Beer was born in Medieval Europe, but today we are in the midst of a full-blown global beer renaissance, born and bred here in the USA. Creative, local artisanal beers are pushing norms, creating regional beer culture, and exploring different taste profiles.

This is what craft brewing is all about. The craft brewing movement in the United States can be traced back to the mid 1960s, when Anchor brewing was brought out of imminent closure and new character began evolving in brewers. Small-scale, home brewing operations became popular pastimes for novice brewers, who started to make some truly tasty beers.

As the excitement to taste, create, and talk beer began to bloom, brewing supply shops became neighborhood hubs to gather and trade techniques. Some home brewers began to think of the viability of turning their weekend obsessions into a full-fledged career. With business plans, start-up funds, and often flying by the seats of their pants, small breweries began popping up, each with its own identity, taste, and charisma.

The craft brewing community became stronger and rallied around their favorite breweries. Cross country or cross state line pilgrimages were made to try different beers. This was a chance for enthusiasts to meet the brewmaster, see production, taste the beer (and even the pre-beer ingredients), and engage in the quirk and creative spectrum of each brewery.

Craft brewing is all about the evolution of their signature beer. For independent breweries, knowing when to expand and when to slow down, who their brewery’s consumer is, and having a bit of luck all factor into their success. Some microbreweries swear they will stay small, until demand exceeds their capacity. Some small breweries find that working with other like-minded crafters gives them the most growth potential.

Still others catch the eye of the major beer companies, who in recent years have seen the earning potentials of bringing craft breweries under their brand umbrellas. In this list, we have chosen brands who have remained majority independent. Craft breweries by definition are majority independently owned operations producing under 6 million barrels each year. Microbreweries are fully independent and have less than a 15,000 barrel production each year.

Midwesterners know beer. And they love it. With hops and wheat and other brew resources being grown literally in their backyards, the close-knit relationship to brewing and crafting is intense. There is something about midwestern culture and the celebratory nature of beer drinking that naturally fits and complement each other.

Local midwestern brewers take a lot of pride in their brewing techniques and their neighbors and community. They also value the hard work, steely determination, and grit that is inherent to success in the brewing industry. Small businesses and craft products do well with the rallying spirit that Midwestern culture embodies. Here are the top 30 craft and micro breweries from the Midwest.

METHODOLOGY

In this list we feature the craft and micro breweries of the American Heartland, the Midwest, where some of the most successful and earliest ventures into artisanal brewing can be found. This list was composed based on triangulated data from recent national lists at The Daily Meal, GearPatrol.com, First We Feast, Timeout.com, and Craftbeer.com, plus regional lists from Thrillist and vacation Rental Blog, plus qualitative details from homesites and Wikipedia, along the following criteria based on a 20 point Likert scale:

1) Nostalgia factor based on tradition and history in relation to the local region and culture

2) Popularity factor based on scale of production and sales

3) Scarcity factor based on demand for small batch runs

4) Cult factor based on niche following and identity

5) Destination factor based on the brewery’s location’s quality of tours, festivals, and restaurants

The final score will be reflected in a Rave Meter.

Whether you are a craft beer enthusiast or novice, the Midwest will give you ample opportunity to taste the nuances and particular styles that each brewer brings to their craft and, of course, their beer. Hop in the car, plan the trip, and take this list with you as you explore all that Midwest craft beer is about.

 

THE BEST BREWERIES IN THE MIDWEST

1. 3 Floyds Brewing Company

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Location: Munster, IN
Founded: 1996

Known for its cultish following, heavy metal undertones, and fierce graphics, the hard edged 3 Floyds Brewing Company makes a distinctive brew and they know it. If you like it, come and vy to get a taste, otherwise there are plenty of others clamoring for their beers. This confident, “take it or leave it” manner applies to all aspects of their business. Nick Floyd, along with his brother and father started 3 Floyds in 1996 in an old garage in Munster, Indiana. While their business has exploded with success, their batch size and production facilities are still quite small, around 60,000 barrels a year, which only adds to the pursual. Only grown through word of mouth, 3 Floyds doesn’t even have an advertising budget.

Getting your hands on 3 Floyds isn’t always easy. An annual release of their Dark Lord Imperial stout, pegged Dark Lord Day, is a ticketed event that Nick Floyd refers to as “the most stressful day of the year.” Beer enthusiasts camp out to take a few home. Some liquor stores have to set limits on customer purchases of 3 Floyds to make sure there is enough to meet the demand. With distribution in only five states, a drink of their highly lauded Zombie Dust (which is also #4 on Best Beer in America by the American Homebrewer’s Association in 2017),  Gumballhead, Moloko, or Rabbid Rabbit might take some effort, but the 3 Floyds attention to consistency and quality ensure you get to taste what all all the “beer geeks” are raving about.

3 Floyds Brewing Company is #13 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal. It is on Gear Patrol’s list of the “25 Best Craft Breweries in America” and the First We Feast’s list of “The Most Influential Craft Breweries in America.” It is also on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 18
Popularity – 19
Scarcity –  20
Cult – 20
Destination – 19
Rave Meter: 96

 

2. Bell’s Brewery

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Founded: 1983

Started in 1985, Bell’s Brewery is Michigan’s longest standing brewery – and for good reason. Known for its ability to turn out consistently stellar product, Bell’s Brewery seems to only be gaining momentum. From humble beginnings in the back of a brew supply store, where beer was concocted in soup pots by Larry Bell, to its current two booming production sites, Bell’s now produces over 373,000 barrels each year and is available in 31 states. Bell’s Brewery continues to be family run and committed to superior products.

