The easiest part of the job for every craft beer magazine’s editor is picking favorites; in 2017, it’s also the hardest. With more breweries opening across the country than at any other time in history, we’re faced with a paradox of choice.
But the choices had to be made. In making our picks, we didn’t focus on the one facet of the taproom experience, but the entire thing: walking into a new taproom, finding a seat, ordering a cold one, and wiling away a few hours in unadulterated bliss. From New York to Oregon, these are our favorites from 2017.
Editor’s Note: Expect a skewing toward Northeast openings, as our office is located in NYC and, for better or worse, that’s where most of our attention is focused.
Hudson Valley Brewery
The taproom is scenic. The can art is unreal. The beer is unlike anything we’ve ever tasted. Our favorite brewery of 2017 is Hudson Valley, founded in early 2017 by Jason Synan, Mike Renganeschi, and John-Anthony Gargiulo. For its first few can releases, the brewery released sours, IPAs, and sour IPAs, but demand quickly revealed that the sour IPA was going to put them on the map. If you’re lining up on release day, expect surreal concoctions like Multichorus, a sour IPA with raw wheat, malted oat, milk sugar, white chocolate, vanilla, cardamom and Citra powder, or Ultrasphere, another sour IPA, this one brewed with raw wheat, malted oats, Citra and Mosaic lupulin powder, and milk sugar, before being conditioned on raspberries and vanilla beans. Read our interview with Hudson Valley here.
Little Beast Brewing
At the beginning of the year, ex-Logsdon co-founder Charles Porter took over Brannon’s Pub & Brewery in Beaverton, Oregon, and opened Little Beast Brewing. The classy little brewery with the killer logo is “rooted in old world technique,” which means aging with diverse cultures like Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and wild flora.
Give another point to the Hudson Valley. The region just north of New York City has become a brewer’s mecca, home to many new and established breweries like Industrial Arts, Hudson Valley, Plan Bee, Suarez, Sloop, District 96, and soon-to-open Woodstock Brewing. Now you can add Equilibrium to the list. Founded by Ricardo Petroni and Peter Oates — both of whom earned graduate degrees in environmental engineering from MIT — the brewery has already become a staple in the Northeast trading community for its hazy IPAs.
Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending
With Fonta Flora, North Carolina got a resident specialist in barrel-aging and blending. Now, it has another. Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending in Durham, which opened summer 2017, makes “100% Oak fermented, rustic fruit driven, wild artisanal style ales that marry local terroir and aggressive flavor profiles.” Count us in.
Barrel Theory Beer Company
Founded by former Surly employee’s Brett Splinter and Timmy Johnson, as well as friend Todd Tibesar, Barrel Theory Beer Company is St. Paul’s newest taproom. The space is one of the most beautiful we’ve seen in a new brewery, with a 25-seat bar, exposed wood ceilings, and a cellar for 150 barrels that utilizes wood and stone from the building’s original foundation.
Named as an acronym for all five Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior), HOMES Brewery in Ann Arbor, Michigan is an experience done right. Every facet of the brewery has been carefully considered by owner Tommy Kennedy, from the German-style glassware to the menu of Asian street-style food. And we haven’t even mentioned the beer program, headed by former Right Brain Brewery head brewer Nick Panchame.
District 96 Beer Company
Honestly, we tried NOT to add another Hudson Valley brewery, but the region has been sprinkled with magic beer dust — or is that lupulin powder? Either way, we’re giving District 96 a nod. Founded in New City, New York by John Potenza, the brewery specializes in American-style ales, brewed by former New England Brewing Company brewer Chase Planson. Just for fun, the brewery has a slight political bend that pokes fun at both sides of the fence — YUUUUGE is a 6.4% ABV IPA made with “the BEST water and the BEST hops in the BEST country.” The brewery’s food menu comes from The Burger Loft, Potenza’s original project that adjoins the brewery.
In 1966, Pierre Celis revived the Belgian Witbier at Hoegaarden in Belgium. In 1992, he founded Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas. In 2001, Celis Brewery closed. In 2017, Christine Celis re-opened the brewery that her father founded. The brewery will make their famed Celis White, and has one of the coolest bars we’ve ever seen, made from a turn of the century, hand beaten copper kettle.
New Park Brewing
We’ve been to Hartford, Connecticut, and until now we haven’t had too many fantastic things to report. But that’s changing — New Park Brewing, founded by John Doyle, Tom Atkins, and Alex Dee, has us raving. The West Hartford joint brews a wide variety of clean beers, from IPAs to a Belgian Dubbel and an Oatmeal Milk Stout, and in June they released Afterglow, a raspberry Berliner Weisse that marked the first installment of the their Blender series of fruited sours. During their opening weekend in March, the brewery sold out so quickly that they closed for two weeks in order to catch up on production.
Fox Farm Brewery
We love a farmhouse brewery that’s actually on a farm. Located 35 minutes from Hartford, 2 hours from Boston, and 2.5 hours from New York City, Fox Farm sits on a 30 acre parcel of land, and the brewing operation itself is housed in a 1960s barn. “From the soils come the spoils,” reads their motto, and they specialize in a variety of delicate styles, including IPAs, lagers, and farmhouse ales.
Reach Break Brewing
2017 has been a great year for juicy IPAs, thick stouts, saisons, and sours, and that’s exactly what Reach Break Brewing of Astoria, Oregon will make. The brewery is owned by brothers Josh and Jared Allison, both avid homebrewers — Jared also rounded out his education at Ninkasi Brewing, among others.
Green Cheek Beer Co.
Over the past few years, Noble Ale Works in Anaheim has become one of Southern California’s hottest destinations. Much of the credit goes to Head Brewer Evan Price, who left Noble earlier this year to found Green Cheek Beer Co. with former noble CFO Brian Russo. The duo took over their space from the now-defunct Valiant Brewing and began making the same types of IPAs that made Noble famous. Both sour and wild ales and adjunct stouts are in the works.