Americans aren’t drinking as much as they used to, but when they do, they still prefer beer over other alcoholic beverages. In the most recent Gallup Poll, from December 2022, 35% of adults chose beer as their favorite tipple, compared with 31% for wine, and 30% for liquor.
Though many Americans still quaff mass-produced legacy beers such as Miller, Coors, and Budweiser, craft beers have made significant inroads. Craft-beer partisans appreciate the artisanal ales, stouts, and other brews, characterized by individuality, complexity, and unique combinations of flavors. They’re also bemused by the whimsical names of the potables, such as Zombie Dust, Pliny The Elder, and Old Rasputin. (These are America’s most delicious beers.)
To compile a list of the 20 craft beers Americans like the most, 24/7 Tempo reviewed BeerAdvocate’s most recent rating of beers, as judged by its readers. The site asks reviewers to score beers on a scale of 1.00 to 5.00 in 0.25-point increments on five ratable attributes: appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and overall impressions. The site then calculates ratings by weighting attributes differently (most important is taste, weighted at 40%). Ratings are current as of mid-May 2023. Information on alcohol by volume, or ABV, also came from BeerAdvocate.
Craft brewers are always experimenting with ingredients, so new beers are constantly appearing on the market. It’s not unusual for a single producer to have a dozen or more beers on the market at one time. On our list, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Stone Brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Founders Brewing Company, and Bell’s Brewery all have more than one beer represented.
Exactly half of the beers on the list are from California breweries, while Michigan brewers landed four of the top eight beers. (Here’s a roster of the best local beer from every state.)
What is craft beer, anyway? The Brewers Association defines craft breweries as being small (relatively speaking; that means six million barrels of beer or less per year) and independent (meaning that less than 25% is owned or controlled by another alcoholic beverage company that is not a craft brewery itself.)
With that definition in mind, it should be noted that half a dozen breweries on this list probably wouldn’t satisfy the Brewers Association criteria. Unibroue and Stone Brewing are owned by subsidiaries of the large-scale Japanese brewer Sapporo; Bell’s Brewery belongs to an Australian- and New Zealand-based subsidiary of the giant Japanese beverage company Kirin (itself part of the Mitsubishi Group); Founders Brewing company is the property of the Spanish-based Manou San Miguel beer company; Dogfish Head is under the Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams; and Goose Island is a brand of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer company in America. Nonetheless, the beers listed from these companies all show the unique personality beer drinkers seek in craft brews.
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