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TPFAs of sometime in 2010, every state in the US contains a brewery. From barely a dozen craft breweries in 1983, America now boasts over THREE THOUSAND…and while we all know that a saturation point is possible and probably even inevitable, opening a small brewery – with realistic expectations – remains one of the smartest ways, as long as you have some talent for it, to make a living. And that last phrase is very important for anyone thinking about opening one: “Make a living“. Not “Get rich“. Not “Get famous“. Not “Become a legend” – “Make A Living“. This goes back to the realistic expectations thing. The most promising reason for a starting a new brewery is that there are 3,000 breweries. The greatest drawback to the idea is…there are 3,000 breweries.

The history is well-documented and inarguable: It happened first Out West. In terms of significant numbers of breweries in operation, only Sam Adams/Boston Beer Co. (and Yeungling, which predates even Sam Adams but was just another regional brewer of Bud-Clone watery Pilsners) has as much history. The craft brewing culture was really born in the West, which is why very few of the Emerging Beer Towns listed here is out this way. San Diego, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Fort Collins, Bend…all these have already emerged and are recognized for their excellence. Similarly, no Vermont towns are listed, simply because so much has been written in the recent past. Ditto for the wildly (and irrationally) hyped Asheville, which has been mentioned to death, mainly because there’s just no other brewing concentration for 500 miles in any direction and for a ridiculous, crowd-sourced poll in examiner.com. I fully expect to have people saying, “Hey, what about _______? Our brewing scene is killin’ it!” And that’s as it should be. Fervor for your local breweries and your own beer culture is what keeps the US craft community vital and growing.

And that, my friends, is the key to this list: Community. It’s no coincidence that the root of that word is “unity”. The towns on this list distinguish themselves by their tight-knit cultures, their communal attitude that A Rising Tide Floats All Boats. You need one or more great, veteran brewers in that culture; people others can learn from and emulate. And, most of all, you need a population that’s avid, open-minded, culturally aware, adaptable, adventurous, and ready to embrace the Journey along with that new brewery. And every town on this list has all those factors in place, in the groove, and Hummin’!

 

NUMBER TEN:  COLUMBUS, OHIO

brewery-districtColumbus, Ohio, you ask? How can that be? Well, for starters, local stalwart Columbus Brewing, the resurrection of a brewery originally founded in 1830(!), has been delivering rock-solid beers since they emerged in 1988, led by the Gold Standard of Ohio Double/Imperial IPA, “Bodhi”, a pungent, crisp, palate-coating stunner that made me a tad weak in the knees…A brewery named for one my favorite adjectives ever? Yeah! Zaftig Brewing takes its name from the Yiddish-derived, Americanized word for a shapely, round-bodied woman and that’s exactly the aesthetic owners,brewers Jim Gokenbach and Brent Halsey have fiercely embraced: high-gravity, ass-kickin’ BIG beers, led by their spectacular Barleywine/DIPA monster, “Shadowed Mistress”, which can stand toe-to-toe with any American Strong Ale I’ve ever tasted…Smokehouse Brewing goes straight for the DIPA jugular with Double Dog Dare, a spectacular mouthful of citrus, flowers, resins galore, and iron-willed malt core…Barley’s Brewing should, if God is in His Heaven, make a killer Barleywine, wouldn’t ya think? And they do: the imaginatievly named “Barleywine!”, with a built-in exclamation point, both in print and in piehole. Titanic, rich, almost thick BW with flavors that explode on the tongue…Toss in Seventh Son Brewing, with one of America’s great Biere de Gardes, the very promising Zauber Brewing, North High Brewing with a Black IPA that would stack up strong even Out West. Four String Brewing, Sideswipe Brewing, Wolf’s Ridge, and the delightfully name-conscious Actual Brewing Company, with their towering Wheatwine, “Beau’s Eisenweizen Condensate”, and ya got a crazy-promising culture that’s only getting better, year by year, new brewery by new brewery.

 

NUMBER NINE:  MADISON, WISCONSIN

mobcraft-brewing-batshit-crazyFact Number One is that I’ll probably get a tsunami of offended emails saying something along the lines of, “Hey! Only Number Nine? In the state that’s been brewing beer for 100 years?!?” Yeah, Milwaukee has been a brewery town for over a century, brewing one of those watered-down, insipid Pilsners. Doesn’t count because it’s not the type of “brewing” we’re talking about here. BUT, in craft beer terms, apparently Wisconsin folks have been able, all evidence to the contrary, to turn off the Badgers football games long enough to craft some seriously great ales. Madison, being a college town, was fertile ground for adventurous beer lovers, anyway, and one of America’s best brew pubs, Great Dane Pub & Brewing, leads the way with what is certainly one of the country’s best renderings of the vastly under-appreciated Bitters, the Great Dane Cask ESB, which almost made me speak in tongues…One of my nominees for top new brewery in America is also in Mad Town, Karben4 Brewing, whose “Fantasy Factory” IPA just may be the best under-the-radar Midwest India Pale and whose “Silk Scorpion” Black Ale will delight every drinker of lighter-bodied Darks…Ale Asylum also rings in, with a stupid-fine line-up, led by a stunning Belgian-style IPA, “Bedlam”…Other notables include the verging-on-spectacular Capital Brewing, out in Middleton, One Barrel Brewing, Next Door Brewing with their vivid “Hammerhead” Belgian-style IPA, Fauerbach, Wisconsin Brewing, Cross Plains, BluCreek, the tiny but intriguing new gluten-free project, Greenview Brewing, and my fave, MobCraft Brewing, which offers the single best beer name by any brewery, anywhere, ever: “Oak-Aged Sour Bat Shit Crazy” American Brown Ale. Madison is bustin’ with beer!

