Another year, another surge of record-breaking growth for craft beer, which accounted for 11% of total beer sales in 2014—the first time ever that it has achieved double-digit market share.
The numbers mean that America’s palate for IPAs and barrel-aged stouts is as robust as ever, and that almost anywhere you go in the country, you can find great beer. But the success of the burgeoning market has also created a surplus of options and wildly divergent quality standards, and it can be difficult to figure out which canned gose is really worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Previously, we’ve picked the the best beer in every single state, as well as whole slew of American IPAs that you should have on your bucket list. But there’s no doubt that part of the fun of following the craft-brew revolution is discovering new suds to sample, and up-and-coming breweries to champion.
To help cut through the noise, we asked our trusted squad of FWF beer writers to tell us what they’re most excited this year—from brand-new upstarts, to well-known breweries shaking things up with innovative projects.
These are the breweries to keep on your radar in 2015.
Written by Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein), Ale Sharpton (@AleSharpton), Justin Kennedy (@jjustinkennedyy), Aaron Goldfarb (@aarongoldfarb), Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger), and Austin L. Ray (@austinlouisray)
Columbus Brewing Co.
Location: Columbus, Ohio
It might seem strange to draw attention to an operation that’s been cranking for a quarter-century. But last year, few breweries entered the national conversation quite like Columbus, which garnered two tightly contested medals at last year’s Great American Beer Festival: gold for the dank, resinous Creeper imperial IPA and bronze for the citrus-forward Bodhi IPA. With capacity capped out, CBC will soon relocate to its new 50,000-square-foot gigs, turning the brewery into the Midwest’s next great IPA powerhouse.—Joshua M. Bernstein (Photo: dieline.com)
De Garde Brewing
Location: Tillamook, Oregon
Oregon has no shortage of microbial magicians, but few breweries make folks pucker like coastal Tillamook’s de Garde. The brewery focuses on spontaneously fermented beers—the ocean winds carry far-flung critters to the coolship—aged in oak, often alongside native fruit. The lusted-after elixirs include Bu, the tingly Berliner weisse flavored with the likes of boysenberries, raspberries, and apricots; Hose, a gose-style ale dry-hopped with Amarillo and Citra hops; and more saisons than we have space to list. In short, de Garde is one of America’s most exquisite sour breweries.—Joshua M. Bernstein (Photo: tillamookcoast.com)
Location: Chicago, Illinois
No brewer deploys herbs, fruits, and spices as deftly as Jared Rouben, a Culinary Institute of America–trained chef and mastermind behind Moody Tongue. Instead of tossing peaches or pears into a beer and punching out, Rouben relies on his culinary training to build layers of flavor in beers like the juicy, fruity Sliced Nectarine IPA and tea-driven Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison. Each ingredient contributes to a sum far tastier than its parts, creating a most compelling excuse to drink your dinner.—Joshua M. Bernstein (Photo: thefullpint.com)
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Cory King leads a dual life. He’s head brewer at Belgian-inspired Perennial, but he also runs Side Project, a gypsy brewery—it’s situated inside Perennial—that specializes in the sort of barrel-aged beers for which you’d gladly sacrifice a nonessential organ. King’s rustic farmhouse beers and wild ales, such as the bright and funky Saison du Fermier and pleasingly acidic peach-packed Fuzzy, are as complex of calculus and worthy of considered sipping. Start your education at Side Project Cellar, the brewery’s top-shelf tasting room that opened last fall. We suggest booking a St. Louis flight post-haste.—Joshua M. Bernstein (Photo: behance.com)
Foundation Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, Maine
After bonding at a homebrew club in Bangor, Maine, web designer Joel Mahaffey and physician John Bonney joined forces to open Portland’s next great destination brewery. Their emphasis is on balanced, flavorful ales that you’ll glug by the gallon, like the dry-drinking Eddy Saison, tropical and citrusy Blaze farmhouse IPA, or Burnside brown ale. Now that Foundation has embraced canning, its biggest ISO is Epiphany, a juicy double IPA that’s as soft as cashmere. Is it West Coast? East Coast? No, Foundation proudly calls it a Maine IPA. Pro tip: Foundation is right by Bissell Brothers, which makes equally marvelous hop bombs.—Joshua M. Bernstein (Photo: Foundation Brewing)
Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery
Location: Newberg, OR
Beer journalist Chrisitan DeBenedetti trades his pen for a six-barrel brewhouse at this hotly anticipated brewery, located on the 20-acre Portland-area hazelnut farm where he was raised. The details sound ridiculous: The beer will brewed inside a barn listed on the National Registry of Historical Places with help from Jordan Keeper, the former head brewer at Austin’s cultish Jester King. The good news for non-locals: Wolves & People already has a national distribution deal and will be producing saisons, wild ales, and blended wood-aged beers within the coming months.—Justin Kennedy (Photo: Wolves & People)
Location: Lucketts, VA
This summer, Flying Dog debuts Farmworks, a spinoff brewery set amid a 53-acre working farm 15 miles south of its current Frederick, MD headquarters. The new space features all the de rigueur trappings of a future-primitive brewery—a coolship, a set of foeders, and an expansive barrel cellar—and will focus solely on traditional wild and sour ales, saisons, grisettes, and bieres de garde. Many of the ingredients, including hops, grain, and fruits and vegetables, will be grown right on the farm, which will serve as the only place to purchase or taste the beers.—Justin Kennedy
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Florida’s Green Bench has been around for almost two years now, making solid barrel-aged ales that were available only in the Sunshine State. But a couple of freshly inked distribution deals with Shelton Brothers and Crooked Stave Distributing positions the brewery to launch nationwide with bottles of Saison de Banc Vert, Saison de Banc Noir, and Sauvage Blanc (a collaboration with Colorado Springs’ Trinity Brewing). Expect to see Green Bench beers lining bottle-shop shelves from New York to California soon.—Justin Kennedy (Photo: Foursquare)
The Rare Barrel
Location: Berkeley, CA
With all those iconic breweries in both San Francisco and further north, Berkeley often gets ignored as a beer destination. That’s changing thanks to Rare Barrel, an all-sour—I repeat, all-sour—brewery that has quickly gained a cult following. The sense of place is essential: Co-founder Alex Wallash claims Berkeley’s climate is perfect for aging sour beers. Unfortunately, as of now, many of The Rare Barrel’s brilliant brews—like Apropos of Nothing—are available only to those willing to stand in long lines on release days or subscribe to the Ambassadors of Sour club.—Aaron Goldfarb (Photo: The Full Pint)
Stoneface Brewing Co.
