American Craft Brew Week: 8 Craft Brews to Try This Week

It’s time for everyone’s favorite week of the year! It’s finally here--National American Craft Brew Week!

National American Craft Brew Week is celebrated between May 10-16. It gives independent breweries and local beer makers a chance to make their mark on the national and global markets. They’ve already been making a big impact on the overall beer market, though. In 2021, craft beer accounted for just under 30 percent of the $100 billion U.S. beer market. Furthermore, in the last year, craft beer production went up about 8 percent. This is possibly due to the pandemic easing up. But it could also be because people are realizing that craft beers are amazing! (Nerd out on some beer stats here.)

The craft beer industry divides what exactly defines a “craft brewer” into one of six segments:

  • Microbreweries
  • Brewpubs
  • Taproom breweries
  • Regional breweries
  • Contract brewing companies
  • Alternating proprietors

Do you know the difference between a microbrewery and a brewpub? A microbrewery makes the beer. But a brewpub is where you can buy beer—those that are made on-premises as well as those from other breweries—and drink it.  A taproom sells mostly its own beverages (25 percent) and also has food services.

There’s a good chance you have at least one of these near you. And if you are lucky, you might have several.

This year, I had to cancel a family trip due to COVID. So instead, I reached out to family and friends from across the USA for some of their favorite local choices. Fortunately, I come from a beer-loving, local business-supporting family. My family has wide-ranging palates and preferences, so I received a delightful variety of choices! Most of these aren’t beers that have won prestigious awards. (But my family thinks they should!)

If you live in one of these areas or plan to travel there soon, look up one of these local establishments! Alternatively, you can use this map to find a brewery near you.

Our list includes beers from California, Georgia, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Florida, and New York. We guarantee that we’ve picked out some beers you’ve never heard of before!

Fieldwork Brew

 (picture from Fieldwork’s website.)

Best Craft Beer in San Francisco: Mexican Hot Chocolate

My sister-in-law Claire selected Mexican Hot Chocolate from the brewery Fieldwork. She said, “I love it because it is malty, chocolatey, spicy—everything you want in a stout.” This huge-bodied stout contains lactose, chocolate, ancho chiles, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Don’t confuse the regular “Hot Chocolate” and the “Mexican Hot Chocolate.” The regular hot chocolate is not as spicy. She warns, though, that Fieldwork doesn’t keep any beer in a constant rotation at their multiple California taprooms. So it’s a luck of a draw if they have any fresh and on tap. However, “one is always sure to find many delicious IPAs, a couple of delicious sours, and at least one solid porter or stout” on draft. Delivery is not currently available outside of California. Serve up your favorite in a beautiful, hand-engraved glass from Prestige!

Claire’s runner-up choice: Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. This beer is distributed widely and probably findable in most metropolitan areas. Pliny is a double-hopped IPA with some delicious floral, citrus, and pine aromas. Claire mentions that Russian River Brewing also has some delicious sour-fruited beers and barrel-aged beers.

Best Craft Beer in Atlanta: Sweetwater 420

Cousin Andrea and her folks regularly seek out craft brews and wineries in the greater Atlanta area. Her pick was the Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale by the Sweetwater Brewery. “It’s a smooth pale ale,” Andrea says, “and they happen to have their own festival that revolves around this beer—the 420 Fest.” As Brian Miesieski, CMO at Sweetweater said, “Our 420 Extra Pale Ale has been on the Mount Rushmore of craft beer for 24 years,” really embodying the company mission of “Don’t Float the Mainstream.” This tasty West Coast-style Extra Pale Ale is accentuated with a stimulating hop character. Their main taproom is in the heart of Atlanta, but they’ve got satellite taprooms in Colorado and in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. You can also find their beer in most U.S. states.

Andrea’s mother’s runner-up choice: Tropicalía by Creature Comforts Brewing in Athens, Georgia. Tropicalía is a soft and juicy IPA with aromas of citrus and ripe passion fruit. It’s hops-forward and finishes with bitterness.

