch.com and is a member of the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – This is Why I’m Drunk
Being number one is hard.
First, you have to get there. Then it’s on you to please, succeed and innovate.
Reaching the top has its difficulties, but staying there presents a whole new set of challenges.
Being the best at anything means bending the subjectivity of opinion in just the right way for a prolonged period of time, when there is great room for error. Unless, of course, straddling the fine line between error and art is exactly where you want to stand.
Especially if you’re just a bit off-centered.
That’s been the mantra for Dogfish Head since it opened its Rehoboth Beach, Delaware brewpub in 1995, giving birth to new kinds of beers for a different kind of beer drinker. At a time when macro beer was riding high, a small restaurant and brewery dared to be different.
And you can sense it when you sit down at the bar or any table, surrounded by relics of years past: a 3-foot long paddle used for years worth of brewing, equipment 20 years old and chalkboards marked, erased and marked again with rotating bottles of aged beers.
But mostly, you can see it in the people. Not just in the service staff, but the fellow beer lovers surrounding you on all sides. People looking for something unique and daring. People looking to share in something bigger than a meal or a beer.
Visiting Dogfish Head isn’t about filling your stomach. It’s about filling your day with worthwhile moments, celebrating history and creating memories.
It’s about recognizing that being number one isn’t just hard, it’s meaningful.
Bryan is a freelance beer writer and author of the blog This Is Why I’m Drunk, recognized in 2014 as a “best beer blog” in the annual North American Guild of Beer Writers awards. In addition to his writing, you can find “beertography” on his Instagram account @bryandroth.
Discretion Brewing in Capitola, California – MicroBrewr
The best brewery in the world is Discretion Brewing in Capitola, California. I met them at the best beer festival in the world, Monterey Beer Garden. It was kind of a bad experience, mostly due to my usual procrastination.
Being an awkward fellow, uncomfortable in crowds and such, I planned to arrive during the last hour. Of course, I left the house late, jumped on my bike, and rushed as fast as I could the 1.8 miles from home in Pacific Grove to Custom House Plaza in Monterey. As I rounded the last corner, I realized that I had left my printed ticket at home.
I speedily approached the event, calculating that I had about 45 minutes before it officially ended. I might have 15 or 30 more minutes of finagling last pours before they kicked everybody out.
I just wanted to taste a couple of beers from the breweries new to the event or new to my palate. In just its third year, the event was still kind of small. Besides, I needed to get back home and continue working on my brewery business plan.
The guy at the check-in table wouldn’t let me in without my ticket. Still out of breath, I explained my predicament. He wouldn’t budge.
I rushed home by bike just as fast as I had come. When I returned, 30 minutes before ending, the check-in table was packed and gone. Security leisurely found someone who eventually let me in.
Needless to say, I skipped most of the beers I had already tried. Among the newcomers, one stood out.
You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover and we all do. I’m not gonna lie, I like Discretion Brewing’s logo. The blue very much reminds me of my favorite rock album of all time.
The logo also features a profile of a human head with gears inside. The slogan says, “Wisdom Wit Kindness Beer.” Discretion Brewing’s shtick, I guess, is a thinking-person’s beer. At the brewery, there’s a book-loan library.
It’s a nice place. The staff are dressed casual without a uniform. It feels more friendly than customer service. The patio is comfortable. It’s a nice, classy place to sit and talk with friends over a beer in a beach town.
Last year, Discretion’s 1-year anniversary party was on my birthday. We toasted each other on Untappd.
And their beers are good, too.
Triple C Brewing in Charlotte, NC – The Wandering Gourmand
Choosing a favorite brewery is hard as there’s something I enjoy about each brewery that I’ve been to around the country and world. Some brew outstanding beer, some display crazy ingenuity and creativity, and some offer a brewery experience worthy of a weekend afternoon. Rarely does a brewery excel in all three factors. However, Triple C, in my hometown of Charlotte, NC, manages to deliver a true brewery experience that I go back for weekend after weekend.
In terms of beer quality, I’ve been impressed since their grand opening. Their year-round beers offer something for every beer drinker from the easy to please Golden Boy Blonde to the well-balanced Road to Nowhere Porter to a variety of IPAs like my favorite, 3C, with light malts and bright citrus hops. The creativity comes through in their seasonal ales like the spicy and smoky Cajun Stout, Up All Night Breakfast Porter which is best enjoyed alongside an English style breakfast, and the Chocolate Pretzel Stout that has me salivating just thinking about it. Oh, and their winter warmer is the best in the craft beer business with pleasant notes of vanilla and cinnamon.
Triple C is more than just the beer though. It’s the experience. The city of Charlotte seems to come alive in it’s quaint but lively beer garden and tasting room. Most weekends there’s live music on the loading dock and the sun-drenched picnic tables are packed with families, friends, and four-legged companions. There’s also usually a food truck on site and several games of corn hole in progress. During football season there are plenty of TVs in the tasting room turned into favorite regional teams. And lets not forget about Thursday night run club and yoga.
Triple C Brewing is truly my community brewery.
Bryan manages The Wandering Gourmand travel blog and has a passion for exploring regional foods and drinking craft beer. He wants to help you travel and taste the world, too. Click here for instant access to his free guide 8 Steps to Going on Your Dream Vacation.