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The 50 Best American Breweries of the 2010s

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What does it mean, in the beer world, to be called one of the best breweries “of the decade”? The 2010s have been a period of such rapid change; of such tumultuous growth and then turmoil, that the beginning of the decade hardly seems connected at all in some respects to where we are today. When the 2010s began, craft “gose” in the U.S. wasn’t a thing. Sour styles in general were still on the niche side of the equation. “IPA” implied a bone dry, massively bitter style, a far cry from today’s saccharine juice bombs. And your average brewery was still aspiring, more or less, to grow as fast as possible into a regional powerhouse.

Suffice to say, things have changed, and changed quite a bit. So how, then, can we choose the breweries that best represented the spirit of the decade? How can we suss out those ones that made major contributions to the field, rolled with the punches, innovated and improved the scene around them? Because it’s those breweries who truly deserve the title most.

To this end, Paste writers and editors sat down to discuss various nominees for inclusion, and settled on the basic criteria below as the driving force behind our selections:

— How strong is the brewery’s beer game today, and how strong has it been throughout the decade? To truly be an assessment of the best breweries of the entire decade, we have to attempt to weight contribution made at the beginning of the 2010s the same as we would contributions made toward the end of the decade.

— How consistent was the brewery during the decade?

— In what areas did the brewery innovate during the decade? What kind of role did they place in the emergence of new styles, or the evolution of old ones?

— How important was the brewery to its local beer community, or to the larger craft beer sphere? What X factors might come into play with this particular brewery that increases or decreases our esteem for them?

— Ultimately, we decided that in order to qualify for this list, a brewery had to (in almost every case) have been around for at least half the decade, in order to truly make its impact. And if a brewery was founded in 2015, it had to make that much more impact in a shorter period, in order to truly distinguish itself.

And so, with that in mind, allow us to present Paste’s 50 best breweries of the 2010s, a direct follow-up to a piece we first published 10 years ago, which ranked the best breweries of 2000-2009. But first: a whole bunch of honorable mentions. Obviously, there are even more breweries we wish we could include, and I’m certain there are likely some we forgot, but a tip of the cap to all of the breweries below.

Honorable mentions: American Solera, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., Avery Brewing Co., Bale Breaker Brewing Co., Bissell Brothers Brewing Co., Boneyard Beer Co., Boulevard Brewing Co., Brew Gentlemen, Brooklyn Brewery, Casey Brewing and Blending, Epic Brewing Co., Fieldwork Brewing Co., Fonta Flora Brewery, Hi-Wire Brewing, Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, The Lost Abbey, Metropolitan Brewing, Monkish Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., New Glarus Brewing Co., Night Shift Brewing, Odell Brewing Co., Parish Brewing Co., Prison City Pub & Brewrey, Proof Brewing Co., Sixpoint Brewery, Stone Brewing Co., Surly Brewing Co., Threes Brewing, Upslope Brewing Co., The Veil Brewing Co., Victory Brewing Co.


50. Ballast Point Brewing Co. (Constellation Brands)
Original location: San Diego, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Sculpin IPA, Grunion Pale Ale, Victory at Sea

Did any American craft brewery have more of a violently up-and-down decade than Ballast Point? They entered the decade as one of San Diego’s most beloved IPA producers, with a flagship in the form of Sculpin IPA that was one of the industry’s most purely sought-after examples of the style, and an array of other well-regarded beers such as the Victory at Sea imperial porter. The brewery’s fame then exponentially increased after the first release of Grapefruit Sculpin in 2014, kicking off the industry’s brief obsession with fruited IPAs, some of the characteristics of which eventually merged into the profiles of modern hazy/juicy IPAs. It’s easy to look back right now and scoff at this particular moment in craft beer industry history, but Grapefruit Sculpin was ultimately a very important, catalyzing event that occurred at the same time as earlier examples of NE-IPA were beginning to emerge. The beer might not have ultimately retained its staying power in many craft circles, but the thought process that produced it was arguably ahead of its time, presaging many aspects of current IPA, for better or worse. We will freely admit it: When we tried Grapefruit Sculpin for the first time in 2014, we were in love as much as anyone.

Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine. The company’s 2015 sale to Constellation Brands, for the gaudy total of $1 billion, seems all but assured to go down in history as the single most overvalued acquisition of the craft beer boom era—the ultimate example of investment into the field by a company that seemed certain that growth wasn’t about to stall anytime soon. Only four years later, it seems impossible to think that signs of the segment’s slowdown wouldn’t have been more apparent at the time, but you know what they say about the clarity of hindsight. In the years that have followed, multiple Ballast Point taproom locations have closed and the company has contracted, even as it introduced a ceaseless wave of new Sculpin variants, to less and less effect. These are no doubt hard times for Ballast Point, but at the same time, it would be wrong to not recognize the company as among the best breweries of the decade, considering the way its influence is still being felt.


49. Rhinegeist Brewery
Original location: Cincinnati, OH
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Cheetah Lager, Dad Holiday Ale, Calfé

It has become very difficult—almost impossible, really—to turn breweries founded in the 2010s into the sort of regional/national powerhouses that were built much more easily in the generations that came before. The crowded marketplace, slowing growth rate and successful push to instill preference for “small and local” in many consumers has limited the possibilities for breweries to expand past a certain size, which made the seemingly unstoppable trajectory of Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist that much more impressive. Here is a brewery that really captured the attention of “average” Midwestern craft beer drinkers in the 2010s, and they rode that wave all the way from a 2013 opening, well past the 100,000 barrel mark.

At its core, Rhinegeist has a lot of things going for it. They have a fabulous brewery in a gorgeous, expansive setting in one of Cincy’s most popular neighborhoods, complete with a lovely roof deck. They have a solid stable of core beers (their lager Cheetah was just outside the top 10 of our last blind tasting), less on the flashy side and more of the dependable, people-pleasing variety. And they have an almost unprecedented level of local support, which only the likes of Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing Co. can really match. By the time we do this post again in another 10 years, they could well be one of the biggest craft breweries in the country.


48. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Original location: Denver, CO
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Von Pilsner, Vielle, Nightmare on Brett

Crooked Stave is one of those breweries that might not get a lot of play in the modern hype cycle, when wild ales of all description can be found on seemingly every street corner, but considering these guys first started selling beer in 2010, they really were quite far ahead of most of their competition—founded the same year as contemporaries Jester King, in fact. The complications of contract brewing arguably slowed down the brewery from reaching the size that it might have, but it would be a mistake to overlook the lasting effect their saisons and sours had on Colorado’s Front Range beer scene, a decade later.

If anything, the Crooked Stave lineup might be better balanced today than ever, with a solid array of IPAs, an underrated pilsner (top 10, the last time we blind tasted pilsners ), and dependable workhorses like the Surette saison, fruited petite sours or the decadently barrel-aged Nightmare on Brett, which has come in a few delicious variations over the years. It’s a brewery whose best beers—like the wonderfully balanced Vielle saison—sometimes escape conversation, but we haven’t forgotten them.


47. Deschutes Brewery
Original location: Bend, OR
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Obsidian Stout, The Dissident

Hanging onto a top 10 spot within the Brewers Association production rankings for craft breweries is Deschutes, another major regional player whose 2010s experience mirrors what was experienced by so many of their peers—seemingly boundless growth, followed by a pullback and subsequent struggles. For Deschutes, that resulted in job cuts and the postponement of construction of an East Coast brewing facility in 2019, but the brewery seems confident that there’s light at the end of this particular tunnel.

In terms of a portfolio, there are certainly few national breweries who have had such a well-rounded slate of beers for such a long time as Deschutes. Several are among the consistent answers you’d receive when looking for stylistic benchmarks, whether it’s Black Butte as an archetypal robust porter, or Mirror Pond—a beer we wrote an essay of admiration about last year, in fact—as a classic American pale ale. Their IPA game has gone through more evolution during this period, understandably, with a varying degree of success, but who doesn’t appreciate a pint of Fresh Squeezed IPA? So too are many of the brewery’s yearly releases still beloved, whether it’s Jubelale (one of the only essential American “Christmas ales”) or The Abyss, one of the earliest buzz-worthy imperial stouts. In fact, the company even released a particularly eye-catching whiskey version of Black Butte in 2019, opening up an exciting new avenue of exploration.


46. SweetWater Brewing Co.
Original location: Atlanta, GA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: SweetWater IPA, 420 Pale Ale, The Pit and the Pendulum

The Southeast’s largest craft brewery seems to have weathered the industry’s slowdown better than most, rolling with the punches even as it has continuously modernized in the face of changing consumer tastes. Although there have been some sad losses along the way (we still miss Exodus Porter as a year-rounder), SweetWater’s growth into a regional powerhouse never undermined the quality of core offerings like SweetWater IPA and 420. And with their placement into all Delta flights nationwide, the brewery was exposed to a bigger audience than ever.

On the innovation side, SweetWater constructed its sour and wood-focused Woodlands facility this decade, transforming a brewery primarily known for pale ale and IPA into one equally well-liked for brettanomyces beers and a variety of increasingly ambitious wild ales. It was an evolution of the brand’s most basic ethos that seemed to happen in an organic, unforced way, and has produced some excellent beers, such as the peachy Pit and the Pendulum. So too has SweetWater more recently managed to tap into the growing national fervor for cannabis with its very successful series of “420 Strain” beers, led by G13 IPA, which have explored the conjunction between “dank” flavors and IPA in a way much more literal than what can be done with hops alone. All of these factors have helped keep SweetWater more relevant in national beer geek conversations than many of their similarly sized competitors.


