Craft brewing has been on an inexorable march since it was birthed out of home brewing in the late 70s. The 80s separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and the 90s saw the emergence of what would become the rock stars of the craft brewing revolution. These grew up on the backs of the fallen, and their numbers separate them from almost countless small craft breweries around the country.
But their are a handful of breweries that pushed the art of craft brewing into entirely new dimensions during the first decade of the new millennium. They do not sell their beer in every beer aisle across the country, but the names of the brewers are synonymous with experimentation and craft beer education.
There is no permanent list, and you may or may not find these same breweries listed in magazines as the best of the best, but these are the ones I have come in contact with and which represent the most prolific in the art and craft of brewing during the last decade. I’m sure you have other breweries you would add to the list, or you might disagree entirely with my list. So, please take a moment to add your thoughts or vote for your favorites in the poll at the end of this post.
Most Prolific Craft Breweries 2000 to 2009 and a few of the reasons why:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: Pioneering attitude, beer education and probably the most widely known of the big craft breweries.
Widmer Brewing Co.: Yes, they sold out to the macros, but the Widmer Brothers did more to establish hefeweizen as a major American craft-beer style than any other brewers.
Stone Brewing Co.: Pushed big, in-your-face beers onto the American table. Never gave up on big beer ideas and are a household name in many parts of the country.
Brooklyn Brewing Co.: Garrett Oliver is a force of nature. He has done more to support beer and food pairing than any other brewer.
Russian River Brewing Co.: Vinny Cilurzo is a brewing god. His creativity and willingness to continue to push the envelope make my job more interesting.
Lost Abbey: Tomme Arthur is another brewing god. In my mind, Tomme has done more to bring Belgian styles to the American palate than any other brewer.
Brewery Ommegang: All I know is that I’ve been enjoying Belgian-style craft beers from this brewery longer than any other.
Bridgeport Brewing Co.: A personal choice for sure, but this Northwest mainstay is top-of-mind for many when it comes to choosing a craft beer for almost any setting.
Dogfish Head Brewing Co.: I know many brewers will disagree with this, but Sam Calagione has pushed the envelope as well, and his marketing savvy has placed Dogfish Head in the annals of American craft brewing lore.
New Glarus Brewery: Prolific for it’s regional influence in a state with some heavy hitters in the macro catagory. New Glarus stands out as a brewing company that a lot of people talk about on a regular basis.
Big Sky Brewing Co.: Yes, I’m biased, but I think the fact that this little brewery has been in more than 20 states is significant, and I think the fact that they represent many of the great styles of beer from Montana is worth mentioning them in a list of most prolific breweries.
Abita Brewing Co.: As regionally significant to the south as New Glarus is to the north. This brewery is very visible on the national scene, and the beer is good.
Lagunitas Brewing Co.: One of my first discoveries of the decade, Lagunitas is close to my heart, because it is brewed near the city I was born in. And their beer labeling is among the best I’ve ever seen.
Rogue Ales: John Maier is one of my favorite head brewers. His commitment to exploration and a pirate’s eye for style makes him stand out among American craft brewers.
Alaska Brewing Co.: The largest state’s contribution to craft brewing is a standard all its own. The fact that Alaska produces such a high-quality quiver of great beers is all the more astounding for how separated the state is from the rest of the union.
New Belgium Brewing Co.: Because of this brewery’s commitment to green brewing practices and high-quality craft beer and way of life, it has to make the list for most prolific breweries of the decade. That and the fact that I love their commercials.
Add your pick for most prolific brewery of the last decade to the list at SpeakupMissoula.com.
If you didn’t know this, Glacier Brewing Co. has one of the coolest collections of old logos you’ll see. And while I’m on the subject, check out this old logo the company never used. There is something really unique about the art work used by Montana breweries.
Sour beers are growing in popularity here in the U.S. The upcoming SourFest on Saturday, February 27, 2010, 5 – 12:00 p.m., hosted by Avery Brewing Co. looks to be a decent collection of U.S. sour and brett beers. Here’s the info. Hoping to see you there.
