Over the last decade, the craft beer scene in the United States has evolved and changed significantly. While the major labels like Budweiser certainly still have their time and place, there’s more than likely a great craft beer that’s being brewed in your home state that’s deliciously refreshing and tasty, not to mention largely independent from other major manufacturers. Trying to chase down every single one might be a bit of a fool’s errand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
At SPY, we’ve spent some time searching for some of the best of the best, tasting them and determining which are our favorites. With a good mix of lighter beers for easy drinking, fun season beers, and heavy winter-ready IPAs, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone on this list. All that’s left is for you to decide where you want to start first.
1. Austin Beerworks Peacemaker Amber Red Ale
The Peacemaker from Texas brewery Austin Beerworks is the first beer the company ever decided to brew, so it comes packed with a balanced, yet refreshing taste. With 5% ABV rating, it’s great to sip on all day long, whether it’s alongside some BBQ or a spicy taco.
2. Lagunitas India Pale Ale
Califonia’s very own Lagunitas IPA is hoppy, yet incredibly drinkable india pale ale that pairs quite nicely alongside any hamburger, steak or rich meat-based dish. The richness of the beer comes from a balanced pairing of Caramel Malt barley and the aforementioned hops.
3. Union Brewing Old Pro Gose
Baltimore’s Union Brewing has made a sour beer for those that don’t love sours. With just a touch of salt to it, the Old Pro is a perfect beer to drink all summer long, with its crisp — and slightly tangy — flavor. Oh, and it’s just one of the most visually striking and fun cans around — so much so that the brewery’s line of hats with the print sold out almost instantly when they were first introduced.
4. SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale
Named for the date it was first brewed and not after the famed stoner holiday, the SweetWater 420 was initially brewed on April 20, 1997. The crisp and slightly fruity pale ale isn’t as hoppy as its namesake may lead you to believe, but boasts a bit more of a richer taste than a standard ale, which is probably part of the reason this Atlanta beer is such a hit in the south. So go ahead and dip your toes in, as the (sweet)water is not only fine — but quite tasty too.
5. RJ Rockers Son of a Peach Wheat Ale
From Atlanta, it’s just a quick drive up the interstate to South Carolina’s RJ Rockers, where the Son of a Peach wheat ale is made with real peaches (Did you know that South Carolina actually produces more peaches than Georgia? It’s true!). That peach taste isn’t too overwhelming, opting instead for a nice balance that’ll pair nicely with a variety of different foods for some great drinkability.
6. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
At a sturdy 7% ABV, the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is one of the stronger beers featured on this list. That strength also applies to its taste, which has a flowery smell with a hoppy, yet smooth finish. It’s incredibly easy to drink, which means it has a bit of a tendency to sneak up on you later in the evening. But don’t let that deter you from missing out on all-around fantastic tasting beer.
7. Anchor Steam Beer
The ‘Steam” in Anchor Steam actually refers to a mysterious brewing method that was utilized in the initial creation of Anchor’s main beer. That phrasing became somewhat of a nickname for beers brewed on the Western Coast of the United States. While the exact methodology used in those days is still mysterious, what’s very clear is that this beer is an incredibly smooth and well-rounded beer that just tastes excellent, regardless of what you pair it with.
8. Victory Golden Monkey Ale
The richness and flavor of the Victory Golden Monkey is matched only by its ABV, at 9.5% it is the single strongest beer on this list. Drawing from Belgian-inspired brewing (read: very fruity, with a dash of exotic spices) this ale comes together for a textured, layered beer that gets better with each sip. Just don’t get too excited, or you’ll have a nasty monkey on your back in the morning.
9. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
For those in the mood for a good seasonal beer, Dogfish Head’s Punkin ale is a brown ale that’s been brewed with a cornucopia of fall flavors: pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. All of these flavors come together as one to provide a full-body ale that tastes like football games, cardigan sweaters, and crunching leaves. The sweet and toasty taste pairs well with a nice dessert or even some great roasted seasonal vegetables.
10. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
Colorado’s beloved Oskar Blues made their bones with Dale’s Pale Ale, focusing on a higher ABV beer, nestled inside a can that was easy to pack in and pack out for camping trips across the beautiful landscapes found in that state. While some great environmentally friendly design is always welcomed, it’s also just really silky tasting beer that fits nicely alongside a campfire with its balanced blend of fruit and hops.