DENVER - It looks like there will be 30 percent more space available for Great American Beer Festival in 2015 at the Colorado Convention Center.
GABF confirmed they have a verbal agreement about the additional space with Denver's Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
GABF representatives say it is hard to say what will fill the extra space, but they would hope more space would mean more areas for vendors and more tickets and perhaps an extra entrance into the festival to make things easier on the beer drinkers.
Top 15 craft beer breweries in the USA
There's that moment when you try a better beer, a beer that's not your average Coors/Bud/Pabst/Enter One-Syllable Beer Name Here, and you're hooked. Not everyone may remember exactly where, or when. You may not even remember what beer it was. But much like a 1-year old who tries his first bite of birthday cake and has his first real taste of sugar, you know you're never going back to that other beer again.
Craft beer was barely a term 30 years ago; since then, the phrase has been uttered by everyone from beer aficionados to the average Joe. Everyone's talking about it, and everyone wants in on it. (We're looking at you, Budweiser Black Crown.) And everyone has a favorite.
The Daily Meal couldn't have found more variation when we began to survey our craft beer experts and readers about who they think deserves to be called the "best" craft brewery in America. We asked some of the country's leading craft beer experts (can we have that job?) for their suggestions of which breweries they thought were among the best in the country. Their nominations included breweries of all sizes, regions, and styles. After all, narrowing down a list of 2,538-plus breweries (the latest numbers from the Brewer's Association) to a mere top three nominations is no easy feat. After we picked through the 72 nominees we received, we put the vote to you, the readers. Thanks to you and the support of these outstanding 72 nominees - who cast more than 11,500 votes - we got our list of the best craft breweries in America.
Granted, as we mulled over our top picks, there was one clear theme - there's a difference between what's called "the best," and those that are "beloved." After all, there's plenty of subjectivity in picking a craft beer you know you should love, and one you should try. As an editor who's often tasked to try new craft brews (rough job, I know), there are plenty of times that I end up ordering my standard brew when out at a bar - not because it's the best beer on tap, but because I know I'll like it, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.
But as we talked with our experts and readers about these breweries, we found that there is an intersection of best and beloved. These are the breweries that produced a better product, and then found their fan base (and judging by our responses, these breweries sure have some fan girls and boys). As Tristan Chan, co-founder of the craft beer enthusiast website Porch Drinking noted, there's much to consider when narrowing down the great craft breweries from the pack: solid flagship beers, interesting new styles and seasonal beers, as well as the business of design, marketing, and fan base-building. "It's still kind of subjective," he says. "But the breweries that are really successful and thriving have incorporated a lot of those elements" into their business.
What's perhaps most remarkable about this list, however, is the small amount of beer that these 25 craft breweries produce in the "beerscape" of America. Let's break down the math: hot off the presses from the Brewer's Association, the 2013 stats show that 7.3 million barrels of beer were sold by independent and small craft brewers during the first half of the year, up from 6.4 million barrels in 2012. Sounds like a big number, right? But in comparison to the total amount of beer sold in the U.S., from brewers large and small, craft beer is still a small piece of the beer market. In 2012, a staggering 141.4 million barrels were sold from all brewers. Six million compared to 141 million? That's just a bite of the pie. One of these breweries in our top 25 ranks number five on the best-selling breweries of 2012 list, after Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Pabst Brewing Co., and D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc. That number five brewery (we won't tell you who!), arguably the biggest craft brewery in the U.S., capitalizes on just 1% of the overall beer market.
Do we find it discouraging to see the Davids of the beer world struggling to overtake the Goliaths? Hardly. While we may never escape the Bud Light and Coors Light taps at the bar, we're finding new small-production craft breweries every year that challenge the normal. That means new beer styles, well-above-average flagship beers, and a dedication to the craft of making beer. And hey, whoever said bigger is better hasn't tried a craft beer from the "little guys" of beer. The craft beer movement "has forced breweries to step up," says Chan. "The public is taking hold of this movement - I don't think we're anywhere near oversaturation." "Craft beer doesn't get enough credit for the innovation and reinvention brewers are displaying every day," says Tom Rotunno," senior editor for CNBC TV and beer blogger for CNBC.com. "It's impossible to be bored."
