The 13 Essential American Breweries of 2019

The 13 Essential American Breweries of 2019


Internet analysts love to say shit like "craft beer is dead," or "the industry has nowhere else to go," or "did you know you can make $30,000 a month working from home?" Regarding the former statements, we unregretfully disagree. Yes, sales can fluctuate, especially when new beverage trends like boozy seltzer start hogging the spotlight. Yes, breweries sometimes close, or get acquired. That will happen when you have more than 6,300 independent breweries operating across the nation. And some of them are still managing to completely disrupt the game in their own ways. 

Identifying the 13 essential breweries of now, the year of our Lord 2019, was an exercise in self torture -- making a list of 100 would be tough. But with the collective efforts of some of our most trusted beer writers and experts from across the nation, we whittled it down. You'll find old-guard legends that continue to change the landscape they helped build, and small-scale innovators doing their part to create beer destinations out of their hometowns.  Some introduced us to styles that seemingly overtook the world. Others continue to experiment, unleashing upon the world Belgian/American fruit-beer hybrids, low-ABV innovations, and even taco-flavored gose. One was even did its part to help save the universe from a hulking purple warlord. But all are doing their part to ensure that craft beer isn't dead. From the looks of it, it's just getting started. -- Andy Kryza

Bale Breaker Brewing Company

Yakima, Washington
Established: 2013
Distribution: Oregon and Washington (with Idaho on the way) 
The agricultural industry is the lifeblood of brewing, and hops are arguably the most important ingredient in beer. Washington's Yakima Valley grows 73% of the hops in the US, and it's there that Bale Breaker's brewers are continuing to innovate with the glorious green flowers. Founded by the Loftus hop farming family in 2013, Bale Breaker is somehow the only commercial brewery in the US that is also on a hop farm. Mike Smith began working at his grandparents' hop farm when he was 19. He has since operated the farm for over 40 years and grown it to over 2,000 acres of Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops -- some of the most sought-after hops in the world. 
While their year-round lineup of hop-focused beers showcases the core Loftus-grown hop varieties in a 30-barrel brewhouse, they innovate with test hop varietals on their five-barrel pilot brewhouse. By partnering with farmer-owned global hop supplier Yakima Chief Hops, Bale Breaker gets early access to hop varieties that don’t even have names yet. These experimental hoppy beers showcase new breeds such as the candied cherry-like HBC 630 and some make it into limited cans in the “In the Lup” series collab with YCH. Bale Breaker has an enviable connection to farming and family: Patrick Smith, son of the senior Mike Smith, runs the Loftus family farms operation, his sister Meghan Quinn and husband Kevin Quinn run Bale Breaker Brewing, and the youngest of the family Kevin Smith is the brewmaster. In a hop-focused industry where IPA is king, it helps to have generations of knowledge and VIP access to hops the best hops in the world a stone's throw from the brewery. There is nothing else like it in the US. -- Ezra Johnson-Greenough

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Posted September 25, 2019

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