45. Great Notion Brewing Co.
Original location: Portland, OR
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Ripe, Space Invader, Double Stack

In order to truly be one of the best and most relevant breweries of the decade, you really need to have existed for at least the majority of the decade … but of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. In creating this list, we originally planned to require that the breweries on it exist by at least 2015, but upon realizing that would exclude Great Notion (they opened in 2016) we reconsidered. After all, when you win the largest blind tasting we’ve ever conducted, as Great Notion did when Ripe reigned #1 out of 324 IPAs, you’ve earned some of the most elite esteem we’re able to convey. After all, is there any plaudit more genuinely impressive than finishing #1 when you completely remove preconceptions and hype from the equation?

All the more important, because Great Notion most certainly possesses a lot of hype status within its Portland, OR beer community, which has been rocked by a turbulent wave of closures of older breweries in 2019—just look at this piece from Jeff Alworth, which makes the devastation clear. It’s not hard to see some of the similarities—the breweries to close have been of the older variety, making “safer” beer styles than the likes of Great Notion, which focuses with particular intensity on hazy IPA, fruited and big stouts, with the occasional lager for balance. This makes them a very “modern” brewery indeed, which begs the obvious question of whether changing tastes could one day lead to a reversal of fortunes. At the end of the day, though, even though they haven’t been around long, Great Notion is executing several of these modern styles—and especially hazy IPA—as well as any other brewery in the world today. We would like to assume that quality will be applicable toward whatever style happens to be hot by the time 2030 rolls around.


44. Funky Buddha Brewery (Constellation Brands)
Original location: Oakland Park, FL
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, Last Snow, Floridian Hefeweizen

When we call 2010 a decade in which beer gimmicks tended to run amok, we usually don’t mean it as a compliment. Funky Buddha, however, is one of the few breweries that has ever managed to take a “gimmick”-heavy portfolio and make something transcendent from it. For years, we’ve been referring to these guys as the masters of “flavored” beer, and it’s honestly been the brewery’s biggest contribution over the last decade to the overall scene. They’re not without the inevitable misfires, but no brewery does kooky flavor concepts more deftly than these guys.

Take, for instance, the now classic Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (or the barrel-aged version, Morning Wood), a concept that could go so wrong in the hands of so many other breweries, but which Funky Buddha handles with immaculate balance. Is it smoky? A touch. Roasty? Just enough. Rich? Certainly, without being cloying. It’s the best case example for what “maple bacon coffee porter” could reasonably be expected to be, and the fact that they regularly pull off these kinds of combinations is remarkable. Not to be lost, of course, is a solid complement of core beers, especially the year-round hefeweizen Floridian, which finished at #5 in one of our wheat beer blind tastings. But when we think of Funky Buddha, we think of fearless experimentation and improbable successes, as with this year’s cocktail-inspired Manhattan Double Rye Ale. You can always count on them to push the envelope.


43. Tired Hands Brewing Co.
Original location: Ardmore, PA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: HopHands, SaisonHands, Various milkshakes

Milkshake IPA is a beer style we’re unlikely to ever list among our favorites, but if the entire beer industry handled the style with the skill and creativity of the progenitors at Tired Hands, that’s a sentiment we’d probably reconsider. Although the Pennsylvania stalwarts have brewed a wide variety of styles (including some lovely saisons) right from the start, it’s difficult to separate them from their most famous creation, and if there’s a beer style that sums up the zeitgeist of the 2010s more than milkshake IPA, we haven’t seen it. The thought to use lactose in a style where it was practically a foreign substance was a clever one, allowing the Tired Hands brewers to boost the creamy texture and subtle sweetness of their IPAs in a way that worked beautifully with an array of fresh fruit purees. In comparison with the imitation that followed from so many other breweries, Tired Hands milkshake IPAs always seem to strike the ideal balance between fruity vivaciousness and at least a modicum of balance, avoiding the tooth-stripping sweetness that bogged down so many others in our increasingly saccharine beer world. It will never be a style for everyone, but Tired Hands has always illustrated what something like milkshake IPA looks like at its best. Sadly, they’re a brewery we’ve had a chance to sample at Paste far less than some of the others on this list, but hopefully that will one day change.


42. Wicked Weed (AB-InBev)
Original location: Asheville, NC
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Golden Angel, Pernicious IPA, Milk & Cookies

We have never been shy at Paste about expressing our disdain for Anheuser-Busch InBev, or trying to codify why formerly craft breweries selling out to the world’s biggest beer conglomerate is a bad thing for the rest of the industry. At the same time, we also believe in recognizing beer quality in as objective a way as possible—it’s why we conduct blind tastings, where brands owned by AB-InBev have routinely placed near the very top in certain styles. In short, we believe in giving credit where credit it due, and it would be a lie to argue that Wicked Weed belongs outside of the best breweries of the 2010s. Their contributions to American wild ales alone put them in some pretty exclusive company, regardless of current ownership.

Since its genesis in 2012, Wicked Weed has done a remarkable job of evangelizing the novel flavor avenues that the average consumer can explore via wild and sour ales. They may be the brewery that had the single highest degree of influence in converting wide swaths of non-sour drinkers into people with a passion for wild ales in the last 8 years or so, whether it was done via more approachable fruited sours like Medora or the over-the-top decadence of the entire “Angel” series. At the same time, they also took a novel approach to more desserty sours in the form of beers like Silencio, and crafted one of the better flagship IPAs in the game with Pernicious. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a GABF medal winner for nothing. Although Wicked Weed’s esteem in its native Asheville is understandably lower these days than it once was, when viewing the decade as a whole, they loom large as one of the most important players. Certainly, of all the AB-InBev acquisitions, this was the one that stung the most.


41. Founders Brewing Co. (Mahou San Miguel)
Original location: Grand Rapids, MI
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Founders Breakfast Stout, Porter, Mosaic Promise

The relationship between beer geeks and Founders has become more complicated in the last few years, especially in the light of the (now settled) racial discrimination lawsuit brought against the company by a former employee. That unpleasant ordeal arguably knocks them down a little bit on this sort of list, but we also don’t want to overlook the contributions made by Founders to the industry in terms of their beer. Few breweries had such a hand in shaping multiple styles, as they exist today.

Not to gloss over the brewery’s all-time classics (Founders Porter, Breakfast Stout), but barrel-aged beers were one of the arenas in which Founders helped change the game. Kentucky Breakfast Stout is, along with Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, one of the two most important barrel-aged beers of all time, and was instrumental in starting the American barrel-aging renaissance. In the last few years, KBS production has ramped up, ending the artificial scarcity once created by its limited release. Predictably, beer geeks have responded by claiming that the product is now lesser than it was, but in our eyes it’s the rest of the industry that has continued to evolve, rather than KBS itself being somehow diminished.

Also not to be overlooked: All Day IPA, a beer that both presaged the bloom of “session IPA” and “low-calorie IPA” all at once, as well as providing a template for how craft breweries could use economies of scale to sell in larger packaging, such as 15-packs of cans.


40. Jack’s Abby
Original location: Framingham, MA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: House Lager, Post Shift Pilsner, Copper Legend

Sure, in our current craft beer scene, the “lager is life” and “crispy boi” crowds have steadily pushed for the establishment of a thriving undercurrent of lager, helles and pilsner in the majority of brewery lineups, but this was by no means the truth at the beginning of the decade, when breweries like Jack’s Abby (and Chicago’s Metropolitan) were just getting started. These guys faced a completely different beer market, so often hungry for bitter-as-hell IPA and bruising imperial stouts, and the thought of trying to market any style of lager frightened away the vast majority of craft brewers at the time. Many were the instances when I begged for pilsner from _____ brewery, only to be told that “craft breweries can’t make lager profitable,” thanks to the longer turnaround on tank time. The likes of Jack’s Abby? They showed exactly what was possible within the humble world of lager.

And truly, Jack’s Abby did it with a passion and verve that was infectious. They never allowed the traditional concepts of lager styles to hold them back from making whatever kind of beers they wanted to make. You still want American hops? They’ve got an IPL to suit that desire. Prefer imperial stout? They’ll come up with a big, black, bruising lager that will make you question what you thought you knew about yeast. Whether creating perfect versions of classic styles like rauchbier or maibock within their ongoing kellerbier series, or venturing off the beaten path with “cranberry Berliner lager” or the like, Jack’s Abby has never been short of fearless. Their tireless larger advocacy has helped increase the diversity of the average brewery lineup, and there’s few accomplishments better than that.


39. Westbrook Brewing Co.
Original location: Mt. Pleasant, SC
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Westbrook Gose, One Claw, Mexican Cake

Truly, in the craft beer world, it can pay to get in on a trend early and become one of the most visible progenitors for an emerging style. It’s always a gamble, of course—an investment of time and resources into an emerging style that just as likely as not will end up going nowhere. But in certain instances, it turns out like it did for Westbrook and gose.

Gose, of course, had been around in Germany for centuries before a South Carolina brewery helped popularize it in the U.S., but combined with the influx of kettle sours that arrived in the middle of this decade, gose perfectly matched the climate of the moment. And indeed, Westbrook’s gose ultimately went a long way in setting the mold as to what made American goses different from their Continental forebears—they were more pronouncedly tart, with a burst of lemon juice-like acidity, a whiff of coriander and a healthy degree of salinity. As in so many other “American” styles that came before, we took a European beer style and upped its intensity and assertiveness. Truly, when it comes to craft beer, this is the American way. But to circle back: Westbrook Gose was a smash, and for many it was the first beer labeled “gose” they ever sampled; impressive for a style that is now completely ubiquitous only a handful of years later.

