As we reach the end of 2017, I want to highlight what I thought were the 10 best or most interesting breweries I went to in the last year. Keep in mind this is not an attempt to rank the 10 best breweries in the country simply because I haven’t been to them all (yet). Instead, these are my favorites that I have personally visited this year. They run the gamut from national level breweries to the smallest of local joints. Regardless of their stature, if you are in the area be sure to stop in and grab a pint or a flight. Now, without further ado, here is my top 10 list for 2017!
- New Belgium Brewing – Fort Collins, CO
One of the craft largest breweries in the country is also one of the best, not only in beer quality but in the wonders to be had at the brewery. Found along the banks of the Poudre river in Fort Collins, Colorado, this brewery has so much to offer. Their beer has a distinctly Belgian slant (the dubble and tripple are spectacular) however they like to get very creative with IPAs, fruit beers, and sours. No matter what you pick to drink, you won’t be disappointed. As for the brewery itself, it is a sight to behold. With two bars inside and a converted Airstream (called the Beerstream) trailer with additional taps outside, service is never far away. In the warmer months most people will take advantage of the spacious outdoor seating and even in the winter you can pull up a seat next to any of the fire pits outside. Most Fridays and Saturdays during the summer there is live music and food trucks (if you’re there on a Friday do yourself a favor and order anything from the Tramp About food truck) and several times a year they hold large events at the brewery (Halloween, special beer releases, Tour de Fat, etc.). I could keep waxing poetic but it is making me too nostalgic so be sure to visit here at least once in your life so you can see the magic that is New Belgium.
- Brewery Ommegang – Cooperstown, NY
Some of you may recognize this brewery as the home of the Game of Thrones themed beers of the last few years. Located in the home of the baseball Hall of Fame, this gorgeous, Belgian inspired brewery is perched on the side of a mountain overlooking Cooperstown. Once you park, head inside to the shop/tasting room/restaurant and put your name on the list for the brewery tour. While you wait, stop in and grab some food in their brew-pub. It doesn’t matter what you order, it will be good. This brewery has some of the best food you will find and after each visit and trying most of the menu, I have never once been disappointed. The tour is standard save for the scale of their operations however the best part is the tasting at the end. Lastly, the beers. They were known initially at least for their Belgian style ales however over the last 5+ years they have really started to branch out to create different styles and specialty beers. No matter your preference, you cannot go wrong with an Ommegang beer. One sip and you can tell why I make a pilgrimage here almost every year.
- Left Hand Brewing – Longmont, CO
Another of my perennial favorites, Left Hand is also home to my all-time favorite beer: the Milk Stout Nitro (I was thrilled to learn I could still find this at the grocery store when I moved from Colorado to Oregon last year). Nestled along the banks of the mighty St. Vrain river about an hour north of Denver, be sure to stop in when traveling along the front range of Colorado to enjoy some top-notch beer. From IPAs to stouts, saisons to pilsners, you have options galore here. For a brewery the size of Left Hand, the tasting room is surprisingly small however the outdoor seating is lovely during the summer months and there is often a food truck parked out front. While there, be sure to take the free tour and hear the story of how the brewery got its name.
- Swamphead Brewing – Gainesville, FL
Another brewery that is near and dear to my heart is Swamphead. For several years they were the only brewery game in town and operated out of a small warehouse in a little industrial complex on the edge of town. Since 2015, they are housed in one of the most beautiful and well thought out breweries I have ever seen. Built from the ground up to be sustainable and as close to carbon neutral as possible, with solar panels and a resident alligator in the pond out back, Swamphead is a great place to kick back and enjoy some delicious beer with friends. My personal favorite is the Midnight Oil, an oatmeal coffee stout, however you can’t go wrong with any of their beers. Most weeks have some event or another with food trucks on the weekends, and during the football season every Friday night before a home game is almost like being at a tailgate. They set the standard for a brewery designed from top to bottom to provide not only quality beer but a place you want to visit every time you come in to town.
- Terrapin Beer Company – Athens, GA
Sticking with the college town theme, Terrapin sits in the heart of Bulldog country. Georgia’s unique brewery laws at the time I visited didn’t allow you to directly purchase beer from the brewery, so I had to buy a “tour” that comes with free drink tickets. Their selection of beer is quite diverse and every pint that I sampled did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed the Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout however their Hopsecutioner IPA was a close second. The tasting room is spacious with one of the longest bars I’ve ever seen (but hey, short waits for beer!) and they often will have live music and food trucks parked outside. If you are ever in north Georgia, Terrapin is worth the 45-minute drive from Atlanta to experience high quality beer.
- Equinox Brewing – Fort Collins, CO
Switching gears for these next few breweries, we go to a much smaller scale operation. Equinox, found in the heart of Old Town in Fort Collins, has one of my favorite tap rooms, beer gardens, and logo. You can routinely find great live music to listen to while sipping quality beer. They have lots of options on tap with clever names like Waves of Grain or Borealis Winter Ale. Aside from a few bar munchies there is not much in the way of food available however there are lots of great restaurants a few blocks away. Equinox is worth checking out if you are ever find yourself wandering downtown FoCo.
- Snowbank Brewing – Fort Collins, CO
Another small northern Colorado brewery, Snowbank is surrounded by larger breweries like Odell, Fort Collins Brewery, and New Belgium, yet it still manages to crank out very unique beers. With creative takes on stouts, pale ales, and IPAs, you will always find something new and delicious when you go. In fact, they created one of my favorite and one of the most unique beers I’ve ever had. Called the Reinheitsgenot, a clever play on the old Bavarian beer purity law, it was a white chocolate coffee stout that brought tears to the eyes with its deliciousness. I took a growler home with me, but it did not last the night. Unfortunately, it was a limited release beer, but I’ve always held out hope they will make it again. Keep Snowbank in mind and be sure to stop in while visiting some of their larger neighbors. You won’t be disappointed.
- Roots Brewing – Oneonta, NY
Small in scale, this brewery makes up for it in personality. Founded by a former brewer at Ommegang, this was the first craft brewery in the small town of Oneonta, NY. Located in the historic downtown area, the interior has that feel of old, turn of the century architecture and coziness that really suits a brewery. While their beer selection is limited to a few varieties at a time, they are quality brews that will have you asking for another round every time. Be sure to swing by here if you are in the area visiting Ommegang and order the Je Suis Noir stout while you relax by the bar.
- Deschutes Brewing – Bend, OR
Bend’s flagship brewery, Deschutes makes a large variety of year-round and seasonal beers. Be sure to stop by the tasting room at the brewery itself. I recommend taking the tour which comes with a few complimentary beers at the end. Their Obsidian stout and Black Butte Porter are my favorites, but you can’t go wrong with any of their beers. As luck would have it, they sell their year-round beers in many stores, so my refrigerator is kept well stocked. Don’t fret if you are on the east coast and want to try their beers! They have recently opened a tasting room in Roanoke, VA. While I haven’t been to that location yet, I still recommend checking out their beers if you find yourself in either city.
- Andina Brewing – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Last on my list is the only one in the great white north and is also one of the most unique. Andina’s owners have blended their South American roots into creating a delicious line-up of beer with ingredients sourced from all over Latin America. Whether it is grains from Chile or fruit from Colombia, they blend these ingredients to make a fantastic product. Their tap options are somewhat limited and tend to stay in the lighter beer range but they more than make up for that in taste. Served in a gorgeous tasting room in east Vancouver, I highly recommend checking them out when visiting the area.