Special Report

America’s 40 Most Delicious Beers

Courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewing

Our love for wine in this country grows all the time, and both cocktails and spirits (both well-known brands and regional craft offerings) are gaining an ever-increasing market share. But we are still, as a whole, a nation of beer drinkers.

According to a Gallup poll published last year, between 2001 and 2019 beer was our favorite alcoholic beverage — except for one unexplained anomaly in 2005, when wine slightly edged it out. 

In 2019, for instance, while 3% of those polled had no clear preference, 38% said they preferred beer, versus 29% for wine and 30% for spirits. (In case you wondered how consumption breaks down, these are the states drinking the most beer.)

Of course, most of the beer we drink is mass-produced stuff; Bud Lite is the No. 1 brew by far, and it certainly has its place as a refreshing tipple. Lovers of craft beer, though, look for something more, choosing from an ever-growing wealth of artisanal ales, stouts, and other beers, characterized by complexity and unique combinations of flavors.

Click here to see America’s 40 most delicious beers

To assemble its list of America’s 40 most delicious beers, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous rankings and reviews on specialist sites, including Beer Advocate, Hop Culture, Untapped, Craft Beer, Beer Xchange, and The American Homebrewers Association’s Zymurgy Magazine. We also considered rankings and reviews from general publications like Ranker, Paste, and Men’s Journal. While numerical scores were considered where given, consideration was also given to the comments of reviewers, both amateur and professional, in describing various beers.

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 one time. That means that, unlike choices from the big corporate brewers, craft brews change all the time. 

While vintage years don’t mean the same thing they do with wine, many producers put them on their bottles to indicate that the example you’re drinking today probably isn’t the same as the one with the same name you had last year. These are the 35 most successful craft breweries in America.

24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of some of the country’s best craft beers, based on numerous online sources, both beer-specific and general. While taste in beer, like taste in anything, is highly subjective, and while it’s certain that not all beer-lovers will agree with our choices or the order we placed them in, we believe this is a fair representation of America’s most delicious beers.

Fair warning: Many craft beers are hard to find. Some are available only at the brewery, and some are only available for a very short time after release — for instance, Dark Lord, a Russian imperial stout made by Indiana’s 3 Floyd Brewing’s, sold on only one day a year. They can also be seriously expensive, in some instances $50 or $100 a bottle or more. And with the added flavorings, high alcohol content, and serious bitterness that characterizes some of them, every beer here won’t be to everyone’s taste — but taken as a whole, they represent the best of American craft brewing today.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogocogo/

40. Pale Ale
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
> Location: Chico, California and Mills River, North Carolina

Craft beer snobs may scorn at this bright, hop-heavy pioneering modern pale ale, made by one of America’s largest independent breweries in America, but its consistency and delightful flavor likely account for its No. 3 place in the American Homebrewers Association most recent ranking of the country’s best beers.

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dubswede/

39. Fresh Squeezed
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
> Location: Bend, Oregon

A fragrant IPA, described by the brewery as a “citrus bomb,” balancing lemony and tropical fruit flavors against a solid core of malt.

Source: Courtesy of Central Waters Brewing Company

38. Ardea Insignis
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Central Waters Brewing
> Location: Amherst, Wisconsin

A rich, intensely flavored one-of-a-kind stout, aged for more than three years in 25-year-old bourbon barrels.

Source: Courtesy of Fair Isle Brewing

37. Alexandra
> Style: Saison/farmhouse ale
> Brewery: Fair Isle Brewing
> Location: Seattle, Washington

A maceration with fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) adds an exotic herbaceous note to this lightly citrusy farmhouse ale.

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Source: Courtesy of Webb Chapel Beer & Wine

36. Le Terroir
> Style: Sour ale
> Brewery: New Belgium Brewing
> Location: Fort Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina

Sourness and a counterpoint of sweetness, with a hint of acidic bite, characterize this dry-hopped ale, barrel-aged for two years.