 

NUMBER EIGHT:  PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Would you buy a used car or a beer - from these guys?

Would you buy a used car – or a beer – from these guys?

Again, I’ll get emails. Phoenix folks tend to think, because they run around in shorts all year long and have four major sports teams, that Phoenix is out front on everything. Yetnot so much on the beer thing. For reasons passing all understanding, Phoenix and its sister in Pre-Occupiedness, Los Angeles, have come very late to the West Coast Craft Beer Extravaganza; a stunning fact when you consider that both places could really use some cold beer. But The ‘Nix is making up for it with a barrage of great new breweries.The Big Guns are well-established: Papago Brewing, Arizona Wilderness, Fate Brewing, and Four Peaks Brewing. In an eye-popping turn of events, Cartel Coffee Company suddenly started making beer (it’s all brewing, right?) and is doing a bang-up job of it. Papago’s brilliant “Double Red Hop Tamale” Chile Beer and “Wild Raven” Wild Ale anchor a whole roster of excellent beers and ideas…’Zona Wilderness offers at least fourteen ales that would have to be in anybody’s “Best Of” list, most notably a haunting Quad, “The New Brood”, a peach Porter(!), “Denmark In The Desert”, “Funky Chardonnay” American Wild Ale, and the spectacular “Imperial Refuge” DIPA…Fate showcases two Sweet Stouts, a delicious Roggerbier with cranberries(!), and a spectacular Coffee Kolsch…Four Peaks does everything and does it all very well. German, Belgian, American, Brit-trad, doesn’t matter, especially their “Hopsquatch”, “Diablo Rojo” Strong, and their brooding, Potter-inspired “Sirius Black” Imperial Stout…Other gems include San Tan Brewing, Sun Up Brewing, O.H.S.O. Eatery and Nano-Brewery, Desert Eagle, Huss Brewing, The Phoenix Ale Brewery, and what gets my vote for Top Dog Beer in the Phoenix market – North Mountain Brewing’s brilliant, James Gang hommage fruit ale, “Funk 49″, a Pomegranate, Pear, Apple and Grapefruit infused Blonde with an original gravity of…1.049. Of course. Better late than many towns are early, P-Town is coming out strong.

 

NUMBER SEVEN:  PORTLAND…NO, THE OTHER PORTLAND…IN MAINE

1378465_593937127311772_655651719_nPeople get confused by the Left Coast PDX and Maine’s sturdy seaport town and lately, given the general level of interest, Portland, Maine, seems to be thinking they’re that other beer mecca, too. Of course, the Portland metro has always included one of America’s greatest, Allagash Brewing, maybe the finest maker of Belgian-style ales in the US. Allagash “Curieux”, “Yakuza”, “PNC Broken Elevator”, Tripel, “Avance”, “Coolship Red”, and too many others to mention make Allagash a serious contender on any list of Best Brewery in The US…Past that, Maine Beer Company is my clear favorite. “MO” may just be the best American Pale Ale I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly balanced, impossibly delicious, and compulsively drinkable. Only Wild Earth Brewing’s “Tamarack”, IMHO, is in its class and all the same can be said about Maine Brew Co’s epic Imperial IPA, “Dinner”, possibly the best East Coast DIPA I’ve ever tasted…Rising Tide Brewing is the new heavyweight, with a collection of six (at last count) Farmhouse Ales, led by my favorite, the “Entrepot Series: Figue”, a gorgeous Saison infused with Turkish figs and mesquite honey and aged in Cabernet barrels(swoon). (Jeez, I’m getting all sweaty)…Behind those three, and not by much, are the various iterations of Sebago Brewing, the esteemed D.L. Geary Brewing, with one of the nation’s finest Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, Bissel Brothers, whose IPA “The Substance” is making a lot of waves, the well-established excellence of Peak Organic Brewery, the new Belgian-centric Foundation Brewing, Casco Bay, Austin Street, the crowd-pleasing Shipyard Brewing, Bunker Brewing, and the fascinating In’Finiti Fermentation & Distillation, whose beechwood-smoked Rauchbier ran me a little short of adjectives. A Portland pal of mine recently wrote, “Portland is such a great brewing town because that all the %$@# there is to do here.” Here’s hoping Maine’s Portland stays quiet…and keeps on brewin’.