We're excited to toast the craft breweries that are changing the way we enjoy a cold one - the ones both the experts and readers agree deserve to be recognized. After all, as Chan noted, no one gets into the craft brewing business for the money. Despite the long hours, the grueling work, and the task of starting a business from the ground up, these guys do it to make you a better beer. And for that, we can't thank them enough.
Not seeing your favorite brewery on the list? Tell us your favorites. "This is one of the best times to be a beer drinker," Rotunno says. "As this contest shows, while it's fun to discuss, it's impossible to choose 'the best brewery in the U.S,' and the best part is consumers never have to make that choice. No matter where you live in the U.S. there are great local craft beers to choose from."
1. Dogfish Head, Milton, Del.
In the brewery business for almost two decades, Dogfish Head is one of the most popular breweries in the country. It was Delaware's first brewpub, and when it opened in 1995, was the smallest commercial brewery in America. But, this small brewery now packs a giant punch, as they now operate out of a 100,000-square-foot converted cannery and sell their beer, including their original 60 Minute IPA, to more than 25 states. Under the direction of Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head will continue to be the gamechanger - and leader - when it comes to the world of craft beer. "When I think of 'craft beer,' Dogfish Head is the first brewery that pops into my head," says Jason Morgan, the founding partner of Craft Beer Business. "Their creativity and dedication to the craft beer tradition is inspiring."
2. Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, Calif.
There are more than enough accolades and recognition for this Californian brewery. "No brewery in San Diego - and perhaps the world - pushes more envelopes or thinks outside so many boxes," says Peter Lowe of UT San Diego. If topping the 2008 list of All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth by Beer Advocate isn't enough for you, perhaps a bit more information will convince you that Stone Brewing Company is one of the best craft breweries in America. Stone Brewing Company is the 10th largest brewery in the United States, with 55,000 square feet. The 99-rating on Beer Advocate calls this brewery "World Class." And it's beloved for much more than the beer. "I love Stone's attitude as much as I love their beer," says Jason Morgan of Craft Beer Business. "Big and bold, their craft beer always sticks with you long after the six-pack is gone."
3. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
Boulevard Brewing Company is not only the second largest brewery in Missouri, but also one of the largest specialty brewers in the Midwest. Founded in 1989, Boulevard's mission consists of producing fresh and flavorful beers, by using the finest traditional ingredients. The company uses old and new techniques, but is always known by their full flavors and high quality. "What really sets Boulevard apart for me is the Smokestack Series," says Tom Rotunno, of CNBC. "I haven't had one I haven't liked. They constantly surprise with a great variety of styles and each is as good as the last with releases like Love Child, Saison-Brett, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Coffee Ale. The consistency in which the Smokestack Series delivers amazing results is impressive."
4. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Founders set out to make "complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor" - and they've just about done it. The founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, say their beer is for the renegades and the rebels (because that's how they describe themselves). And boy, does Founders have some pretty big fans of their brews. "I probably have drank gallons of Red's Rye PA and Centennial IPA," says Mike Sweeney of St. Louis Hops. "And don't even get me started on Breakfast Stout and its bigger brother KBS. While KBS may not be the best bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout in America (that goes to Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout), it's damned close. Oh, and Founders Porter is easily the best porter made in the world."
5. Cigar City Brewing Company, Tampa, Fla.
This brewery started with two things in mind, according to its website: to "make the world's best beer" and "to share with people near and far the fascinating culture and heritage of the Cigar City of Tampa." The beer is made in a 6,600-square-foot warehouse, which includes a tasting room open to the public. But Cigar City, a Florida favorite, has fans from far outside the Panhandle state for their unique lineup of beers. Gerard Walen, of Roadtrips for Beer and Beer in Florida, notes that his hometown favorite is a notch above the rest. "[Cigar City Brewing is] currently making some of the best beer out there, many of which you can't find outside of the tasting room," he says.
