Since the dawn of craft beer, bars have played a pivotal role in the boom of American brewing. Premier beer bars, through their tight, thoughtful curation of tap lines and bottle lists and dedication to service, atmosphere, and education, are learning institutions — places of discovery and enjoyment. They espouse the industry’s creativity and flavor-first focus to their thirsty disciples, spreading the gospel of great liquid and the passionate, purposeful people behind it. And, like the breweries they faithfully champion, many are must-visit destinations for beer diehards (despite changing and challenging times for these specialized spots).
So, with the number of breweries operating in the United States surpassing 9,000 in 2021, we considered the Herculean task of compiling a current “best of” list illusory without the expertise of some of the country’s most exciting and influential beer bars. Because, while their menus all rotate, and proudly, each surely has those one or two favorite producers that are always present, like the regulars stooled up in a row eager to drink what’s on tap.
The below panel of publicans and beverage directors was asked to name the one brewery that is considered a no-exceptions fixture at their business, and how that devotion came to be. Their answers, gathered below, showcase both neophyte and well-established beer makers and, within this group, present a wide range of focuses and specialities. You probably won’t find any of their responses surprising in terms of quality, but what you might find noteworthy is that these relationships all seem to go beyond beer.
Without further ado, here are the best breweries in the U.S. right now, according to the country’s top beer bars.
“In a sour beer landscape where brewers think the next creative idea is based around what new candy they can find at a random bodega, Amalgam Brewing looks for inspiration from within. Phil Joyce and Eric Schmidt are beautiful people who make thoughtful and inspired beers. They make the beers that they want to be drinking and don’t break their ideals to catch whatever new trend is stirring things up in the beer world. This philosophy runs very linear with how co-owner John Fayman and I run Goed Zuur. This doesn’t mean that Amalgam is unwilling to use adjuncts in their barrel-aged and mixed-fermentation beers. This just means that what they put into their beers and the way they produce them comes from the heart and mind, and not from what’s trending on social media. Goed Zuur is one of the very few places where you can find Amalgam’s small production beers for sale, but we always make sure to have a few SKUs available for guests. It’s beers like Table 44, [which] took a gold medal at World Beer Cup in its category, that we love steering guests towards. At just 4.2 percent ABV, Amalgam shows the world that even little beers can have large amounts of love and passion within them.” —Anthony Lopiccolo, co-owner and chef, Goed Zuur, Denver
Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery
“At ChurchKey, we pride ourselves on showcasing best-in-class beers from around the world while telling the stories behind the most remarkable breweries we can find. Wheatland Spring came out of the gate with a crystal-clear vision in 2019, and their beers have increasingly held our attention since then. Wheatland Spring is a true Virginia estate brewery dedicated to responsibly growing ingredients for their beer; they’re also a producer as obsessed with the quality of their beers as they are with regenerative agriculture. This is a brewery that purposefully utilizes ingredients and production methods to achieve full-flavored complexity across a wide range of offerings — from well-matured lagers and thoughtfully hopped ales to oak-aged barleywines and mixed-fermentation brews. They’re consistently releasing liquid as impressive as the narratives that inform them, and we’re proud to count them among our favorite brewers, local or otherwise.” —Greg Engert, partner and beverage director, ChurchKey and The Sovereign, Washington, D.C.
Russian River Brewing Company
Santa Rosa, Calif.