 

NUMBER SIX:  HOT ‘LANTAATLANTA, GEE-AYE

Yes, believe it nor not, this IS the Wrecking Bar Brewpub

Yes, believe it nor not, this IS the Wrecking Bar Brewpub

The problem with trying to tell you about the history of Atlanta’s craft beer scene is there’s hardly any of it. Much like their downtown architecture, the whole thing seems to have sprung up out of the ground about two weeks ago. Maybe the best brewery in the city, Wrecking Bar Brewpub, opened in 2011. Beer has actually been brewed in Atlanta for well over 150 years, as is nicely laid out in the Ron Smith/Mary Boyle penned “Atlanta Beer”. (Of course, that early stuff was almost all the standard watery Pilsners.) In craft brewing, Atlantans seem to have all done the forehead smack and said “Oh, yeah. Better git bizzy!” about a decade ago. But they get good fast, there in ‘Lanta, and now we have the stunning Sweetwater Brewing, whose “Dank Tank” series of hyper-IPAs continues to turn heads…The new Orpheus Brewing has been a HUGE success, with a strong roster of Belgian-inspired Farmhouse/Saison beers and one mammoth Imperial IPA, “Transmigration of Souls”…My recent encounter, at Atlanta Hartsfield, with Three Taverns Brewing‘s “A Night in Brussels” Belgian-style IPA left me breathless and boarding my connecting flight with a big ol’ grin on my mug, and a recent tasting of their “Quasimodo” Quad has me looking for excuses to visit my aunt and uncle in Marietta…Red Brick Brewing‘s full line-up would keep any craft fan seated and happy for their entire visit to town, especially if you lead with what is arguably the signature Georgia IPA, “HopLanta”…Wild Heaven Brewing dabbles in both the Belgian and British traditions and dabbles deliciously, especially in their smack-down Quad, “Eschaton”…The two Gordon Biersch locations and two Five Seasons Brewpubs are both doing exceptional work, and O’Dempsey’s “Your Black Heart” Russian Imperial Stout may just be the best RIS in the South...Blue Tarp, Eventide, and Twain’s Billiards & Tap all deserve mention, too. Atlanta is, for many of us Southerners, a little too big for its britches, but in beer terms, they’re exactly the right fit.

 

NUMBER FIVE:  ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

Age-Verification-TopAl-boo-kerr-kee…for schoolkids all over America, it’s been little more than a word nobody wants to see in a spelling bee. But those kids grow up and many of ‘em drink beer, so they’d better sit up and take a little notice of a town that’s as arguably booming, at least in beer terms, as any in the West. In this unearthly beautiful location, hard up against the Sandias Mountains, straddling the Rio Grande, in central New Mexico, a brewing culture is developing that rivals any in the country. Their relative isolation, which works against some beer communities, works here because everybody helps everybody and so everybody benefits. The Top Dawgs are the sublime La Cumbre Brewing, with a selection of…well, whatever they’re tinkering with lately. From Belgians to Brits to Baltic Porters to German lagers that would fool Hans and Fritz, to their “Dank Tank” Series of amped IPAs, La Cumbre (Spanish for “The Summit”) does it all beautifully, especially their main-line “Dank Tank IPA”…Down the road is Marble Brewery, where Co-Founders Ted Rice, Jeff Jinnett, and John Gozigian opened the doors in 2008 and instantly started a hyper-active brewing schedule that’s never really slowed down. Their “Pumpkin Noire” is easily the Southwest’s premier fruit beer, while the “Alpha-Acid Trip Double IPA” and the aptly-named Double IPA set the standard for NMIPA…Chama River Brewing stands out for their crowd-pleasing “Jackalope” IPA, a New Mexico pub staple, and visitors would be well advised to pub-crawl the just-opened Tractor BrewingBlue Corn Brewing, Nexus Brewery, the new Duel Brewing, Bosque Brewing, all locations of Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizzas and Brewery Canteen, and brewpubs Kelly’s and Farside. Albuquerque is a literal oasis of great beers in a place where you really want a cold one after the long trip in.

 

NUMBER FOUR:  AUSTIN, TEXAS

10485403_10152336161398649_6582588188727141523_oI vividly remember being in Austin in 1971, as a larval-stage beer snob from Maryland, and going in search of an imported beer. I walked all over downtown Austin…and struck out completely. It was Texas. It was 1971. Nobody in Texas was drinking those dark, bitter, weird imported beers and craft beer, of course, was barely a twinkle in Jack McCauliffe’s eye. I remember asking a store clerk for any imports…and she handed me a Michelob. Well, times have changed down there, Deep in the Heart Of, and Austin’s brewery scene contains – and booms with! – some beer styles that would, in 1971, have prompted all those Good Ol’ Boy Texans to start making jokes about a guy’s manhood. In Texas brewing circles, it doesn’t get any better than suburban giant, Jester King Brewery, a virtual temple of Belgian/American free-thinking experimentation. Jester King stacks up admirably with any of the nation’s best makers of reinvented Belgian styles and wild-fermented ales. Their “Bier de Miel” Honey Saison remaions one of the two or three most voluptuously delicious ales I’ve tasted in the past decade, while their “RU-55″, “Ambrée”, and “Boxer’s Revenge” stand as three of the best American Wild Ales I’ve found yet…Just half a hair behind is Hops & Grain Brewery, where stand-outs Belgian Stout and “Suzy Q” deftly marry the Brit and Belgian traditions to make something that’s beautifully American. Also of note are the pacifiers for the Hophead crowd, the striking “Dr. Buddish’s Experimental IPA”, “Greenhouse” IPA and “Pale Dog” APA, all delicious, all different and crazy drinkable…(512) Brewing Company scores BIG with their lush, emphatic Pecan Porter, and Draught House Pub & Brewery sets themselves apart with a fine roster of British/American ales, highlighted by their edgy, floral “Bombay” IPA…Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub does a little of everything and does it all well, especially their two outstanding Pales, “AXT” and “TAP” (“Tasty Ass Pale”…a name you really don’t want to dwell on too long.)…Also of note are Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery, with their classic “Vulcan” IPA, Adelbert’s, Uncle Billy’s Brew & ‘Cue, Infamous Brewing, Kamala Brewing, and South Austin Brewing…and I’m probably forgetting a few. They really do things BIG in Texas and that includes going into craft beer in a big, big way.

