Special Report

America’s 40 Most Delicious Beers

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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 successful 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

Click here for America’s 40 most delicious 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.

Source: Courtesy of Sierra Nevada

40. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
> Brewery: Sierra Nevada (California and North Carolina)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: n/a

Fruity, intense, malty, and bittersweet this English-style barley wine (meaning a hearty, potent beer — this one’s 9.6% ABV — with a wine-like intensity of flavor) available seasonally in the winter months, has won numerous beer festival awards.

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Source: Courtesy of Avery Brewery

39. Tweak
> Brewery: Avery Brewing Company (Colorado)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.47 out of 5

A bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with plenty of punch (at 16% ABV) and a dose of coffee, this beer was formerly labeled as Meph Addict and also Coffeestopholes.

Source: Courtesy of Transmitter Brewing via Facebook

38. S9
> Brewery: Transmitter Brewing (New York)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: n/a

The Brooklyn-born brew is pale and lithe, in the Belgian saison style, but also full of flavor, with a bracing, slightly bitter finish.

Source: Courtesy of Trillium Brewing via Twitter

37. Headroom
> Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Massachusetts)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.64 out of 5

Described by its makers as the “boldest, most daring, hoppiest beer we could possibly dream up,” this New England IPA is full of tropical fruit and citrus flavors.

Source: Courtesy of Two Roads Brewing Co.

36. Area Two Table Terroir
> Brewery: Two Roads Brewing Co. (Connecticut)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: n/a

This beer justifies borrowing the term “terroir” from wine-tasting jargon (it means the combined environmental factors that give wine grapes their distinctive character) by sourcing its malts, hops, and yeasts in its native state. Low in alcohol (3.7% ABV), it has a lightly fruity character, with some peppery spice.

Source: Courtesy of Bell's Brewery

35. Expedition Stout, Bourbon Barrel-Aged
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.49 out of 5

Very dark and chocolatey, with suggestions of licorice and vanilla and a subtle flavor of sweet whiskey, courtesy of its year-long aging in bourbon barrels.

Source: Courtesy of Stone Brewing

34. Fyodor
> Brewery: Stone Brewing (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.47 out of 5

A dense, heavy Russian imperial stout, weighing in at 13.1% ABV, Fyodor floods the palate with flavors of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and vanilla.

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Source: Courtesy of Peter Anderson via Flickr

33. The Abyss
> Brewery: Deschutes Brewery (Colorado)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.5 out of 5

A wintertime stout brewed with molasses and licorice and aged in oak. Smokey and complex.

Source: Courtesy of Tree House Brewing Company via Twitter

32. Doubleganger
> Brewery: Tree House Brewing Co. (Massachusetts)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.64 out of 5

Cloudy and frothy, but fresh and juicy, with citrusy hops character, plenty of fruit on the palate, and an attractively bitter finish.

Source: Courtesy of Don LaVange via Flickr

31. Bourbon County Stout
> Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co. (Illinois)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.66 out of 5

A chocolately, high-strength, jet black imperial stout from a one-time independent craft brewery now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, of Budweiser fame. Aged, in its most recent incarnation, is a combination of Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, which add a pronounced whiskey note.

Source: Courtesy of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

30. Hopslam Ale
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.49 out of 5

Hopped generously (six different varietals are used), but softened with a touch of honey; intensely fragrant and reasonably potent at 10% ABV.

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Source: Courtesy of Allagash Brewing Co.

29. River Trip
> Brewery: Allagash Brewing Co. (Maine)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: n/a

A light, accessible, refreshing coriander-spiced Belgian-style session ale — meaning a low-strength, well-balanced beer brewed for drinkability (this one’s 4.8% ABV).

Source: Courtesy of Hill Farmstead Brewery

28. Ann
> Brewery: Hill Farmstead Brewery (Vermont)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.68 out of 5

A fruity, vinous farmhouse ale, produced by aging the brewery’s similarly named Anna ale (brewed with 20% Vermont wildflower honey) in French oak wine barrels.