Source: Courtesy of Western Post

35. Elevated IPA
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: La Cumbre Brewing Co.
> Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

IPAs are defined by forthright hops character, but this one takes the concept almost to the limit, with hops, hops, and more hops. Resin, grapefruit, green grass, and more combine in the aroma and on the palate.

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Source: Courtesy of Wanderlust Craft Beer & Wine

34. Double Vision
> Style: Doppelbock
> Brewery: Grand Teton Brewing
> Location: Victor, Idaho

A malty, tobacco-box juggernaut with dried fruit character but not too much sweetness.

Source: Courtesy of Cellador Ales

33. Mas
> Style: Saison/farmhouse ale
> Brewery: Cellador Ales
> Location: North Hills, California

This very pretty farmhouse ale, with hints of vanilla, is flavored with nectarines and peaches grown by celebrated Central California organic farmer and author David “Mas” Masumoto.

32. Old Rasputin
> Style: Russian imperial stout
> Brewery: North Coast Brewing Co.
> Location: Fort Bragg, California

Russian stout is produced in a style said to have been developed to please the tsars of the 18th century, dark and high in alcohol (though this one is a comparatively modest 9% ABV). Old Rasputin is full-bodied, malty, and chocolatey, with a hint of bitterness.

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Source: Courtesy of Good People Brewing

31. El Gordo
> Style: Russian imperial stout
> Brewery: Good People Brewing Co.
> Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Toasty and powerful (at 13.9% ABV), El Gordo is malty, with flavors of coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and oak.

Source: Photo by Robert K. via Yelp

30. Daily Wages
> Style: Saison/farmhouse ale
> Brewery: Brasserie Saint James
> Location: Reno, Nevada

Brewed in a rustic Belgian style, this earthy, haystack-yellow ale is herbaceous, crisp, and dry.

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Source: Courtesy of BevMo!

29. Tank 7
> Style: Saison/farmhouse ale
> Brewery: Boulevard Brewing Co.
> Location: Kansas City, Missouri

This one has a not unpleasantly funky aroma, lots of fruit, some toasty character, and plenty of hops.

Source: Courtesy of WeldWerks Brewing Company

28. Starry Noche
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: WeldWerks Brewing Co.
> Location: Greeley, Colorado

Starry Noche is a confection made from selected batches of this brewery’s popular Medianoche imperial stout, aged 18 to 22 months in bourbon barrels, then flavored with coconut flakes and chips and toasted hazelnuts.

Source: Courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewing

27. Indian Brown Ale
> Style: Dark IPA
> Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery
> Location: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Dogfish Head has been making this brown-sugar-sweetened ale for more than 20 years. Hoppy bitterness and malty sweetness characterize the flavor.

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Source: Courtesy of Perennial Artisan Ales

26. Saison de Lis
> Style: Saison/farmhouse ale
> Brewery: Perennial Artisan Ales
> Location: St. Louis, Missouri

A beer for tea-lovers, thanks to an infusion of chamomile flowers, this farmhouse ale is earthy and spicy, with a dry, refreshing finish.

Source: Courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing Company

25. Monk’s Mistress
> Style: Belgian-style dark ale
> Brewery: Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
> Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Heady (at 11.5% ABV), dark in color, and richly textured, with some fruit and a hint of gingerbread spice.

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24. Bourbon County Stout
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co.
> Location: Chicago, Illinois

A chocolatey, high-strength, jet black imperial stout from a one-time independent craft brewery now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, of Bud Lite fame.

Source: Courtesy of The Lost Abbey

23. Duck-Duck-Gooze
> Style: Belgian-style sour ale
> Brewery: The Lost Abbey
> Location: San Marcos, California

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: Courtesy of Side Project Brewing

22. Derivation (Blend #13)
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Side Project Brewing
> Location: Maplewood, Missouri

This is a blend of barrel-aged wheat stouts, aged 20 to 30 months and then flavored with Ugandan vanilla beans for a well-rounded, bittersweet mouthful.

