5. Founders Brewing Co.
Headquarters: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Our Favorite Beers: Breakfast Stout, KBS
Plenty of college students graduate thinking, “It’d be cool to start a brewery,” but few actually do it. Fewer still do it as well Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers managed to pull off seven years after matriculating. With loving craftsmanship from creating the recipe to the gorgeous labels, their dream has paid off for us all.
4. Victory Brewing Company
Headquarters: Downington, Pa.
Our Favorite Beers: Braumeister Pils, Hop Devil
Most craft breweries leave the pilsner style to the big guys who’ve corrupted it. But like U2 stealing “Helter Skelter” back from Charles Manson, Victory has redeemed the old European style for America with their Prima Pils. While Belgian-style beers get all the attention, Victory is making some of the best German-style beer in the country. This is a brewery for the hop-heads, with beers like the HopDevil, Hop Wallop and even the Storm King Stout packed with a an uncharacteristic bite. But they also make a hell of a tripel with their Golden Monkey.
3. Avery Brewing Co.
Headquarters: Boulder, Colo.
Our Favorite Beers: Salvation, Fifteen
Avery has a solid line-up of session beers, but its the Holy Trinity of Ales—the Hog Heaven Barleywine, The Reverend quad and especially the Salvation Belgian-style golden that earns it a spot near the top of this list. We also love the fact that in 2006, when the brewery realized that Russian River also had a beer named Salvation, the two companies resolved it in a way that could only happen in one of the friendliest industries in the U.S.—they decided to blend the beers into the Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.
2. Allagash Brewing
Headquarters: Portland, Maine
Our Favorite Beer: Interlude, Fluxus 2009
Allagash is like a little slice of Belgium without those pesky language barriers. Using Belgian yeasts and coloring brilliantly inside the style lines as with their flagships White, Dubbel and Triple, what really makes this Maine brewery special is their series of barrel-aged beers, led by Curiuex, Interlude and Fluxus—the latter of which includes sweet potatoes and black pepper in its recipe. We’re also impressed with tweaks to standards like the quad Allagash Four that blends four malts, hops and sugars.
1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Headquarters: Milton, Del.
Our Favorite Beers: 90 Minute IPA, Worldwide Stout
Breweries like Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn might have paved the way, but Dogfish Head hasn’t seemed too concerned about staying on those paved roads. They call their creations off-centered ales for off-centered people, and they’re always experimenting in their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, where they also distill small-batch spirits. From regulars like the Raison D’Etre and 90 Minute IPA to special batches like 120 Minute IPA and the 18.0 ABV World Wide Stout, brewing their own way has proved to be brewing the right way. They’ve created drinkers so passionate about their beer (present company included) that just seeing the logo is like hearing Pavlov’s famed bell.