In the early days of craft beer—was that even a term yet?—brewers weren’t focused on changing the world. They weren’t dreaming of a time where Michelin-starred restaurants would have beer pairing menus; they weren’t thinking that eventually the President would have his own in-White House brewery; they weren’t imagining a time where they'd be treated like rockstars. They were simply trying to make this country a decent place to finally grab a pint.
“The beginnings of craft beer were really about recreating in the new world the classic old-world styles of beer,” Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. told me. That’s why the first beers that propelled micro-brewing forward were a hopped-up pale ale, an all-malt Vienna lager, and a resurrected steam beer.
Of course, once the pioneers had begun laying the groundwork for the industry in the 1970s and 1980s, once these influencers had inspired others to hang up their own brewery shingles, once 92 breweries in 1980 had ballooned to over 1000 by 1996—only then was it time to truly revolutionize the beer of the old world.
Punching through the alcohol clouds!
Now that they’re ubiquitous, it’s hard to remember there was once a time where double IPAs, bourbon barrel-aged stouts, double-digit ABVs, and extremely flavorful beers simply didn’t exist. A time where some brewery helmed by some man or woman had to innovate and actually create these things, and thus change the entire industry forevermore.
The following are the American breweries that changed the landscape of beer not just stateside, but abroad too. They weren’t just innovative because they made “flavorful” beer—whatever that means—but rather because they had a profound impact in how people produce beer, purchase beer, drink beer, and think about beer. (Hell, they’re the reason I have a job writing about beer.)
Below are the 10 most influential American craft breweries of all time.