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Source: Courtesy of Bissell Brothers Brewing

21. Reciprocal
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: Bissell Brothers Brewing Co.
> Location: Portland, Maine

Calling itself an “Australian” IPA (the term India Pale Ale was first applied to beers sent Down Under), this hop-forward entry is brewed from Maine wheat and oats.

Source: Courtesy of Craft Beer Hop Stop

20. Blessed
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Anchorage Brewing Co.
> Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Black and heavy, with plenty of oak from its aging in bourbon barrels and a serious kick (it’s 14% ABV); finished with coconut and vanilla beans, for an exotic confectionary character.

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Source: Courtesy of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

19. Hopslam Ale
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery
> Location: Comstock, Michigan

Generously hopped, but softened with a touch of honey; intensely fragrant and reasonably potent at 10% ABV.

Source: Courtesy of Perennial Artisan Ales

18. Barrel-Aged Abraxas
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Perennial Artisan Ales
> Location: St. Louis, Missouri

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 Jester King Brewery

17. Atrial Rubicite
> Style: Sour ale
> Brewery: Jester King Brewery
> Location: Austin, Texas

A two-fisted Texan take on wild-fermented Belgian framboise (raspberry-flavored beer), surprisingly dry and vivid on the palate.

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Source: Courtesy of Might Be Brews Podcast

16. Very Green
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: Tree House Brewing Co.
> Location: Charlton, Massachusetts

Redolent of American and Australian hops, with a piney, herbaceous character and a citrus bite, this is a complex brew developing nicely in the glass.

Source: Courtesy of Maine Beer Company

15. Dinner
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: Maine Beer Co.
> Location: Freeport, Maine

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

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Source: Courtesy of Founders Brewing Co.

14. CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout)
> Style: Stout
> Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
> Location: Detroit, Michigan

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: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

13. Parabola
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
> Location: Buellton, California

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

Source: Courtesy of Bottle Logic Brewing

12. Fundamental Observation
> Style: Imperial Stout
> Brewery: Bottle Logic Brewing
> Location: Anaheim, California

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: naiserie / Flickr

11. Abner
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: Hill Farmstead Brewery
> Location: Greensboro Bend, Vermont

Named for the great-grandfather of the brewery’s owners, and brewed with well water from the farmstead property, this is a solid, hazy, very nicely balanced IPA.

10. Two-Hearted Ale
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: Bell’s Brewery
> Location: Comstock, Michigan

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

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Source: Courtesy of Russian River Brewing Company

9. Pliny the Younger
> Style: Triple IPA
> Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co.
> Location: Santa Rosa, California

Pliny the Elder (see No. 4) 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.

Source: Photo by Christian C. via Yelp

8. King JJJuliusss
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: Tree House Brewing Co.
> Location: Charlton, Massachusetts

Not to be confused with the brewery’s Julius. King Julius, or JJJulius IPAs, this is an immensely rich, hops-forward brew offering a whole bouquet of fruit aromas and a pronounced bitterness in the mouth.

Source: Courtesy of Cigar City Brewing

7. Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Cigar City Brewing
> Location: Tampa, Florida

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

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Source: Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

6. Mornin’ Delight
> Style: Imperial stout
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
> Location: Decorah, Iowa

Imperial stout, rich and well-balanced, brewed with coffee and maple syrup; medium-rich and sweet but not cloying.

5. KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
> Style: Stout
> Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
> Location: Detroit, Michigan

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.”

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4. Pliny the Elder
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co.
> Location: Santa Rosa, California

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

3. Heady Topper
> Style: Double IPA
> Brewery: The Alchemist
> Location: Waterbury, Vermont

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

2. Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout
> Style: Stout
> Brewery: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
> Location: Decorah, Iowa

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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Source: Courtesy of 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

1. Zombie Dust
> Style: IPA
> Brewery: 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
> Location: Munster, Indiana

Elegant proof that a beer doesn’t need extraneous ingredients to be complex and immensely satisfying, this textbook-perfect pale ale, strongly flavored with Yakima Valley Citra hops, is attractively resinous in the nose, fruity, and yeasty.

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