6. New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
Started in 1989 with the founder delivering beers on his bike, New Belgium quickly turned into a microbrewery and then surpassed the microbrewery mark to become one of the most respected and loved full breweries in the country. They now offer free tours of their facility, which produces "Fat Tire," the very brew that was transported on bikes more than 20 years ago. While Fat Tire is the solid flagship beer of New Belgium, the brewery still takes risks with its seasonals. "New Belgium has a huge lineup of beers and [is] best known for their Fat Tire Amber Ale," says Dave Butler, Colorado beer blogger for Fermentedly Challenged. "In particular I love their Lips of Faith series of beers, and one of my favorites there is their La Folie Sour Brown Ale." New Belgium takes the Colorado lifestyle and transposes it to a larger audience, and many agree that the brewery doesn't just make great craft beer - it makes an eco-friendly and community-friendly impact. "When it comes to the melding of craft beer, the arts, lifestyle, eco-consciousness, and community, this Fort Collins, Colo., brewery has few peers," says Tom Bobak of American Craft Beer. "I like what New Belgium 'does' almost as much as I enjoy what they brew."
7. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
Founded in 1993, Lagunitas Brewing Company has a core of supportive beer lovers who want to nurture the creation of consistently good beer. The brewery is willing to do anything and is "capable of making beer out of goat's milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the moon, if need be," according to its Facebook page. And it's the brewery's dedication to experimentation that has won over beer lovers across the company. "Tony Magee's vision and 'the glass is always half full' attitude toward life is reflected in his beer," says Liz Garibay of the blog Tales, Taverns, & Towns. "I don't think I've ever had a Lagunitas beer I didn't like." The California-based company recently made an announcement that it would be opening a 250,000-barrel-a-year facility in Chicago in order to cater to the Eastern U.S. With creative brews, passionate employees, and a commitment to serve, Lagunitas is definitely one of the best.
8. Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
What started with merely a thirst for better beer and a gallon soup kettle in 1985 has turned into a regionally known craft brewery. Bell's Brewery is a dedicated company that believes in brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality, and small-batch craft beers. Bell's currently has more than 20 brews for distribution, as well as some select options served at their pub. "Far fewer [breweries] have a roster [of beer] as deep and consistently excellent as Bell's," says Chris Van Orden, co-founder of DC Beer. "No matter what style you're in the mood for, Bell's has a great take on it." Bill DeBaun, the other co-founder of DC Beer, agreed that its variety is unlike any other brewery. "I normally have breweries I trust for stouts, some I trust for wild ales, and some I trust for hoppy beers," he says. "The intersection of all three being in one brewery; Bell's, is a real rarity." The Bell's pub, The Eccentric Café, was founded in 1993 and was the first brewery in Michigan to serve beer by the glass. The brewery also has a general store with beer-to-go, and home brewing supplies to help you on your own beer endeavor.
9. Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Russian River Brewing Company focuses on "traditional aggressively hopped California-style" ales, Belgians, and barrel-aged beers. Originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars, the brewery became its own entity in 2003. Founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo came from a winemaking family, but has established himself as a craft-brewer full of innovation and willingness to share his knowledge. Today, he and his wife Natalie serve the brews fresh at their brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif. "Many credit Russian River's founder/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo with pioneering the 'hopped-out-of-its-mind' West Coast Imperial that went on to set the standard that so many other breweries (like Stone) would later build their reputations on," says Tom Brobak, of American Craft Beer. "And now he's redefining the American Sour." And the list of not-to-miss Russian River brews is a mile long. "The Plinys, Elder and Younger, are stunning achievements, but don't overlook Russian River's superb lineup of barrel-aged sour ales," says Peter Rowe, blogger for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "One favorite: Consecration, an earthy, fruity, and dry sour red that's aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels."