“In the 25 years I’ve been proprietor of Monk’s Café, there have been a few breweries that would shape and define how I thought about beer, and what beer could be. From my first conversation with Vinnie Cilurzo in 1997, I knew that I had to bring his beer to Philadelphia. The first sip of Supplication evoked the greatest barrel-aged, mixed-fermentation beers of the Old World while transcending what seemed possible for brewing in America. Russian River has been continuously served at Monk’s Cafe since 2005, and we strive to keep a fresh selection of Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, STS Pils, and rotating funky beer always on tap. Philadelphia is the only market east of Denver to receive any regular Russian River distribution, including an annual Pliny the Younger delivery. Russian River beer has been a keystone to our list and the Monk’s experience, and we are proud to call Natalie and Vinnie our friends and creative colleagues.” —Tom Peters, owner, Monk’s Café, Philadelphia
“California is home to some incredible breweries, and we are lucky to have the privilege of pouring so many of them. But there is one brewery that we consistently keep on draft nearly year-round: Russian River. After being on the waitlist for five years, we finally got the glorious email in 2018 saying that they’d be offering us beer. We were PUMPED, to say the least. We felt that we had finally ‘made it,’ joining the ranks of other incredible establishments pouring beer from such a world-class brewery. Finally being able to offer fresh Pliny or Blind Pig? We were over the moon! And you know what? So were our customers. Since then, our guests have crushed through tons of Pliny, Blind Pig, Happy Hops, STS; whatever we put on! People trust Russian River to be a brewery that won’t disappoint them. They’re consistent, reliable, and just keep cranking out beer you want to drink!” —John Ottman, owner, Holy Water, San Francisco
“As a Michigan native, I’ve gotta say that the Upper Peninsula is the absolute gem of our state. Forests for miles and shorelines on three of the Great Lakes, it’s as wild as it gets here in the Midwest, and you can feel that as soon as you cross the bridge. There’s a ton of great beer coming out of the UP, but the guys at Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette have been doing something special for a while now. We regularly pour Grand Rabbits, a dry-hopped cream ale that is equal parts gentle and crisp. But what I’ve really fallen in love with is one of their American IPAs, Mykiss. Brewed with Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic, this beer is the perfect marriage of a luscious, resinous, citrus aroma with a bright, bitter backbone that’s rooted in that special place up North. David, Andy, and team consistently put out really high-quality beer, and that’s important, but they’re also just really damn nice people and for that, they’ll always have a handle at our place.” —Justin Pollock, beverage manager, HopCat, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Jester King Brewery
“As sure as there will be Texas Hill Country well water in their beer, there will be a spring of Jester King on pour at Meddlesome Moth. We have been partners for 12 years, and it has been a joy to witness their revolutions. We always enjoy their thoughts on beer. Guests will ask for JK by name, regardless of the style that is offered. Most immediately share their positive experiences down at the farm west of Austin. It is all that any beer buyer could ask for. Last year for our anniversary, we tapped a multitude of multi-year project kegs, and the brewery’s double dry-hopped hazy was the first to pop. Whether heavily fruited, barrel-aged wild ales, pilsners, dry-hopped grisettes, or collaborations, the team has become quite adept over the years with influences coming and going with an eye to every new horizon, yet still remaining true to their original ethos. Doesn’t hurt that founder Jeff Stuffings and his evolving team might be the best in the industry that the Moth has come across.” —Matt Quenette, beer director, Meddlesome Moth, Dallas
Machine House Brewery
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of talented breweries in the Pacific Northwest, but the one that really stands out to me is Machine House. In fact, you could poll all of the top brewers in Washington and they would all probably agree. Machine House makes beautifully balanced English-style cask ales and that’s it. It’s owner Bill Arnott’s singularly focused passion for cask beer that makes him your favorite brewery’s favorite brewer. The one beer that resonates the most with Slow Boat is Dark Mild. Every March, customers line up at select spots around the city to celebrate ‘March Mildness,’ a celebration of Dark Mild where over the course of the month the bar typically averages over a thousand pints consumed. If you’re ever in Seattle, Machine House is not to be missed.” —Ken Provost, owner, Slow Boat Tavern, Seattle
Suarez Family Brewery
“Suarez Family beer has been available at Tørst for as long as I can remember. Dishes come and go, personnel changes, rent goes up, but SFB remains, and I intend to keep it that way. There are two primary reasons for this: the integrity of their team, and the manifestation of that integrity in the liquid. Ten minutes with Tay or Dan or Kate or Josh or Matt or Helen or, I’m sure any of the others I haven’t yet met or accidentally left out, and the care is just so clear. You can hear it in their voices, and you can feel it in the way they treat you. You can see it in their community outreach and in their partnerships. And you can taste it in the beer: every sip, no matter the style, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Whether it’s Palatine Pils, Stands to Reason rauch, or Merkel Montmorency: all nuanced, compelling little stories. Flavorful, balanced, crisp. Every time.” —Sam Casner, beverage director, Tørst, Brooklyn, N.Y
Oxbow Brewing Company
“Few brewers have successfully remained committed to their original vision like Oxbow, and this has made them a fixture at our Belgian bar and restaurant, The Sovereign in Washington, D.C. What began as a small-batch operation focused on Belgian-inspired brews back in 2011 continues to craft some of the absolute most impressive farmhouse ales and barrel-aged offerings in the U.S. Why is Oxbow’s production still primarily centered on clean saisons? Because they are unrelenting in their devotion to nuance, doubling down on the small decisions that make huge impacts on beer character. For example, not many brewers warm-condition their ales to develop 100 percent natural carbonation — the kind of creamy, fully rich and spritzy foam that provides that added layer of flavor complexity. Oxbow does, and they don’t know another way.” —Greg Engert, partner and beverage director, ChurchKey and The Sovereign, Washington, D.C.