There is more to Westbrook as well, of course. They’re a well-balanced brewery, trading in hops (all of the excellent “Claw” variants), lagers (try the schwarzbier, if you can) and sought-after stouts (Mexican Cake, another major trendsetter) in equal measure. Certainly, they’ve done their part in promoting South Carolina/Charleston’s brewery community.


38. Bell’s Brewery
Original location: Kalamazoo, MI
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Two Hearted Ale, Black Note, Arabicadabra

Bell’s feels like the sort of brewery where sheer consistency is both an asset and a criticism lobbed against them by a certain segment of the beer geek blogosphere. To be certain: Bell’s has been a little bit less adventurous and out there over the years compared to local Michigan competitors such as Founders, but they also had the benefit of lots of great recipes that quite frankly needed little tweaking to begin with. Is there a more generally beloved IPA in the U.S. than Two Hearted, even in 2019? Even in an era when drinkers are constantly chasing sweet, juicy, hazy sugar bombs, the dry, floral and lightly citrusy Two Hearted retains an absolutely rabid fanbase, and deservedly so. Cracking open a Two Hearted after not having one for a long time is one of the Midwest’s great beer pleasures.

At the same time, it’s not as if Bell’s didn’t find time to innovate this decade. They did well when it came to themed releases, such as their much-loved series of “planet” beers themed after the composed works of Gustav Holst, or their more recent series inspired by the poems of Walt Whitman. And they even managed to keep growing, despite the slowdown of the market and the difficulties inherent in selling older beer styles such as amber ale, once the brewery’s flagship. All in all, Bell’s just feels like one of those breweries that is built to last forever.


37. Dogfish Head (Boston Beer Co.)
Original location: Milton, DE
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: 90 Minute IPA, World Wide Stout, Raison D’Extra

Dogfish Head might very well be the opposite of how we described Bell’s above. Where a brewery like Bell’s could be said to have “stayed the course” and maintained its excellence in this decade, Dogfish Head was constantly evolving and changing. They proved particularly adept in the 2010s in identifying emerging trends and pouncing on them, while exploring new avenues for the company at the same time. As ever, they know their way around an ingredient gimmick or a marketing gimmick, doing it better than almost anyone else in the business.

As the decade began, Dogfish Head was still the company built around 60 Minute IPA and venerable brands like Indian Brown Ale. As time went on, though, Dogfish Head ran up against many of the same challenges as other major, regional breweries, but consistently displayed more ingenuity than most in evolving with the times. In particular, the 2016 development of session sour SeaQuench Ale put a shot of vitality into the company’s lineup and quickly became its de facto secondary flagship. It also clearly put thoughts of “health and wellness” into the brewery’s braintrust, and has powered its reinvention into what Sam Calagione now refers to as “the number-one active, lifestyle-oriented craft beer brand,” on the back of low-calories IPAs like Slightly Mighty and SuperEIGHT, a beer based around the concept of “superfoods.” And if those beers aren’t your cup of tea? We can happily report that the likes of 90 Minute IPA are as good as ever, and arguably even more relevant in an IPA market that has swung so far in the direction of hazy.


36. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Original location: Capitola, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Family Whistle, Bright Sea Blonde, Love’s Armor

Some breweries focus on making “approachable” beer. Others focus on “challenging” or “intense” beer. Sante Adairius, on the other hand, seems to focus on “beautiful” beer. As they put it in their own words, “we focus our attention on producing well-constructed beers with an eye toward simplicity and character.” There’s an earnestness in that phrasing that really sums up Sante Adairius as a brewery—they are absolutely world class in their Belgian beers and farmhouse ales, but they’re not the kind of brewery that would ever revel in the praise directed their way. Their beers are like immaculate, but non-flashy, works of art, as exemplified by the clarity and precision in something like Sante Adairius’ Bright Sea Blonde. When I first tasted it in 2017, I was immediately taken aback by how perfectly balanced it was, for something so seemingly simple as “Belgian-style blonde ale.” When talking about this brewery, one quickly comes to realize that you’re almost always being under-sold.

A yearly staple of the Firestone Walker Invitational, a love for Sante Adairius almost feels like something of a beer geek secret handshake among those who are passionate about saisons and wild ales. Many are the conversations I’ve had with other beer writers about Sante Adairius, particularly at that California festival, and never are they held in anything but the highest esteem.


35. WeldWerks Brewing Co.
Original location: Greeley, CO
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Hefeweizen, Juicy Bits, Medianoche

WeldWerks is the rare occasion when I have actually felt like I’ve followed the rise of a hyped brewery from almost the very beginning—not because I’ve ever physically set foot in the Greeley, CO taproom (I haven’t), but because I first sampled their beer at GABF less than a year after the brewery’s opening, and let’s just say the lines were a lot shorter back then. But from the very beginning, I walked away from the WeldWerks booth feeling like this was an uncommonly delicious brewery, whether they were dealing with humble styles (a killer, medal-winning hefeweizen) or completely over-the-top stouts.

The rest is essentially history—as the hazy IPA revolution arrived in the back half of the decade, WeldWerks was one of the first major players in Colorado to attract critical acclaim for their hop-forward lineup, especially the flagship Juicy Bits, which is every bit as juicy as the name would suggest. That attention likewise led to even more hype for the brewery’s barrel-aged stout releases, especially those in the Medianoche line, which we appreciate for their focus on barrel-derived flavors over more ostentatious pastry stout elements. Today, one might criticize the brewery for prioritizing hazy IPA and imperial stouts a bit too strongly, but when they’re taking home the #1 spot in Paste’s milkshake IPA blind tasting, you can hardly blame them too much. When you’re really, really good at something, you earn a certain degree of leeway. WeldWerks is still one of the younger breweries on this list, but they’ve absolutely earned their acclaim as one of Colorado’s top brewers.


34. Revolution Brewing Co.
Original location: Chicago, IL
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Straight Jacket Barleywine, Rev Pils, Eugene

If I was present for almost all of the ascendency of WeldWerks in the entry previous, I was here for every bit of the rise of Revolution over the course of the last decade, as they became the largest brewery in Illinois not named Goose Island. Living in Illinois, I visited the original Revolution brewpub as often as possible, watching as a handful of late 2000s upstarts (especially the compatriots at Half Acre) built the modern Chicago craft beer scene around them. It’s now easy to forget that compared with early adopters such as San Diego or Portland, the craft beer movement was a little slow in arriving in Chicago. But when it came, it came in force.

From the beginning, Revolution excelled in classic styles. Their Eugene porter became the city’s most dependable, session-strength dark beer. From day one, Anti-Hero IPA was one of the city’s best overall (and now most balanced) hoppy beers. But Revolution also grew and morphed, albeit subtly, to fit the mold of changing tastes. They never abandoned the mold of Anti-Hero, now retro in its own way, but instead continuously expanded the “Hero” lineup until it had something for almost any taste. At the same time, they launched an expansive barrel-aging program that went on to challenge and eventually dethrone Goose Island for the title of the city’s barrel-aged beer kingpin. The results were confirmed by Paste’s own blind tastings, where Revolution’s Straight Jacket barleywine crushed the competition en route to a #1 showing. They may have started as a brewpub getting press for “bacon fat popcorn,” but Revolution used its running start to become one of the most dependably great breweries in the midwest.


33. Other Half Brewing Co.
Original location: Brooklyn, NY
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: All Green Everything, Broccoli Special Reserve, Double Mosaic Dream

This is another case where ranking is a little bit more difficult on account of the fact that we’ve sampled comparatively fewer of Other Half’s beers than most of the other breweries on this list. In putting them here, we’re taking into consideration both the beers we’ve had a chance to sample, and the effect they’ve had in generating enthusiasm for the New York City beer scene.

Because make no mistake, the craft beer scene of NYC was considered oddly underwhelming, not all that long ago. Both New York and L.A. resisted the 2000s boom on some level, establishing far fewer breweries than much smaller cities that embraced the ethos of craft beer in a more enthusiastic way. The New York scene was anchored by a handful of stalwarts such as Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint, but it wasn’t until the early 2010s that a younger generation began to emerge who would shape the future. And among those breweries, none were capable of generating excitement quite like Other Half.

Today, they are rightly considered one of the East Coast’s finest producers of hazy IPA, with a singular focus on the style that is perhaps slightly limiting, but common in this day and age. There’s no denying that they make immaculate hazies, if that’s what you’re in the market for, but the brewery’s greatest accomplishment is likely the way it pushed so many of the other NYC brewers to up their games in the process.


32. pFriem Family Brewers
Original location: Hood River, OR
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Pilsner, Helles Lager, Oud Bruin

pFriem, like a few of the other breweries on this list who consistently performed far above average in Paste blind tastings, feels like the kind of brewery that is maybe a bit too easy to take for granted. Since establishing themselves in 2012, their beer has spread far throughout the Pacific Northwest, with entries like IPA and Pilsner becoming staples throughout the region. This of course leads on some level to beer geeks lowering their esteem for the average pFriem year-rounder: The old maxim of “anything widely available must be inferior to something limited.” But put pFriem’s beer into a blind tasting setting, and that’s where it truly shines. Divorced from hype, it’s easy to see that this was one of the best and most consistent breweries of the decade.

Their dominance is especially impressive within lager beer styles, where they regularly cleaned up in our blind tastings. You don’t finish at #2 in a blind tasting of 102 non-pilsner lagers, and then #6 in a blind tasting of 134 pilsners by accident. The only way you repeat those kinds of numbers is with technical mastery, and pFriem has it in spades. We also appreciate their interest in brewing classy versions of classic Belgian styles that have fallen out of vogue in the modern hype cycle, such as oud bruin, kriek or Belgian Christmas ales, giving the brewery a versatility that many of their peers now tend to lack. In general, there are few breweries where we’re more confident that every release will be well above average for the style.


