When I first started drinking beer legally, micro-brews were the new and exciting thing in the beer world. The mega-breweries still ruled the roost. Micro-brews brought new flavors and different styles that the American palate was unfamiliar with. They were aimed at the masses. They were beers that were being brewed for a select audience to quench the thirst for a select group.
Back then, however micro-brews were just that, small batch brews. Lets be honest, some micro-brews were complete shit. But, the American public didn’t really know much, except that the flavor was different. An IPA was just a bitter beer with no complexity and no relief from an utterly bitter beer.
Things have changed however. Craft beer is becoming king. It is obvious that the big boys are scared. They are constantly trying to buy out the little guy or even the other big boys. But mass production, like it or not, hurts quality. Plus, adding the publics increasing interest in sustainability and knowledge of product can only help the craft brewer.
Craft brewers are the graffiti artists of their profession. They want to make a mark. They want to expose others to a new beauty. They are thugs, they are hippies, they are artists, and God bless them for that. We need more of that in some areas of the world.
Craft brewers are also stewards. They buy local. They support and promote their employees. They care about what they are doing and how they are doing it. We surely need a lot more of that.
Craft breweries that don’t mess around (in no particular order)
1. * Grand Teton Brewing – I’m not going to lie, I have a special spot in my heart for this place. I wrote and executed 3 beer dinner menus with these guys. I was given the personal tour with Rob and Chuck of “The Back.” I know that a brewery tour doesn’t sound like much, but when you get to sample beers that so far haven’t and maybe never will be sold to the public. Sour huckleberry saison and blood orange and chocolate stout are things that most people imagine, but I got to taste them both. And, you better believe that tasting a barrel aged huckleberry saison by pulling a nail out the barrel yourself is pretty special.
2. * Three Floyd’s – How the hell have I been drinking some of the crap I’ve had when this stuff is out there. I don’t know where to even start. The labels look like Stan Lee beat Charles Schultz with Andy Warhol’s corpse. That might be graphic, but look at their designs and you will understand. It’s not even that they try different things. It’s not that they do a good job. These guys do some crazy-ass shit and it is amazing.
3. * Founder’s Brewing Company – These guys make some of the best stouts out there. Breakfast Stout is one of my favorites. And, All Day IPA, forget about it. Founder’s makes the standards perfectly and has fun when they do decide to go out of the box. I feel that the worst Founder’s beer that I’ve had is damn good beer in its category.
4. * Stone Brewing – I have known Stone for years, but I had such small exposure that I did not know the variety that they bring. And, believe me, they bring it strong.
5. * Bell’s – As a Michigan boy I was raised to love Bell’s. I don’t just love Bell’s because it’s familiar, but instead because they do beer well. Bell’s taught me what a summer beer is all about in the form of Oberon. My family was one of those families where fruit in beer made no sense. My brother brought Oberon to hunting camp once, and next thing you know, Uncle Bill Saved a pony keg of Oberon for Christmas.
6. * Rogue – When I moved out west I first tasted Dead Guy Ale, and the rest is history.
7. ……The many more I’ve tried, and those I’ve yet to try……
I’m not done exploring the craft beers of America and the world. There are man out there and many more to come. America has more Breweries now than at any time in history. This is an exciting time to be a beer drinker. The complexity and varieties of beer is battle that of wines of the world. Beer is no longer just for sporting events, but instead a compliment to great times and fine foods. It is an exciting time to brew beer, a fine time to drink it, and a fun time to pair it with food.
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