With close to 7,500 brewing companies currently operating in the U.S., picking favorites is difficult. That said, VinePair is always on the hunt for the best beers and experiences possible, and with our combined tasting and traveling, we put our heads together each year to decide which breweries impressed us the most throughout the year.
The requirements for this list are that we haven’t named the brewery a best in the past (in 2018 or 2017), and that the brand currently has at least one taproom open to the public more than one day per week. This year, we selected breweries spanning mid-sized to micro, cities from Chicago to Charleston, S.C., and breweries new this decade along with those that pioneered craft beer.
The following are VinePair’s 10 best breweries of 2019.
GREAT LAKES (IL, IN, MI, OH)
As Revolution Brewing approaches its 10th anniversary in February 2020, there’s no better time to highlight the Chicago brewery famous for beers like its flagship Anti-Hero IPA, A Little Crazy Belgian-style pale ale, and Bottom Up Wit. Though the Chicagoland brand doesn’t get as much attention as it should on the East Coast, it’s a different story locally, where Revolution is always recommended as a favorite, and is the largest independent brewery in the state.
Revolution repeatedly came up as a brewery we’d like to see more of. Luckily, it’s now distributed in eight states, including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin.
MIDWEST (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Perennial Artisan Ales
St. Louis, MO
Perennial Artisan Ales is one of the first craft breweries to make saison attractive to contemporary craft beer lovers. Established in 2011 with brands like Saison de Lis, it excels in both the delicate and the decadent — the latter is exemplified by its Abraxas imperial stout, deliciously laden with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks, and appreciation for which has not died down since the beer’s original release nine years ago.
Perennial also took collaborations to new places in 2019. In March, the brewery partnered with Chandler Hill Winery of Defiance, Mo., which will outfit all 16 taps with Perennial beers, including offerings exclusive to the winery. In September 2019, Perennial teamed up with St. Louis restaurant Grace Meat + Three to release Grace Hominy Lager, a lager made with heirloom Bloody Butcher corn dried and cooked over pecan wood ash in the restaurant’s barbecue pit.
WEST (CA, HI, NV)
Mother Earth Brewing Co.
Mother Earth Brewing is an unsung heroine of the West. In 2019, each beer we tried from the Vista-based brewery was impressive, namely its bold and boozy IPAs such as Kismet IPA, Primordial Double IPA, and Big Mother Triple IPA, as well as its 4S seasonal series we kept coming back to.
Meanwhile, the brewery is perhaps best known for a cream ale: Cali’ Creamin’, which adds a touch of vanilla bean to a golden brew, reminiscent of cream soda. This versatility, and the consistency of the brewery’s quality, made Mother Earth our best of the West for 2019.
NORTHWEST (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
pFriem Family Brewers
Hood River, OR
Pfriem (stylized as pFriem, and pronounced “freem”) spits fire like Trader Joe’s — everything it produces is a hot item. Its Pilsner, released in cans in 2019, is a perfect example of a craft lager, and one of the 50 best beers of the year. Its IPA is a citrusy, piney treat. Its suite of saisons are as tasty as its single-hop pale ales. Basically, this brewery can make any style and make it really well. TripAdvisor reviewers also rate the brewery one of the top 10 restaurants in Hood River, Ore., praising its great beer, Columbia River views, and excellent service.
SOUTHWEST (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
Cerebral Brewing is one of many amazing breweries in Colorado, and of many more in the southwestern U.S. We’re singling it out as this year’s best in the Southwest because every Cerebral beer we tasted in 2019 was stellar. Throughout the year, we called out Cerebral for being one of the most important IPA producers in the country right now, thanks to its Scam Likely IPA series. In December, we named Cerebral’s Tiki Sour IPA series (particularly the Forbidden Idol: Mai Tai version) among the 50 Best Beers of 2019.
And these standouts don’t stand alone: Character Reference, a lager aged in wooden foeders, was also one of the most memorable beers we had this year.
SOUTH (AL, AR, PUERTO RICO, FL, LA, MS)
J. Wakefield Brewing
Miami’s Wynwood district is a destination in itself, but breweries are central to its draw. At the center of that is J. Wakefield. The brewery will turn five years old in January 2020 — shockingly young for its following. Perhaps best known for its sour beers and imperial stouts, it deserves as much attention for its 24th St. Brown Ale, which was a VinePair favorite in 2019. Also last year, J. Wakefield renovated its popular taproom. The complete overhaul gives even more reason to visit in 2020 — and fear not, the “Star Wars” wall is still intact.
SOUTHEAST (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co.
If Charleston, S.C., is one of the best cities to drink in right now — which we think it is — then Edmund’s Oast restaurant and brewery is one of the city’s major draws. Edmund’s Oast restaurant opened in 2014, and its production brewery followed in 2017. What could have quietly existed as an in-house brand has instead extended its reach through the Southeast and beyond. Here in NYC, brands including its Something Cold lager (a VinePair Best Beer of 2018), sessionable sours like Sour Blackberry Raspberry, and Undeniable Charm, an oak-aged wild ale, have made the city’s best tap lists, and we hope they keep ‘em coming.
MID-ATLANTIC (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
The Triple Crossing hype is real in Richmond, Va., where the brewery reigns as a local favorite for its weekly can releases at its Fulton location. Its South Foushee Street tasting room and brewery brings beer, pizza, and dog-friendly fun to Downtown Richmond, while its Fulton location in Richmond’s East End is a full-on brewpub with Neapolitan-style pizza, charcuterie boards, and ice cream sandwiches among the offerings.
From its candy-like flagship Falcon Smash IPA to its Lost in the Night imperial stout made with coconut toasted in-house, Triple Crossing is one to watch (if it’s not already on your radar).
NEW YORK CITY
Finback Brewery opened in Glendale in suburban Queens in 2014. Five years later, it’s barely recognizable — not only because its taproom and staff have changed over the years, but because it became one of the best-loved breweries in the state for a very variable portfolio.
Beloved for ongoing brands like BQE, a series of bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stouts (named for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), and Oscillation, a rotating IPA series now in at least its 15th iteration at press time, it also produces sour beers and goses like I Feel the Universe. Finback’s Rolling In Clouds IPA was one of our picks for the Best Beers of 2019.
Finback is expected to open a Brooklyn location at 545 President St., in the borough’s Gowanus neighborhood, in the near future.
NORTHEAST (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT)
When Allagash was founded in 1994, it was a diamond in the rough. A quarter-century later, Allagash remains a gem of American craft brewing. The Portland, Maine, brewery is nearly 26 years old — an elder in craft beer years — and yet it stays fresh with regular releases, including new bottlings of its coolship program like Coolship Cerise; limited releases like Farm to Face and Nancy; and brand-new offerings like Tiny House and River Trip, which VinePair named the best beer of 2019.
This, along with the continued success (and deliciousness) of its classics like Allagsh White, the gradual rolling out of cans in 2019, and brewery founder Rob Tod earning a James Beard Award in 2019, are what make pioneering Allagash the best brewery in the Northeast right now.