31. Live Oak Brewing Co.
Original location: De Valle, TX
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Hefeweizen, Pilz, Oaktoberfest

There’s not a lot of call for simplicity or subtlety in the craft beer world these days. Nor has Texas always been a market where traditional “craft” beer styles have received quite as much admiration as they perhaps deserved. In short, Live Oak Brewing Co. was pretty much always fighting an uphill battle since they slapped caps on their first bottles more than 20 years ago. They sought to bring truly balanced, authentic German beer styles into a scene that was mostly filled with cheap, mass-produced imitation, and along the way they played a major part in educating southwestern craft beer drinkers on what they’d been missing out on for decades. You want influential beers? Look no further than Live Oak Hefe, or Pilz. God only knows how many others in their own mold they’ve inspired over the years.

Live Oak is, more than anything, an uncompromising brewery. They don’t tweak their releases to suit changing styles and preferences—they do what they’re good at, what they have a passion for, and they rarely deviate from the classics. German lagers, German ales, executed with a deference to history and technical acumen that rivals anyone else in the game—that’s the Live Oak way. Although finding an outstanding, authentic pilsner isn’t such a difficult task in the craft beer world these days, it might very well be without the guiding light of breweries like Live Oak. The last decade has shown the fruits of their labor in how eagerly their passions have been adopted by so many other breweries and drinkers, and in the end, that’s the greatest victory Live Oak could ask for. That, and a #1 finish in Paste’s blind hefeweizen tasting.


30. Perennial Artisan Ales
Original location: St. Louis, MO
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Abraxas, Vermillion, Maman

Without a doubt, this was a great decade for the St. Louis beer scene. The 2010s began with only a handful of reliable, workhorse breweries (Schlafly, etc.) calling the city home, and quickly grew to encompass a wide array out outstanding brewers, from Perennial and Side Project to Urban Chestnut, Civil Life, 4 Hands, Narrow Gauge and 2nd Shift. They quickly turned the city from a beer scene associated with foreign-owned Anheuser-Busch and the legacy of the Busch family into one teeming with promising young breweries making beers in a bevy of different styles.

Of that class of this decade, Perennial just might be the most balanced and consistent of the bunch. There’s almost no style that Perennial isn’t willing to tackle, even if our favorite selections from these guys over the years have often fallen into the realms of imperial stout, Belgian ales and barrel-aged saisons. That isn’t to say they don’t know their way around IPA, or even lager styles as well—Perennial is one of those breweries you can expect to do most everything well. With that said, they rightfully are well respected in the beer community for now-classic beers like the Abraxas imperial stout, which made a heavy impression in the wave of “Mexican hot chocolate” stouts that followed throughout the 2010s, along with barrel-aged bruisers like Maman, which are among the most purely flavorful in their class. Perennial is just one of those breweries we’re always happy to see submit something for a blind tasting, as the result invariably elevates the field.


29. Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Original location: Athens, GA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Tropicalia, Tritonia /w Cucumber & Lime, Duende

Another influencer, this time on the Georgia beer scene (which Paste knows pretty well, being based in Atlanta), Creature Comforts attained “it” brewery status very quickly after opening and has pretty much never let up, always finding new ways to put themselves into the national conversation despite limited distribution. The Athens location ultimately served the brewery very well, making sought-after beers like the flagship Tropicalia IPA that much more difficult for Atlanta residents to attain, and driving visitors to make the trip to bring some home with them, much as a Chicagoan might drive across the Wisconsin border to score some culty brews from New Glarus. And that is ultimately how a rabid fandom is built.

Hoppy styles were Creature Comforts’ earliest strength, with the mildly juicy and super approachable Tropicalia leading the way, and ultimately leading to the development of killer DIPAs like Duende and Cosmik Debris. Over time, though, the brewery ventured out in new directions to supplement their IPA game, beginning a series of dynamite wild ale releases and eventually finding a great appreciation for lager as well. Visiting Creature Comforts today, a drinker is likely to find a bevy of great IPAs, along with a few intriguing mixed fermentation beers, some way above average kettle sours, a few cool, pils-adjacent beers, and (if you’re lucky) a grandiose imperial stout. As I so often observed while living in Athens, GA in 2018/2019, if they just added an outstanding, standard-strength, year-round dark beer to the portfolio, it would essentially be the perfect lineup. Not that we’re complaining, mind you.


28. Oskar Blues Brewery (CANarchy)
Original location: Longmont, CO
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Dale’s Pale Ale, Ten Fidy, Hotbox Coffee Porter

A decade ago, when Paste’s editor compiled our best breweries of the 2000s, we were already giving obvious credit to Oskar Blues for the role it played in reclaiming the image of canned beer, but who could have predicted even then the impact that the return to cans would eventually have on the industry? Where would the hazy IPA revolution be, without the likes of Dale’s Pale Ale to ultimately guide it in the direction of the ubiquitous 16 oz sticker can? Can you even imagine a bottle of Tree House Julius, or what have you? It seems like sacrilege to even imagine at this point.

Beyond their role as the godfather of the canned beer revival, however, Oskar Blues did literally everything you’d want an older brewery to do in this decade to keep themselves perpetually relevant. They kept up with the rate of IPA experimentation, delivering at every step of the way (the newest Can-O-Bliss releases are definitely solid) while keeping Dale’s as the pristine classic it will always be. They increased the role of Ten Fidy as a flagship imperial stout, introducing a plethora of barrel-aged variants that pushed an already decadent stout to the next level. Along the way, they expanded several times, but never lost track of that particular Oskar Blues identity.

We should acknowledge that today, Oskar Blues finds itself under the collective wing of the Fireman Capital-operated CANarchy group, an association that seems to have markedly benefited pretty much all the breweries that have been acquired to date. Earlier this year, CANarchy launched its Asheville, NC “Collaboratory,” a shared space wherein beers from all the CANarchy breweries—plus a number of collaborations with other breweries—are all poured from the same set of taps. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this model continue to thrive in the decade to come.


27. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.
Original location: St. Louis, MO
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Schnickelfritz Hefeweizen, Stammtisch Pilsner, Oachkatzlschwoaf

From the beginning, the basic concept of St. Louis’ Urban Chestnut was a brilliant one. Interested in both classical interpretations of beer styles and twists with an experimental flair, the brewery sub-divides all of its efforts between two series: “Reverence” and “Revolution.” The latter delivers American ingenuity, playfully expanding the boundaries of familiar beer styles, while the former is one of the country’s greatest lineups of flawless European (mostly German) beer styles. In doing so, they offer a little something for everyone and a degree of variety we appreciate, but at the end of the day we’ll always come back to the same observation: These guys do classic German lager and ale styles with a consistent quality that almost no other American brewery (Live Oak is a good comparison) can match, and have rarely received the attention or praise they deserve for it.

The latter is not surprising. Although pilsner has certainly seen a heartening revival in recent years, classical German beer styles have never been “sexy” to the American craft consumer, and likely never will be. You can make the best goddamn hefeweizen in the world (UC was #2 in our blind tasting of them), and a lot of the beer bros will still yawn and ask when the next hazy IPA release is due out. The same is still true of pils, where Urban Chestnut has placed in the top 10 in two different Paste blind tastings. Or märzen, which UC predictably makes into a transcendent experience. This is the curse of the European-style brewer—to never truly attract as much attention as you should. But when the beers are so consistently fabulous, that’s sort of its own reward, is it not?


26. Modern Times Beer
Original location: San Diego, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Fortunate Islands, Black House, Fruitlands

If there exists a template for what a “successful 2010s brewery” looked like, then surely it must resemble what Modern Times accomplished in the last 7 years. For most breweries, if they’ve expanded once during that kind of time period, something must be going well. For Modern Times, on the other hand, it’s now six locations and counting.

On its own, that is of course no real indicator of quality, but the overall aesthetic of the brewery was so often imitated this decade that they’ve started to literally feel like the mold from which many post-2013 breweries were built. That is especially true of their now-iconic, minimalist packaging, which flew in the face of the busier, artier labels of the day to focus intently on clean lines and key words to describe each beer. One look around the can-o-scape at your local bottle shop will show how influential that particular aesthetic has been. It’s simply an aptly named brewery—in every aspect of their business, from their early embrace of “nitro” coffee to their 2017 move to an employee ownership model, they’ve almost always been leading the way.

Even their core lineup of year-rounders seems perfectly calculated to expertly slake any thirst. In only six beers, you’ve got an American wheat, an oatmeal coffee stout, a dank amber ale, a hazy IPA, a fruited gose and a crisp pilsner. Those are like the beer food groups, as far as we’re concerned, and we wouldn’t mind seeing other breweries continue to imitate, if it means lineups that don’t have 8 different IPAs in them.

25. The Bruery
Original location: Placentia, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Black Tuesday, Goses are Red, Mash

The Bruery now has more than a decade under its belt, transitioning from hot young thing at the beginning of the 2010s to a sort of elder statesman among barrel-aged specialists by the time we reach the present day. That has been more or less the arc of a lot of breweries founded around the same time, but The Bruery has arguably grown and aged with more graciousness than many of its peers, building an epic back-catalog of beloved barrel-aged beers in the process.

