The West Coast dominates in several key areas of the beer industry. Haze lovers can thank the coastal climate and fertile soil of the region for creating the ideal conditions for hops to thrive. In fact, Washington dominates the market in hops production, with nearly 70 percent of all the U.S.-made hops coming from the state.
The West Coast has had plenty of success in the beer industry above soil level, too. California leads the country by leaps and bounds as the state with the most craft breweries, with over 1,1000 (and likely even more — with new breweries opening constantly, it’s hard to keep track). And Oregon is particularly keen on beer drinking, ranking 15th in the nation for beer consumption per capita.
It’s no question that these coastal states help drive progress and support the beer industry in big ways. They also offer a lot of great beer options to choose from. With innovative, exciting beer as an industry standard on the West Coast, it seems likely that even the breweries most deserving of recognition can fade into the background.
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To bring some underrated breweries back into the spotlight, we asked 11 brewers to share their favorite hidden gems of the West Coast brewery scene. Here are their picks.
The Most Underrated West Coast Breweries According to Brewers:
- Montavilla Brew Works (Portland, Ore.)
- Upright Brewing (Portland, Ore.)
- Overtime Brewing (Fort Bragg, Calif.)
- Sonoma Springs Brewing Company (Sonoma, Calif.)
- Flatland Brewing Company (Elk Grove, Calif.)
- Artifex Brewing Company (San Clemente, Calif.)
- Island Brewing Company (Carpinteria, Calif.)
- Magnolia Brewing Company (San Francisco)
- Burgeon Beer Company (Carlsbad, Calif.)
- Rouleur Brewing Company (Carlsbad, Calif.)
- Break Even Beermakers (Amador City, Calif.)
“We are big fans of what the Montavilla Brew Works team is doing out here in Portland, Ore. Many folks may not know about them because of their size, but their founder and lead brewer Michael Kora consistently makes solid beers that are not trendy, but just timeless examples of every style.” —Danny Connors, senior innovation manager, Rogue Ales & Spirits, Newport, Ore.
“Upright Brewing in Portland, Ore., has been making world-class beer across a wide range of styles for over a decade. While they’re very highly esteemed locally, they seem to fly under the radar of folks outside the Northwest, but they shouldn’t. The beers that Alex and his team make are elegant, understated, characterful, and, most importantly, a pleasure to drink.” —Ben Edmunds, brewmaster, Breakside Brewery, Portland, Ore.
“Upright Brewing is easily the most underrated brewery on the West Coast and perhaps the entire U.S. Their commitment to quality, unique and personal attention to beer offerings, and overall aesthetics are among the highest- caliber in our industry. That they are often overlooked — or really taken for granted because of their small output and reliance on attraction rather than overt marketing — means that they still remain a special secret among those in the know. Upright Brewing does it right. It’s a true brewer’s brewery, so much so that I am almost hesitant to shine any light on them lest I lose a coveted prize to what should be adoring masses!” —Tim Clifford, owner & brewer, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Capitola, Calif.
“My vote is for Upright in Portland. Alex and his team provide a beer experience that celebrates art and culture that is at the same time individually unique and global in its perspective. Upright rocks!” —Paul Arney, owner & brewer, The Ale Apothecary, Bend, Ore.
“Overtime Brewing is one of those hidden gems. They have delicious beers and food with a rustic coastal feel. They are tucked away in the scenic coastal town of Fort Bragg, Calif.” —Fal Allen, brewmaster, Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Boonville, Calif.
“I would like to give a shout-out to Sonoma Springs Brewing Co. It is one of my favorite stops when I’m in Sonoma. With recurring beers like Captain Save A’Mo and Float the Day Away, they have a steady stream of hazies, IPAs, and other styles to please the whole group. Their beers are well made, interesting, and consistent. They have two locations: the Sonoma taproom and a Vacaville location in a classic old library building. The taproom manager in Sonoma, Katie, is knowledgeable, friendly, and an absolute gem.” —Thomas (Tom) Riley, brewmaster, Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco
“Hands down, Flatland Brewing in Elk Grove, Calif. Andrew and Mack are churning out consistently high-quality products. They do a fantastic job of being innovative while also having a healthy respect for traditional styles. When we opened our brewery in 2020, Andrew was instrumental in helping us and continues to serve as a mentor to us today. He is genuinely one of the kindest people you will meet, and he’s super talented at his craft.” —Rachel and Andrew Sabatine, COO & head brewer, Around The Horn Brewing Company, Groveland, Calif.
“There are too many great breweries to list, but there are three that stood out on my recent road trip along the California Coast. Going up from San Diego, there was Artifex in San Clemente, Island Brewing in Carpinteria, and Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco. They all have great small-batch programs with a wide variety of beer styles that make it worthwhile to grab a few 4-packs and head to the closest shoreline.” —Anthony Chen, head brewer, AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego
“Burgeon Beer Co. is making some great beers. They’re showcasing a lot of hop-forward beers but also innovating in other styles. They have a talented team and are just cool folks. A few years ago, I ran into Anthony Tallman (the co-owner and head brewer at Burgeon and former Stone Brewing brewer) in New Zealand during hop harvest. He’s a fellow hop junkie and they do a lot of hop exploration, which is reflected in their awesome IPAs.” —Jeremy Moynier, sr. manager of innovation & supply chain, Stone Brewing, Escondido, Calif.
“As San Diegans, we’re spoiled when it comes to amazing craft beer. There’s just so many great craft breweries here that are making award-winning beers. Rouleur Brewing Co. is a great brewery that, in my opinion, doesn’t get the hype they deserve. I’ve personally been there on many occasions and everything from their Japanese rice lager to their IPAs to their oatmeal stout are clean, consistent, and true to style. Bonus points for the comfortable atmosphere and friendly staff and crowd. They work hard, and it shows. ‘Nuff said!” —Paul Segura, brewmaster, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, San Diego
“Break Even Beermakers is one of my favorite new California breweries. Nestled in the Sierra Foothills in the town of Amador City, Break Even is making thoughtful, intuitive beers that entwine the landscape and culture of the surrounding area with the more abstract and creative side of beer making. The beers are balanced and approachable, and the tavern is the perfect spot to kick off any number of outdoor adventures.” —Mike Schnebeck, director of innovation, Fort Point Beer Co., San Francisco