The United States of America is the most diverse beer landscape in the world. With nearly 10,000 breweries, you can be sure to find a beer to enjoy no matter where you are in the US.
But it didn’t used to be that way.
Many experts believed that America would be dominated by just a few massive brewing companies brewing a similar product. That might be true if not for a few of the country’s craft brewing pioneers, who wanted more from the beer they drank in America. This list recognized some of those trailblazers in American brewing and the variety of beer styles that can be found in the country today.
1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Type: American Pale Ale | ABV: 5.6% | Calories: 175
Sierra Nevada might not have sparked the American craft beer revolution, but it is the poster child for the movement. In the 1980s, Ken Grossman started a small brewery near the mountains in Northern California.
Today, Sierra Nevada is a well-respected brewery with locations on both coasts. Their American pale is still the style standard and has inspired countless imitations.
The beer combines hops from the Pacific Northwest, lightly toasted caramel malts, and clean fermenting yeast to create a well-balanced sipper with citrus and pine notes.
2. Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Black Butte Porter is brewed in Central Oregon by Deschutes Brewing. This classic American ale can trace its roots back to England, where it was enjoyed by the gallons before the Industrial Revolution. Despite its dark appearance, Black Butte Porter is easy to drink, highlighting flavors of chocolate and caramel from the use of roasted malt.
3. Great Lakes Eliot Ness
Type: Amber Lager | ABV: 6.1% | Calories: 194
Along the shore of Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in Cleveland, Ohio, home to Great Lakes Brewing. There, a brew named after one of the main characters of National Prohibition ironically has been named after.
Eliot Ness, the beer, is an Amber Lager, similar to the Vienna Lager, but with American liberties. The beer showcases a bready flavor from its malt to tempt your taste buds without feeling too heavy. Though it is a darker beer, amber lagers offer a refreshing taste that beer lovers recognize as a true testament to the craft of brewing.
4. Blue Moon
Type: Belgian-style Witbier (White Beer) | ABV: 5.4% | Calories: 168
Blue Moon is a Belgian-style Wheat beer brewed with wheat, orange peel, and spices for a slightly spicy yet refreshing adaption of a once-dying Belgian beer style.
This American interpretation differs from what most beer connoisseurs would consider classic, with its orange slice garnish, but its success both in the US and abroad cannot be denied.
Though called a white beer, Blue Moon looks like orange juice in a beer glass and has a bouquet of fruity notes not, which are contributed by the use of orange peel, coriander, and a carefully selected yeast that give Belgian ales their character.
5. Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Type: American Wheat Ale | ABV: 5.3% | Calories: 165
Wheat is the defining ingredient in another of America’s top beers, Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Though Sam Adams is best known for their Boston Lager, they recently switched the recipe, making its place in any best-of list obsolete. Thankfully, Summer Ale remains a perfect summer beer with refreshing wheat malt and an ancient African spice called Grain of Paradise.
Sam Adam Summer ale was one of my introductions into the beer world and holds a place in my heart and hand when even I see it available.
6. Boulevard Tank 7
Type: American Saison Ale | ABV: 8.5% | Calories: 225
Like Blue Moon, Boulevard Tank 7 aims to recreate the iconic Belgian beer, witbier. It uses American hops to complement the beer’s spicy yeast notes and better captures the style’s light color. Tank 7 is a sneaky 8.5 percent alcoholic beverage perfect to sip with the classic Belgian pairing of moules and frites or an American oyster po-boy sandwich.
7. Miller High Life
Type: American Lager | ABV: 4.6% | Calories: 141
When European immigrants arrived in the United States in search of opportunity, they brought their brewing skills with them. They set out to brew lager beer styles of their home country but with the ingredients available in the new land. Thus, American lagers like Miller High Life represent Old World brewing with New World adjuncts. The beer has a low hop character but has a light, refreshing flavor from using corn syrup to lighten the beer.
8. Firestone Walker Pivo Pilsner
Type: American Pilsner | ABV: 5.3% | Calories: 280
The generous use of hops is often a factor in Americanizing beer styles. Take for instance the American pilsner, Pivo Pils. California’s Firestone Walker uses a technique called dry-hopping to increase the hop character of a classic pilsner. They brew the beer, then add hops during fermentation and cellar to create an intense grassy hop aroma many beer lovers can’t get enough of.
9. Bud Light
Type: Light Lager | ABV: 4.2% | Calories: 110
While Miller Lite might be the first light beer to find commercial beer success, Bud Light followed and became not just a well-known diet beer but one of the most popular beers in the world. Bud Light is a refreshingly light beer with a pleasant taste, even as light lagers are not known for the flavor. Beer enthusiasts may turn their noses up at Bud Light, but that won’t stop Bud Light from gracing this and many of the lists of best beers in America.
10. Bourbon County Stout
Type: Barrel-aged Imperial Stout | ABV: 14.3% (varies) | Calories: 510 (varies)
American beers are known for being bold, innovative, and often with quite the kick. No beer exemplifies this description more than Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout. This monstrous stout combines notes of caramel and dark chocolate with wood and spirits character from sitting in used bourbon whiskey barrels for months before release.
Be careful; this beer clocks in at over 12 percent alcohol. Plus, with all of the flavor in that glass, it is best to sip it.
11. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy
Type: Weiss Beer with Lemonade | ABV: 4.2% | Calories: 130
Shandy has its roots in Europe’s cycling culture, where riders would drink wheat beer with lemonade after a strenuous bike ride. Leinenkugel has succeeded with this beer blend, perfect for sipping after a long bike ride or lawn mowing.
Heck, you could easily drink this brew just about anywhere for any reason if it was available year round; sadly, it’s a seasonal offering from the brewer.
12. Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA
Type: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 7% | Calories: 210
Most American IPAs are known for their assertive hop character, but this classic is one of America’s best beers because of the beer’s hop restraint, using only American Centennial hops for a citrusy character and firm bitterness; two-hearted is an IPA beer enthusiasts will never get tired of.
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