 

NUMBER THREE:  ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

478311_557912100895627_812849843_oI spent a LONG ten days in St. Louis’s trendy West End, back in 2004, and conducted a mostly fruitless search for craft beers, finally finding ONE tiny brewpub, Route 66, in the huge Union Station downtown. Route 66 is now closed but the seed they helped plant is growing like kudzu, all but taking over the ‘hood of their Crap Beer Colossus, just down the road, the Belgian/Brazilian company now colloquially renamed “The Brewery Formerly Known As Anheuser Busch”. This is a town on fire for craft beer and who can blame them? 100+ years of being enslaved to the same handful of watery adjunct Pilsners will do that to ya. But now, a tsunami of young brewers are opening outfits like Perennial Artisan Ales,  4 Hands Brewing, Square One Brewery & Distillery, Urban Chestnut Brewing, The Civil Life Brewing,  Augusta Brewing Company, Six Row Brewing, Kirkwood , Cathedral Square, and Alpha Brewing. Ales are replacing Bud and Bud Light and dancing on the fresh grave of Michelob in all but the diviest bars in St. Lou. The local champion is Perennial Artisan Ales, where Cory King is so prolifically creative (and a little hyperactive) that he’s not content to be one of America’s hottest brewers once and is now hot twice, with his second-label brewery, the aptly-named Side Project Brewing. Both specialize heavily in Belgian-leaning but very Americanized ales that run mostly to Saison/Farmhouse styles but include one of America’s top-tier Stouts, Perennial “Abraxas”. Side Project branches out into Saisons and Wild Ales exclusively and features THREE new classics, “Blueberry Flanders”, “Fuzzy” American Wild Ale, and “Saison du Fermier”…After the King glories are 4 Hands Brewing, with their dazzling “Volume # 1″ American Double / Imperial Stout and “War Hammer” American Double / Imperial IPA, The Civil Life and its list of Brit and German gems, the ancient-but-reborn Schlafly, whose Pumpkin Ale and “Tasmanian IPA” are local obsessions. Also notable and worth a visit are the solid, straight-forward Morgan Street Brewery, Kirkwood Station, Six Row, and Urban Chestnut. And don’t miss stalwart O’Fallon, with a Smoked Porter that’s like drinking a big Dark next to a bonfire. St. Louis sure has changed in just ten years…damnit.

 

NUMBER TWO:  ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

Anchorage Brewing's Gabe Fletcher

Anchorage Brewing’s Gabe Fletcher

Gabe Fletcher…that’s the main thing to know about brewing in Anchorage. Up there in the national Ice Box, quality trumps quantity. There are fewer breweries in Anchorage than in any other city on this list…but the beers! Fletcher’s Anchorage Brewing seems to ignore the fact that they’re figuratively in the attic of western civilization, working collaborations with Lower 48 brewers and shipping into the mainland USA freely. Fletcher’s beers are STUNNING; rooted in Belgium but given Fletcher’s own imaginative twists, with superb creations like the near-perfect “The Tide and Its Takers” Belgian-Style Tripel, “Time Waits For No One” Imperial Stout, and collabs like Anchorage/Hill Farmstead “Distant Matter” IPA, “Between The Staves” with Chad Yakobsen of Denver’s Crooked Stave, and the Jolly Pumpkin co-creation “Calabaza Boreal”. His “Bitter Monk” Belgian IPA and “Deal With The Devil” Barleywine are two of my favorites of the past three years. As the anchor for the Anchorage scene, Gabe Fletcher and his inspired envelope-pushing could scarcely be more perfect…Meanwhile, across town, Midnight Sun Brewing is merrily cracking out incredible, intense, balls-out ales the way a sprinkler spews water. “Arctic Rhino”, “Panty Peeler” Tripel, “Sockeye Red” IPA, “Arctic Devil” Barleywine, and “Berserker” Imperial Stout stand among the best of their styles in North America. One-offs and collabs – like the Black Raven co-op, “Sun of a Beak” Porter – keep everybody busy, over on Dimond Hook Drive, and each new season brings new surprises…The other four companies, King Street Brewing, Glacier Brewhouse, Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady, and the hard-chargin’ Broken Tooth Brewing await their new neighbor, Chugach Brewing, set to open in the fall of ’14. There are seven other pending licenses in Alaska and two are from Anchorage. This is a brewing destination already and will only get better.