Sweetwater 420

(photo from Ski Magazine)

Best Craft Beer in Idaho: Grand Teton Brewing

Friend Mike from Idaho recommends the Bitch Creek Brown Ale from Grand Teton Brewing. Named after a popular kayaking and fishing spot, it’s a massively award-winning beer. In fact, it has claimed 15 gold medals at national events. The Brown has a big malty sweetness and a robust hops flavor. The brewery uses glacial run-off water, filtered over 300-500 years by Teton Mountain granite. Interestingly, the brewery has made the strategic decision to scale back its geographic footprint since 2015. They wanted to emphasize their focus on the region. This decision has also helped their environmental commitment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Bitch Creek Brown would be deliciously served in a wooden beer mug like this.

Mike’s runner-up choice: The 208 Golden Ale, also from Grand Teton Brewing. “It’s a bit like a pilsner, and a bit like an IPA. It’s not that heavy on hops like a true IPA.” (Yeah Mike, it’s called “being subtle.”)

Greand Teton Brewing - Brewbound – North American Beer Awards

(Picture from Brewbound – North American Beer Awards)

Best Craft Beer in San Diego

Cousin Brian is a real craft beer snob. Plus, San Diego is a hotbed of craft beers, so I figured he would have some good recommendations to send my way. His top pick was Hazy Jae IPA from Helia Beer. “Helia was started a few years back when a surfer was walking home and stopped to talk to a guy brewing in his driveway. I’ve met both of them, their families, and their kids over the years. It took some time to build, find a location, and pour a lot of love into the place over the past four years. The Hazy Jae IPA has citrus notes and elements of tropical fruit,” my cousin expertly shared.

Helia Brew

(Picture from Helia Brewing website.)

He went on to give a nod to the HQ tasting room, which I have a feeling he haunts pretty regularly. In recent years the brewery has really tied in the community to engage with the brewery, including the art community. The HQ is a bright space with a focus on local artists. “I would say that everything on the walls is for sale. The HQ has outdoor fire pits, it’s dog-friendly and kid-friendly. It has a ping-pong table, foosball table, and lots more.” With frequent food trucks, trivia, and live music, it’s a great place to hang out and just chill! (Celebrate everything that’s awesome about San Diego with these great, city-themed coasters!)

Of course, Cousin Brian offered a runner-up. Well, he actually offered several runners-up. Burgeon Beer Company where “literally everything is good at Burgeon!” (Check out their website for a Photo/Video Challenge showing you imbibing on your Xtreme adventure!) He also likes the Lupulin Lust DIPA at Rip Current Brewing. It was the winner of the 2015 Very Small Brewing Company and named Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. Also, check out the sours and stouts at Stave & Nail.

Best Craft Beer in Upstate New York

Here in Upstate New York, we are blessed with a ton of craft beer! So many, in fact, that we have several Brew Bus tours (and a self-guiding phone app) to try to squeeze in the 500+ craft breweries in the state. Wow!  Despite the diversity in offerings, my bestie in boozy beer adventures, Pete, was quick to name his current top pick. It’s the Flurpy Stout from the Warbler Brewery. It’s an easily drinkable, sweet vanilla stout with no lactose. The proprietor learned to wield his trade at Cooperstown Brewing (another awesome choice). He has won tons of awards for his innovative concept brews. The Flurpy is a great example of his reach because it’s a real “wow” beer.

Pete’s runner-up is Fidens Brewery. He likes their ever-changing rotation. But he particularly likes their IPAs, such as Eugene’s Axe, a gnarly DIPA using Citra and Galaxy hops. Actually, scoring some of this beer is part of the adventure—don’t expect it to be easy, accessible, or quick. Possibly that’s part of their whole subversive plot to take over the industry—reminds you a bit of the marketing plan for Heady Topper at the Alchemist.

