These New Craft Breweries Leave a Big Impression
One of our favorite parts of being craft brewery fans is exploring new breweries, and we bet you agree.
Not that you ever need an excuse to visit a small and independent brewery near you, but since it’s American Craft Beer Week, we wanted to highlight newer brewpubs, microbreweries and beer companies that might not be on your radar yet.
Our CraftBeer.com contributors are based all across the U.S. — and they also travel a bunch for beer (yeah, their job is probably cooler than yours). We asked them to tell us about their favorite newer breweries — i.e., breweries that have opened in the last two or three years — they’d recommend.
Andrew Jockers | Pittsburgh | Follow @Jockers23Andrew
Pittsburgh is city of communities. It is a collection of areas and townships that are normally united by professional sports and a lot of bridges. Recently, however, the Steel City has been experiencing an exciting jolt of energy to its entire craft beer scene. Over the past few years, small and independent craft breweries have been sprouting up all over, and the city has found another thing to unite itself over.
With the many newcomers to the Pittsburgh beer community, every facet of beer is on display. The Dancing Gnome Brewing Company offers a master class in the use of hops, while Cobblehaus Brewing Company showcases the true might of malts. Strange Roots Experimental Ales (specializing in sour and Belgian-style beers) boggles the mind with a dazzling display of the awesome powers of yeast.
This ever-growing community is strengthened by a constant stream of impressive new members like 11th Hour Brewing — and by the continued growth of longer-standing members like Hitchhiker Brewing, which has expanded to an additional, larger brewing location.
This growing neighborhood shows its local pride and spirit in the newest breweries filling its arsenal. Mindful Brewing shows off the open, good-natured attitude of the community by featuring dozens more tap handles than just their beer alone in their restaurant, and Abjuration Brewing Company even offers up each of its recipes online, making them available for people to attempt to brew themselves at home. It’s an amazing, ever-growing craft community.
Lori Rice | Visalia, CA | Follow @lori_rice
When my husband and I moved from the Bay Area to California’s South Central Valley, one big concern was a loss of access to excellent craft beer and afternoons enjoying that beer at outdoor tasting rooms. It turns out that we should not have been so worried. Soon after our move we began receiving word of more and more breweries opening their doors. We first visited Rocky Hill Brewing about a month after their opening to find an European-style stucco building tucked just below the foothills of Sequoia National Park, surrounded operating citrus orchards, dead grape vines, and rusted farm equipment. I was sold on the mysterious view and the New England-style IPA from that moment on.
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Owner Ben Litwack has a degree in enology and used to make wine at the location. Seeing a change in demand and an increase in the popularity of craft beer, a year ago he changed his game plan and began brewing beer to the benefit of the Central Valley. The spot has seen numerous upgrades over the last year with seating and landscaping, but that peaceful outdoor beer scene with Valley views remains. Likewise, the quality of the beer has only improved as the menu has expanded to include coffee porters, stouts, and more hop experiments for stellar IPAs. The brewery celebrated its one-year anniversary on April 22.
David Nilsen | Dayton, OH | Follow @davidnilsenbeer
Dayton, Ohio, has a vibrant beer scene, but the local brewery I’m most excited about is still a few weeks away from opening. Branch & Bone Artisan Ales is putting the finishing touches on its brewery in a former auto body shop in the historic South Park neighborhood. The Branch & Bone team will focus on farmhouse, foraged and mixed-fermentation beers, a niche that hasn’t yet been filled in the Dayton scene. Also? Their head brewer is named Brett. Can you think of a more auspicious name for a mixed-fermentation brewer? I didn’t think so. They plan to satisfy all palates, however, as they recently released a special collaboration with Fifty West Brewing called Stuck in Amarillo, a 9.2% ABV New England-style IPA made with honey. This place can’t open soon enough.
My wife and I travel a lot in search of good beer, both on assignment and just for fun. After a recent trip to North Carolina, I wrote an article for CraftBeer.com about Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, which opened in early 2017. This business combines a Belgian-focused brewery (though they make some killer big IPAs too), a Chinese dim sum restaurant, a fresh flower boutique and a bookstore. The beers are just about flawless top to bottom, the space is gorgeous, and the entire Bhavana team take the concept of hospitality to the next level. I miss this place already, and can’t wait to get back to Raleigh.