 

NUMBER ONE:   TAMPA. FLORIDA

10376833_650033218422090_9217548671237563866_nIn The Beginning…there was Saint Somewhere Brewing, starting somewhat quietly and woefully under-appreciated. Then, along came a budding colossus, Cigar City Brewing Company, and everything changed, there in Tampa-St. Pete. Every other brewery in the entire state of Florida stood in their massive shadow. But brewing is about, to some extent, being fearless, and other breweries opened in bunches and found, much to their dismay, that they could not only field an audience in the realm of CCBC but flourish. Even the profile of Saint Somewhere rose as a result of the brighter spotlight and Beer Geeks said that It Was Good…In that fertile beginning, Cigar City proved to be a great neighbor and, far more importantly, a challenge. When the bar is set that improbably high, you either rise to the challenge or sink like a rock. Today, Tampa is still Cigar Country but others are staking their own claim, too. Cigar City Brewing Company remains one of America’s best breweries. They have their detractors but you will not find one here. When it comes to totally out-of-the-box thinking and the chops to make it all Work, I’ve seen no brewery in the US that equals Cigar City. Cucumber Siasons, ales aged with broken-up cigar boxes, “Hunahpu’s” Imperial Stout, “Church(On A)Hill” Barleywine, the devastating “Jai Alai White Oak” IPA, “Kalivipoeg” Baltic Porter, a Cyprus Wood Orange Lager…and the most amazing use of varied and inventive woods  by any brewery in the world, ever.  Brewmaster Wayne Wambles and crew are relentlessly prolific and shockingly creative. Most brewers would never even think of what CCBC makes and would talk themselves out of doing it, if they did…No less towering is Peg’s Cantina & Brewpub, where Doug Dozark, who worked for four years at Cigar City, is now head brewer. Dozark didn’t miss a beat or lower his horizons when he changed jobs and signed on at his Mom’s funky little pub. Peg’s features a glorious series of APAs, all imaginatively hopped and all immaculately balanced. The offerings lean toward Belgians and American ales and Dozark defies the weather gods to make a stellar list of Darks, including the massive and uber-sexy “Cream and Sugar, Please” American Porter. Peg’s has been remarkably slow to bottle anything, so if you want a taste…take a vacation…OR, you can check out Doug’s latest development, the spun-off Cycle Brewing, which celebrates beer and bikes and sunshine and it is every bit the budding giant as Peg’s…Devon Kreps and Justin Stange came from Oregon and Cigar City, respectively, and are doing, basically, exactly what CCBC and Peg’s do: anything they freakin’ want. 7venth Sun Brewing makes nearly as many beers as their two celebrated neighbors but do it a tad more quietly, if no less beautifully. Since opening in 2012, they’ve made over 100 different beers and show no signs of slowing down. If you get down there, try the “Midnight Moonlight” Berlinerweisse…

The STAAGGERING White Oak Jai Alai

The STAGGERING White Oak Jai Alai

Saint Somewhere Brewing is (I originally called them a “really odd duck”, here, but I thought about it and changed my mind) a Revelation: all Saisons. I’m flat-out addicted to several of them: the “Cynthiana”, “Lectio Divina”, “Philosophe”, and “Pays du Soleil”. I’m squirming with anticipation to get to Tampa and taste the rest but these few show what a great, visionary brewery can do within the scope of ONE beer style and if they start making anything else (They already tried a German-style Hellas), I’m betting it will be just as good…Barley Mow Brewing tinkers with fruity and other infusions a lot and they make it work. “Gourd Save The Queen!” American Porter is a stand-out, as are “Nuada” Chocolate Coffee Stout and “Abbatoir” DIPA…Very Honorable Mention goes to 3 Daughters Brewing, where former chef and current brewmaster, Ty Weaver, is killin’ it with his Barrel-Aged Quad, Breakfast Stout, and a gorgeous, golden Kölsch. Other notables are Pair O’ Dice, Green Bench, BrewBus, Three Palms, Cold Storage Brewing, St, Petersburg Brewing, and Dunedin Brewery. Tampa shows, better than any other US beer community, what it means to have a great, ground-breaking brewery that sets the bar, blazes the trail, and shows consumers what’s possible, so that everybody can avoid that strait-jacket of the endless iterations of IPA/Pale/Stout/Porter/ESB/Amber and nothing else. In terms of creativity and growing skill, Tampa is easily America’s Next Big Thing.

705091_564221080260137_51377019_oQUICK NOTE: I’ve gotten a small but fervent bunch of messages about Rapp Brewing in Seminole, Florida. They weren’t included in this list for three reasons: 1) I’ve never tasted any of their beers, 2) they’re usually not listed as a “Tampa brewery”, (See BeerAdvocate’s “Places” list for Tampa) and 3) they have a pretty modest national recognition..  They’re more properly considered a St. Pete brewery and this post was about Tampa. After a couple of quick phone calls, I got my main question answered: People in Tampa DO consider Rapp as a local brewery, despite the drive involved. Therefore, relying on their word, I want to alert you to what I’ve heard about them on the phone:  “Absolutely stunning beers“…”Great across the board, from Berlinerweiss to Saisons to Peanut Butter Stout“…”Fu&@in’ killers“…”As good as anybody in the Southeast“..So, my apologies to the Rapp folks and, if you get to Tampa, as I plan to do SOON, missing the drive to Pinellas Park and a Rapp beer or three is going to be a bad idea.