With big variety and the signature Bell’s taste, picking a starting point can be tricky. The majority of Bell’s beers are seasonal releases, meaning the changing seasons only add to the anticipation of devotees. Bell’s highly praised Two Hearted Ale is a classic and proven winner, being honored as the #1 Best Beer in America by the American Homebrewer’s Association in 2017. Their seasonally produced Hopslam was ranked #5 on the same list, creating even more traffic on the usual reservation list to get a taste. Try the Oberon Ale, another classic in the Bell’s portfolio. Tours at either of the Bell’s Brewery facilities are available for visitors, as well as dining and shopping at their General Store and Eccentric Cafe.

Bell’s Brewery is #3 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal; it is also #7 on the Brewers Association “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies” and on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest,” and On Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 20
Popularity – 19
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 20
Destination –  19
Rave Meter: 95

 

3. Founders Brewing Company

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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Founded: 1997

“Brewed for us.” Founders Brewing Company started as an extension of two passionate home brewers, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, but success wasn’t overnight, and Founders had some rocky times. When they saw themselves on the brink of declaring bankruptcy, their “Brewed For Us” mantra came alive. Instead of doing what they thought they should be doing in their brewing business, they started to get creative, be bold, and make the beer they personally wanted to sip. Born from that inspiration was Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, an irreverent brew, balanced on hops, and one of the major reasons Founders Brewing went from floundering to fortunate. Twenty years later, they are a mainstay not only in Grand Rapids, but with over 340,000 barrels distributed available in 46 states, a national brand. A close knit executive team, eager and valued employees, and a company culture of respect has done well for Founders Brewing.

Driven by high-quality product and not merely by business bottom line has also benefited Founders. Try their Kentucky Breakfast Stout. The best seller craft canned beer, Founders All Day IPA tied for #13 and Backwoods Bastard tied for #27 on the American Homebrewer’s Association 2017 list of Top Ranked Beers. A taproom that peeks over production facilities gives patrons at this beer destination a close up of how their favorite brews are concocted.

Founders Brewing is #1 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal. It is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest,” and on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 19
Popularity – 19
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 18
Destination – 20
Rave Meter: 94

 

4. Surly Brewing Co.

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Location: Minneapolis, MN
Founded: 2005

“The Surly way isn’t the easy way.” Surly Brewing Co. knows this well. From the times founder Omar Ansari and head brewmaster Todd Haug had bar owners spit out the beer samples they were trying to hawk, to when Surly took on Minnesota legislation to fix outdated laws that were working against their business model, growth has been uphill. Luckily, when you have a stellar selection of brews, your fans (or in this case Surly Nation) are ready to help you climb. Surly Brewing Co. started with Ansari’s passion for homebrewing and since 2005 has had a steady ascent to the top of the craft brew scene.

Now at its destination brewery in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, Surly Brewing Co. offers a brewery and taproom for enthusiasts to enjoy. With production near 100,000 barrels and 70% of their sales thanks to Minnesota purchasers, Surly Brewing Co. keeps their main market local. Try some of the bold Surly flavors like their flagship brews Furious, Hell, or Wet. With rough around the edges graphics and attitude to spare, Surly Brewing Co. shows that “Minnesota Nice” can have some edge.

Surly Brewing Co. is on Gear Patrol’s list of the “25 Best Craft Breweries in America” and it is #42 on the Brewers Association of “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.” It is also #24 on the American Homebrewer’s Association list of Top Breweries. Surly Brewing Co. is on Thrillist’s list of The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest and on Trip Advisor’s Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 18
Popularity – 19
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 20
Destination – 18
Rave Meter: 93

 

5. Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Location: Marshall, MI
Founded: 1997

Dark Horse Brewing Company in tiny Marshall, MI is the vision of Head Brewer and owner Aaron Morse. A craft brew fan who didn’t like the high prices, Aaron and some pals began experimenting with brewing in their dorm bathrooms at Northern Michigan University. Eventually moving to a small room adjacent to his father’s party store “Wacky Willy’s,” Dark Horse has always approached their business with a do-it-yourself and gritty work ethic. The pride for what their business has become “…A no-bullshit approach to brewing big, outstanding beers and selling nonsensical imagery and haberdashery…” Dark Horse takes creating a community of artists to the extreme. Dark Horse houses not only a brewpub, but a whole conglomeration of goods available at the Marshall compound. A wildly eclectic list includes: Dark Alley Cycle Shop, Dark Horse Maple Syrup, a custom woodworking shop, and artisanal baked goods and ice cream, along with plenty of beer. Everyone is welcome, everyone is part of the Dark Horse family.

With production around 35,000 barrels a year, Dark Horse Brewing’s unique operation seems to be hitting its stride. Known for its Part-Timer’s Crooked Tree IPA, 4 Elf Winter Warmer Spiced Ale, and Scotty Karate Scotch Ale, Dark Horse’s irreverent humor, extreme pride in hard work, and passion for bringing people together to celebrate good things make it not only a great brewery, but a small town success story.

Dark Horse Brewing Company is #42 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal and it is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 18
Popularity – 19
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 19
Destination – 19
Rave Meter: 92

 

6. Great Lakes Brewing Company

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Location: Cleveland, OH
Founded: 1988

Great Lakes Brewing Company is Cleveland proud and committed to these four ideals: Passion For Our Product, Respect Resources, Foster Relationships, and Share Success. With this foundation in place, tasters can be assured of a quality brew and quality company behind it. Started in 1986 by two local brothers, Patrick and Daniel Conway, the business started humbly, with used equipment, old building sites, and hand-delivered beer to advertise. Today they produce 160,000 barrels annually and are a force to be reckoned with not only in the midwest, but also the national market. Great Lakes Brewing Company is #19 on the American Homebrewer’s Association 2017 list of Top Breweries.

Taste a sip of their highly praised Edmund Fitzgerald Porter which is tied for #38 on the American Homebrewer’s Association 2017 list of Top Ranked Beers. Their seasonal Conway’s Irish Ale and Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA are both smooth and hoppy, respectively. Take a tour of the facilities or enjoy a drink at the brewpub original to the building. With a focus on sustainable practices, charitable giving, and a community ethos, Great Lakes seeks to lead in beer with its company example.

