It seems like the craft beer explosion in popularity peaked sometime last year. What's left is a mix of breweries that have been around since long before craft beer became popular and new breweries that have not only created extraordinary beer but also great places to enjoy it. Here are the best places to enjoy a beer in the Golden State.
They focus their attention on brewing rustic, unfiltered, aromatic beers that are approachable and unique. They pull from their home brewing background to build beers that pay homage to tradition, but break new ground in American brewing techniques and flavors by blurring the line between beer and wine. They are brewers of big ideas in very small batches.
Cellarmaker Brewing Company has been in the works for quite some time. Look for their beers to start making their way around better known beer bars and beer focused restaurants in San Francisco.
They have a tasting room in the same building as the brewery and will offer tasters, pints, and growlers. Some beers may be bottled further down the line but for now it's all draft. The only way you can take their beer away is in the form of a growler - which by the way, is a great way to drink beer!
Look for a focus of plenty of hoppy beers, Belgian-style saisons, dark beers, and sour beers. They are huge fans of wine and bourbon barrel aged beers as well so it's only natural for them to have a barrel program. Think bourbon barrels loaded with big chewy imperial stouts, excessively hopped IPAs, fruited sour beers, and funky saisons. Follow along for the ride as they build San Francisco's next great brewery.
South Gate Brewing Company is a microbrewery and brewpub located in Oakhurst, California - the South Gate to Yosemite National Park. They brew and serve fine craft beers on the premises. Their brewpub also offers a well-designed and focused menu, with an emphasis on thoughtfully sourced and unique American Pub Fare. A great place to relax and enjoy some quality food and quality, craft beer.
The Graham and Scott families established Track 7 Brewing Company as an outlet for creative expression through unique and artisanal beers. The name, Track 7 Brewing Company, was selected in part due to the brewery’s proximity to the old Western Pacific railroad tracks, west of Curtis Park, and as a nod to the integral role the railroad has and continues to play in Sacramento’s rich history.
Track 7’s approach to beer is in the vein of the firmly-hopped West Coast tradition, but without fidelity to a singular “style”. This unfocused approach allows Track 7 to experiment with all varieties of beer, regardless of American, Belgian, English, or German inspiration.
They set out with a simple goal: brew the beers they wanted to drink. They started small, with a homebrew shop, a love of American hops and plenty of passion. In the process, they changed the beer world forever. Decades later, they’re still at it, and the passion burns brighter than ever.
Originally from Southern California, Ken Grossman joined friends on a cycling trip down the North Coast of California, but first made a stop in Chico to check out Cal State University with his childhood friends who were enrolled at the college. He fell in love with the town and the Northern California culture and decided to move to Chico.
The fledgling brewery was finished in the fall of 1980, and Ken needed a brew to test out the hand-built equipment. His first batch of beer was an American Stout. In the following decades, the recipe for Sierra Nevada Stout has changed very little from that day.
Ken knew he wanted to make a hop-forward Pale Ale, but he also knew that the key to convincing people to try the beer and come back for more was consistency. He spent the last of his money and countless months to make sure he could reproduce identical batches of beer. He dumped 10 batches before getting the perfect balance into his Pale Ale, the beer that helped to launch the American craft beer movement and changed the tastes of millions.
By 1987, Ken purchased property on 20th Street in Chico and began construction on a new brewery to house the 100-barrel brewhouse. This piece of property has been their home in Chico ever since. Sierra Nevada opened the doors to its new Taproom, welcoming visitors to come to the brewery for a beer and food. Today, the ever-crowded Taproom and Restaurant is a destination unto itself.
Forged in 1995, AleSmith is an artisan microbrewery that specializes in handcrafted ales in a variety of styles. Deeply rooted in the amateur and craft brewing communities, AleSmith ales have continued to garner national and international awards and acclaim, as well as a loyal and rabid following among beer enthusiasts.
Anchor is America’s first and oldest craft brewery, with roots dating back to the California gold rush. Today, their beers are handmade from an all-malt mash in their traditional copper Brewhouse. Their process combines the time-honored art of classical craft brewing with carefully applied, state-of-the-art modern methods.
Every drop of Anchor beer is made in their traditional copper Brewhouse. Decades-old handmade tools of the trade — mash tun, lauter tun, grant, and brew kettle — are literally at the heart of their historic American brewery.