Ale Sharpton | Atlanta | Follow @alesharpton
I have documented Atlanta’s beer scene since moving down in 1995. After some significant law changes, including a raised ABV percentage to 14 percent and recently allowing on-premise sales, there has been a major craft brewery and brewpub boom. Addressing the latter, a trio has recently emerged and instantly garnered respect for their palate-pleasing, one-two punch — serving delectable fare alongside frothy ales and crisp lagers made on site.
I’m fortunate enough to live two blocks from the always festive Torched Hop, which not only specializes in my favorite style—IPAs with its Hops De Leon NE leading the way — but they also deliver with their housemade pizzas and juicy burgers. Here’s a bonus: One of them is a delicious Impossible version for meatless diets.
Along the northern perimeter resides one of the most original concepts in the brewing world, Hopstix; they pair gourmet Asian-inspired cuisine with everything from their two Kung Fu Hops IPA versions to the Rice & Shine Asian lager brewed with, yes, steamed jasmine rice. Just celebrating its first year, ‘Stix welcomes visitors with an exposed kitchen showcasing uniformed chefs filleting fresh tuna for sushi, turning meats over Robata fires, and spooning king crab fried rice. Dope!
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Just outside ATL’s perimeter, Roswell has become a force to be reckoned with, and its recent addition of the culinary forward From The Earth is a major reason why. Evidently, FTE takes its name seriously; since opening last November, the doors of its industrial-chic location have local farmers delivering organically grown vegetables and hormone-free meats daily. Of course, their beer program is just as solid, with brewing icon Kevin McNerney — the co-founder of SweetWater — tending to the tanks brewing a top-class roster of styles. Staying consistent, their Going Out West IPA is my go-to brew to sip on their patio complete with a garden. Now that’s keeping it real.
Oh, and the straight-up brewery Variant Brewing just a few minutes away is killing it too. Within its first few months, a growing legion of beer geeks have been flocking to try virtually everything they are pulling taps for.
I travel a lot, but Atlanta has me pretty darn spoiled! However, I’m looking forward to Fonta Flora’s new brewing headquarters set to open this year just minutes from their original Morganton, North Carolina location. Owner and head brewer Todd Boera is simply special with what he does with his European-inspired selections.
Jess Baker | Atlanta | Follow @craftcurious
As we were editing this article, I realized my pal Ale Sharpton had you covered when it comes to new Atlanta breweries and brewpubs, so I’m going to focus on a few notable new breweries I found while I traveled.
I love exploring new breweries and brewpubs on the road. 4KD Crick Brewery on a golf course in the farm town of Defiance, Ohio, brews a saison that I can’t wait to have again. After introducing my sisters and aunt to Earnest Brew Works in Maumee, Ohio, they planned a second trip (all by themselves!) to the brewery for the next week to try the special cask release — a rare but awesome group activity for my usually wine-loving family.
When I was in Austin, the beertender at Blue Owl Brewing said his favorite new brewery in Austin was St. Elmo Brewing, which had just opened a few weeks before we arrived. ProTip: When people at one brewery tell you another brewery is doing really good stuff, you take their word for it and hustle over to try it out — and we’re glad did. Founders Tim Bullock and Bryan Winslow are making great beer, and Tim won’t hesitate to play Springsteen if you ask. (Yes, I’m a sucker for any brewer who shares my love of Bruce.)
Efraín Villa | Albuquerque, NM | Follow @AimlessVagabond
New Mexico gets its fair share of winter adventure seekers, but soon after the snowboarders trade in their goggles for sunglasses, the state turns to brewery patios and rooftop decks to provide outdoor enjoyment. It’s also a time to celebrate lots of microbrewery grand openings. In the last year, at least seven new breweries have opened within the state. Callahan West Brewery in the tiny village of Mosquero is now up and running in an old mercantile building featuring more than 3,000 books. Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery in Santa Fe is open and should be fully operational before the official beginning of summer.
High and Dry Brewing Company, Lava Rock Brewing Company, and Lost Hiker Brewing Company have been serving up their beers for two months. Bombs Away Beer Co., a military-themed brewpub, came onto Albuquerque’s crowded beer scene in October. Truth or Consequences Brewing opened in June not far from hot springs and the cool shores of Elephant Butte. In addition, 10 new breweries in the state are in the planning and permitting phases of development.
One of the new breweries I’m most looking forward to visiting on my travels is Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue in Marathon, Texas, near Big Bend National Park. This quirky, beautiful and just plain bizarre region is one of my favorite destinations. A nearby town’s mayor is a beer-loving goat, you can legally cross the Mexico/U.S. border on a donkey, and whitewater rafting the international divide is not just accepted, but encouraged. All that plus good beer? What more can one ask out of a vacation?