Great Lakes Brewing Company is #23 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal. It is also #21 on the Brewers Association “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.” It is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest” and on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 20
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 18
Destination – 17
Rave Meter: 91

 

7. New Glarus Brewing Company

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Location: New Glarus, WI
Founded: 1993

Perched on a hill in New Glarus, Wisconsin is a whimsical brewery created to look like a Bavarian village. Walking around, you may think you are in Europe, but this is New Glarus Brewing Company, an independent, small sized brewery founded in 1993. Established and run by Deborah Carey and her brewmaster husband Dan, New Glarus beer is distributed exclusively in Wisconsin and has made the hilltop village a charming pilgrimage site for beer lovers.

New Glarus is best known for their Spotted Cow, which is sweetened with corn and made with 100% natural ingredients. Their Wisconsin Belgian Red has over a pound of local cherries in each bottle. Their Uff-da and Hometown Blonde scream with Midwestern flavor. New Glarus has seen solid growth, producing around 219,000 barrels last year. That growth is only fueled from their Wisconsin base, showing the depth of New Glarus’ enthusiastic drinkers. New Glarus was ranked on the American Homebrewer’s Association 2017 Best Beers in America list of Top Ranked Beer for its Wisconsin Belgian Red at #43. It holds the #15 spot for Top Brewery and is #10 on the list for Best Portfolio.

New Glarus is #46 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal and it is #16 on the Brewers Association “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.” It is also on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 18
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 17
Destination – 20
Rave Meter: 90

 

8. Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

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Location: Decorah, IA
Founded: 2009

Located in the small Northeast Iowa town of Decorah, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. grew out of Brewmaster Mike Saboe and co-founder Clark Lewey’s desire to create “perfect beer” available right where they live. Working collaboratively to push the envelope on flavor profiles, and honing an intense attention to detail, Toppling Goliath is seeing rapid success since its 2009 opening. From a humble set up where Toppling Goliath staff brewed three times a day with a ½ barrell nano brewing tank, to their newly expanded production facility, Toppling Goliath is expected to reach 100,000 barrels in 2017. Toppling Goliath patrons are known to line up early, stalk and follow delivery trucks, and travel many miles from home to get a growler, pour, and taste of Toppling Goliath beer. Their company mantra of “Big beer brewed in small batches” remains intact.

Consistently high on beer enthusiasts “must have” lists are Toppling Goliath favorites that show the bandwidth of the Toppling Goliath brand. Their flagship brew, Dorothy’s New World Lager is a favorite, as is the Pseudo Sue American Pale Ale or King Sue Double IPA. Their specialty brews like the coffee infused Mornin’ Delight or Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout have given Toppling Goliath a place in the winner’s circle.

Toppling Goliath is on Gear Patrol’s list of the “25 Best Craft Breweries in America” and is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 17
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 19
Destination – 17
Rave Meter: 89

 

9. Moody Tongue Brewing Company

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Location: Chicago, IL
Founded: 2014

What is “culinary brewing?” Let Moody Tongue Brewing Company’s owner, innovator, and head brewmaster show you. Jared Rouben’s beginnings as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and in the Michelin Star restaurant scene gave way to a new idea. A passionate homebrewer, he wondered could some of the culinary techniques he was honing be applied to brewing? After working for Rock Bottom Brewery and Goose Island, Rouben was ready to start Moody Tongue, a brewery with a special emphasis on bold, palate stretching beers and just the right food pairing to go with it. Thinking like a chef, and brewing with the best ingredients, timing, and understanding of how those ingredients best are showcased is what “culinary brewing” at Moody Tongue is all about.

Moody Tongue Brewing Company in Chicago has settled into a 10,000 square foot production facility and tasting room. Hoping to cement its place as a neighborhood institution, Roben’s chef sensibilities are obvious in their unique approach to the tasting experience. Offering a small list of dining accompaniments including a decadent, multi layered German chocolate cake or a plate of fresh oysters to go with the beer, Roben wants to make simplicity the starting point. This allows guests to really seek out the nuances in beer offerings and see how the pairings can bring out unique flavors. Giving guests easier ordering options also allows them to focus on the beer and not fill up too much. Try their Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner or Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter.

Moody Tongue Brewing Company is on Timeout’s list of the “Best Craft Beer Breweries in America” and is also lauded on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 17
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 18
Destination – 18
Rave Meter: 88

 

10. August Schell Brewing Company

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Location: New Ulm, MN
Founded: 1860

Tucked in little New Ulm, MN is the second oldest family run brewery in the United States, August Schell Brewing Company. Founded in 1860 by German immigrant Schell, the brewery honors and celebrates its Bavarian heritage and consistently churns out great craft brews. Now in the hands of the sixth generation, most August Schell brewmasters are trained in Germany and the family tradition and pride in their product has not wavered. German craft beer and culture are highly celebrated at August Schell. Their popular Oktoberfest and Spring Bock Fest are events not to be missed.

Visiting and seeing the brewery today shows the bandwidth of the August Schell story, as old and new are all together. The original brewery, now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places is available to tour, the Schell family mansion is located on the grounds, as well as a lively beer garden and shop. Looking at the buildings, visitors can see how the Schell family added on and evolved through the years, changing technology and better outfitting for production, which is now around 145,000 barrels. Try some of their classic German brews – from their flagship Original Light or Deer Brand to the year round Schell’s Firebrick or Fort Road Helles. Their extended seasonal Goosetown, seasonal Schmaltz’s Alt or Oktoberfest are all solid examples of the bavarian beer legacy that they are continuing to showcase.