Anchor uses no rice, corn, or adjuncts--only the best natural ingredients, including pale, caramel, dark, and wheat malts used to varying degrees according to the unique recipe for each of their beers. At the beginning of their traditional brewing process, mashing consists of adding the malt to warm water and cooking it according to their formulas to continue the process of starch-to-sugar conversion that was begun at the Malthouse.
All of their beers and ales are carbonated by the natural carbon dioxide that develops during a gradual conditioning process. For Anchor Steam, they use an ancient practice known among craft brewers as “kräusening”. For their ales, they use a process called “bunging,” creating lighter, more champagne-like bubbles than the artificially injected gases used in mass production.
In the 1960s, Anchor was perhaps the most primitive small craft brewery in the world, but by 1971—the year they began bottling Anchor Steam beer—they had perhaps the most modern small brewery in the world, with state-of-the-art quality control systems in place to ensure that their beers are always pure and fresh, from brewing, through finishing, packaging and transporting. They know of no brewery in the world that matches their efforts to combine traditional, natural brewing with such carefully applied, modern methods.
From humble beginnings came true enlightenment for this leading San Diego-based brewery. Mike and Lisa Hinkley established Green Flash in 2002. Today, they lead a talented team of like-minded craft beer enthusiasts, who embrace the Green Flash culture and brand vision with passion and zeal. Every batch of beer is a labor of love and is a true Green Flash collaboration.
Their esteemed Brewmaster, Chuck Silva and his talented brewing team have developed an award-winning assortment of specialty craft ales that are uniquely Green Flash. After releasing the game changing West Coast IPA, their beers developed a loyal following of craft beer lovers. They remain steadfast in their commitment to a beer first philosophy. For that, they are celebrated by beer enthusiasts worldwide. To keep their fans thirsty for more, they consistently produce experimental, limited-edition and seasonal offerings in addition to a solid lineup of long-time favorites. Through their trailblazing approach to craft brewing, they have established a benchmark within the craft beer community.
#2 The Bruery
The Bruery is a boutique craft brewery located in Orange County, CA specializing in barrel aged and experimental ales. Founded as a small, friendly & a family run business in 2008, The Bruery takes its unique moniker from founder Patrick Rue’s family surname.
Patrick picked up Homebrewing as a hobby, later to become an obsession, as a distraction to the banality of law school. Soon he was winning numerous awards for his beers and driving his wife, Rachel, mad with the messes that he would leave on the kitchen stove. Upon finishing school, he took it upon himself to draw up a business plan rather than study for the California Bar exam – a risky endeavor that shows through still today in the creative, genre-tilting beers that The Bruery prides itself on.
The Bruery is founded on the excitement that Patrick felt in those first years of Homebrewing and they continue to strive for that same passion in every aspect of their business today. They never stop challenging themselves to develop distinctive & imaginative beers, constantly pursuing improvement in all that they do. They brew dozens of original beers each year with their list of ingredients and inspirations growing perpetually. Their collection of oak barrels has also become a primary element of their brewery. Nearly half of their beer is aged in wine or spirit barrels bringing forth flavors reminiscent of the Belgian countryside or classic American distillers.
From points distant and beyond the founders of Lagunitas all converged on Petaluma in 1993 with an unenunciated desire to be more than they were before. The core of Lagunitas came from Chicago, St Louis, Memphis, Walker Creek, and the highlands of Quincy.
The Chicago contingent initiated the brewing and the gravitational effect of such did the rest. They all loved the beer, but the mission was larger than the ordinary joy of a hoppy-sweet quaff. It was driven unseen by an urge to communicate with people, to find their diasporidic tribe, and to connect with other souls adrift on a culture that had lost its center and spun its inhabitants to the four winds to wander lost and bereft with a longing to re-enter the light. Beer, they have learned, has always been a good lubricant for social intercourse.
The Lagunitas Brewing Co. was not so much an act of ordinary ‘foundling’ as it was willed into being by the unspoken desire of supportive beer-lovers in Northern California after which they continued to nurture their creation and urged them forward to fulfill the unifying needs of that same beer-loving diaspora from coast to coast and beyond. It is good to have friends.
California is currently making the greatest beer in the world. If you would rather sip on some yellow tap water from St. Louis with a slight beer taste, grab a can of Budweiser. If you really want to drink good beer head down to your local brewery, and if you want some of the best beer in the world head down to one of these top ten breweries as soon as you get a chance.
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