10. Sierra Nevada, Chico, Calif.
Sierra Nevada beers mimic the mountains for which they are named, "bold, wild, and unwavering as those storied granite peaks," according to their website. Sierra Nevada brews use only the best ingredients, are created by traditional techniques, and are made by brewers who pay close attention to detail. The "Hop Torpedo," a stainless steel device packed with whole, cone hops, is the brewery's unique way of adding hop aroma to beer with no additional bitterness. Because of it, the Hop Tornado and Sierra Nevada get credit "for putting hoppy pale ale on the map for American craft beer drinkers," says Lucy Saunders, the author of five craft beer cookbooks. Sierra Nevada is a "big boy that stays true to classic products," says Peter LaFrance of Beer Basics, a food and beer blog.
11. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
More than two decades ago, this Odell family of "beer-centric" people began a craft brewery north of Denver. Sure, there might be another Fort Collins, Colo., brewery that gets more attention (look higher on our list), but Odell is the darling of the Colorado brew scene. "While another larger brewery in Fort Collins gets most of the notice, Odell chugs along making some spectacularly delicious beers," says Mike Sweeney of St. Louis Hops. "Odell IPA puts a lot of West Coast breweries to shame with a perfect balance of hops and malt and then they double the effort with Myrcenary. They also try and push the boundaries of beer with their Cellar and Woodcut series and even when Odell tries and fails, you have to appreciate the effort." Today, the brewery has completed its fourth expansion and sponsors charities through its Odell Outreach.
12. Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
Three Floyds Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by Nick and Simon, with their father Mike Floyd. The business' home was originally a run-down warehouse, but the brothers transformed the building into a brewery, and began to brew intense beers that were (and still remain) "not normal" by conventional standards. With the increase in demand for their beers, the company grew and grew. "They've got a fanatical fan base," says Tom Bobak, of American Craft Beer. In 2000, the company acquired better technology, and eventually began to bottle products. As the craft beer industry grows, the Floyd family hopes to expand their distribution to more people than just the local area. Still, once you try Three Floyds, you never go back. "Given that their Zombie Dust beer ran out at both sessions of Savor [craft beer festival] (and the fact that they make some of the best beers around), I'd say they should definitely be considered as a [the best brewery in America]," says Clare Goggin Sivits, writer for BeerGoggins.com.
13. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, Colo.
This 20-year old Boulder, Colo., brewing company began with founders who had a passion for home-brewing. Today, they have expanded to a much larger warehouse and have gained an impressive following, from Colorado and beyond. Avery certainly knows how to treat its fans right; visitors to the Boulder taproom find exclusive, small-batch beers that are hard to find in stores and in bars, like the Hog Heaven Barleywine-Style Ale and The Reverend Belgian-style quad. In a Colorado beer scene that's plenty full, it's what makes Avery stand out from the rest.
14. Oskar Blues, Lyons, Colo.
Oskar Blues, originally based in Lyons, Colo., is the self-declared leader in the canned beer revolution - and it's hard to imagine a summer without Dale's Pale Ale or Old Chub. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more award-winning brewery in Colorado, much less the West Coast, but this brewpub turned mega-craft beer producer (with new facilities in North Carolina) has kept its hometown roots intact with live music, outdoor games, and more.
15. Rogue Ales, Portland, Ore.
Rogue is one of those "only in Portland" kind of breweries, and it's what makes it just so unique. Founded by two fraternity brothers and their friends, this brand shattered all expectations about what a craft brewing company should be, evident in their name and their creed: a desire and a willingness to change the status quo. This shows even in their bottles, which include tasting notes, ingredients, and food pairings directly on the labels. The company even breaks norms in its beer styles for its brews, like the Chipotle Ale, the Single Malt Ale, and perhaps the most talked about Rogue brew, the VooDoo Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Ale.
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