“Any list of top U.S. breweries in 2022 has got to include Atlanta’s Halfway Crooks. With 8,000-plus breweries in the country, it’s difficult for your beer, your brand, or your team to stand out, yet Halfway Crooks stands above most in all three categories. They’ve made their name on their exceptional lagers (ever see those ‘Lager Lager Lager Lager Lager’ hats? That’s them) but they seamlessly weave in beers from across the flavor spectrum with the same talent and eye for nuance. We’ve poured dozens of different lagers, Belgian-style ales, IPAs, and English-style cask ales from these folks, and they’ve all been world-class. Farina, their kölsch-style ale, is on draft 365 days a year at the Brick Store and is beloved by the hyper- craft-focused guests as well as the folks who are simply looking for a flavorful light-colored beer. They’re a brewery named after a line in a Mobb Deep track, with a Belgian-born brewer-owner, peddling mostly in European lagers with ASCII art on the can labels, based in the deep South, yet their brand somehow makes complete sense. They’re not trying to be everything to all beer drinkers, but everything they do is thoughtful and well executed. Add to all that the fact that they’re wonderful, kind folks, and you’ve got the makings of a house-favorite brewery at the Brick Store Pub.” —Neil Callaghan, beer director, Brick Store Pub, Decatur, Ga.
“Our fanbase at Mekong loves a little gem brewery from Sandusky, Ohio, called CLAG Brewing. They brew incredible adjunct stouts with coffee and coconut and hazy IPAs such as the Million Dongs series. Any kegs we tap, they’re gone in days. We curate our beer list based on one word: relationships. The relationships you have with breweries and distributors are important and like family. Love this small brewery and glad we can showcase them.“ —An Bui, owner, Mekong Restaurant, Richmond, Va.
Resident Culture Brewing
“We always have fridge space, tap lines, and bar seats available for our friends at Resident Culture. The owner of Beer Study, JD, was gifted an IPA from a friend, and we knew after trying it that we needed it in the shop. We began by picking up Resident Culture before they started distribution in our area to help let our customers experience the awesome liquid they produce, and they were immediately in love. This led to our first takeover event with them in early 2019, promoting their first-ever stout, Lonely Universe, and our crew and customers have loved them ever since! We would get calls asking if we had them in stock day-of posting on social media and would sell out that same day. Even though we’ve sold their beer for years now, the excitement is still there as one of our customers’ favorite options. The brewery excels in every style, from hazies to West Coast to crispy boys, and we are so stoked to be able to have their mixed-culture and spontaneously fermented beers in the store; don’t sleep on the barrel program! Over the years, we’ve featured many Resident Culture tap takeovers, including some alongside out-of-state breweries landing in North Carolina for the very first time, most recently Schilling Beer from New Hampshire. One of our favorite parts of this industry is making friends and enjoying great beers together, and we’ve met many of our good friends through our buddies at Resident Culture. Through their passion, they have been some innovative key players in today’s craft-beer world, and we are happy to call them friends. Cheers to their success!” —Kerri Hoffman, beverage director, Beer Study Durham, Durham, N.C.
pFriem Family Brewers
Hood River, Ore.
“Whew, it was tough to choose just one. But I have no problem admitting that I stock every single beer from pFriem Family Brewers I am offered. Years ago, a brewer buddy showed up with their barrel-aged porter, and that set the hook. My daily drinkers tend to be on the clean and light side, and my shipwreck dream would be an even split of pFriem Japanese Lager and Bright Pale Ale. Their skills run the range and I always know I can recommend the array of lagers, hoppy ales, farmhouse ales, Belgian, and dark styles with equal confidence to any customer. Top that off with the new rotating 16-ounce slayers in the slick black cans? Best in class.” —Ty Martin, owner, Craft Wine and Beer, Reno, N.V.