Featuring 35+ of the best sour, wild and brett beers from across the nation! Presented and hosted by Avery Brewing Company. All attendees will receive a complimentary, full size tasting snifter commemorating this inaugural event. Please call 303-440-4324 with event related questions or go to www.averybrewing.com for an up-to-date listing of confirmed breweries who will be in attendance.
I’m heading out to see Avatar at Salem’s new CineBarre. The idea behind these movie theater pubs is not new, but I’m starting to see more and more of these popping up around the country. Missoula has the Wilma, of course, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few other chain theaters catering to those of us who enjoy a beer with out movie without having to sneak one through the doors in your wife’s purse.
The Grizzly Growler will be Oregon bound for a week, which means I’ll be reporting about, and hopefully collecting, many good beers that might not be available in Montana. All the better to stretch my imagination. But look for posts about some really cool beer coming up in the next week. I’d like to wish all my readers a very happy holiday and a great New Year. I’m very grateful to you for your support and readership throughout the years. But 2009 is the best year yet. Readership is up this year, and craft beer in Montana is doing better than ever.
Hey all, I spent some time on Aaron Flint’s Voices of America program on the radio this morning along with Montana Brewer’s Association director Tony Herbert and Red Lodge Ales owner and MBA president Sam Hoffman. Great discussion about all things Montana craft beer related.
I don’t have actual confirmation yet, but the Montana hop vine is reporting that the popular east lake brewery just south of Big Fork will reopen in the same location, but under new ownership. I’m told that former brewery Tim Jacoby will again take the reigns, though I don’t know if he’ll use the same recipes as before or create new beers.
At any rate, I’m excited that this awesomely located brewery will once again be a destination while boating the Flathead and on trips to and from Glacier National Park.
More when I know.
Bayern Brewing looks to be doing some cool things with their Face Plant beer. I think this sounds like a great birthday trip.
The Face Plant ski/board with Bayern schedule is beginning. Starting January 16th there will be an all day event at Silver Mountain in Idaho. There will be a bus with Face Plant on it going from Missoula to Silver. The cost will be $59 for a bus ticket, subway breakfest, lift ticket and 2 Face Plants.You can upload pic…tures and videos to Silver Mountains website for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd “Best Face Plant” prizes http://www.silvermt.com/site_Global/Global.aspx?page=GL-Event-Calendar. Contact our facebook page for questions or comments.
We first came up with the idea last year. Larry Coffman, executive chef at Blue Canyon and Big Sky head brewer Matt Long and I had been getting together around this time of year to talk about the annual Big Sky/Blue Canyon craft beer dinner. Last year, Larry was open to the suggestion of doing some beer tasting at the restaurant in preparation for the even. What ended up happening is legendary.
As we worked our way through the beers making notes on flavors, bitterness and general food appeal, Larry would disappear into the kitchen and bust out a dish that he thought complimented the beer. We’d all taste and try to go as deep with the food and beer comparisons as possible. Larry eventually tweaked the dishes based on our tasting and served them at the beer dinner a month or so later.
So last Thursday, Larry, Matt and I gathered at Blue Canyon with a bunch of Big Sky beers to try. It was festive and felt like a holiday affair, and Larry was inspired. The dishes he started whipping up around the growlers and bottles of great craft beer were phenomenal and really hit the mark with the tastes and smells we were identifying in the beers.
One dish really caught my attentions. After trying Big Sky’s Powder Hound, a winter ale, we all identified a nutty, almost graham cracker crust taste on the finish. With that, Larry disappeared into the kitchen for 10 minutes or so, while we continued to discuss the beer. Larry returned with a small salad of dried pear, greens and these goat cheese nuggets rolled in spiced nuts. The creamy cheese with the crusted nuts was a phenomenal match with the Powder Hound, evoking a pie crust taste followed by a cleansing round of hops.
We went through half-a-dozen Big Sky beers before Larry nailed down the menu to some exciting seafood options, braised beef and even a duck dish with dried figs and a blackberry sauce to pair with Big Sky’s Kriek. The main menu will be a secret for a little while still, but I’m confident this year’s menu will be the best yet.
So keep your calendars clear for the first weekend in February, and as soon as I get a date for the Big Sky/Blue Canyon beer dinner, I’ll let you know.