The 13 Best American Beers: 2024 Taste Test

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It wasn’t long ago that American beer was quite literally the punchline to jokes. Known for tasting bland, watered down, and wholly commoditized, the American beer industry experienced a rebirth in the past several decades thanks to a renaissance of American beer makers who were tired of their choices at home and inspired by the beers they had experienced abroad. This revolution of craft brewers has since returned the favor by invigorating languishing beer cultures and sparking ones where none had been before.

Today, craft beer is no longer a nascent, niche market. Craft beer is mainstream. And while the growth of American craft beer seems to have cooled, the shift it has created in the minds of beer drinkers worldwide is indelible. America is home to some great beers and fantastically talented brewers. Look no further to this list if you require a reminder. These are the best American beers.

Best Overall: Bud Light | Anheuser Busch InBev

Various Brewing Locations (HQ’d in Belgium) | ABV: 4.3% | Calories: 110

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, but Bud Light is a pretty tasty beer. Plus, it perfectly represents the United States of America, the good and not-so-good. It’s a well-balanced light lager perfect for playing a ball game or sharing time with friends. Its knack for innovation kept up its dominance in sales for decades, edging out Coors Light and Miller Lite until it was ultimately replaced by Mexico’s Modelo last year. It is as ingrained in American culture as any beer and even its marketing gaffes perfectly reflect a society that struggles to find the same balance as the beer they drink.

Best Lager: Coors Banquet | Molson Coors

Coors can
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Illinois| ABV: 5% | Calories: 147

Long before craft beer drinkers waited in line for hyped-up imperial stout beers, beer lovers were driving West to Golden, Colorado, to buy cases of Coors Banquet. This American lager is said to have been served to miners at their end-of-the-year banquets when Coors was a small brewery catering to the gold rush. Unlike Budweiser, Coors remained a regional brewery, and this special beer was much sought after. Today, you can get Coors Banquet just about everywhere – plus, the company is now HQ’d in Chicago – but Banquet is only brewed in Golden, just as it always has been.

Best IPA: The Alchemist Heady Topper

Vermont | ABV: 8%| Calories: 320

There isn’t a more popular beer style in today’s beer landscape than the India Pale Ale (IPA). Over the course of a few decades, the style trends have changed quite a bit, explicitly moving away from the West Coast hop bomb bursting with bitter hops to a softer, unfiltered version that places an emphasis on hop flavor.

How did we get here?

Many point to Heady Topper for bringing on an era of hazy IPAs that flex loads of tropical fruit flavors, hop aroma, and flavor. Ironically, if you taste Heady Topper next to the hazy beers of today, you will find that Heady Topper is more like a traditional English IPA with American bitterness. Most beer enthusiasts wouldn’t group it with the modern American IPA, but it is still great.

Best Pale Ale: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

California | ABV: 5.6% | Calories: 175

Sierra Nevada pale ale easily could have beat out Bud Light for the overall spot in this list. It perfectly exemplifies American style and innovation. When it was created, many American drinkers found it too bitter from the citrus and pine flavor of cascade hops. Today, this classic American pale ale is likely not bitter enough by other beer connoisseurs’ standards. Still, this beer helped spark a new chapter in the American beer history books and is just as delicious!

Best Stout: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Chicago | ABV: varies | Calories: varies

Every fall, beer enthusiasts scramble for the latest installment of Bourbon County Stout variants—the flavored versions of Goose Island’s famous imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. The beer and its derivatives helped spawn the flavored imperial stout craze and showed other breweries just how much people love a beer release, inspiring releases like that of 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Day.

Though the brewery was one of the first craft brewers to be bought up by Anheuser Busch, the popularity of these stout has kept it in the craft beer spotlight. Other beers and other breweries may have lost their craft beer street cred, but at least around Thanksgiving, the die-hard craft beer fans choose to look the other way.

Best Porter: Black Butte Porter | Deschutes Brewing Co.

Oregon | ABV: 5.5% | Calories: 192

Porter has a long, storied history in Europe and the United States, but the softer cousin to stout has lost popularity in recent decades. I hope that Porter will make a comeback so that more options are available. In the meantime, be glad you can still find Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter on the shelves. This smooth, chocolatey stout is balanced with bitter hops for a classic flavor.

Best Brown Ale: Face Down Brown | Telluride Brewing

Colorado | ABV: 5.7 | Calories: 180

Like Porter, Brown Ale’s popularity has waned. Dogfish Head no longer lists Indian Brown Ale on their site, and many great examples have also been discontinued. Still, if you can make it to Colorado, you’ll surely find an excellent example of an American Browns Ale in Tellurides Face Down Brown. When the beer was first released, it took home gold at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup in the same year.