Rarely has any brewery’s average output been so fit for aging, which makes The Bruery bottles a natural fit for collectors interested in assembling verticals or unique tastings. Beers like Black Tuesday are absolute behemoths, weighing in far over the maximum ABV allowed in many states, taking advantage of the leniency of California beer law. The Bruery Terreux, meanwhile, keeps up a never-ending stream of creative new sour releases, seemingly never in any danger of exhausting its supply of inspiration. It’s a brewery that has an unusual way of making every release seem “important.”

So too did The Bruery impact the beer scene in the 2010s by pioneering its subscription/membership model, The Bruery Reserve Society, which gave the company a way to monetize its most diehard fans, while also assuring that its rarest releases would find a way into their hands. As the challenges faced by the industry mount, they’re probably glad they did.


24. Grimm Artisanal Ales
Original location: Brooklyn, NY
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Lambo Door, Lumen, Double Negative

Few breweries ever went on such a pronounced hot streak in Paste blind tastings as Grimm, which once landed three different IPAs within the top 26 of a blind tasting of 247, making it very clear at the same time that they had an excellent grasp on the emerging hazy IPA style. What made it all the more amazing was that at the time, all of Grimm’s beer as being contract brewed at several different breweries, as husband and wife partners Joe and Lauren Grimm would make weekly drives to each location, just to see their dream slowly come to life. Their eventual rise to the top, and the establishment of an actual, brick-and-mortar Brooklyn brewery to call their own, ranks among the biggest success stories of all the breweries of this era who started out as “gypsy brewers,” determined to one day put down roots. Grimm’s success is the blueprint for exactly that.

As the earlier blind tasting reference should make clear, these guys are obviously masters of the NE-IPA/hazy IPA game, ranking up there with breweries such as Other Half, Finback and Industrial Arts Brewing as the best to be found in the immediate NYC radius. So too have they taken home multiple GABF medals for their Double Negative imperial stout, a flawless display of everything non-pastry imperial stout can be. Combined with a program that is also rife with a wide array of hoppy, fruity or brettanomyces-infused sours, Grimm is a pretty consistent picture of what a thriving brewery looks like in 2019.


23. Burial Beer Co.
Original location: Asheville, NC
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Surf Wax, Separation of Light and Darkness, Skillet Donut Stout

Even before the news arrived that Asheville darling Wicked Weed had officially sold to mega-corp AB InBev, opinion had already begun to crystalize in one of America’s densest, most vibrant beer cities: Burial had usurped the crown. By the time news of the sale broke, it had become academic—Burial had taken up the torch of being Asheville’s most important brewery, and they’ve only grown stronger in the three years since, while setting their sights on rarified air through the opening of a truly beautiful second location, dubbed the Burial Forestry Camp. Opened only months ago on the grounds of a 1930s lumber camp, it represents the brewery ascending to a new level of refinement, even as they hold onto their singularly weird design aesthetic, dependent as it so often is upon metal band-sounding apocrypha and the depiction of death and rebirth.

Their lineup hews to some of the most beloved styles in American craft brewing today, especially in the realm of IPA, stout and saison. In each category, they have modern classics, from Surf Wax as one of the best pure IPAs, hazy or not, available on the East Coast, to the perennial classic that is Skillet Donut Stout, one of the best pure coffee stouts in the U.S., and an always solid pilsner in the form of Shadowclock. Perhaps most impressive was the time Burial took home #1 in a Paste blind tasting of 116 saisons, with their superlative Separation of Light and Darkness, a beer that has reappeared in several variants since. Ultimately, it’s here in the passion for saisons that Burial tips its hand—although the brewery may theme itself with over-the-top nomenclature and crazy labels, their true passion is for subtle interplay between flavors.


22. de Garde Brewing
Original location: Tillamook, OR
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Bu Weisse, Oude Desay, The Kriek

If there’s a story that really sums up the spirit of the decade, in terms of establishing a brewery, it’s that of de Garde’s Trevor and Linsey Rogers, the husband and wife duo who dedicated their tiny brewing project in 2012 to the pursuit of exclusively spontaneous fermentation. To do so, they searched up and down the Oregon coast, planting samples of wort in various locations in order to get a feel for the brett-y terroir of their home state. In the end, it was Tillamook that was chosen as host to what would go on to become one of the country’s best wild/sour breweries; a boutique-y operation that still sells the majority of its beer out of the taproom, but factors into “best brewery” conversations on the other side of the country nonetheless.

de Garde, as has often been observed, was on the forefront of many different movements at once. Obviously, they were pioneers for the beauty and simplicity of spontaneous fermentation, but simply making use of brettanomyces was hardly the only notable aspect to the company the Rogers founded. The longtime flagship Bu Weisse was especially significant, not only for its trend-setting fruited versions, but for the fact that it demonstrated how flavorful an extremely low-alcohol (only 2% ABV!) beer could be, under the right conditions. Looking at the modern alcohol market, which is prioritizing caloric consumption and lower ABVs, this was a very relevant observation. Likewise, de Garde essentially built a model for the modern, “on premise” brewing company, operated with minimal staff and intended for a modest audience. A brewery like de Garde was never meant to grow beyond a certain level, which at the time was almost a radical intent in and of itself. It was always a project meant to find a more humble form of homeostasis, while continuing to experiment and produce outstanding, small-batch beers.


21. 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
Original location: Munster, IN
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Permanent Funeral, Dark Lord, Alpha King

There weren’t many breweries that captured the 2010s zeitgeist more perfectly than 3 Floyds, even if Dark Lord Day actually stretches back as far as 2005. Still, it’s safe to say that the phenomenon of Dark Lord as an “event beer” didn’t truly take root in the beer geek consciousness in a major way until near the beginning of the 2010s, and ran wild from there. Take it from me: I was there in 2011, cracking open bombers of homebrew to share with the very thirsty participants, who had brought beers from around the country to parlay with one another as they stood in line, waiting to sample the fabled imperial stout. It was the sort of beer experience you’re unlikely to ever forget, regardless how much you may have drank at the time.

Situated in northwest Indiana, 3 Floyds has had an interesting relationship with Chicago in particular, entering and exiting distribution in the city multiple times over the years to keep up with production demands, which only increased the fervor for their beer. At times, the hype for classic 3 Floyds beers like the Zombie Dust “pale ale” (we all know it’s an IPA, in truth) extended well beyond people who regularly drank craft beer at all, to the point that macro lager drinkers were showing up at package stores, asking for Zombie Dust, unaware of what they were even ordering. That was the potency of 3 Floyds, near the middle of the decade in particular.

One shouldn’t simply reduce the brewery to a caricature, however. They aren’t simply brewers of IPA and imperial stout, despite how they’re often characterized. Rather, 3 Floyds has applied its particular verve to practically any style one can imagine throughout this decade, while preserving the charms of classic pours like Robert the Bruce, the company’s long-established scotch ale. Under its veneer of metal rock indifference, beats a heart that still cares.


20. Cigar City Brewing Co. (CANarchy)
Original location: Tampa, FL
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Jai Alai, Guayabera, Hunahpu’s

If Oskar Blues retains a sort of “honorary leader” title among the brewery brands acquired by CANarchy this decade, then Cigar City has essentially become “the muscle.” The steady national expansion of the beloved Florida brand has generated eye-popping sales figures, which have been all the more impressive given the industry-wide slowdown, and helped keep the overall CANarchy portfolio looking very healthy indeed. Much of this growth has been driven by a national embrace of the brand’s classic Jai Alai IPA, as the beer finds its way into far more hands than ever before, along with the launching of rising new brands like Guayabera pale ale.

More important to us at Paste, though, is the fact that the greater scale really hasn’t hurt the beer one bit—if anything, the last few batches we tasted of Jai Alai were arguably better than we’d had in the past. It’s an important beer in the history of IPA evolution, to be sure—a stepping stone between the pithy bitterness of true West Coast IPAs and the over-the-top juicy/dank assertiveness of modern hazy IPA. Jai Alai, and a few of its contemporaries (Creature Comforts Tropicalia is a good comparison), split that difference—they’re not hazy, and they have an appreciation for some degree of subtlety, but they’re also extremely inviting, with lightly sweet orange fruitiness and a tamped-down level of bitterness that arguably makes for the perfect middle ground. Suffice to say, we’re not at all surprised to see that brand thriving on a national level; it seems built to do exactly that.

So too did Cigar City have a hand, along with 3 Floyds, in helping to establish the idea of the high-profile beer release party this decade, as Hunahpu’s Day became a sensation, and often a headache for the brand in terms of planning and execution as the passion for their beer far outstripped what ownership was expecting. Still: That’s probably the kind of problem you’d prefer to have.


19. Breakside Brewery
Original location: Portland, OR
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Breakside IPA, Fitzcarraldo, Coming Out Party

Breakside displays the steady consistency of a brewery that seems almost built to be underrated—the kind of brewery that constantly wins medals and places impressively in blind tastings, but still doesn’t generate a lot of beer geek hype at the end of the day. They have that quietly confident quality that makes a place easy to overlook, and a flagship (Breakside IPA) that has won tons of hardware, not for being bombastic but for being perfectly composed and subtle. It’s the sort of beer that is a strong contender on any given year to walk out of GABF with the gold medal in American IPA, because there’s no denying that it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

Like a lot of the other breweries in our top 20, Breakside can also boast a high degree of eclecticism—they’re good at many different styles, and have placed impressively in any number of Paste blind tastings over the years, from pilsner and IPA to barleywine and Christmas ales. They are, in short, the opposite of one-trick ponies, and the sort of brewery that increases the overall quality of any blind tasting where they’re present. Even in the space of a single tasting, as in the last time we blind-tasted 324 IPAs, Breakside managed to land two significantly different IPAs into the top 15. That accomplishment sums up the capacity of these Portland brewers to inject variety even into the framework of a single style.


