With new micro and craft breweries popping up seemingly every day, choosing beer has become pretty overwhelming. We’re definitely not complaining about too much beer. Still, we wanted to help make your next selection a little more easy with some great recommendations for 2020.
Beer selection is important business. The right beer can perfectly accent your dinner, keep you company in the shade on a hot summer’s day, or party with the best of them late into the evening. As beer guidebook writer Patrick Dawson once said, “A beer doesn’t have to be difficult to acquire, but damned if that doesn’t make everything taste better.” We couldn’t agree more.
So without further ado, let’s get started! From pilsners to lagers, and everything in between, we’ve got a list of top 20 small and craft beer brands you definitely need to try.
1. Fog Breaker IPA
San Francisco based Anchor Brewing company definitely nailed the India pale ale down with their Fog Breaker. Beer drinkers are initially greeted with sweet scents of fruity melon, pineapple, and pine before tasting the delightful biscuit and malt-flavored bitterness of the crisp IPA. Available throughout the year and boasting a nice 6.8 percent alcohol content, you aren’t going to want to miss this one.
2. Bourbon County Double Barrel
Chicago’s own Goose Island brewing company developed a stout worth its weight in bourbon barrels – the Bourbon County Double Barrel. This unique and profoundly intense stout beer is actually aged for a year in Elijah Craig bourbon barrels before being moved to a different batch of Elijah Craig barrels and aged for another entire year. The beer that’s left following this two-year process is robust and filled with notes of chocolate and leather. Did we mention this stout carries an impressive 18 percent alcohol content?
3. Trotwood Lager
Warped Wing etched their moment in time with their light, simple, and crisp Trotwood lager. Now, we use the term “simple” loosely with this beer, as the brewing process itself certainly involves a heap of technical know-how to create a beer as straightforward and refreshing as this one. Trotwood Lager is absolutely a great beer to snag for some summer fun.
4. Southside Lager
The well-rounded and delicious Southside Lager, brewed by Arches Brewing in Georgia, is an excellent choice for beer drinkers with a wide range of tastes. This malty lager is a favorite among beer drinkers in the summer and winter due to its balanced body being rich enough for winter enjoyment, but also light and crisp enough for a summer beverage choice.
5. Original Lager
In 2018, the Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. released its Vienna style Original Lager. Cincinnati beer drinkers knew they had something extraordinary with this well-balanced beer brewed with German noble hops; it’s been a fan favorite ever since. The success of this lager definitely doesn’t surprise us coming from Moerlein; 11 awards and a string of 17 other beers speak to the pure perfection that is beer.
6. Dovetail Lager
Ah, the Dovetail Lager; this beverage is clean, vibrant, and focused on just being a great beer. This classically-brewed lager is another example of Chicago’s finest beers and certainly demonstrates the trade skills of the small beer brewers at Dovetail Brewery. When drinking this beer, expect to be enticed with a complex bevy of hoppy flavor and left satisfied with a smooth aftertaste.
7. Dunkel Lager
This spectacular lager by Prost Brewing continues to wow beer drinkers with its rich nutty and chocolate notes. The word dunkel is actually German for “dark,” and this malty lager certainly lives up to that by being brewed with dark Munich grain. With its robust mouthfeel and smooth aftertaste, the Dunkel Lager is an excellent choice for drinkers who really appreciate great German-inspired beer.
8. Peanut Butter Chocolate
If you’re looking for a unique beer, you’ve indeed found it with the Peanut Butter Chocolate stout beer by Garage Brewing. This full-bodied, rich beer really does inspire strong hints of peanut butter smoothness and chocolate sweetness. The next time you’re looking for a great beer to bring to a party, this is it. Seriously, guests won’t stop talking about this smooth and tasty beverage.
Brettania is a beer you absolutely need to get your hands on right away this summer. This pale saison beer brewed by Reuben’s Brews is first aged for an entire six months inside oak puncheons, before being followed-up with another six months of aging inside barrels with blackberries and boysenberries. This crisp and fruity four-time award-winning beer is the choice for refreshing summer beverages.