Allagash Brewing Company
“When it comes to U.S. breweries, it’s without a doubt that Allagash is at the top. I almost always have Allagash on the menus in some capacity, sometimes in more ways than one. Everything from their carefully crafted sour and wild ales to their beautiful nods to classic Belgian styles, they never miss the mark. Whether it’s the tripel paired with our fish and chips, the North Sky with oysters, or a Coolship variant with dessert, their beers can really carry guests throughout their meal. Chef has a great recipe for saison-steamed clams that would be amazing with Allagash Saison, if someone wanted to try something at home. To boot, their team, alongside craft beer pioneer Rob Tod, are about the nicest around. I can think of few things that are better than a crisp Allagash White on draft. If White isn’t on draft, I usually have it available in cans. It’s a great option for someone that’s just getting into beers or is looking for something they can drink all night. We only work with craft breweries, so it’s often a recommended substitute if a guest is hoping for Blue Moon.” —Suzy Hays Bailey, global beer director, Row 34, Boston
Highland Park Brewery
“We focus a lot on California breweries since we are so fortunate to have a lot of great beer out here. If it’s on our list, it’s a beer we love and stand behind — most of which are made by friends or people we respect. That said, I will always have an open tap line or space in the fridge at my shops for Highland Park Brewery. Whether it’s their cult-favorite hoppy pils Timbo, IPA, traditional lagers, or even big stouts and mixed-culture saisons, they do everything so well. And they have the medals to prove it! But what really makes me such a big fan of Highland Park is the people and ethos behind the brewery. Bob, Tiff, and the team operate in a way that inspires me to make my business better. The thoughtfulness that goes into the beer, the way they treat their employees, and their response to social issues and always giving back to their community is what makes them special. I’m happy to call them friends. It is always such an honor to share great beer from great folks with my customers.” —Scott Windsor, owner, Windsor Homebrew Supply Co, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Burley Oak Brewery
“With 108 regularly rotating taps, it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite. But there’s one brewery that we’ve formed a close relationship with over the last 10 years: Burley Oak. Located in our home state of Maryland, we’ve been honored to see their growth from owner Bryan Brushmiller’s basement to the large production powerhouse it is today. On Oct. 24, 2012, Max’s held the brewery’s Baltimore release party, and we’ve had a variety of their products ever since. Over the last decade, we’ve collaborated in brewing beers with them, including a 10 percent ABV specialty oak-aged Belgian-style quad for our 10th Annual Belgian Beer Festival and then re-released at the fest two years later once it was aged to up to 12 percent. This past year, our team spent an afternoon in Berlin brewing Sublime J.R.E.A.M. to the Max, a sour ale brewed with raspberry, key lime, meringue, and pistachio. In addition to brewing, we spent the afternoon sampling other Burley beers and getting a bike tour from Bryan to learn their town. On any given day, you’ll find one of their thick sours or fresh IPAs as part of our tap list. It’s been a great decade of beer from Burley Oak and we look forward to seeing what they bring from the next 10. Cheers!” —Jason Scheerer, general manager, Max’s Taphouse, Baltimore
Block 15 Brewing
“‘Block 15 Sticky Hands.’ That’s the answer to many questions I’ve been asked in my 13 years running The BeerMongers. It is the best-selling beer at our shop five years running. It is the beer that I recommend to out-of-town visitors, to customers looking for Pliny. It is the beer I always pack for out-of-town trips to visit breweries. Block 15 has been the best-selling brand at our beer bar/bottle shop for several years. I attribute this to the diversity of the beers they produce and their attention to detail. There is no doubt that the IPAs and lagers are fantastic. However, what really makes them stand out in the crowded Northwest beer market are the wild ales (Golden Canary, Snozzberry, Barmhouse), barrel-aged stouts (Imagine, Super Nebula) and seasonal offerings (Figgy Pudding, Ol’ Saint Nick, Hoppy Holidays). Block 15 self-distributes their beers in Oregon, and this is an important distinction. Their sales team is accessible and extremely helpful, and their beers always arrive fresh and cold. For my money, you cannot beat Block 15 and the answer is always ‘Sticky Hands!’” —Sean Campbell, owner, The BeerMongers, Portland, Ore.