119 thoughts on “America’s Top Ten Emerging Beer Towns

  1. Need to check out Nashville, TN and it surrounding communities, Over 13 breweries with almost a half dozen getting close to opening and as mentioned in many magazines some of the best restaurants in the country.

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  2. Should be Saint Pete. Almost all of those brewery’s and most not listed in the area are from the burg not tampa. Most people love and enjoy saint Pete without realizing they’re there, thinking it’s tampa..

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    • People only think it’s Tampa because St. Pete is content with riding on the name. Tampa needs to work harder to become a city of its own.

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      • Guys, this is something that matters to you folks who live there far more than it does to the rest of the country. We’re not supposed to know the ins and outs of your local culture. Focus on what’s the Point, here. YOUR area, Number One Emerging Beer Town. If the people reading this get the idea to come to Tampa or St. Pete or whatever, instead of Portland or Denver for their beercation, that’s the main thing.

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  4. As it seems is a common theme in the comments, there is an error in the Albuquerque piece. Duel Brewing is in Santa Fe, not Albuquerque. Since this is about 70 miles to the north, you can’t really say they are close enough. Duel is a cool little 3 barrel spot in Santa Fe that tries to make Belgian style beer. They don’t really do a great job in terms of the beer quality, but the space itself is very nice. I would like to hang out there more, but I just can’t enjoy any of their beers. When I went to Belgium, I couldn’t stop drinking the beers there so it’s not that I have an aversion to Belgian beer. I just don’t think they know how to really brew properly. All the other spots in Albuquerque are really good though. Can’t go wrong with Marble, La Cumbre, Bosque, Il Vicino.

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    • Used to. I was a principal in LetsPour.com, at one time the largest online retailer of beer in the country. Sadly, LetsPour is now gone, a victim of UPS asinine business practices. If you’re thinking “conflict of interest”, get tat out of your head immediately. MANY current wine, beer, and spirits writers sell what they write about. Paul Gregutt of Wine Enthusiast makes Waitsburg Cellars wines, Robert Parker and his brother-in-law own BeauxFreres Cellars. Many writers actually sell products on the websites. I have ZERO intention of ever doing that, here. The method is simple: keep your writing away from what you sell. Paul doesn’t review his wines. Parker never reviewed Beaux Freres. I didn’t review what I sold. Writing doesn’t pay much, so we all have to scuffle and what better way than by selling stuff you love?

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      • settle down…I was surprised, that’s all. I mean I assumed you DRANK it, but travelling all over like that, I just figured you worked for some posh mens’ magazines with a liberal budget. And I notice you didn’t say ‘you’ll never’, just that you don’t intend to. Of COURSE you don’t…. (now I’m just messin with you)

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          • Cigar City’s Helle’s Lager is one of my current favorites. I found it being sold at the Total Wine next to the Super Target at Dale Mabry and 275.

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  6. Love the list, Seminole is NOT Tampa, and you missed one MAJOR beer company: Tampa Bay Brewing Company. The Wild Warthog is definitely worth a try if you ever get the chance.

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    • Old Elephant Foot is very good as well. They also have a jumbo version of a Randall setup in their cooler. Place has good good to boot.

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  7. Great article overall. One thing bugs me though. I do like Rapp brewing and I understand why it’s not on the list but that reason is wrong. The only brewery listed in the article in Tampa is cigar city, all the other breweries are in Pinellas county across the bridge from Tampa. Cigar City is great but Pinellas county has more to offer than any other.

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  8. Wow nothing from CA? Either that’s a major snub, or you are implying that twins such as San Diego, Santa Rosa, Chico and the like have already “emerged” onto the scene. I do like the list however, and have tried at least 10 of the breweries you highlighted. I just wanted to throw my two cents in for the golden state.

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  9. Good list. It’s great to see the Tampa Bay area’s awesome breweries getting some love.

    Also, after reading some of the other comments, I can’t blame you for not having a thorough understanding of the local geography. It’s kind of a confusing and sprawling layout here, don’t worry about it.

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  10. Next time you’re down south you should check out the exploding brewing scene in Alabama. Specifically Huntsville (8-ish breweries in the last 4 years) and Birmingham (6-ish breweries in the last 5 years).

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  11. If you get to Vegas anytime soon check out our new craft spots Bad Beat Brewing and Banger Brewing. Solid beers and really good dudes behind them

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  12. The brewery without developing innovations in the brewing process for over a hundred years you would still be making toilet wine. It’s Beer bitches like you that don’t realize what the large breweries do for communities as a whole as well as making quality brews. The brewery always takes the stand that all brews are great and celebrate all brewers alike. Take your skinny jeans off and come back to St Louis I would love to take you to South city and share an ice cold Busch with you.

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    • There is no way in hell that I would drink that crap. Life is too short and there is an entire country full of good American beer made by Americans for American-owned breweries. Let the Belgians and Brazilians drink their Busch. They own it now, so it’s their problem.