Best Cream Ale: New Glarus Brewing Co. | Spotted Cow

Wisconsin | ABV: 4.8%| Calories: 150

Like Facedown Brown, You’ll have to travel for Spotted Cow. Despite New Glarus being one of the largest brewing companies in the US, they only distribute in their home state of Wisconsin. Spotted Cow is a no-nonsense beer that beer lovers and cheeseheads alike celebrate, and the limited availability hearkens back to when Midwesterners would drive to Colorado for Coors Banquet. I can attest that I’ve gone to Wisconsin for Spotted Cow!

Best Pilsner: Pivo Pils | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

California | ABV: 5.3% | Calories: 150

Pilsner style beer is the most popular beer type in the world. Originating in Europe, every country has developed their own take on it. Unsurprisingly, American pilsners have a heavy dose of bitter hops and aroma to balance out pale pilsner malt in the brewing process. Firestone Walkers’ Pivo Pils is an excellent example of this. The California brewery has bagged several medals from the Great American Beer Festival for Pivo.

Best Wheat: Blue Moon | Molson Coors

Chicago | ABV: 5.4% | Calories: 171

Belgian beer had quite a run back in the early 2000s. The fascination with this diverse group of beers helped spur the second boom in US craft beer. Like many other beer styles, Belgian beer takes a back seat to all things IPA, but Blue Moon – an American interpretation of the Belgian wheat beer – continues to be a favorite. Plus, with all the lore of being invented in a baseball stadium, who wouldn’t be curious about this fruit-forward beer?

Despite the differences from the classic witbier, Blue Moon has proven to be as compatible with food as the traditional style. The Blue Moon website suggests a variety of different food options that they believe beer experts will appreciate. Check it out!

Best Saison: Tank 7 | Boulevard Brewing Company

Missouri | ABV: 8.5% | Calories: 225

Like Blue Moon, Tank 7 adds an American twist on the classic farmhouse ale from Belgium. Tank 7 is bone dry and peppery from the Belgian yeast but accentuated with aggressive hopping. The result is a unique take on a delicious beer style perfect alongside food or simply to sip on a hot summer day.

I like a saison to be highly attenuated, making for a crisp, dry beer. When saison was really popular, it spawned a bunch of interpretations that drove it away from this composition. Frankly, I think people got sick of what American saison became. The good news is that Tank 7 remains bone-dry and deliciously drinkable.

Best Sour: Temptation | Russian River Brewing Co.

California | ABV: 7.5% | Calories: 204

Sour beer has a long brewing history, but the interest and innovation of the brewing process and techniques by brewers like Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo helped introduce the styles to craft beer lovers in the US. Temptation is genuinely one to seek out. The long-aged beer greets you with layers of complexity from the careful selection of barrels and the patience of the brewer to allow the unique blend of yeast and bacteria to transform ordinary wort into a work of art.

Besides Temptation, Russian River’s barrel program boasts plenty of other incredible beers, such as Consecration and Beatification. As if the sour beers weren’t enough, this craft beer legend also brews some of the best IPAs in Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder. You don’t have to be a beer expert to appreciate the beers they make, either!

Best Light Beer: Michelob Ultra | Anheuser Busch InBev

Various | ABV: 4.2% | Calories: 95

Light beer is not usually appreciated by beer experts. In fact, the dominance of beers like Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Busch Light is one reason for America’s poor reputation for beer in the 80’s. Michelob Ultra isn’t like other light beers. The beer is marketed to athletic beer lovers who have grown up with the flavor associated with craft beer. If you’re asking yourself, aren’t all light beers the same? Well, not if you’ve tried Michelob Ultra.

Best Non-Alcoholic: Run Wild IPA | Athletic Brewing Company

California | ABV: Less than .5% | Calories: 65

One type of beer that American brewing companies have been slow to adopt has been Non-alcoholic beer. Elsewhere in the world, the prevalence of NA beer has quite a history, but the trend has been slow to reach the states until now. Athletic Brewing Company is fully dedicated to beer without the buzz and caters to health-conscious beer lovers. Their Run Wild IPA is loaded with hops and flavor, not alcohol or calories.

As the interest in non-alcoholic drinks continues, it will be interesting to see where the US market goes from here. Well-funded companies can innovate, and cram hops into new products, but I personally believe that all NA IPAs are lacking without alcohol. But that’s just me.

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Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.