Drowned Lands Brewery
“Drowned Lands opened during the pandemic and has been putting out some of the most consistently delicious beers in New York State. Everything we’ve carried at As Is has been very popular; from ultra- sessional German-style lagers to foeder-aged farmhouse ales and well-balanced IPAs. The brewery’s stylistic range is wider than most. I tend to order particular styles of beers from breweries who specialize in specific domains. Drowned Lands is an exception in that they produce a wide array of styles, with each beer still somehow being thoughtful and refined. I appreciate their restraint in not turning out a vast amount of new and unique beers (IPAs) for the sake of novelty. Their focus is refreshing, and I feel confident ordering anything they produce. I first visited and fell in love with the brewery for a 5K race they held on their property upstate. The taproom is gorgeous and has ample outdoor seating overlooking a small pond. It’s a lovely place to go for a run and enjoy a pint, and a quick trip from NYC. It’s a special place, and the team there is a reflection of that.” —Benjamin Pratt, co-owner, As Is, NYC
Maine Beer Company
“I first met Dan Kleban, co-founder of Maine Beer, when I found myself sitting across from him at the 2013 Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ sausage and beer dinner. We spent the night together enjoying copious amounts of meat and beer. This is where my love for Maine Beer truly began, and almost 10 years later, it’s stronger than ever. Because of our unique concept, with beer bars inside our family grocery stores just outside New York City, we tend to get customers from every level of beer knowledge; some of our regulars travel the world on beer-based adventures, and others happen upon the bar as they’re doing weekly shopping. Maine is the perfect brewery for us because the most sophisticated palate and the newest person at the bar can all agree, it’s really good. So many people come in and look for something they’ve never tried before, but Maine is a brewery that everyone is happy to see again. Maine consistently brews amazing beer across the spectrum of styles, and we’re lucky to get a steady stream here in New York.” —Chris DeCicco, co-owner, DeCicco & Sons, Somers, N.Y.
Fox Farm Brewery
“At the Beer Hall, we have a bit of a thing for Fox Farm. It’s actually not uncommon to see the brewery on three or four lines at a time. That can make orders a bit confusing — we get a lot of “I’ll have a Fox Farm” — but it works because they’re putting out world-class beers in a very broad range of styles. My personal favorites are the pale lagers and mixed-culture farmhouse beers, but everything they send up is a delight both to drink and to serve. Right now, we’re pouring Stet, an altbier, and Tideline, a New England-style IPA hopped primarily with HBC 586. They’ve even been good enough to send kegs of spontaneously fermented beers from their Music Vale Compositions lineup for special occasions. To top it off, owner Zack and general manager Dave, also brothers, are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They have an awesome team and a beautiful taproom at the brewery, which is only about an hour from us in Salem.” —Ezra Pollard, general manager, Bayberry Beer Hall, Providence, R.I.
“The first rule of The Whale is that we do not serve local beer unless it’s a collaboration. But when DSSOLVR opened in 2019, we made an exception. Vince Tursi, co-owner of DSSOLVR, was The Whale’s first employee in 2017. He helped us shape our curation and approach with his vast knowledge, all while planning his own brewery on his off time. DSSOLVR has always taken a fun yet serious approach to beer. They will make the most correct-to-style ESB you’ve ever had, and it will be on draft next to a Capri Sun-inspired seltzer. Pure insanity. Mike Semenec, a partner, has an ability to create the most captivating, thought-provoking, bizarre, and otherworldly art and media for the brand. If you ever wanted to stick out from the bunch on a beer shelf, this is your guy. The third and also ex-Whale member of the team, GB McDermott, has made sure that the brand is getting a ton of visibility from a sales perspective, including hassling us to make sure he is the only local beer we carry. Because of the uniqueness of the brewery, quality of the liquid, and Whale-homies-for-life vibe, we’re going with DSSOLVR.” —Andrew Ross, owner, The Whale :: A Craft Beer Collective, West Asheville, N.C.
Barley Brown’s Beer
Baker City, Ore.
“Barley Brown’s has been around as long as Belmont Station and has been a favorite amongst staff and customers for those 20-plus years. The family-owned brewery and restaurant has an IPA called Pallet Jack that regularly finds a home on one of our draft lines. Pallet Jack is not only a bright, citrus-forward Northwest IPA, but also a multi-award winner. It was during the early days of Belmont Station and Barley Brown’s that one of our owners, Carl Singmaster, would drive out to Baker City to purchase a keg and bring it back to Portland to pour here. That’s how sought after it was and honestly still is. We can hardly keep a keg on for more than a day or two, even 20-plus years later. Now, Barley doesn’t package any of their beers in bottles or cans. However, during the pandemic, they were somewhat forced into it, and we could not keep it on our shelves. The minute it hit our sales floor, we had calls and people lining up to get their hands on some. It’s pretty rare these days that beer sells that fast. But having a 6-pack of Pallet Jack in your fridge was an amazing experience! Everyone bought it and it was a delight. Also, the owner of Barley, Tyler Brown, is a good friend of us all here and a super-nice guy. Any time he’s in town, he always makes sure to stop in here and say hi to everyone and have a pint. A lot of us here, new and former employees, have very fond stories of spending time with Tyler and the crew out at Barley Browns as well.” —Ryan Fosbinder, general manager, Belmont Station, Portland, Ore.