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    • Also, what does this mean: “The brewery always takes the stand that all brews are great and celebrate all brewers alike.”? Are you talking about Anheuser-Busch? You must mean another brewing company because it’s just not possible to claim that a company which, for over ONE HUNDRED YEARS, used every dirty business practice they could think of to drive other, smaller brewers completely out of existence “celebrates all brewers alike.” Do you really not know of all the under-handed s__t A-B has done and is STILL doing? There are currently four different initiatives aimed at curtailing the range of marketplace opportunities of craft brewers, all sponsored by AB/InBev and their distributors. In South Carolina, they’re trying to keep Stone from building a satellite brewery – something A-B has had for a century – claiming that it violates the three-tier system and **creates for Stone an unfair business advantage**! This from a company which routinely paid the rent of taverns which would agree to stop buying competitors’ beers and only sell Bud. (“Tied Houses”. Google it.) In Florida, they’re trying, through their distributors, to limit the types of containers that craft brewers can use. They had previously tried to block growler sales (since, of course, Bud isn’t a growler-fill item) but luckily there are a few working brains in the FL Legislature and that failed. Now, they want a law that says that craft breweries can’t even sell their own products to bottle shops and retailers, which they can freely do in every other state. They want to force craft brewers – which are popping up like daisies all over FLA – to sell only through distributors which, of course, AB/InBev controls most of. Watching the Bud Douches cry “foul” is both shocking and wildly funny, since they’ve basically done any shady crap they liked for ten decades+ and simply squashed any brands they couldn’t fairly compete with by buying them up and either closing them or using them as those unfair satellite breweries they’re bitching about in SC, or nullifying legislative challenges by buying a few legislators. A-B has ALWAYS solved their problems with money, which they STARTED with more of than any other emerging brewery, back in the days before Craft Beer. Now, because they didn’t take craft beer seriously when it got rolling in the early 80s – who’s going to want to drink those WEIRD, bitter beers, after all, when they can drink watery, bland, pseudo-Pilsners? – it’s completely out of their control. They can’t stop the growth of craft beer by competing on quality because they don’t have any quality. The SAME recipe that’s used to make Bud today is the very one that its creator, founder Adolphus Busch, refused to drink at all, calling it “that slop”. His reasoning? Americans don’t know good beer anyway, so why even try to make something great? And that nonsense about all the innovations that A-B has given birth to? Your argument presumes that A-B was the only brewery making beer and inventing new techniques. MOST American craft brewers realized from the git-go that they had little or nothing to learn from a company that brews in 20,000 gallon batches. NONE of the brewing concepts that A-B uses apply to craft beer. Craft brewers had to look to the great European brewers for their information. Mike Hale, one of the first craft brewers in Washington, told me that he had to live in England for three years to learn brewing because, at the time, “all we had in the US were huge breweries that made bad Pilsners and that told me nothing about brewing other beers.”

      It shocks me, frankly, that in this day of the HUGE boom in craft beer, there are still people who defend Ab/ and their LONG record of bullying other brewers and trying to forbid them ANY spot in the marketplace. You drink all that watery Pilsner you like. People SHOULD drink what they prefer. But you sit down with a bottle of any of the St. Louis-made Perennial beers and a glass of Busch and YOU tell me which is more interesting, more flavorful and more likely to make you want other beers of that type. It’s not even a contest. And if it’s your local economy you’re worried about, relax. There will ALWAYS be people with bad taste, so A-B will never run out of customers. But all that good they do within the StL community? That’s ONE city, where they had no choice but to be a good citizen. In every other city and town and hamlet in the world, the A-B story is COMPLETELY different. Pardon us for not getting all misty about your local thugs.

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  13. I live in Tampa Ybor city, and the brews here are the best, now before you visiting room the tasting room at Cigar City… If you fly into TPA I hope you fly In on Southwest!!! Cigar City has a small place in that terminal where they even brew some beers you can only get at the airport!!! Try the Chicago brew, best vanilla porter ever!!! The brewer there is from Chicago hence the Chicago brew!!! Also place to check out is Southern Brewing!!! Great beer, I hope the have the scotchy scotchy while your there or the Scotch on the rocks! I know they have an Irish red coming on soon as a good old stand by is the Heights Brown and the Oatmeal Stout. Tampa Bay Brew Co. Is also great!!! Florida Ave./Cold Storage is great to!!! My husband and I are very lucky to live right next to all these Micro Brews!!! To bad you weren’t in town for the the BigBadBeerFest a few weeks ago. There was over 30 local microbrew company’s there, and all proceeds went to the wounded warriors project!!!

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  14. This is a great list, and it’s nice to hear more about some of these emerging towns instead of reading about the usual suspects again and again.

    I’m a biased homer, I know, but if you ever get the chance please check out Charlotte, NC. We’ve got upwards of 10 breweries in the area now with more in planning, many of which are producing some world-class beers.

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    • As a native North Carolinian, I have firm plans to get back home in 2015 and check out every brewery I can find. When I left NC, there was Weeping Radish – that’s IT. I get to taste a LOT of NC beers, lately, thanks to an intrepid crew of correspondo-geeks, but I’m bustin’ to get to Old Meck and Duck Rabbit and Unknown and Triple C and whatever’s new. Thanks for waving the flag for C-town!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. “[Rapp Brewing is] more properly considered a St. Pete brewery and this post was about Tampa.”