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I will also be in Cleveland later this month and will make a point to drop by Bad Tom Smith Brewing Company to taste their collaborative endeavors with local homebrewers. The New Haven-style “apizza” and Haters Gonna Grape Belgian-style strong ale at the freshly minted Saucy Brew Works are also on my list of things to try on “America’s North Coast.”
Shawndra Russell | Asheville, NC | Follow @ShawndraRussell
Since the Asheville area has so many amazing breweries already (hello Burial Beer, Green Man, Highland, Asheville Brewing Company, etc.), any new brewery that opens its doors really has to bring it. One of the brightest stars to open recently is Zillicoah Beer Company, which specializes in open-fermented farmhouse ales and lagers. They have opted not to have an on-site brewhouse for now so they can foster relationships with local breweries, which affords them the time, money and energy to focus on the fermentation side of brewing without taking away from the industrial, drink-by-the-tanks aesthetic. We could certainly see more of this type of process because their brews are seriously on point.
Zillicoah Beer Co. is also an example of the growing importance of having a killer space that people want to hang out at for hours. Great tasting beer is obviously expected at this point in the craft beer game, so enticing customers with cool spaces — especially those that incorporate an awesome outdoor space like Zillicoah’s — will continue to be a differentiator in addition to hosting creative events and food options.
Mathew Powers | Chicago | Follow @Powers_mathew
The 2017 Great American Beer Festival’s “Very Small Brewery of the Year” honoree, Chicago’s On Tour Brewing Co. produces award-winning craft beer and cherishes the idea of community. From its welcoming and warm warehouse-style taproom to the gorgeous beertography that adorns its social media pages, there is a poetic beauty attached to On Tour Brewing, which is demonstrated by its desire to celebrate “life’s understated, casually significant, yet fleeting moments.”
Galactic Tangerine; Rat Pack; Vegan Lumberjack; Liquid Jazz. Fans of the show “Parks and Recreation” might think those are some of Andy Dwyer’s famous band names, but they are indeed beer names. I mean, who says craft beer can’t be fun? Old Irving is fun. Heck, a large portion of the taproom looks like someone took an outdoor patio and moved it inside (and in the summer when the large window opens it suddenly transforms into an outdoor patio, in a manner of speaking). Since September 2016, Old Irving has offered terrific beer from New England-style IPAs to brown ales and nitro stouts. Plus, you can enjoy those beers with a food menu that will please lovers of wings and burgers, as well as foodies who might want to indulge in an eclectic dish like wood-fired Spanish octopus.
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One of the many breweries that have opened recently in Chicago’s rejuvenated south-side Pilsen neighborhood, the reclaimed 2,500-foot, 19th-century building serves the beer created by partners Dave Dahl and Kevin Lily at Lo Rez Brewing. The taproom has the feel of a city loft, begging beer geeks to kick back, relax and sip on a cold beer. The beer itself is both well-crafted and remarkably creative. For instance, the brewery recently dropped Object Permanence, a strawberry-kiwi sour beer. If that’s not your thing, feel free to throw down one of the best pilsner-styles in the city — a fitting beer for a brewery located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Will McGough | Oahu, HI | Follow @wakeandwanderhawaii
In 2013, Oahu had no functioning craft breweries. In the five years since, the island has risen from the ashes and now boasts eight independent breweries along its shores. Most recently, Inu Island Ales opened in November 2017 with a focus on experimental sours and a top-notch Hazy IPA. Earlier that year, Aloha Beer Co. rebranded and opened a new brewpub in Kaka’ako. This was promptly followed by the opening of Waikiki Brewing’s second location across the street, setting up a walkable “beer trail” between Aloha, Waikiki, Home of the Brave and Honolulu Beerworks.
I’m always looking for undiscovered lands of craft beer when I travel, and I found myself the mother of all surprises in Wichita, Kansas. Coincidental timing allowed me to attend the 6th anniversary of Wichita Brewing Company, where I found out that it, along with River City Brewery, are the pioneers of Wichita craft beer. The two old-timers are complemented by a wonderful variety of new-ish breweries. The brand-new baby in town, Limestone Beer Co., opened last year with a focus on German and Belgian-style beers.
Find a U.S. Brewery
With more than 6,000 operating U.S. breweries, we know it can be tough to keep track of new craft beers to try. Our Brewery Finder is a constantly-updated online brewery map that helps you find breweries near you. Consider it your best friend as you celebrate American Craft Beer Week.