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The 20 Best Craft Breweries of 2013

December 5, 2013  |  6:59am
The 20 Best Craft Breweries of 2013
10. Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Del.
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We’ve come up with a few timely accomplishments to help distinguish this blurb from Dogfish Head’s rightful place on previous Brewery of the Year lists: In 2013, Dogfish Head innovated by announcing a craft beer hotel and brewing with moon dust. They crafted a Grateful Dead tribute beer made from original band member recipes and a core ingredient from 1,500-fan votes (no, not marijuana but organic granola). They maintained the usual, as we’ve-come-to-expect, lineup of stellar beers—including one of Paste’s Top Pumpkin brews, Punkin Ale.

9. Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, Mo.
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The world is about to become a better place. Say what you will about the Midwest’s favorite son partnering up with global power Duvel, but the end result is that more people will get to sip Boulevard Wheat in the summer and stumble on Tank 7 when they’re thirsty for more Boulevard. As for creativity, try to wrap your head around the science and magic behind the outstanding Bourbon Barrel Quad, which is divided into separate barrels for aging at varying lengths, then given cherries, then blended again…

8. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
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It’s hard to argue against long-time craft favorites Deschutes on any Best Of list. But despite the loving legacy, they just keep producing: two silvers from the Great American Beer Festival, a gold and a silver at the US Open Beer Championships, and six best-in-US categories at the World Beer Awards (with three, including the famous Obsidian Stout, earning best-in-the-world distinctions). We loved the Inversion IPA (a Sweet 16 finisher in the IPA challenge), but it’s The Abyss Imperial Stout that one reviewer (in Seattle no less) called “the beer they’d serve at God’s wedding.”

7. Surly Brewing, Minneapolis, Minn.
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Surly had the Cinderella run of our 64-beer IPA Challenge, vanquishing bigger name brewers like New Belgium, Redhook and Great Divide on its route to the Elite 8. The brewery also made waves in 2013 by announcing a destination brewery in Minneapolis (two years after being one of the main proponents behind the law making it legal to sell beer where you brew it in-state). Surly even returned to beer-thirsty Chicago in 2013. The city missed Surly so much after the brewery pulled out of the market in 2010, Time Out compared the brewer to “Bigfoot.” As the occasional lingering keg of Cynic would pop up at area bars after Surly pulled out of Chicago, Surly lovers would rush to snatch a pint, only to find the keg had vanished in the night. Well, Chicago, Bigfoot is back.

6. The Bruery, Placentia, Calif.
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The small, boutique Bruery is known for pushing style boundaries by taking traditional Belgians into weird, Left Coast territory. They’re in love with bourbon barrels, and why not? Their barrel-aged program has reached transcendent levels. This year, the brewpub-only Black Tuesday, an aged Imperial Stout, sold out faster than Katy Perry tickets. Their fifth anniversary ale, Bois, didn’t disappoint. The beer world swooned over their Autumn Maple, a fall release that had 17 pounds of yams. Yams! It all just makes you excited to see what’s next.

5. Avery Brewing, Boulder, Colo.
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Next to Boulevard’s partnership with Duvel, Avery may have made the most expansion waves in 2013, spreading their distribution to Oklahoma, Arizona, and San Francisco, among other thirsty locales. The brewery’s core lineup remained strong, but Avery nailed it with limited releases like the Maharaja (an Imperial IPA) the super-limited Thensaurum (a rum-barrel aged sour) and Rumpkin (a barrel-aged pumpkin beer).

4. Stone Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
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One of the best beers we reviewed in 2013 came from the left side of the country. Stone Brewing’s Southern Charred Double Bastard Ale scored 9.2/10 and that’s not even the brew that’s garnering Stone the most attention. All of the Arrogant Bastard Incarnations over the years have become instant cult favorites. And this year, Stone’s Crime and Punishment releases are no different. What you get with Crime and Punishment (two separate beers) is two different Arrogant Bastard barrel-aged beers infused with ridiculously hot chili peppers. Spicy doesn’t come close to describe these beers. And yet, the beer world is so ga-ga, Crime and Punishment practically come with their own round of applause.

3. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
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Along with fellow notable brewery Full Sail, Bell’s had us salivating ever since they released the holy grail of beers—a bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stout called Black Note Stout. After we wiped away the drool, we managed to drink plenty of Two Hearted Ale (an IPA that dominated the toughest path to our IPA Challenge’s final four) and revisit the classic Oberon (a wheat ale that was our second best Summer Beer). Toss in the ability to get many of these in can form soon, and Bell’s somehow continues to up its already sky-high standard.

2. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, Fla.
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There are two yearly beer-snob traditions: find the best IPA, and find good pumpkin beers each fall. Both quests led to Tampa in 2013. Cigar City’s Good Gourd was one of Paste’s Best Pumpkin choices and the second-highest beer we reviewed all year-long (9.1/10). The Jai Alai IPA took second-place in our 64-beer IPA challenge. Neither of those is even the most exciting development at Cigar City, as the brewery expanded to create a unique offering in Puerto Rico (Dry-Hopped on the High Seas) and started on mead and cider production at home. Add in a collaboration with New Belgium—a chili beer aged in Spanish oak—and you’ve got one of the most creative breweries in the country right now.

1. Firestone Walker, Paso Robles, Calif.
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By far the most competitive category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival was American-style IPAs (252 beers were submitted, nearly double the second toughest category). And out of all the country’s best, Firestone Walker finished… second. Huh? Hats off to Barley Brown’s Brew Pub in Baker City, Ore. then, because Firestone Walker’s Union Jack IPA was the best thing we tasted in our exhaustive IPA Challenge. At any rate, they took home three other golds at GABF and one at the US Open Beer Championships. Yet the San Francisco beer experts favored the brewery’s XVII best of all—it’s a limited release brown ale and barley wine blend merged by local winemakers to celebrate the brewery’s 10th anniversary. Happy Birthday Firestone…will you hand out six-packs as party favors?

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