2012 was yet another banner year for craft beer in the U.S.—as the Brewers’ Association reported recently, the industry now represents 6.5% of the U.S. beer market (up from 5.7% the previous year), and there are currently more than 2,347 craft breweries operating across the country. This growth is worth celebrating, but it also causes challenges for consumers trying to sort through the endless options at the bottle shop and bar to pick something that’s really worth drinking. To play the game well and avoid the scourge of declining quality, you’ve got to do your research.

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. While the big dogs like Sierra Nevada and Dogfish head keep turning out great stuff, these are the lesser-known outfits that are shaking things up across from coast-to-coast with game-changing wild-ale programs, pedigreed barrel-aging experiments, and much more. Some have major expansion plans in the works, while others are focused on putting their state or city on the beer-nerd map—all are worth investigating no matter how you get your hands on their wares.

Got a local favorite that we missed? Let us know in the comments. Cheers!

Written by Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein), Chris O’Leary (@brew_york), Ale Sharpton (@AleSharpton), Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger), and Erin Mosbaugh (@JayBlague)