18. Half Acre Beer Co.
Original location: Chicago, IL
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Beer Hates Astronauts, Bon Hut, Magick is Purple

Chicago’s Half Acre truly was on the bleeding edge of the city’s craft beer revolution from the very beginning. When they first got rolling in 2007, contract brewing out of a small facility in Wisconsin, the city’s beer scene could hardly be said to exist at all outside of the pioneering efforts of Goose Island. By the time they’d opened up their own on-site facility in the northern neighborhood of Lincoln Square, though, a group of contemporaries had coalesced around them. Together, they pushed the Chicagoan beer geek’s state of mind firmly into the future, but no one did it with more of a verve for American hops than Half Acre. They remain perhaps the city’s preeminent IPA brewery, regardless of the opacity of the beer you may be holding in your hand, or the brand name on the can (Half Acre has had some complicated history, here). Clear, hazy, it doesn’t matter: Half Acre does an exceptional take on it.

This has all been borne out by Paste blind tastings, of course, across a wide array of styles—when we last blind tasted 324 IPAs, their Beer Hates Astronauts was the second highest-ranking non-hazy IPA in the entire competition, which is saying something, given the sheer murkiness of that particular field. Likewise, in our field of 143 wild/sour ales, Half Acre’s wine barrel-aged Magick is Purple found itself in elite territory, cruising to #3 overall, showing the brewery’s startling range. This has been a constant of the company—the more time goes by, the more they expand the wheelhouse of where they can be expected to excel. If Half Acre started out in the estimation of drinkers as a “hoppy brewery,” they’ve become much more well-rounded in the process, and that bodes well for this sort of ranking.

Factor in their efforts to bring a truly main event invitational beer fest to Chicago by establishing the Far & Away festival, and you’ve got top 20 brewery potential.


17. Prairie Artisan Ales
Original location: Oklahoma City, OK
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Prairie Ale, Standard, Bomb!

Between their obvious passion for saison and wild ales that informed the birth of the company, and the runaway success of just about everything related to the imperial stout Bomb!, Prairie Artisan Ales produces products to appeal to just about any style of beer geek. For lovers of hops, the Phantasmagoria DIPA beckons. For the saison purists, Standard is a reliable go-to, and the original Prairie Ale remains, in our estimation, one of the best classic-style saisons ever brewed in the U.S., with obvious allusions to the likes of Saison Du Pont.

Of course, when you’re thinking of Prairie these days, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about imperial stout. The creation of Bomb! certainly was a significant moment for the genre, presaging the arrival of pastry stout while also remaining a bit above that fray—Bomb! may be a decadent beer, but even in its crazier variants it retains some degree of gravitas that is now often lacking in pastry stout contemporaries. The original Bomb!, however, is arguably still the masterpiece of the series: waves of chocolate, vanilla and coffee, balanced by the earthiness and slightly piquant fruitiness of chiles, reining the finished beer in from becoming too one-dimensionally sweet.

Prairie also earns credit as the birthplace of offshoot American Solera from brewmaster Chase Healey, one of the country’s best pure wild ale producers, although slightly too young to earn its own space on the list.


16. Triple Crossing Beer
Original location: Richmond, VA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Interstellar Burst, Fault Line, Tiny Pils

The 2010s were certainly a decade of tumultuous growth within the Richmond beer scene, transforming a modest brewery community into a burgeoning tourist destination with a predilection for hazy IPA in particular. Today, the city can boast a strong array of IPA producers, both heralded (The Veil) and underknown (Final Gravity Brewing Co.), but the city’s strongest overall brewery usually seems to find itself somewhere in the middle. Those in the know seem to recognize that Triple Crossing represents a special confluence of elements that appeal to both the masses and devotees of the idiosyncratic, but at the same time the brewery often fails to receive credit for just how outstanding each new release can be expected to be. Their batting average, as it were, is impeccable—they’re a brewery that does not put out bad beer, and that separates them from so many of the darlings whose weekly can releases fluctuate wildly as a consequence of the “limited release” obsession that currently drives the industry. Triple Crossing is consistent, and that’s especially true within the sphere of Paste’s blind tastings, where the brewery has had a sterling track record—most recently a #3 finish among 102 lagers. Even more impressive? They once scored #2 and #4 with two different beers in a blind tasting of 176 DIPAs. Now that is dominance.

But the funny thing is, even those who properly appreciate one aspect of Triple Crossing (like their well-loved IPAs, such as Falcon Smash) have a tendency to overlook just how well they do certain other styles, and the entire lager world in particular. Moreso than almost any other hyped IPA brewery we can think of, the people at TC are clearly obsessed with lager beer styles, and they pursue them with a dedication to variety that is extremely admirable. That translates to a wide array of pilsners, for instance, but this isn’t a surface-level of examination of lagers—Triple Crossing is also brewing all variety of helles, dunkels, kellerbiers and beyond, and at any given time there’s probably four or five lagers available at the taproom. That alone makes for an extremely rare sight at a brewery taproom in 2019, and it’s time they were recognized for it.


15. Trillium Brewing Co.
Original location: Boston, MA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Scaled, Raspberry Soak, Melcher Street

Poster children of the NE-IPA movement, few breweries benefited more from the rise of hazy IPA than Trillium, one of several companies whose name became indelibly linked to the style regardless of whatever they might have been pouring in the taproom that day. Although the roots of hazy IPA stretch back to the pioneering work of breweries like The Alchemist and Maine Beer Co., it was brewers like Trillium (and contemporaries like Tree House) that not only brought the style into prominence as it exists today, but are largely responsible for the modern business plan of hyped, limited release can batches of hazy IPA, sold directly from a brewery taproom. Like it or hate it, that method of doing business was incredibly influential to where we are today.

And indeed, Trillium makes some lovely hazy IPAs, and always has, although we’re often inclined to prefer the original, “single dry hopped” versions more than the DDH craziness with which they became associated. Those beers have a tendency to veer dangerously close to “hop burn” territory, as we’ve written about in the past, which has become one of the primary pitfalls to hazy IPA’s popularity.

At the same time, however, the focus on IPA has also caused some of the best beer from Trillium to be overlooked over the years, as the brewery’s range of fruited sours and barrel-aged wild ales are often world class—perhaps their strongest overall feature. It’s these beers that help push the brewery into the upper echelons of the 2010s.


14. Russian River Brewing Co.
Original location: Santa Rosa, CA
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: STS Pils, Beatification, Pliny the Elder

Had the hazy IPA movement not cropped up in the middle of this decade, Russian River might well be a shoo-in for the #1 spot on this list—for the first half of the decade, at least, there was really no other brewery that could be used to better describe the zeitgeist of the age. In the era before hoppy beers turned toward “juiciness” as a driving factor, there was no IPA more universally revered than their legendary Pliny the Elder, or the even rarer still Younger—which we’ve still never actually sampled, all these years later, although we hope the day does finally come.

This is not to say that Russian River has somehow diminished as the industry has changed—far from it, in fact. Rather, the palette of flavors they provide is arguably now more vital than ever, providing as it does a thoughtful alternative to what is currently in vogue. Pliny the Elder remains an absolute classic of the genre, balancing citrus zestiness and resin with pine needles and assertive bitterness, while the more easily attainable Blind Pig IPA falls close on the family tree. Professional brewers have likewise made the often underappreciated STS Pils into a truly cult beer at this point, and the wild side of the company is as pure and immaculate as ever. All it takes is one sip of classic beers like Beatification, Supplication or Consecration to see that the folks at Russian River are masters of their craft, and direct inspirations upon so many of the breweries that were founded this decade with “wild beer” firmly in their sights. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that of all the breweries on this list, Russian River may be the most imitated of the 2010s, at least in terms of the desire of many brewers to one day live up to this level.


13. Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
Original location: Decorah, IA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Pseudo Sue, Mornin’ Latte, Fire, Skulls & Money

One of the less reported beer stories of the 2010s may have been the emergence of top-tier breweries from the heart of what is derogatorily referred to as “flyover country,” whether that’s the likes of Prairie in Oklahoma, Side Project in Missouri or Toppling Goliath in Iowa. In the years that had come before, the beer scenes of these places had tended to be characterized by a reliance on traditional or “basic” beer styles, and those who lived in notable beer hubs such as San Diego likely pictured the average Midwest brewery as a dusty old brewpub with a menu of pale ale, amber ale and brown ale, etc. The likes of Toppling Goliath refuted those expectations and then some, showing that trend-setting, cutting-edge beer could be expected to hail from every corner of the craft beer horizon.

Few breweries did this while building such a voracious fanbase in the last decade as Toppling Goliath. For much of the decade, demand was so great that beer geeks in nearby hubs like Chicago were essentially taunted by the popularity of classic offerings like Pseudo Sue, a beer named after a Chicago landmark, which rarely if ever found its way into the city. In more recent years, as production has ramped up, it’s become a bit easier to sample TG’s wares, culminating in a few Paste blind tasting appearances that were quite impressive indeed—especially Pseudo Sue nabbing a #4 finish among 151 pale ales. Couple that with the fervor for the brand’s massive barrel-aged stouts, like SR-71, Mornin’ Delight or the now legendary KBBS, and you have one of the breweries that most helped define the current shape of “prestige stout.”

Perhaps the only thing holding TG back from an even higher ranking, in fact, is that we’ve never had a chance to sample many of the brewery’s most sought-after releases. But in that, we’re in good company.