August Schell Brewing Company is #24 on the Brewers Association “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.” It is on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 20
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 16
Cult – 18
Destination – 16
Rave Meter: 87

 

11. Summit Brewing

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Location: St. Paul, MI
Founded: 1986

A novice home brewer named Mark Stutrud wrote a letter to the head of the American Brewer’s Association more than 30 years ago, hoping to start a conversation about creating a place for craft and artisanal beers in the market. The response was dismissive at best. Luckily, Mark’s “stubborn Norwegian” attitude came out. In a nutshell, he quit his job, went to brewing school, gathered funds, landed a brewing space, and in 1986 Summit Brewing was born. Known for its steady, measured growth plan, core values, and intense work ethic, the Summit brand, with Stutrud at the helm, has weathered the Minnesota storms. Simply put, they know how to create and sell quality beer. Summit boasts 75% of its sales as local, Minnesota purchasers. This is in no small part due to Summit’s philanthropic ventures, presence at local events, and community building commitments.

Summit Brewing now produces over 129,000 barrels a year, making it the second largest brewery in Minnesota. The old car part shop where Summit Brewing began making beer has been outgrown and their new 6 acre campus is over 100 employees strong, even using locally made steel kegs. Summit’s best-known brew is their Summit Extra Pale Ale, which is known as “Minnesota’s Original Craft Beer.” Their latest seasonal release, the Summit Keller Pils has stuck a chord with their local audience, making it a new favorite.

Summit Brewing is #26 on the Brewers Association list of the Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies and it is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 18
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 17
Destination – 17
Rave Meter: 86

 

12. Revolution Brewing

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Location: Chicago, IL
Founded: 2010

Revolution Brewing in Chicago stays true to its name, leading one of the most rapid growth patterns in the craft brewing. Its steely rise to the top has been unexpected even Josh Deth, who started the brand in 2010 and has reached the 50,000 production barrel production mark faster than any other craft company. The stars seemed to have aligned for Revolution Brewing – being ready with the perfect beer for the consumer, right when they wanted it. The idea for Revolution Brewing started ruminating for Deth as a student at the University of Michigan. He began brewing as an enthusiast and gained experience with smaller breweries before he began working for Goose Island. Wanting to start his own brand, he built up from a base in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood by taking the unusual approach of getting involved in the Chamber of Commerce and building his place in the local buisness community.

Revolution Brewing has expanded its campus, which has given them the potential to reach a 150,000 barrel yearly production. While currently not maxing that out (nearing 100,000 a year) Revolution Brewing carries their brand not only in Chicago, but is slowly giving new markets a taste of what makes Revolution Brewing a standout in the market. Try their signature brews like Cross of Gold or Eugene Porter. Look for their League of Heroes rotation of brews like the Galaxy-Hero or Citra-Hero, and see why the Revolution keeps marching on.

Revolution Brewing is #46 on the Brewers Association of the “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.” It is also on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 16
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 17
Destination – 17
Rave Meter: 85

 

13. Upland Brewing

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Location: Bloomington, IN
Founded: 1997

“Well-made beer meets progressive Midwestern culture.” Upland Brewing Company was founded in Bloomington, IN in 1997. Quickly growing from one location to now six different tasting options featuring brewpubs, tasting rooms, and tap houses, Upland has made a name for itself in the Indiana and Midwest markets. Being situated in Bloomington, home of Indiana University, has helped promote its brand and become a well-recognized fixture of Hoosier beer, but with distribution now extending to Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Upland Brewing Company’s visibility is growing. A 35,000 barrel production load and seemingly just picking up speed, Upland Brewing Company’s team is ready to move forward with their “blended works of art.”

Known for its twists, innovations, and collaborative work, Upland Brewing Company loves to tap into new flavors. Its flagship beer, Wheat is a Belgian Wit is brewed with orange peel, coriander, and camomile. Their signature IPA, Dragonfly has four kinds of hops and an aroma and flavor profile that is robust and memorable. Upland Brewing traded a case of beer for a case of wine from Oliver Winery in 2006, and began a unique partnership that launched their highly successful sour beer line, which has seen a voracious growth and has an enthusiastic following. With options like Persimmon, Cursed Kettles, and Revive, a whole new niche of beer is being skyrocketed, with Upland playing a big part.

Upland Brewing Company is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest” it is also on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 16
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 17
Destination – 17
Rave Meter: 84

 

14. New Holland Brewing

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Location: Holland, MI
Founded: 1996

Dedicated to making beer that is “characteristically unique to Western Michigan” is New Holland Brewing, based in Holland, MI. Two lifelong friends, Jason Spaulding and Brett Vander Kamp, went from home brewing buddies to business owners in 1997 when they launched the brand. Dedicated to “craftsmanship and artistry,” New Holland now brews and distills at three location in town, operates two restaurants, and serves up plenty of Michigan beer. Reaching 38 states and 4 countries on its distribution map, New Holland Brewing Co. works to create a fantastic customer experience with great food, beer, and spirits. Production has the potential to reach 100,000 barrels a year currently and is about halfway to that.

New Holland Brewing’s most recognized beer is their year round Dragon’s Milk bourbon barrel stout. This brew is one of the best selling Imperial Aged Stout and has recognition well beyond Michigan. To further their product’s distribution, New Holland recently entered into a new production partnership with Pabst. While still remaining fully independent, New Holland will be added to the Pabst portfolio and benefit from their higher profile production, brand visibility, and marketing resources, allowing New Holland to focus on brewing beer. For fans looking to get a hold of Dragon’s Milk, this new distribution plan is an early Christmas present.

New Holland Brewing is #33 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal.