Source: Courtesy of AleSmith Brewing Company

27. Speedway Stout, Vietnamese Coffee
> Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Co. (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.51 out of 5

The most popular of AleSmith’s Speedway stouts, a vividly flavored 12% ABV offering brewed with four varieties of Vietnamese coffee. (There is also a bourbon-barrel-aged version.)

Source: Courtesy of Bell's Brewery

26. Black Note Stout
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.57 out of 5

Creamy, malty, and aromatic, this imperial stout is complex and intense, with a noticeable bourbon-barrel character, but remains easily drinkable.

Source: Courtesy of Lawson’s Finest Liquids

25. Sip of Sunshine
> Brewery: Lawson’s Finest Liquids (Vermont)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.59 out of 5

A hazy, bittersweet IPA, generously hopped but with plenty of malt coming through, a floral character, and notes of citrus and tropical fruit.

Source: Courtesy of Side Project Brewing

24. Fuzzy
> Brewery: Side Project Brewing (Missouri)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.65 out of 5

A wild or sour ale (made with wild yeast and/or various bacteria), flowery and fruity, brewed with Missouri white peaches and fermented and aged in chardonnay barrels.

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Source: Courtesy of AleSmith Brewing Company

23. Speedway Stout, Bourbon Barrel-Aged
> Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Co. (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.54 out of 5

Brewed with locally sourced Ryan Bros. coffee and roasted barley and aged for up to a year in bourbon barrels; chocolate, vanilla, and coffee in the mouth, with a hint of bourbon flavor.

Source: Courtesy of 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

22. Zombie Dust
> Brewery: 3 Floyds Brewing Co. (Indiana)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.63 out of 5

A pale ale — formerly marketed as Cenotaph — strongly flavored with Yakima Valley Citra hops; resinous in the nose; fruity and yeasty.

Source: Courtesy of Funky Buddha Brewery

21. Morning Wood
> Brewery: Funky Buddha Brewery (Florida)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.66 out of 5

Talk about beer for breakfast: This assertive (12%ABV) porter, is bourbon-barrel-aged and flavored with coffee, bacon, and maple syrup.

Source: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

20. Parabola
> Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.65 out of 5

This high-octane (14% ABV) imperial stout offers flavors of dark chocolate, tobacco, malt, and bourbon-barrel oak; from a Central Coast wine country brewery now owned by the major Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat.

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Source: Courtesy of edwin via Flickr

19. KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
> Brewery: Founders Brewing Co. (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.65 out of 5

A rich, malty, and earthy imperial stout brewed with what Founders calls “a massive amount of coffee and chocolates;” according to one Beer Advocate reviewer, “The look is epic — black like Texas crude.”

Source: Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

18. Assassin
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. (Iowa)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.7 out of 5

Very dark in color, with plenty of malt in the nose; rich and chewy, with a flavor that evokes chocolate, raisins, dates, and caramel.

Source: Courtesy of Lawson's Finest Liquids

17. Double Sunshine
> Brewery: Lawson’s Finest Liquids (Vermont)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.68 out of 5

A classic double IPA (one given extra heft by additional hops and malt), reminiscent of the same brewery’s Sip of Sunshine (No. 25), but maltier, as might be expected, with a subtle but agreeable fruity character.

Source: Courtesy of The Lost Abbey

16. Duck Duck Gooze
> Brewery: The Lost Abbey (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.66 out of 5

A Golden State interpretation of the classic Belgian style called gueuze (hence the punning name). Gueuze is a type of lambic — beer fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria — made by blending. young and older barrel-aged beers. This one is lively and redolent of stone fruits, with some tartness and sweetness.

Source: Goose Island Beer Co.

15. Bourbon County Coffee Stout
> Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co. (Illinois)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.73 out of 5

The coffee-dosed elaboration of Goose Island’s regular Bourbon County Stout (No. 31), malty and dark, with hints of bourbon and an aromatic infusion of high-quality coffee beans (the sources vary year to year).

Source: Courtesy of Bottle Logic Brewing

14. Fundamental Observation
> Brewery: Bottle Logic Brewing (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.72 out of 5

A heady imperial stout (14.3% ABV), blended with Madagascar vanilla beans and aged in bourbon barrels; rich and dark, but with fairly subtle oak and whiskey flavors.