10. Pikeland Pils
Winner of the gold in the 2007 and bronze in 2003 at the Great American Beer Festival, the Pikeland Pils features a light and refreshing body consisting of both Czech and German hops. This dry, straw-colored pilsner is a great example of beer brewing done right. Pilsners can be fantastic beverages to accompany any warm spring or summer day if you let them, and that’s definitely what Pikeland did with theirs.
11. Imperial Russian Stout
Talk about a stout beer; the Imperial Russian Stout by Summit Brewing is charcoal black in color and boasts bold flavors of licorice, mocha coffee, dark fruit, and roasted malt. By barrel-aging this stout beauty for six months, Summit has genuinely developed the boldest and tastiest of stout beers.
12. Mama’s Little Yella Pils
In 2009, Oskar Blues Brewery developed a pilsner that can truly be enjoyed all day – Mama’s Little Yella Pils. By hopping this craft beer with Aramis and Saaz hops and brewing it with honey malt, this perfectly balanced pilsner is sure to satisfy most beer drinkers.
The simply stated “Hefe” on the outside of this beer can certainly doesn’t allude to the bright citrus and floral aromas waiting to greet you upon opening. This American-style hefeweizen brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing offers a balanced and moderate tartness swirled with notes of cherry, banana, and herbs. Hefe is sure to be a fan favorite.
14. Pyramid Hefeweizen
This wheaty, malty, and smooth offering from Pyramid Breweries is a perfect example of what a hefeweizen should be. Pyramid Hefeweizen has a medium body accented by its golden color and notes of fruit found throughout each pint enjoyed. The next time you’re searching for a great hefeweizen, you really can’t go wrong with Pyramid.
15. Cascade Cuvée Du Jongleur
What can we say but “wow.” The Cascade Brewing company has truly outdone itself with this unique and complex cuvée. There always seems to be another robust layer to peel back with this tasty beverage; from its fruity tartness to its plum and caramel aromas, this beer is sure to be one whose praises continue to be echoed long after it’s finished.
16. Ruby Redbird
Out of Shiner, Texas comes a very traditional lager brewed by Spoetzl Brewery – Ruby Redbird. This beer starts things off with fruity grapefruit and ginger notes and finishes with a smooth and refreshing citrus taste. Trust us; you won’t want to stop drinking this Texas gem.
17. Hazy Rabbit
When you think of an India pale ale, do you concoct dreams of sweet fruit and balanced malt flavors, all carried on a carbonated and creamy, malty beer? If so, the Hazy Rabbit is the IPA you’ve been looking for! Lakefront Brewing company truly took small beer IPA’s to the next level with this light and balanced beverage that boasts sweet citrus aromas. As they say, some of the best brewers are definitely located right in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
18. Peanut Butter Milk Porter
The Peanut Butter Milk Porter is truly a unique offering from the Beer Separatist Project. In 2019, the cocoa and peanut butter inspired taste of this rich beer won over the judges at the Pro-Am competition. Not only is this beer pronounced in flavor, but it offers a genuinely soft and creamy mouthfeel that porter drinkers will truly appreciate.
19. Bon-Bon Cerise
The Bon-Bon Cerise brewed by Colorado’s Avery brewing company is a stout to be remembered. The character and flavors that burst forth from this bold beer are rich enough to satisfy even the strongest of dessert cravings. Bon-Bon Cerise is aged in bourbon barrels alongside the sweet flavors of vanilla, cocoa, and cherries, which gives off fruity, tart, and chocolaty flavors that compliment the richness of the beer perfectly.
20. Set West
Set West is a dry IPA that honestly seems poured out of the heat of California’s summer sun. This dry-hopped India pale ale rides the fruity waves of sweet orange smells before settling on a yeasty bread-inspired aroma that draws beer drinkers in for more. As far as IPA’s go, the Set West is a great and refreshing selection to accompany any of your summer activities.
While there are certainly more than twenty craft beers we’d love to highlight, alas, we must stop at twenty for this piece. Trust that we will be back soon with more recommendations for you!