Nostalgia – 15
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 17
Destination – 16
Rave Meter: 83

 

15. Fat Head’s Brewery

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Location: Middleburg Heights, OH
Founded: 2009

Fat Head’s Brewery is the collaboration of brewmaster Matt Cole and Glenn Benigni. Benigni owned Fat Head’s Saloon in Pittsburgh, a craft brew hot spot before craft brewing was hot. Cole and Benigni launched Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon in North Olmstead, Ohio in 2009 and the Fat Head’s fans followed. Success was instant and catapulted into their Middleburg Heights brewery in 2012. A new destination brewery near Cleveland, right off the interstate, is under construction and will bring them to a 60,000 barrel production capacity, a definite jump from their current 32,000 barrel sales. This huge boost in production scale will allow Fat Head’s fans to not only come and see how the beer is made, but also make it a lot easier to take home.

Fat Head’s Brewery is known for its classics. The trio of BumbleBerry Honey Blueberry Ale, along with the company’s fastest success, the Sunshine Daydream Session IPA, and the Head Hunter IPA comprise 80% of their sales volume. While the success is fantastic, Fat Head’s Brewery is being careful not to spread themselves too thin, as Cole said, “We have no expectations of putting our beer in 15, 16 states. We want to own our back yard.”

Fat Head’s Brewery is #50 on “The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America 2017” by The Daily Meal.

Nostalgia – 15
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 19
Cult – 16
Destination – 15
Rave Meter: 82

 

16. Side Project Brewing

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Location: Maplewood, MI
Founded: 2016

Side Project Brewing is a collaboration that is close-knit and all in the family. Cory and Karen King, a married duo, own and operate Side Project Brewing where Cory serves as head brewer and Karen manages. Siblings, spouses, and partners are also employed in various roles around the Side Project brand. Each person brings incredible skills to the tapestry that Side Project creates, having worked the craft beer industry in many capacities. From Cory’s start at Perennial Artisan Ales, walking in as a highly accomplished homebrewer to take on their head brewing position, to Karen’s work with Deschutes and Goose Island, the Side Project foundation is firm and primed to launch Side Project Brewing far into the future.

A small batch, barrel aged brewery, Side Project Brewing carries an extensive line of beers and also its own whisky, wine, and cider. King’s focus on rustic Saisons, Wild Ales, and Spirit Barrel-Aged Ales have made Side Project’s long, lawn chair lineups and bustling brewhouse a common sight. Side Project operates two close by ventures. The Side Project Cellar was noted as a James Beard Foundation award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program in 2016. Their new and expanded brewery tasting room features 11 taps and still maintains its cozy, familial vibe, with helpful staff and plenty of selections. Due to the nature of barrel aging and wild yeast, each batch has its own distinct taste and flair.

Side Project Brewing is on Gear Patrol’s list of the “25 Best Craft Breweries in America.”

Nostalgia – 14
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 19
Cult – 15
Destination – 15
Rave Meter: 80

 

17. Sun King

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Location: Indianapolis, IN
Founded: 2009

Vying to be “Indiana’s Beer,” Sun King Brewing Company was launched in 2009 by two craft brew enthusiasts, Dave Colt and Clay Robinson. Adding Andy Fagg, Omar Robinson, and Steve Koers to their leadership, Sun King has become a headliner in the independent, craft beer scene. Initially sold only in Indiana to over 1000 willing locations, Sun King will begin distribution in Louisville, Kentucky and Chicago, Illinois in August 2017. A new 2 million dollar expansion with 240 fermentation tanks in their brewery production facilities allows Sun King to meet the demand of Hoosier beer drinkers and beyond.

Recognized for their innovative brews that carry an Indiana stamp of distinction, Sun King loves to play with bold flavor. Their flagship beers are Sunlight Cream Ale, Wee Mac Scottish Ale, and Osiris Pale Ale. Try the quirky Popcorn Pilsner, an ode to Indiana corn culture, with air popped corn added to the mash by the brewmaster. Typically sold in four pack cans with an extensive library of tastes, types, and styles, Sun King’s popularity matched with their expanded distribution footprint means easier accessibility for beer fans to get their hands on a Sun King. Try their King’s Reserve line which includes sour, small batch, and barrel aged beers in a resealable alumi-tek can.

Sun King Brewing Company is on Timeout’s list of the “Best Craft Beer Breweries in America.”

Nostalgia – 14
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 15
Cult – 17
Destination – 15
Rave Meter: 79

 

18. Stevens Point Brewery

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Location: Stevens Point, WI
Founded: 1857

Stevens Point Brewery was established in 1857, making it the fifth oldest brewery in the nation. Civil Wars, Prohibition, multiple ownerships, trends, and changes in taste profiles have not stopped the brand from continuing to flourish today. Known for using the best hops and highest quality malts at their freshest point, Stevens Point Brewery has seen a resurgence of popularity in the past decade and has increased its facility size, upgraded equipment, and enlarged their distribution footprint to meet the demand. Now at a 150,000 yearly barrel production capacity, Stevens Point Brewery is primed to lead the way in brewing for the next 160 years. Expanding their brand to include hard cider and craft sodas, Stevens Point Brewing has a little something for everyone to try.

Small craft brewers can do great things. Stevens Point Brewery was launched into the spotlight when their Point Special Lager out shined major competitors like Miller Genuine Draft and Budweiser at the Great American Beer Festival in 2003. Their Point Onyx Black Ale, Point Belgian White and Whole Hog line are extremely popular. For many, fall wouldn’t be the same without their autumn classic Pumpkin Ale. For something sweet and unique, try their Long Nights line, with ale flavors like Gingerbread Salted Caramel Toffee, and Pistachio Nut Brown. Tours of the facility are available to small groups.

Stevens Point Brewery is #23 on the Brewers Association “Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.”

