When it comes to beer, there’s nothing wrong with everyday thirst-quenching lager, readily available, easy to quaff, and usually inexpensive.
Lovers of craft beer, though, look for something more than just a cooling tipple, choosing from an ever-growing wealth of artisanal brews offering complexity and unique combinations of flavors and aromas — beers to anticipate, seek out, savor, and remember. These tend to be unique examples of the brewmaster’s art — specialties that aren’t likely to be among the biggest beer brands in America.
The choices seem almost limitless. As of last summer, according to the Brewers Association, there were 7,480 active craft breweries around America — 1,016 more than in 2018. Craft brewers love to experiment, so new beers are constantly pouring onto the market, and it’s not uncommon for a single producer to have a dozen or more beers on the market at any given time. Keeping up with the craft beer scene can be a full-time job. These are the 35 most popular craft beers in America.
To make the job at least a little easier, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of what might fairly be called the 40 most delicious craft beers made in America. The ranking is based on scores and reviews from a variety of sources, with particular attention paid to BeerAdvocate’s annual rating of what it considers to be the world’s top 250 beers.
They come from 14 different states, some of which are clearly champions of the craft beer game. Nine of the 40, for instance, are from California. Six are from Michigan, and four each hail from Iowa and Vermont.
Many are IPAs — India Pale Ales, made with a pronounced hop flavor. Many more are stouts, which are dark beers made with roasted malt or barley, often barrel-aged like wine and sometimes with additional flavors added — coffee, chocolate, vanilla, fresh fruit, even chiles.
Fair warning: Craft beers can be hard to find, and some of them are extremely rare (the Dark Lord range made by Indiana’s 3 Floyds Brewing, for instance, is available only at the brewery on one day a year). They can also be seriously expensive, in some instances $50 or $100 a bottle or more. And every beer here won’t be to everyone’s taste — but taken as a whole, they represent the best of American craft brewing today.
A number of specialist publications and organizations rate craft beers regularly, among them the American Homebrewers Association, Rate Beer, BeerAdvocate, and 52 Brews. The list that follows is based on their most recent ratings, as well as other lists of what are widely considered the best-tasting beers American breweries have to offer from sites including Ranker, Vinepair, and Paste. While numerical scores were considered, equal weight was given to the comments of reviewers in describing the aromas and flavors — the deliciousness — of their favorite beers. BeerAdvocate scores are given as a point of reference, but because these rankings are drawn from numerous sources, the scores don’t necessarily correspond to each beer’s position on the list.