“If I were to go with my heart, the only choice is Scratch Brewing. Located deep in rural Illinois near the Missouri and Kentucky borders, Scratch brews their beer from a wood-fired kettle using ingredients found or grown on their wooded property. Their comprehensive understanding of the surrounding land allows them to create beer based on what nature has to offer at the time. Because of this, your experience of their beers will change with the seasons. A blackberry beer might utilize the roots of the dormant plant when brewed in winter, and the fruit when made in summer. When a tornado took out most of their birch trees, which they used as part of their incredible Single Tree series, I was surprised to learn they weren’t upset at the loss, as it meant a flush of oyster mushrooms could be expected a year from then as a result. This type of commitment to local, seasonal brewing is unmatched in my experience and is a big reason why our staff feels it is important to have Scratch beer on our taps and shelves whenever possible.” —Christopher Quinn, owner, The Beer Temple, Chicago
WeldWerks Brewing Co.
“One of our longtime favorites is Weldwerks in Greeley. From a sales perspective, it really helps that they offer such a wide variety of styles and variations. With 74 draft lines, we must find a way to balance our staples with some more rare and obscure beers. Juicy Bits, the brewery’s flagship hazy IPA, has long been one of our everyday beers, but we also like to carry things like Derby Day, a beer take on a Mint Julep, to satisfy the more adventurous drinker. One of the questions guests often ask is, ‘What’s new?’ Weldwerks usually provides an answer with a constant stream of new beer. Whether it’s some crazy childhood-inspired sour like The Nerdy Professor, a barrel-aged [stout called] Medianoche, or one of many new hazy IPAs, chances are we can find a Weldwerks beer for you. Being just 30 minutes away, the beer is always fresh, and those who can’t make the trip out can enjoy a pint closer to home. Personally, I appreciate the support they have shown us over the years. During Covid, they sold us discounted cans to help us get through the times we had to rely on selling beer to-go. As big and as fast as they have grown, they still value our relationship.” —Chris Schafernak, co-owner and general manager, Tap and Handle, Fort Collins, Colo.
E9 Brewing Co.
“The pandemic has changed quite a bit for us, both due to opening our own brewery, Fast Fashion, and because many people are engaging with beer in our space in a different way. And so our list reflects that. We are blessed with a rich tradition up here, and I’m forever grateful for all the supportive people who’ve made Masonry what it is. The story of Masonry just couldn’t be told without Shane, Donny, and all the other amazing people at E9. Mixed-fermentation beer is what we were built on, and they are pioneers in the Northwest in that regard; an early standout for me was their Goldenberry Wild. But what keeps them constantly on our list is the fact that they have always produced great hoppy beers — including our house pale ale for a long time — and lagers like My Fishing Buddy and Harmonique Helles. Lastly, they continue to be some of the most genuine and down-to-earth folks in the business.” —Matt Storm, owner, The Masonry, Seattle
Odell Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, Colo.
“I fell in love with Odell long before I opened our award-winning bar. 90 Shilling, the brewery’s flagship amber, was the beer I drank when I started homebrewing. Odell was a big reason I prioritized taking a beercation to Colorado before Belgium. Dear lord, is the brewery space beautiful. Odell is the Rocky Mountains poster child of craft beer and, as a Midwesterner myself, dare I say the poster child for some of the Midwest, too. It’s the idol of newly opened breweries across the nation. It offers the trifecta of a soul-nurturing space, powered by people who give a damn about each other and just so happen to make some of the most consistently balanced yet versatile styles of beer. Since opening in 2019, we’ve always had Odell either on tap or in close reach in [the] cooler. Our neighborhood of beer geeks celebrated our one-year anniversary with a special tapping of Odell’s stout Barreled Treasure. I sent a note to Odell, cheersing them when we won best craft beer bar in Wisconsin by CraftBeer.com and when we ranked for best neighborhood bar in Madison Magazine. They deserved the praise as much as we did. Odell has been a part of my life for quite some time, and it’s not because a rep swings in to try and sell more. It’s because Odell knows who it is at its core: a craft brewery for people who care. You know… you, me, those reading this, and those who aren’t because they are out enjoying some Sippin’ Pretty.” —Garth Beyer, owner and certified cicerone, Garth’s Brew Bar, Madison, Wis.
Editor’s note: This list originally included Hill Farmstead Brewery as an entry for one of the best breweries of the year. It has since been removed in light of allegations of misconduct made against Hill Farmstead founder and brewer Shaun Hill in May 2021. This was oversight on our part and one we will be more diligent in avoiding in the future.