12. The Rare Barrel
Original location: Berkeley, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Map of the Moon, Alchemy + Magic, Hyper Paradise

You’ll have to try pretty damn hard to find another brewery with such consistently creative and transcendent sour releases as The Rare Barrel was able to boast throughout the 2010s. No matter what the unexpected combination of ingredients, or what style of beer was acting as a base, or what occasion said beer was intended to celebrate, Berkeley’s barrel wizards were always able to come up with a resulting that was both surprising and deeply satisfying.

A Rare Barrel beer can be decadently over-the-top in its own way, boasting so much fruit that it transcends a question like “What does an apricot taste like?” in something like Map of the Sun/Map of the Moon, or transport you to a tropical getaway, as in the passionfruit and mango-redolent Hyper Paradise. Or, it can lean more into the spirit that once existed in the barrel itself, as in the spicy and festiva Home, Sour Home holiday beer, or the cocktail-inspired Alchemy & Magic, aged in gin barrels with cucumber, juniper and rosemary. The genius of The Rare Barrel is in both conception and execution—they conceive ideas that go beyond what most would attempt, and then bring them to life in a way most wouldn’t be able to match if they tried.


11. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.
Original location: Austin, TX
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Industry Pils, Hell Yes, Rocket 100

Whenever I need to explain to somehow how awesome Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. is—this happens more often than you’d think—there’s always one easy way to drive this point home. It’s this: From 2016-2018, in a three-year span, ABGB won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in no fewer than four categories. Those categories were as follows: German Pilsner, Czech Pilsner, American-Style Pilsner, and Munich Helles.

You shouldn’t need to know anything more than that to realize that you are dealing with a brewery whose grasp over German lager-making is on an entirely different level. To achieve one gold medal in a classic style like German pilsner is an achievement that most brewers strive for over the course of their entire careers. Brian “Swifty” Peters and Amos Lowe of ABGB made the best pilsner across three different pilsner substyles, plus a bonus gold in helles, and did it in only three years of entering the competition. What more could you possibly even achieve? You wouldn’t even be able to blame them if they just elected to retire undefeated at that point; it would be well within their right.

If this kind of thing happened across IPA styles, ABGB would be the hottest brewery in America, but of course this is pilsner we’re talking about, so the brewery’s celebrity still remains on the niche side. In the modern beer era, there are more and more great pilsner breweries every year, which is something we’re very grateful for. But I’ve yet to have any one that can match up to the beautiful, floral brilliance and impeccable balance of bitterness found in ABGB’s Industry Pils, which won our last pilsner blind tasting without breaking a sweat.


10. The Alchemist
Original location: Stowe, VT
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Heady Topper, Focal Banger, Luscious

The lore surrounding the creation of Heady Topper, acknowledged by most as the ur-beer of the hazy IPA substyle, has always been fraught with a certain equally hazy mythology. The Alchemist first opened as a brewpub in Stowe in 2003, and the creation of Heady followed some time not long thereafter, but the beer then was by no means the sensation it would become. Indeed, it’s not really even clear if the beer was always “hazy” or semi-hazy from the start, or whether it became that way over time, but the one thing we can say with certainty is that it slowly built a small but passionate cult of local drinkers. By the end of the 2000s, a particularly eagle-eyed observer might have been able to see the beginning of a new substyle beginning to take shape, built up and down the East Coast by breweries such as Maine Beer Co. and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, but The Alchemist and Heady Topper were always the names you heard first. Even by the beginning of the 2010s, though, there was no indication that the scions of these beers would eventually become completely ubiquitous in the IPA market.

Today, it’s funny to think of Heady Topper, a beer that was mythical to so many for a number of years, as being just one more “hazy IPA,” but there’s indeed a certain segment of the beer geek market that thinks of it as a beer that has essentially been left behind by the style’s evolution. We’d prefer to be a bit more positive—it remains essential even now, having remained a static anchor of NE-IPA’s beginning, even as the style raced past it (and in many cases, off a cliff). It is, especially when fresh, a bang-up DIPA, just as The Alchemist’s own Focal Banger is an utterly delicious, lighter-weight variant. Their ultimate impact is most closely tied to the beers they inspired, but you can say that of any innovator. And few breweries have ever been so ahead of the game on what would become a major stylistic evolution as The Alchemist.


9. Hill Farmstead Brewery
Original location: Greensboro Bend, VT
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Edward, Everett, Anna

If you could go back in time to the mid-2000s and explain to the ownership of some successful regional brewery that in the next decade, the most popular format for critically acclaimed breweries would be operating in small capacity and making the customer come to you, in order to buy beer to go, is there any chance they would have believed such a thing would be possible? Outside of comparisons like the abbeys of Belgian monks, where customers had been carting away beer for centuries, would American brewers have believed a place like Hill Farmstead could be successful, much less produce some of the country’s most rabidly sought after beers?

It was, suffice to say, a vision of how a brewery could operate that upended the established norm of what it was to manage a successful beer business. Here, success wouldn’t be measured by percentage growth of dollar sales or increased volume of production. Rather, it would be measured in art.

Did that sound pretentious? Probably, but it’s almost difficult to discuss the romantic aspects of Shaun Hill’s creation without slipping into flowery language. The beers produced on that little Vermont farm have run the gamut of styles, unified in their quality, whether they’re pale ale or saison, porter or barrel-aged wild ale. We’ve still never had a chance to taste quite as many of them as we’d like, but we’ve had enough to possess a deep respect for everything Hill Farmstead has done to elevate the genre.


8. Maine Beer Co.
Original location: Freeport, ME
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Lunch, Dinner, Mean Old Tom

Outside of perhaps the likes of Heady Topper, the concept of NE-IPA as “hazy IPA” didn’t arrive all at once, pristine and fully formed. Rather, it evolved gradually in that direction, which means there are a number of “missing link” breweries that still exist along that particular family tree. Maine Beer Co. is the apex of those missing links; a brewery that helped spur the development away from bitter, pithy West Coast IPA but also stopped well short of the modern juice bombs. Their particular brand of IPA, encapsulated in the now archetypal Lunch, strove for all things balance—a sublime middle ground between citrus and green flavors, sweetness and dryness, and a perfectly calculated level of bitterness. There may be no IPA in the world, even now, that is more of the cosmic “happy medium”—Lunch is the kind of beer you could put into the hands of practically anyone who likes hops, and they would enjoy it.

Of course, you could also say that of most of Maine’s other beers as well. This is a brewery dedicated to approachability and the almost lost art of subtlety; one with confidence in its consumer to be able to tell that ingredients (hops included) exist in a beer without them being cranked up to maximum intensity all the time. Consider their superlative Mean Old Tom, a top 10 finisher the last time we blind tasted stouts under 8% ABV, which features vanilla beans in such a subtle way that you actually might not quite realize they’re present at all. Do they improve the beer? Certainly—the vanilla adds a subtle richness and amplifies the beer’s gentle cocoa nature. Maine simply trusts its drinker to enjoy this style of “vanilla stout” without barging into a taproom to demand “WHERE’S THE VANILLA?!?”

Now, if only we could get our hands on Dinner a little bit more often …


7. Side Project Brewing
Original location: Maplewood, MO
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Saison du Ble, Fuzzy, Bière du Pays

If my years of attending beer festivals have taught me anything, it’s that beer geeks are more than willing to look silly by sprinting across a festival site, if it means they can beat the line to Side Project Brewing. It’s a scene I’ve watched play out year after year, which is as good a metaphor as anything for how captivating the releases from the small St. Louis brewery have been since the very beginning. Even at a festival filled with absolute titans of the industry, those people are still making a beeline for Side Project when the doors open, which marks them as elite among the elite.

Side Project was, as the name would imply, an offshoot of an earlier brewery, as brewmaster/owner Cory King first established the brand at Perennial Artisan Ales (also on this list) before making the jump to a facility of his own. Their specialty over the years has varied, but typically falls within the realm of wild ales, with an emphasis on clarity and simplicity more than beers that feature a collection of crazy ingredients. King’s mixed culture saisons and spontaneous fermentation beers feature some of the most carefully curated strains of yeast and bacteria in the brewing world—they are living (literally) testaments to just how geeky one guy can be about microfauna.

The sheer depth of flavor in those releases, seen especially in the variants of beers such as Saison du Ble and Saison Fermier, completely justify the enthusiasm for the brand—they are each subtle symphonies of tart, fruit, funk and refreshment. Much noise is also made about the brand’s barrel-aged stouts, of course, but for our money it’s the wild ales that make Side Project impossible to replicate.


6. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Original location: Chico, CA
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: Hazy Little Thing, Summerfest, Otra Vez

Of all the big, regional powerhouses out there, is there a “legacy” brewery that exists with more goodwill toward it than Sierra Nevada? Our answer would be “no,” and rightly so—both through the evolution of their beer portfolio, and their groundbreaking work in charitable giving, Sierra Nevada has kept itself as one of the most relevant and indispensable breweries of the decade.

The expectation, with a brewery this old, has essentially become a certain degree of ossification, as the brewery resists change and clings to the past, but although SNPA is never going anywhere, Sierra Nevada has also continued to evolve in big ways. Their Hazy Little Thing has had by far the largest national impact of any brand in bringing an approachable version of NE-IPA to the masses, and proven phenomenally successful to boot, helping Sierra return to volume growth after the beginning of the industry slow-down. So too has the brand launched successful and unique takes on such such styles as gose (Otra Vez), brett beers (Brux) and even their fair share of pilsners (Nooner, Summerfest) over the course of the decade. Now, if only the classic Sierra Nevada Stout was still in stores! Regardless, there are few finer places to enjoy a beer than Sierra’s beautiful facilities, especially the expansive (and drop-dead gorgeous) campus it built in Fletcher, NC.

