If you spend a lot of time on beer-related social media channels, you might believe only a handful of popular breweries and beers are worth pursuing. But there are a lot of brewers and breweries in the game — and the opinions of those in an industry often differ from those populating its message boards. That’s why we asked 10 brewers to share their expertise: What are the most underrated breweries in the game?
For the sake of clarity, we’re using the term “underrated” to denote brewers that have earned respect for their beers for their quality, prolificacy, and contributions to the beer world — even if they don’t get the same kind of love on the message boards.
“Final Gravity Brewing Co. hatched out of a homebrew shop, which opened in 2011, when Hardywood became the second brewery in the City of Richmond … While there are now almost 40 breweries in the Richmond region, with many gaining national attention, Final Gravity deserves recognition for brewing some truly world-class beers. The Doppler Effect is an exceptional IPA, and nearly all Final Gravity beers are crafted to remove gluten.” — Eric McKay, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
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“One of my favorite places to drink beer is De Dolle Brewery in Esen, Belgium. Not that De Dolle is underrated, exactly, but I think they often fly under the radar. The brewery itself is in a remote part of West Flanders and is only open on the weekends, so it’s not the easiest spot to hit. On top of their fresh and delicious beer, Kris and Els, the husband-and-wife team that own it, are awesome people. The taproom at De Dolle is also something special. Thanks in part to Kris’s art on the walls, their taproom space has an authentic vibe that is really hard to replicate. And it’s almost always full of locals — from kids to great-grandparents. In my opinion, nobody traveling through Belgium should pass up a visit to De Dolle.” — Jason Perkins, Brewmaster, Allagash
“Our good friend Kyle Tavares at Mile Wide Brewing is doing some great things down in Louisville, Ky. Not only is he brewing some great hazy IPAs, but some great sours and traditional beers as well. Kyle is a Schlafly alum, and we couldn’t be more proud of the work that he’s doing. If you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on some Mile Wide beers, put them on your list. They’re all great.” — Stephen Hale, Founding Brewer, Schlafly
“I’m going to give a much-deserved shout out to my co-worker Ian Larkin. He was my assistant for three years at Bend Brewing Company before taking over when I moved to 10 Barrel. He is a very accomplished brewer in his own right, winning 11 medals at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup in his time at Bend Brewing Company, which is the same amount I won during my stint there. Since his move to 10 Barrel, he has further won two medals in these very competitive large competitions. Because Ian likes to fly under the radar, he tends to be overshadowed by me and my accomplishments. We have very similar personalities and believe the devil is in the details, diligently plugging away at making a beer perfect regardless of how many brews it takes. Ian and I are an amazing team, creatively spurring and supporting each other to create polished, thought-provoking beers.” — Tonya Cornett, Brewer, 10 Barrel Brewing
“Free Range Brewing, Charlotte, N.C. … Often boasting the percentage of local ingredients in each beer, Free Range is the real deal, with a unique mainstay of a sourdough-starter yeast pitch, some very imaginative beers are pumped out of their warehouse. [Another one is] Little Fish Brewing, Athens, Ohio. Located on a beautiful greenway at the edge of a bustling college town, Little Fish has on-site gardens and a small hop yard where they grow some ingredients for their beers … Though their mixed-culture beers always have my attention, their clean beers are typically flawless as well. [And] Weathered Ground, Cool Ridge, W.V. Located in extremely rural West Virginia on a beautiful farm, Weathered Ground is the epitome of hard work and dedication to community. With few breweries in the entire state, Weathered Ground is on a mission to not only make awesome beer but to change an entire culture in the process.” — Todd Boera, Owner, Fonta Flora
“Allagash and Sierra Nevada for the way they have maintained excellence in all areas while being atop the industry. To be that good and produce that much beer is not ratable. OG and DGAF. St. Somewhere and Jolly Pumpkin. These guys have been making real farmhouse beers since about the time I could start drinking. Cambridge Brewing Co. and Austin Beer Garden Brewing … So many small pub models out there that have variety, classic styles, and atmosphere totally nailed without the hype. And if it’s not limited to American beer, I would put De Ranke and a whole slew of European modern classics in the center.” — Barry LaBendz, Owner, Kent Falls
“Ivan [Maldonado of 3 Punk Ales in Chula Vista, Calif.] has been a part of the San Diego/Tijuana scene for a while, putting his time at a number of breweries on both sides of the border and picking up knowledge in every stop he’s made. Now at 3 Punks, he’s turning out some killer lagers, (which are still somewhat of a rarity in SoCal), and making all-around stellar beers. Dude has a keen palate and is one of my go-to sources when I need another beer brain to bounce ideas off, or if I just need a Tijuana tour guide for the day … 3 Punks and Chula Vista definitely deserve more love thanks to Ivan.” — Jay Bullen, Brewmaster, Brewery Silvaticus
“The first is Metropolitan Brewing. In an age when lagers are being rediscovered by larger craft breweries as well as the more popular haze/pastry stout breweries, with varying degrees of success, Metro has been cranking out technically perfect German- style lagers for a decade. Heliostat, their zwickel lager, is easily one of my favorite beers in the world, but they don’t package it, which more or less means you have to come to Chicago and go to their beautiful taproom to experience it. And many do. And they never forget it. But that kind of perfect consistency doesn’t necessarily light up the message boards.
“Following in that same trend is Dovetail Brewing, who focus on using traditional brewing methods to make classic European styles and very quietly produce some of the best beer in town.” — Ben Ustick, Media Relations, Off Color
“Wayfinder is producing some of the best lagers on the planet … When I got into the industry over a decade ago, the idea that you could succeed as a lager-focused craft brewery was a, uh, relatively exotic one. Now, a brewery that’s pumping out world-class lagers can absolutely expect to develop a large and loyal fanbase, and Wayfinder definitely has, just within a very narrow geography. So if you’re visiting Portland, be sure to check them out and celebrate the fact that lagers are a major part of the current craft milieu.” — Jacob McKean, CEO and Founder, Modern Times
“While vast swaths of the beerscape have been preoccupied with ever less-inspired trends and gimmicks over the last decade to decade-plus, one brewery that comes to mind for just sticking with flawless classics is Unibroue. Emphasis on ‘flawless.’ I remember clearly my very first sip of Finny (or La Fin Du Monde, if you’re fancy) about 15 years ago. It was an eye-opener then, and it remains positively transcendent today. So, too, is the entirety of their distributed catalog. ‘Fermentation-forward’ doesn’t have to mean a beer is corrosively acidic or funkier than George Clinton’s backside, and Unibroue’s been proving it for nearly 30 years. Local is great, but great is great, too. If you’ve never had a Don de Dieu, stop ticking beers and go drink one.” — Marty Scott, Barrel Coordinator, Revolution Brewing