Nostalgia – 19
Popularity – 15
Scarcity – 15
Cult – 15
Destination – 14
Rave Meter: 78

 

19. Pipeworks Brewing

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Location: Chicago, IL
Founded: 2012

A Kickstarter funded brewery, Pipeworks Brewing in Chicago takes an unconventional approach to almost everything. From their heavy-metal influenced label art by local artist Jeff Kuhnie, edgy, irreverent brew names, or basic business model, Pipeworks does what it does and isn’t really too concerned what your opinion is about it. Pipeworks Brewing started as a gypsy barrel brewing operation by two friends Gerrit Lewis and Beejay Oslon, co-workers at a Chicago liquor store. Utilizing the borrowed equipment, Pipeline worked to create “one off” beers, meaning they never created the same beer twice. Fans were immediate. Currently, beer is released once a week and since its creation in 2012, Pipeline has quite an impressive library of beers. This small batch, exclusive model created a dedicated and energized fan base, that would keep close tabs on what was coming out of Pipeworks. Production is around 6,000 barrels.

Pipeworks is a self-distributing operation in Chicago, meaning beers are personally delivered by employees, ensuring the freshest and best beer. Recently expanding to Connecticut and New York, Colorado and Massachusetts, Pipeworks also has a small bottle shop, The Dojo, in Chicago, where patrons can nab a few of the hard to find brews each Saturday. Known especially for their Lizard King, a fruity and light, hoppy Pale Ale and their Ninja Vs. Unicorn, a Double IPA, Pipeworks creativity and fearlessness make them a brewery to watch and if you can find it, get a taste.

Pipeworks is on Thrillist’s list of “The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 12
Popularity – 17
Scarcity – 19
Cult – 17
Destination – 12
Rave Meter: 77

 

20. Central Waters Brewing Co.

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Location: Amherst, WI
Founded: 1998

While Central Waters Brewing Co. in Amherst, WI has endured changes of leadership and focus in its almost 20 year history, its attention to quality product has never wavered. Ruminating and creating barrel aged beer before it was really noticed, Central Waters owners Paul Graham and Anello Mollica became innovators in the niche category and have carved out a place for Central Waters to be one of the top barrel aged producers in the midwest … and nation. Working to create a perfect bourbon flavored beer for over 15 years, Central Waters is one of the few that takes its production of barrel aged brewing as seriously, investing in the space for the multi year long aging process to fully unfold. These prized barrels, when ready for sale, are highly coveted and snatched up with Black Friday fervor and credited with 30% of its sales volume.

While Central Waters Brewing Co. is known for its barrel aged line, brewer Simon Nielson wants to showcase other offerings too. Moving to over 15,000 barrel produced, Nielson has a particular interest in IPA’s. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades American Pale Ale are already available throughout the year and Nielson’s passion for Central Waters and brewing has barely been tapped. Central Waters’ Mudpuppy Porter, Honey Blonde, Wisconsin Red, and Satin Solitude are all clear winners in their portfolio.

Central Waters Brewing Co. is on Thrillist’s list of The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 13
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 15
Destination – 12
Rave Meter: 76

 

21. Perennial Artisan Ales

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Location: St. Louis, MI
Founded: 2011

Perennial Artisan Ales came from the heart and hard work of founder Phil Wymore. Struggling to find a job that best fit his personality and passions, Phil got lucky with an early opportunity at a new brewpub as an assistant. He had no formal brewing experience. Armed with sheer enthusiasm for brewing and learning, the ball began rolling. Jumping into positions with Goose Island and Half Acre Beer, Wymore finally found the perfect combination of science and creativity he wanted. In 2011, he launched Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis. Looking to create “a brewery for beer geeks,” Perennial Artisan Ales creates off the cuff flavors and really taps into brewing the unusual and making something they are excited to share. In 2016, they expanded their complex, adding 15 new tanks and allowing for more experimentation in addition to their existing 8.5 barrel brewery and tasting room.

Perennial Artisan Ales is known for adventurous brews, using the best local and even organic ingredients when possible. Perennial is known for their flagship Saison, Saison de Lis, a great everyday drinking beer with notes of camomile. Their Abraxas has a cult following, as does Hommel, their well-regarded Belgian pale ale. With chef curated small plates to match any beer and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, Perennial Artisan Ales is the perfect place to commune with fellow beer nerds .

Perennial Artisan Ales is on Thrillist’s list of The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 12
Popularity – 18
Scarcity – 18
Cult – 15
Destination – 13
Rave Meter: 75

 

22. Kuhnhenn Brewing Company

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Location: Warren, MI
Founded: 2011

Creating “beers with distinct personalities” is Kuhnhenn Brewing Company in smalltown Warren, MI. Originally outfitted in their father’s well respected hardware store, brother Bret and Eric began to promote beer making products as they took over the family business and became interested in homebrewing themselves. Their father thought they were nuts. Finally in 1998, they changed direction and ventured into brewing supplies, with beer production their next goal. The hardware store didn’t fully phase out until 2006. Officially launching in 2011, Kuhnhenn brothers are the founders and brewmasters of a full-scale brewery, two taprooms, the Brewing World supply shop, and have converted their reluctant father into a full-fledged craft beer connoisseur.

Now with 26,000 barrel production capacity and a huge new brewpub, Kuhnhenn Brewing Company is poised for success. Their Raspberry Eisbock, Double Rice IPA or DRIPA, and Fluffer have cemented their place in the Michigan beer trophy case, and the Bourbon Barrel 4th Dementia is highly sought after not just in the neighborhood, but for beer drinkers nationally. Always maintain an experimental kettle for brewing up more eclectic concoctions, the Kuhnhenn brothers’ passion has not wavered. With its homespun roots, friendly feel, and strong, vivid flavors, the Kuhnhenn brothers and their brewing adventure is a midwest success story.