Best craft beer from Louisiana

Cousin Lisa from New Orleans came through with some picks from Louisiana. Abita is probably the most famous in the area and the selection that is most likely available in Everywhere, USA. But we decided to dive a little deeper for a craft brew choice. The top pick was Parish Beer. “Located in Broussard, just south of Lafayette, this is an interesting little place that specializes in more East Coast IPA styles and some exceptional stouts. Canebrake and Strawberry Canebrake are more of the flagship beers—wheat beers—due to the excessive heat and humidity in South Louisiana.” Cousin Lisa also gave a shout out to their Pale Ale Envie and their Coffee Stout Reve “with a kick.” Carli Graf, the Business Manager at Parish Beer, said that “Canebrake was our first beer and remains one of our most popular. It’s a lightly-sweet, refreshing American wheat that is brewed with Louisiana sugarcane syrup. Canebrake, like all of our beers, is brewed with the highest quality ingredients, such as Cascade hops picked from our favorite farm in Oregon.”

Parish Beer

(Photo from Parish Beer website)

Runner up: The Jucifer at Gnarly Barley Beer. “Jucifer is a hazy IPA with a great mouthfeel and complex flavor. Their other selections are good, but this is by far their best.” The Jucifer is a “devilishly delicious hop bomb that makes your nostrils flair and your tail point.” Catch the mango and papaya in this one.

Best craft beer from Wisconsin

Cousin Joy said that her Wisconsin favorite is the Boatswain Double IPA: Twin Screw Steamer from the Rhinelander Brewing Company in Monroe, WI. It’s an easy find at Trader Joe’s, which makes us ponder its “craft” status a little. Nonetheless, the beer is “intensely hoppy with plenty of malt to balance the bitterness.” It’s a ridiculously affordable buy, at about $5 for a 6-pack, and it’s 8.4 percent alcohol. While reviews are definitely mixed on the intergalactic web about this one, it’s Cousin Joy’s taste of home as she enjoys retirement elsewhere. The Boatswain definitely tastes most delicious when enjoyed in one of these great beer glasses from Prestige.

Runner up: Spotted Cow by New Glarus Brewing Co., which is all the rage among my Midwest, millennial craft brew peers. It’s a naturally cloudy beer due to the yeast remaining in the bottle to bring out the flavors. Spotted Cow has won a bazillion awards, including a nod from Bon Appetite Magazine as “Best Drink in WI.” Oddly enough, nobody can quite agree on what type of beer the Spotted Cow is. “It’s a blend of Pilsner malt, white wheat, and caramel malt.” And as brewmaster Dan Cary says, “While beer fans and nerds might go nuts for the beer because of its limited footprint or just because of its place in the craft-beer-Hall of Fame, it’s the drinking part and that it’s approachable for every beer drinker that makes me proud.”  You can’t go wrong with any New Glarus brew. The company has won all the major beer awards, including medals from the Brewers Association, Zymurgy, Forbes, Beer Advocate, Food and Wine Magazine, and many others. It’s easy to hit New Glarus and Rhinelander for brewery tours and tastings, as both facilities are just south of Madison.

Best craft beer from Florida

Sandy chose J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami as her top pick. This Star Wars-themed brewery definitely has us nerding out Cantina-style. “I can’t decide what I love more—the Star Wars-meets-graffiti ambiance or the quality Berliner beers,” Sandy said the Dragon Fruit/Passion Fruit is her favorite and keeps her coming back for more.  It’s fruity, sour, and tart. This sour Weisse beer is rated the #1 Berliner Weisse by and holds the #2 spot in the world on Beer Advocate. “This thing is going to be a cult favorite soon,” Sandy predicts. But superfans might have to wait a while for it to come back in stock. “The last time this beer went on sale, there was a line waiting around the block, and it sold out within hours.” The taproom is definitely worth a visit; the Death Star Empire-style murals inside were created by local artists and are colorful and trendy. (Check out these great Florida-theme coasters from Prestige!)

American Craft Brew Week is here!

American Craft Brew Week is a yearly event that highlights independent breweries and local beer makers. This quickly growing market is making a big splash across the country. You might be from the West Coast or the East Coast, Midwest or Deep South. No matter where there is likely a small craft brewery that’s mixing up some truly innovative and delicious drinks. What better time to celebrate by grabbing a six-pack of your favorite craft brew? Who are your local favorites? Hit us up in the comments below!