Moreover, the brewery captured national attention once again this decade with their response to the devastating Camp Fire in California, as the Resilience Butte County Proud IPA project challenged breweries around the country to brew the same beer in unison, donating profits to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. The project ultimately raised more than $8 million for families (including Sierra brewery employees) whose homes were destroyed in the fire, in a truly unique display of craft beer community philanthropism.


5. Jester King
Original location: Austin, TX
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Atrial Rubicite, Aurelian Lure, SPON – Méthode Traditionelle

When Jeff Stuffings and Michael Steffing first began laying aside barrels on a 200-acre ranch west of Austin in 2010, it’s fair to say they were exploring some pretty lightly trod territory in American craft beer. A decade ago, if you asked your average beer geek about “barrel-aged beer,” the majority of them would invariably have assumed you were speaking of bourbon barrel-aged stouts in the vein of Bourbon County Brand Stout or Founders KBS—these were the archetypes by which the average consumer learned how wood could interact with beer. But where those beers were more showcases for the spirits that were once aged inside their wooden structures, Stuffings and Steffing imagined a beer project that would instead seek to bring stateside the sublimely subtle qualities of classic European barrel-aged beer styles. They wanted U.S. beer drinkers to experience tart, funky styles such as gueuze, which Belgian drinkers had been familiar with for centuries.

And yeah—they did a good job of it as well. Jester King went on to become perhaps the most generally outstanding and sought-after of all the U.S. wild ale specialists, inspiring countless other breweries to look beyond the clean-fermenting world of American ale yeast. Their traditional ales were flawless, but at the same time, Jester King forged ahead with American ingenuity, pushing the limits of aspects like “how much fruit can we stick in a barrel?” in the creation of all-time classics such as Atrial Rubicite, profoundly changing the American idea of fruited sours in the process. To a corner of the beer world that had traditionally been limited to fruit such as cherries (in kriek, etc.), Jester King brought a willingness to get downright weird, experimenting with how every fruit flavor imaginable could be transformed with cocktails of wild yeast and bacteria. And in the process, they added another bonafide to the history of “Weird Austin,” a city blessed by both world-class pilsner and sours.


4. Allagash Brewing Co.
Original location: Portland, ME
On 2009 list?: Yes
Our favorite beers: White, Coolship Resurgam, Mattina Rossa

To the list of things in this world that can be considered “certain,” alongside both death and taxes, we propose the addition of one more addendum: the quality of new Allagash releases. More so than any other brewery on this list, that’s the most earnest compliment we can pay to the legendary Maine bastion of Belgian brews: Every time they put out a new beer, it feels like there’s a specific reason for it to exist. It feels like something that has been pored over and refined, sanded until smooth and inspected for perfection. Nothing feels haphazard, or trend-chasing. They are the most intentional of breweries.

It all starts with White, of course—the beer that built the brewery, and an effortless winner the first time we blind-tasted wheat beers at Paste. Its greatness has never been diminished, and if anything, we can appreciate it more now than ever before, especially as it’s now available in cans (what a time to be alive). It’s a classic case of a workhorse flagship brew, now so rare in American brewing, the success of which funds all the experimentation and flights of fancy that Allagash is known for. Having White in the portfolio is a blessing of the highest order.

Beyond White, how can one even narrow down the field of memorable Allagash releases over the course of the last decade? Coolship Resurgam is one that certainly comes to mind with immediacy, providing a style-defining template for American-made gueuze, funky and complex in a way that few drinkers had ever experienced before unless they’d literally visited Belgium. But it’s just one entry among so many sparkling releases, whether they’re fruity wild ales, stouts or even the requisite, occasional IPA. There were very few breweries we were more excited to receive beer from, from the start of the decade until its end.


3. Fremont Brewing
Original location: Seattle, WA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: BBA Dark Star, Shingle Town, B-Bomb

In all our years of blind tastings at Paste, there’s never been an anomaly so pronounced as the sheer dominance of Seattle’s Fremont Brewing. Across myriad styles, and across the course of years, Fremont distinguished itself time and time again, despite not being a brewery that many geeks would have cited as one of the hottest or trendiest around. In our blind tasting of 144 barrel-aged stouts, their BBA Dark Star finished at #1, winning with a beguiling combination of complex flavors and a velvety mouthfeel that none of its competition could match. That would have been a statement win, in and of itself, but Fremont’s blind tasting performance eventually became something of a running gag of the entire Paste blind tasting series. In no particular order, Fremont also finished with the #1 lager out of 102 entries, the #1 kolsch out of 41 entries and the #21 IPA out of 324 entries. And that’s not even mentioning beers like B-Bomb, a perennial top 10 finisher in our Christmas ale tastings. No matter what style it was we were tasting, it always seemed like Fremont knew precisely how to excel.

The other commonality? None of those beers won their blind tastings by being the biggest, the loudest or the most brazen of the entries in their field. Fremont isn’t a brewery that makes beer with the philosophy of “more” and “bigger,” which goes some way in explaining why they don’t have people beating down the doors for most of these offerings. Their signature is the crafting of classics via subtlety and focus on the little things. In Dark Star, it’s the sublimely soft, chewy texture. In the spectacular hazy IPA Shingle Town, it’s the approachable balance of lightly juicy fruit impressions and dry finish. In Pride, their winning kolsch dedicated to Seattle’s LGBTQ community, it’s the delicate interplay of nouveau American hops and a pillowy, bready malt base. Every Fremont beer can be expected to contain hidden depths in this way. If we were going exclusively by “average ranking” in Paste blind tastings, it would probably be difficult for any other brewery to come close.


2. Tree House Brewing Co.
Original location: Charlton, MA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Julius, Double Shot, Green

We’ve spent a lot of time in this list talking about hazy IPA, either directly or obliquely. We’ve hit upon elements of its origin in entries on The Alchemist and Maine Beer Co. We’ve listed off breweries known for their killer hazies, be it Trillium or Great Notion. But after almost 9 years, we’re not sure anyone’s still done it any better than Tree House, one of the first breweries to rise to prominence specifically on the back of hazy IPA. Since 2011, their house style has managed to fuse over-the-top hop presentation with a certain, ephemeral je ne sais quoi that set them apart from many of their peers; an ability to work within the bounds of decadence to deliver beers that were somehow never difficult to drink, despite how vivacious they often were. If you’ve had much in the way of bad hazy IPA in the last five years (and god knows we have), then you’ll know precisely what I’m talking about. Hell, Tree House’s beers even manage to look as good as they taste.

Consider, for a moment, the company’s legendary Julius IPA, which should be easy to acknowledge as a masterpiece to anyone with any kind of appreciation for the style. It’s a microcosm of everything that Tree House does well when it comes to hops—pillowy soft in terms of mouthfeel, but also ethereally light. Bursting with fruity impressions of mango, passionfruit and citrus juice, but simultaneously dry on the finish, with just enough residual sweetness to lend the fruit flavors a lifelike impression. Ever-so-slightly bitter, to balance out that sweetness. A glass of Julius, unlike so many of the beers it inspired, is incredibly easy to drink, and incredibly pleasant as well. That’s what sets it apart.

And of course, there is more to Tree House than just hops. For as good as their IPA lineup is, their stouts are very much their equal, whether we’re talking about the frequently released That’s What She Said or the brilliantly balanced Double Shot coffee stout. Together, they form a one-two punch that is just about unrivaled in terms of pure, hedonistic delight.


1. Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Duvel Moortgat)
Original location: Paso Robles, CA
On 2009 list?: No
Our favorite beers: Union Jack, Mocha Merlin, Sucaba, Feral One, Pivo

First things first: You’ll note that I was unable to stop at merely three beers in the “our favorite beers” field of this entry, but I’ll take this opportunity to invoke the writer’s privilege. Firestone Walker simply makes too many good beers to stop at three, and that’s an obvious element of why they find themselves here at #1. But on a deeper level, they check every box we could use to measure “best of the 2010s.” They have the overall beer portfolio, deep variety and eclecticism to be #1. They’ve been deeply influential on multiple aspects of the industry, from barrel-aged stouts to the shape of modern pilsner. They’ve created what remains arguably the best beer festival in the world today. And their consistency is nearly unrivaled. All of these things make for the most consistently outstanding brewery of the decade, taking the whole of the 2010s into consideration.

On the beer side of the equation, Firestone has the unique distinction of having a top-tier example of nearly every popular style. Classic IPA is represented by Union Jack, the beer that finished #1 the first time Paste ever conducted an IPA tasting, way back in 2013. Hazy IPA now has the year-round Mind Haze, one of the few widespread hazy challengers to the likes of Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing. Standard-strength stout receives the sumptuous Velvet/Mocha Merlin. Easy Jack is among the best low-ABV IPAs. Pivo exposed the U.S. to “Italian-style” pilsner. The wild side of the spectrum hits such highs as the cherry-based Krieky Bones, or even the pumpkin-infused El Gourdo. And then there are all the barrel-aged beauties, from barleywine (Sucaba), to imperial stout (Parabola), to each year’s masterpiece of an Anniversary Ale, blended by Paso Robles’ wine-blending community. No other brewery explores so many different avenues, while doing them all equally well.

And then there are factors like the Firestone Walker Invitational, which helped to alter the very DNA of how beer festivals were planned and attended in the U.S. This change of focus, away from large-scale festivals with sprawling guest lists, and onto highly curated, smaller festivals that seek to maximize the quality of each offering, went a long way in keeping the idea of “beer fests” relevant as we progressed into the second half of the decade.

In the end, the lion (or the bear, take your pick) wears the crown.


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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