Kuhnhenn is on Thrillist’s list of The 16 Best Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 14
Popularity – 16
Scarcity – 15
Cult – 15
Destination – 14
Rave Meter: 74

 

23. Nebraska Brewing Company

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Location: Papillion, NE
Founded: 2005

Starting a brewery is not for the faint hearted. Launching it during the recession requires even more grit and determination. Nebraska Brewing Company began in Papillion and was started by homebrewer Paul Kavulak and his wife Kim, who take on the roles of President and Co-Founder and General Manager, respectively. In 2007, their brewpub opened and the real test of running a successful business began. Recalling “that these days, and nights, were some of the most stressful the team would be asked to endure” Nebraska Brewing Company persevered. With the innovation of Tyson Arp as brewmaster, demand at the brewpub soon outgrew what they were able to supply, so a packaging brewery and tap room was opened closeby, allowing the full scope of Nebraska Brewing to come to fruition. With production now able to produce 10,000 barrels a year, the Nebraska craft beer scene seems bright.

Nebraska Brewing Company has a strong bandwidth of selection. With standard hop-heavy beers like their Cardinal Pale Ale and their barrel aged Hop Anomaly, patrons also flock to get their seasonal releases like Gimme S’more and I’m Gonna Git You Citra. Their limited batch Inception Series carries Attack of the 50 Foot Brunette and their Imperial Stout Moab. While the road to getting the Nebraska Brewing Company to its current production may have had bumps, local Nebraskans and those in the other 21 states and 3 countries on their distribution map are grateful the Kavulak’s took the risk and began the venture.

Nebraska Brewing Company is on TripAdvisor’s Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 14
Popularity – 15
Scarcity – 16
Cult – 14
Destination – 14
Rave Meter: 73

 

24. Lost Cabin Beer Company

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Location: Rapid City, SD
Founded: 2016

Lost Cabin Beer Company is a small batch brewery focused on high quality and inventive brews, true to their Black Hills and South Dakota roots. Centered in Rapid City and with brew names that highlight different local outdoor adventures and trails, Lost Cabin Beer’s local pride and sense of community is tough to beat. Started by two homebrewers, Co-founders Tom Silbernagel and Jesse Scheitler were introduced by their wives only three years ago. Fast friends, they soon were spending the weekends brewing together and concocting recipes. A business plan was formulated and Lost Cabin was found. Now seeing its success as a microbrewery, the busy tasting room is full of enthusiasts and co-founders Tom and Jesse are excited to welcome patrons to their perch. With wooden taps and a communal feel, it is a great place to stop in and sample.

With a spectrum from Saisons to Scotch Ales and IPA’s, Lost Cabin Beer Company has only been open since 2016, but already is making its mark. Their bestseller Dakota Common Lager is a nod to the beer that gold rush miners drank, with local hops creating a nice flavor. Try the Lord Grizzly Scotch Ale or seasonal Saison de Roubaix to get a taste of what Black Hills beer is about.

Lost Cabin Beer Company is on TripAdvisor’s Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.

Nostalgia – 14
Popularity – 15
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 14
Destination – 12
Rave Meter: 72

 

25. Firehouse Brewing Company

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Location: Rapid City, SD
Founded: 1991

Located in Rapid City’s historic downtown 1915 fire station is Firehouse Brewing Company, the city’s first brewpub. Stocked with fire memorabilia and complete with the original fire pole, this building underwent extensive renovation to create a thriving brewery and dining space. Now instead of fire engines, beer enthusiasts fill tables, tasting some of Rapid City’s best beer. Opened in 1991, it also is South Dakota’s oldest operating brewery. Now housed within the complex is their brewery, restaurant, outdoor patio and bandshell, a theatre, Firehouse Winery, and store. Owned by Mike Fuchs and with Mike Kilroy as head brewer and Zach Steele and Jon Mayes as assistant brewers, “The Firehouse” looks to be around for a long time. Firehouse Brewing Company is family friendly with a full menu to compliment beer, homemade root beer, and nine beers on tap at a time.

Using a 10 barrel system, Firehouse Brewing is proud to be a microbrewery. Their flagship beers the Firehouse Red Ale and Black Hills Brown are popular choices for patrons, but don’t be afraid to try their Teacher’s Pet Hard Cider or selection of wines. With seasonal beers like False Alarm Jalapeño Cream Ale or Bogus Jim Spruce Ale, it is easy to see that Firehouse Brewing isn’t afraid of bold ingredient choices. They are known to utilize honey, mint, and ginger in their beers as well.  

Firehouse Brewing Company is on TripAdvisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 16
Popularity – 11
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 11
Destination – 16
Rave Meter: 71

 

26. Big Rip Brewing Company

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Location: North Kansas City, MO
Founded: 2013

Drinking pals Josh Collins and Kipp Feldt got to talking in 2012 as Feldt was brewing the beer for Collins’ wedding. (Collins was making the wine himself). Both passionate about their crafts, would it ever be possible to create beer and wine on a larger scale? Maybe this could work. Energized to create drinks that appealed to the beer nerds and also the novices and with references to their favorite sci-fi and horror films thrown in for character, Big Rip Brewing Company in North Kansas City, MO was launched. A play off of the alternative theory to the Big Bang, that the universe is infinitely expanding, Big Rip is Collins and Feldt’s “way of telling people to lighten up and enjoy their life.” Big Rip’s small batch production and micro scale have driven people right to their front door, clamouring for a taste of what Big Rip Brewing Company offers.

Growing and with steady improvements to their brand all the time, Big Rip Brewing is at the point where their customer can still jump on board and see the development of products as they are being formulated.  With three brewing tanks currently (named Ripley, Ash, and Mulder) Big Rip has plans to launch wine next. For now, the focus is solely on beer. Try the nutty sweetness of Big Rip’s Hathor’s Sweet Brown Ale or their sought after Raspberry Gluten Free. The 237 Milk Stout or their Franklin Road Coffee Porter are also tasty choices.