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Source: Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

13. SR-71
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. (Iowa)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.77 out of 5

At 14% ABV, an intense, complex imperial stout, syrupy and raisiny, with notes of chocolate and marshmallow.

Source: Courtesy of Maine Beer Company

12. Dinner
> Brewery: Maine Beer Co. (Maine)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.66 out of 5

A dry, fresh, clean double IPA, fruity and spicy, with a resiny flavor and lightly bitter finish.

Source: Adam Barhan / Flickr

11. Pliny the Elder
> Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co. (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.69 out of 5

Malty and slightly bitter, an imperial double IPA with an earthy, grassy hop character in the nose and plenty of malt and citrus on the palate.

Source: Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

10. Mornin’ Delight
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. (Iowa)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.75 out of 5

Imperial stout, rich and well-balanced, brewed with coffee and maple syrup, medium-rich and sweet at 12.8% ABV.

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Source: Courtesy of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

9. Two Hearted Ale
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: n/a

Named for the Two Hearted River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a well-rounded IPA, fresh and smooth, with plenty of malt supporting forthright hop aromas and a piney hops flavor.

Source: Courtesy of Tree House Brewing Company

8. King Julius
> Brewery: Tree House Brewing Co. (Massachusetts)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.76 out of 5

A double New England IPA — a beefier sibling to Tree House’s popular Julias IPA — with plenty of hops and a profusion of tropical fruit flavors.

Source: Courtesy of Perennial Artisan Ales

7. Barrel-Aged Abraxas
> Brewery: Perennial Artisan Ales (Missouri)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.79 out of 5

Very dark and viscous — a spicy seasonal imperial stout brewed with cinnamon sticks, ancho chiles, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans and aged for a year in Rittenhouse Rye barrels.

Source: Courtesy of Founders Brewing Co.

6. CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout)
> Brewery: Founders Brewing Co. (Michigan)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.7 out of 5

Dark, smooth, sweet, and oaky; brewed with what its makers call “a blend of coffees and imported chocolates” and aged in bourbon barrels that had previously held Michigan maple syrup.

Source: Courtesy of Cigar City Brewing

5. Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, Double Barrel-Aged
> Brewery: Cigar City Brewing (Florida)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.79 out of 5

A rich, thick, black stout, aged in rum and apple brandy barrels with cacao nibs, ancho and pasilla chiles, cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla beans, adding up to a heady (11% ABV) dessert in a glass.

Source: Courtesy of Russian River Brewing Company

4. Pliny the Younger
> Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co. (California)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.75 out of 5

Pliny the Elder (see No. 11) is a double IPA. This piney, floral offering, with a touch of smoothing sweetness, is a triple — made with three times the usual ration of hops.

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Source: Courtesy of 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

3. BBADL (Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout)
> Brewery: 3 Floyds Brewing Co. (Indiana)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.61 out of 5

Sweet, strong (15% ABV), and so thick that it’s almost chewy, with an aroma that’s part vintage Port, part molasses. There are a number of Dark Lord variations, in vintages ranging from 2007 through 2019, sold only at the brewery on one day each year. Bad news: It was June 30 this year — but check darklordday.com for next year’s date.

Source: Courtesy of Alchemist Beer

2. Heady Topper
> Brewery: The Alchemist (Vermont)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.79 out of 5

The seminal New England double IPA , sold in cans — bitter but well-balanced and full of floral, citrusy, and piney flavors. Considered, as one Beer Advocate reviewer put it, “the granddaddy that today’s IPAs were born from.”

Source: Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

1. Kentucky Brunch Stout
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. (Iowa)
> Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.9 out of 5

Ranked No. 1 on the most recent Beer Advocate listing of America’s top 250 beers, with an almost perfect score, this imperial stout is thick, dark, sweet, complex, smooth, and memorable, combining flavors of chocolate, coffee, maple syrup, bourbon, figs, toffee, and vanilla to what its many fans consider transcendent effect.

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