What does it mean when we talk innovation in brewing? Thirty years ago, simply making a beer with some flavor was enough to turn heads. And just 10 years ago, you could get touted as a visionary if you added some cocoa nibs or vanilla beans to your brew. But nowadays, who isn’t smacked with that label? Who isn’t using experimental hops and exotic adjuncts, or pumping out sour ales aplenty and barrel-aging everything in site?
We’re in a golden age of beer, where even that unacclaimed brewpub in your neighborhood is probably making some pretty good stuff. Yet I’m of the belief that craft beer is currently at a bit of a standstill in terms of jaw-dropping boundary pushing. That's not inherently bad, per se; it's more a result of how far things have advanced. The modern craft-brewing movement was founded on so much experimentation that it's brief history has been a fever dream of creativity and boundary-pushing.
That’s why I think today’s most important innovations are in perfecting techniques (like Troy Casey is at Casey Brewing), or in unique methods of acquiring ingredients (like Todd Boera employs at Fonta Flora). The real status-quo shifters are using interesting methods of production (like Levi Funk at Funk Factory Guezeria), or simply making beer geeks fall in love with something that isn’t exactly beer (like Ken Schramm at Schramm's Mead).
The following 10 breweries aren’t brewing beer in zero-gravity outer space, or barrel-aging at the bottom of the ocean—that’s not the kind of gimmicky innovation the beer world needs these days. Instead, they are producing some of the most interesting, complex beers of the moment.