Big Rip Brewing is on Trip Advisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 12
Popularity – 14
Scarcity – 17
Cult – 15
Destination – 12
Rave Meter: 70

 

27. Fulton Brewing Company

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Location: Minneapolis, MN
Founded: 2009

“Ordinary Guys Brewing Extraordinary Beer.” Fulton Brewing Company is the dream of backyard garage home brewers Jim Diley and Peter Grande. Realizing that some of their brews were really resounding with family and friends, they soon began to question if this could be more than a hobby. Partnering with pals Brian Hoffman and Ryan Petz, Fulton Brewing Company was launched in 2009. Opening a brewery and Minneapolis’ first tap room in the North Loop area was met with quick success. In 2013, they were drawing up plans for a full production brewery in the Northeast neighborhood. With over 8 times the space from their North Loop location, a 20,000 barrel annual capacity and 80 barrel brewhouse, Fulton Brewing now has a homebase where they experiment, market, and keep brewing into the future.

Fulton Brewing Company brewers knew they had something special in their backyard garage when they started brewing their signature IPA Sweet Child of Vine. It became one of the most sought after beers for bars that were beginning to work with Fulton Brewing Company. A versatile, easy to drink classic. Fulton Brewing Company takes pride in its local roots and has seen great success with its quirky HefeWheaties, a nod to Minnesota’s giant General Mills. Don’t forget about their staple APA’s: Lonely Blonde and Extra! Extra! A tribute to the local paper, the Star Tribune and neighborhood favorite.

Fulton Brewing Company is on TripAdvisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 15
Popularity – 14
Scarcity – 14
Cult – 13
Destination – 12
Rave Meter: 68

 

28. Lakefront Brewery

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Location: Milwaukee, WI
Founded: 1987

Lakefront Brewery was founded in 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, after Russ gave Jim a book about homebrewing for his birthday. Jim’s beer was quite good and the process interested Russ. The brothers began a sibling rivalry as to who could brew the best beer and began entering brewing contests. Soon enough, they were encouraged to start their own business and Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery was born. Beginning in an old bakery with 55 gallon drums and some refitted dairy equipment, their business took off and soon they moved into a larger building (this time with real brewing equipment). Now celebrating its 30th year, Lakefront celebrates its Milwaukee heritage not only in some of its beer names like East Side Dark, but also also uses local ingredients like Door County cherries, Wisconsin hops and yeast. Lakefront Brewery is also a member of Local First Milwaukee, promoting the success of neighborhood businesses.

Lakefront Brewery is known for doing things differently. Its Pumpkin Lager was one of the first pumpkin beers released. Their Lakefront Cherry Lager promotes the hallowed local fruit and also is one of the early fruit beers. Lakefront Brewery was one of the first certified organic brewery in the United States and is well lauded for creating the first gluten-free line of beer. Its Fixed Gear American Red IPA, River West Stein Amber Lager, and Fuel Cafe are all fixtures of the brand. Now brewing around 50,000 barrels a year and poised to move into a larger facility, Lakefront Brewery shows no sign of slowing down.

Lakefront Brewery is on TripAdvisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 13
Popularity – 14
Scarcity – 13
Cult – 14
Destination – 13
Rave Meter: 67

 

29. Hoppin’ Frog Brewery

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Location: Akron, OH
Founded: 2006

On “the quest for the perfect pint” is Fred Karm, owner and brewmaster at Hoppin’ Frog in Akron, Ohio. After stumbling into homebrewing after helping a pal in college, Karm worked at Thirsty Dog Brewing Company for ten years before the shuttered. Buying their equipment, he started Hoppin’ Frog in 2006 as a one man show. Working 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. shifts was the norm, but Karm’s basic mantra is “quality over quantity” and that “slow, meticulous growth is what will carry the day.” Working with a very small 10 barrel production system, Hoppin’ Frog’s beers are available in 19 states and 15 countries.

Hoppin’ Frog is known for its high alcohol, hop heavy, ultra flavorful beers. In their tasting room, visitors can try one of the 24 taps on 3 different temperature settings, and special guest brews. Being a hands-on brewery, Fred is typically around, brewing and interacting with guests. Hoppin’ Frog is known for its oatmeal Russian Imperial Stouts, B.O.R.I.S., D.O.R.I.S., and T.O.R.I.S. (Bodacious, Double, and Triple oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout respectively). While the brewing industry is booming, Karm’s deliberate growth and “uncompromising focus on detail and quality, from the ingredient selection to the brewing process” makes Hoppin’ Frog a standout.

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery is on TripAdvisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 13
Popularity – 13
Scarcity – 16
Cult – 14
Destination – 10
Rave Meter: 66

 

30. Thirsty Dog Brewing

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Location: Akron, OH
Founded: 1997

Thirsty Dog Brewing in Akron, Ohio was founded by John Najeway, who got interested in the craft beer scene when it was in its infancy in 1993. Now celebrating its 20th year, the brand has evolved from a brewpub chain, to contract brewing, then to a production brewery, Grant Street Taphouse, and now moving back to a 10-barrel brewhouse and 12,000-square-foot taproom. Owners have changed, but Najeway seems to know that craft beer requires flexibility and innovation. Now making around 75 beers each year and with distribution in 15 different states, its move to a larger space will only whet the appetite for more Thirsty Dog beers.

With a 20,000 barrel annual production, Thirsty Dog Brewing’s unique tastes make them stand out in the craft beer market. Best known for its American Porter Old Leghumper, Thirsty Dog’s canine names like Barktoberfest, 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale, Siberian Night Imperial Stout, and Labrador Lager appeal to a wide audience. While Thirsty Dog Brewing has not only weathered multiple shifts and remained a leader in the Ohio craft beer community, Najeway wants to be clear as he reflects on his place in the craft industry. “Be prepared to work hard every day.” With Thirsty Dog’s plans for expansion in a highly competitive industry, they have done that.

Thirsty Dog Brewing is on TripAdvisor’s “Must-Visit American Breweries in the Midwest.”

Nostalgia – 15
Popularity – 12
Scarcity – 12
Cult – 12
Destination – 11
Rave Meter: 62

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