    What! The only breweries in your article that are in Tampa are Cigar City, Three Palms, Brew Bus, and Cold Storage. Hell, where do you think St. Petersburg Brewery is located. Jeez…

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    • Okay, I’ve gotten a landslide of messages about the geography of the Tampa-St. Pete area and I’ve explained this about ten times, now. I’ve visited TWICE. I made the rounds of about fifteen breweries. If it would cure cancer and save the whales, I couldn’t tell you where ANY of those breweries were in terms of their cities. I get the distinct sense that everybody from this area thinks I, a Seattle native, should know the geography of the Tampa area intimately. I don’t. And I tried for the better part of a day to figure out the whole thing on Google Maps. Finally, in exasperation, I consulted the BeerAdvocate listing for “Tampa Breweries”. Here’s what it said:

      Peg’s Cantina & Brewpub / Cycle Brewing
      Cycle Brewing – 534 Central Ave, St. Petersburg
      7venth (Seventh) Sun Brewery – 1012 Broadway, Dunedin
      Saint Somewhere Brewing Company – 1441 Savannah Ave Unit E, Tarpon Springs
      Cigar City Brewing – 3924 W Spruce St, Tampa
      Cigar City Brewpub – 15491 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa
      Pair O’ Dice Brewing Company – 4400 118th Ave N, Clearwater
      Angry Chair Brewing – 6401 N Florida Ave, Tampa
      Green Bench Brewing Co. – 1133 Baum Ave N, St. Petersburg
      Southern Brewing & Winemaking Supply – 4500 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa
      Dunedin Brewery – 937 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin
      Barley Mow Brewing Company – 518 West Bay Dr, Largo
      Brew Bus Brewing – , Tampa
      Tampa Bay Brewing Co. – 1600 East 8th Ave, Tampa
      3 Daughters Brewing – 222 22nd St S, St. Petersburg
      Three Palms Brewing Co. – 1509 Hobbs St, Tampa
      St. Petersburg Brewing Company – 2820 First Avenue North, St. Petersburg
      Cold Storage Craft Brewery – 4101 N. Florida Ave, Tampa
      Yuengling Brewery – 11111 N 30th St, Tampa

      That is the EXACT listing, as it appears on BA, right now. My goal in this – AGAIN – was to get people reading the list as excited and interested in Tampa and its surrounding breweries as I was when I was there. But when those same people come to visit, it will NOT be me showing them what’s hot and what’s not. It will be YOU and all your friends who live there and know the breweries best. I named Tampa as the Number One emerging beer town in America and what many people seem to focus most on is that I don’t understand your geography. I’m not SUPPOSED to know your town the way you do. Trust me on this, if you came to Seattle and tried to get around, you’d wind up calling for a sherpa before long. This place is epically confusing and so are MOST urban areas to anyone who doesn’t live there. Focus on the fact that you have such great breweries and stop worrying about where they are. If I can get some people to visit Tampa, I will have done what I set out to do. Helping them get around when they get there is for all you Tampa-St. Pete natives.

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        • THANK YOU…I’ve now gotten over a dozen emails saying that the Tampa- St. Pete area is confusing, even for people who live there. Apparently, I’m not alone because BeerAdvocate,in their list of TAMPA breweries, had ALL those others besides Cigar City listed and now I’m told that none of ‘em are actually in Tampa. And they didn’t list Rapp. The owner of Rapp messaged me and said, some what wearily, that he really needs to get in touch with BA and get his place listed under Tampa. I’m glad that everybody spoke up here, though. This is how we learn….

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        • Hell, “Tampa Bay” stretches from about Tallahassee to Miami. I was once in Orlando talking to a woman who claimed she was “moving to Tampa soon.” I says, “Oh really? What part?” Her response, you ask? “Auburndale.”

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      • Just check out http://www.thebrewerybay.com for all proper locations. Quite a handy brewery-finder for the region.

        As other’s have pointed out, “Tampa Bay” encompasses a swath just north of Sarasota up to Hernando County (VERY far from Tampa).

        Also in this thread: people from Pinellas who think they’d be on the map if it wasn’t for Tampa. I kid, I kid.

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  16. Pingback: The Monday Mash – July 21st, 2014 | venturinginvancouver

  17. Loved the writeups of all the towns. I just wanted to clarify a few things about Albuquerque. First off the mountains here in town are the Sandias not the Manzanos (those are to the south of the city). When you mention the Rio Grande, don’t include the word river. Rio = river in Spanish. The first person to comment made a mention of the confusion with breweries in Santa Fe, of which 2nd St. Brewing is in Santa Fe, not Albuquerque. It is a great brewery though.

    But you did get the 3 main breweries in town right. La Cumbre, Marble, and Il Vicino. And it is actually Il Vicino Canteen that is down the road from La Cumbre (not Marble). Marble is downtown.

    Thanks for putting us in the spotlight.

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    • Thanks for straightening me out about the mountains. I had a hell of a time trying to figure out which chain that was and wound up betting the wrong horse. As for Second Street, I sell those beers and I should have realized that it wasn’t in Albuquerque. Corrections have been made. I used “down the road” as a litle meter adjective. I actually can’t remember where it was in relation to La Cumbre but I suspect beer has a LOT to do with that. Next time, Marble FIRST.

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Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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