American craft beer is filled with innovative, flavorful, and genre-shifting beers. But before there were more than 5,000 breweries in the country, there were a select few groundbreaking breweries. We asked 12 brewers what they think the most influential beer in the past 10 years was.
“This is a tough question. It all depends on what ‘influential’ means in context. You’ve got Sculpin by Ballast Point which garnered a billion dollar buyout which certainly rippled through the industry on an economic level. But on the other hand, you’ve got Heady Topper by The Alchemist which basically launched a whole new frenzy of consumer demand / hoarding and helped to launch the newest recognized beer style, NEIPA. So both were pretty influential in their own way.” — Pete Anderson, co-owner of Pareidolia Brewing Co.
“I’m sure it’s been more than 10 years, but I would say La Folie from New Belgium.” — Ian Smith, co-owner of Three Rings Brewery.
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“10 years? Maybe Dogfish Head 60 Minute for bringing quirky craft to the masses on the East Coast. Maybe Heady Topper for getting things rolling for Hype Beast beers. Not that it’s not well deserved, but that was one of the first beers that I remember hearing about like a Holy Grail. It also turned a lot of people around on the ‘clean beer’ thing with filtration. There was a time that if beer wasn’t sparkling, it wasn’t ‘right.’ Now we don’t filter much of anything and people come in asking for hazeeeee.” — Jon Mansfield, brewery operations manager at Warhorse Brewing.
“That’s a tough one — so many to choose from. Pliny the Elder for throwing down the gauntlet with hops. 3 Floyds Dark Lord for defining what a limited availability release party is like. Dale’s Pale Ale for helping drive the industry towards cans. That being said, given our location (New England), our beer scene is most influenced by the Alchemist’s Heady Topper. Brewers all over the country are now making New England-Style IPAs.” — Nicole Carrier, co-founder and president of Throwback Brewery.
“This is more than 10 years but Dale’s coming out in cans changed the game. We can our beer and so many other breweries do too now all because of Oskar Blues.” — Kevin Blodger, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Union Craft Brewing.
“Islamorada Ale.” — Patrick Byrnes, head brewer at Islamorada Beer Company.
“Though there are certainly more influential beers historically, the most influential in the last 10 years has to be Pliny the Elder. Not only has the Double IPA exploded nationwide, but Russian River’s techniques have been mimicked by thousands of breweries…and home brewers.” — John Falco, head brewer at Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Company.
“In all honesty it should probably be an IPA, but that’s boring and too obvious. I would say New Belgium La Folie. It is an amazing beer brewed and blended with an eye on traditional methods and was probably America’s first home-born sour beer on any sort of production scale. I think it made wood-aged sour beer accessible to many people and was likely a ‘safer’ buy for many than buying weird-looking European imported sours from Sweden and Belgium. As such, La Folie was a gateway beer for many into the sour realm I’d wager, and it paved the way for the influx of breweries today adding wood-aged wild ales to their portfolios and especially the ones focused solely on sour/wild beer.” — Chris Davison, head brewer at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.
“Dale’s Pale Ale. It created the craft can market driving all breweries old and small into the aluminum can.” — Eric Meyer, brewmaster at Cahaba Brewing.
“Founders All Day IPA. If I were to pick something out of our own portfolio, I’d say our Bedlam! Belgian-style IPA has had some great exposure as one of Beer Advocate’s highest-rated Belgian IPA’s in the world.” — Chris Riphenburg, co-owner and head brewer at Ale Asylum.
“Odell Brewing Co. IPA may be a hair older than 10 years, but it’s an important beer. When talking to other brewers and brewery owners, I haven’t met a single individual that wouldn’t agree that the Odell IPA is what ‘IPA’ tastes like. Extremely well balanced. While everyone else is chasing fruit IPA’s, Session IPA’s, Imperial IPA’s, etc. etc., going back to Odell IPA is a refreshing treat. At the time it came out, it was really pushing the IPA envelope in terms of how hops could be used in a beer.” — Davin Helden, CEO of Liquid Mechanics Brewing.