Location: Newington, NH
With the Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont beer scenes on fire, New Hampshire often gets a bit lost in the New England beer shuffle. That’s unfortunate, especially considering that Newington’s Stoneface was easily one of the best new openings of last year. Its hoppy offerings, like Stoneface IPA and Hopulization, are every bit as good as the more famous IPAs from neighboring states. Granite Staters have already begun muling Stoneface RIS for geeks around the country; so far, official distribution remains inside the state.—Aaron Goldfarb (Photo: Twitter/@stonefacebrew)
Tree House Brewing Co.
Location: Monson, MA
At this year’s Extreme Beer Fest, one of the longest lines was for a brewery most people hadn’t heard of last year, serving a single beer created just a few months prior. Such is the current thirst for Tree House, who has inspired serious beer-nerd lust in Massachusetts with offerings like Good Morning, a near flawless maple-syrup stout. I previously called Julius the “next Heady Topper,” and that comparison to the cultish Vermont IPA-maker is looking more and more legitimate, especially since Tree House started canning its beers on a limited basis.—Aaron Goldfarb (Photo: Instagram)
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Location: Athens, GA
This GABF-medal-winning brewery—the Classic City’s first production facility since Terrapin opened in 2002—celebrated its first year recently, and it was a year worth celebrating. Creature’s biggest problem in 2015 will be topping last year’s stunning seasonal and one-off releases—Koko Buni Milk Porter and The Curious No. 2, for starters—and keeping up with Georgia’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for Tropicália IPA. As the weather warms, Creature’s canned Berliner Weisse, Athena, is an essential summer companion.—Austin L. Ray (Photo: Creature Comforts)
Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Location: Atlanta, GA
Four years in, this Little Five Points establishment housed in the basement of a revamped Victorian mansion has gone from humble brewpub to world-class food-and-drink destination. Meanwhile, the beer program keeps growing. There are always at least a dozen beers on tap, including a rotating “Wood Aged Wednesday” selection and favorites like Victor IPA and Rosa Gose. Wrecking Bar also just signed the papers on a farm 45 minutes east of town, where the team will grow vegetables, produce its first bottles and cans, and start fleshing out an already promising sours program. Pro tip: On the 5th of every month, Wrecking Bar celebrates Cinco de Siberius, a holiday it made up for releasing variations on its Mexican Siberius Maximus, an intense Russian Imperial Stout infused with cinnamon, vanilla, peppers, and cocoa nibs.—Austin L. Ray (Photo: littlefivepoints.net)
Other Half Brewing Co.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Every year or two, the New York City beer-nerd crowd seems to have a new local brewery that it can’t stop talking about. Back in 2010, it was Greenport Harbor. Then came Barrier, another Long Island standout, followed by Jersey’s Carton Brewing and its unstoppable Boat Beer. Right now, Other Half—a tiny upstart operating in the shadows of the BQE in Carroll Gardens—is the name that inspires the most if-you-see-it, order-it obsession. The hoppy brews, like Green Diamonds and Hop Showers, stress aromatics over palate-killing bitterness, and limited bottle releases draw lines to the door. With canned options like Green Diamonds creating regular-rotation appeal, Other Half has nowhere to go but up.—Chris Schonberger (Photo: Matt Coats)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is consistently stepping its game up when it comes to an emerging craft beer scene, and Orpheus is quickly emerging as one of the city’s crown jewels. Garnering accolades as one of the best homebrewers in the South, Jason Pellett realized his dream and opened the brewery on along the burgeoning Beltline off of Piedmont Park. His formula is simple: Make beer styles that the rest of the city is not making. That means eccentric, delectable sours (Skophantes), saisons (Atalanta, Lyric Ale), and a series of IPAs called “Bone Tablet” (Transmigration of Souls, Life.Death.Life.Truth., and Peace.War.Truth.Lie), with many sold in slick cans designed by local artists like Peter Ferrari.—Ale Sharpton (Photo: Ale Sharpton)