Cycle Brewing Takes Home ‘Top Brewer’ Award From RateBeer.com

We’ve reached a point where you can go almost anywhere in the States and grab yourself a good beer. As breweries continue to open at an unprecedented rate, finding a quality pint is easier than ever. But what if you’re looking for something better than good? RateBeer recently unveiled their winners for the best beer, best brewer, and best new brewery in every state. Here’s a look at some of the results:

California

  • Top Beer: AleSmith Speedway Stout – Bourbon Barrel Aged
  • Top Brewer: Stone Brewing
  • Best New Brewery: Moonraker Brewing Company

Florida

  • Top Beer: Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel Aged
  • Top Brewer: Cycle Brewing
  • Best New Brewery: Civil Society Brewing Co.

Illinois

  • Top Beer: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Top Brewer: Pipeworks Brewing Company
  • Best New Brewery: Hubbard’s Cave Brewery

Massachusetts

  • Top Beer: Tree House King JJJuliusss
  • Top Brewer: Trillium Brewing Company
  • Best New Brewery: Castle Island Brewing Company

Michigan

  • Top Beer: Bell’s Black Note Stout
  • Top Brewer: Bell’s Brewery
  • Best New Brewery: Roak Brewing Co.

New Jersey

  • Top Beer: Kane A Night to End All Dawns
  • Top Brewer: Kane Brewing Company
  • Best New Brewery: Magnify Brewing Company

New York

  • Top Beer: Evil Twin Double Barrel Jesus
  • Top Brewer: Evil Twin Brewing
  • Best New Brewery: Suarez Family Brewery

Texas

  • Top Beer: Jester King Atrial Rubicite
  • Top Brewer: Jester King Brewery
  • Best New Brewery: Eureka Heights Brew Co.

Vermont

  • Top Beer: Hill Farmstead Damon
  • Top Brewer: Hill Farmstead Brewery
  • Best New Brewery: Foam Brewers

Virginia

  • Top Beer: Lickinghole Creek Great Commander
  • Top Brewer: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
  • Best New Brewery: The Veil Brewing Company

Click here to see the full list. 

Our Picks For The Top Five Breweries in the Bay Area

When you think about craft beer destinations in North America, the sprawling network of cities, towns and highways that make up the greater Tampa Bay area likely doesn’t top the list. But over the past decade, Tampa Bay has transformed itself from a brewing backwater into one of the United States’ most innovative, under-the-radar beer scenes.

How did that happen? There’s no one answer, but it’s a fact that brewing’s long been in the region’s blood. The Ybor City Brewing Company, Florida’s first brewery, opened in 1896 after early settlers discovered a spring flowing underneath what’s now one of Tampa’s most vibrant neighborhoods. In recent years, the state’s bounty of local ingredients—citrus fruits, hot peppers, honey, even seafood—has allowed brewers with rebellious, unorthodox streaks to truly shine. And nearly year-round patio weather doesn’t hurt the cause, either.

At most recent count, the Tampa Bay area boasts at least 50 breweries, here are five of the best.

1. Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin

Dunedin Brewery’s (pictured above) been churning out high-quality ales and lagers since 1996, making them the oldest microbrewery in Florida. They moved to their current location in 2001, a friendly Scottish-themed tavern just off the Pinellas Trail and only blocks from Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. With high-quality pub food and regular live music, the brewery’s where baseball fans, Canadian snowbirds, and regular Dunedin folks get together and hang out.

As for their beer: from top to bottom, it’s an absolutely solid lineup. Dunedin says their apricot peach ale is their most popular brew, and given how well the full-bodied fruitiness goes with the Bay area sunshine, that claim makes a ton of sense. More adventurous drinkers will want to give their constantly-rotating capsaicin series a try: the brewery tries to release a new pepper-infused beer every Monday, so even if you don’t like this week’s selection, just wait seven days and another curious concoction will show up. Other locally sourced ingredients that have made their way into Dunedin’s beers include passion fruit, hemp, and Florida honey.

2. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa

It’s safe to say the Tampa Bay beer scene owes a major debt to Cigar City Brewing. Founded in 2009, Cigar City might not be the oldest craft brewery in the region (see above) but their willingness to both innovate and pay homage to the place they’ve called home means they’ve done more than anyone else to put southwest Florida on the map.

Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA is arguably their best-known brew; crisp and bold with delightful citrus and pine notes, it’s an excellent example of what an India pale ale should be. But Jai Alai—a nod to the sport that was hugely popular among Tampa’s Hispanic population from the 1950s to the 1970s—is only the beginning. Their Humidor series features brews aged on Spanish cedar or cedrela, the same wood traditionally used to make cigar boxes. Their Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is one of the few beers with a near-perfect rating on BeerAdvocate. And they’ve recently expanded into ciders and meads. The brewery lives in a cozy former police building in Ybor where in the early days of the Spanish American War Teddy Roosevelt would have stabled his horses.

Rumors that Cigar City was going to be sold to mega-conglomerate Anheuser Busch-InBev earlier this year ultimately proved untrue, but the brewery did change hands in 2016, selling controlling interest to a Colorado craft brewer and becoming part of a collective called United Craft Brews LLC. Cigar City’s owners have said they made the deal because they were out of production space and they’ve promised Tampa beer lovers will see few changes.

3. Coppertail Brewing, Tampa

When the boozy Cuban-American enclave of Ybor’s debauchery and late-night antics get a bit too much, Coppertail Brewing Company is where you’ll want to escape to.

Located in a former olive cannery and mayonnaise factory on the neighborhood’s outskirts, across the highway from a massive IKEA, Coppertail has quickly become one of the region’s most popular new breweries. Lawyer-turned-brewery-owner Kent Bailey poured Coppertail’s first pint in 2014, and since then their constantly shifting lineup of beers has included some real dazzlers. A Belgian trippel brewed with coffee beans? Check. A sour berliner weisse doused with pineapple and cilantro? Sure, why not. They even make a savory stout by boiling up about 200 pounds of Florida stone crabs.

4. Darwin Brewing Company, Bradenton

The drive across the bay to Bradenton, over the stunning Sunshine Skyway bridge, is worth it for the view alone. But it doesn’t hurt that the city of 50,000 is also home to Darwin Brewing Company, one of the state’s more unique craft breweries.

In the business since 2012, Darwin bills itself as a purveyor of “Andean-style” ales and lagers. That means you’ll likely find specialty brews on tap like the Chapo, a weizenbock made with plantains, or the Charapa, seen above: a spicy-yet-sweet porter infused with cacao beans and charapita peppers, ingredients native to Amazonian South America. The brewery got its start at a now-closed Peruvian gastropub in nearby Sarasota, which partly explains its Hispanic influences; there’s also the fact that Darwin co-founder Jorge Rosabal was born in Cuba and, for a time, oversaw production for one of the largest breweries in Honduras, as well.

The brewery’s across the street from charming Bill McKechnie Field, the third-oldest stadium in use by a major league baseball club (it’s home to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ High-A affiliate), making a postgame beer practically mandatory. There’s a welcoming patio, and the nearby food truck will keep you sated between rounds.

5. Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, Tarpon Springs

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company does one thing and does it right: Belgian-style ales. Founder Bob Sylvester has been whipping up his small-batch brews from a tiny warehouse with limited hours in Tarpon Springs since 2006, giving his beers an air of authenticity and exclusivity.

If you’re into the funky, leathery notes imparted by brettanomyces yeast (most beers use saccharomyces, brett’s less audaciously-aromatic cousin) you’ll want to spring for a bottle of Saint Somewhere’s Pays du Soleil or Cynthiana, two of the brewery’s most-loved offerings. There’s also the Saison Athene—a highly rated farmhouse ale brewed with chamomile, rosemary and black pepper—as well as one-off collaborations with other locals like Cigar City and St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing. And it’s easy to get lost in Saint Somewhere’s immaculately detailed, classically inspired labels, too.

For beer pilgrims on a tight schedule, Saint Somewhere’s not the most convenient brewery to check out: as of May 2016, they’re only open four (!) hours a week, early Thursday and Friday evenings. But thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, plans are afoot for a new taproom in downtown Tarpon Springs. Until then, take heart that select Saint Somewhere brews are also available in bottle form in more than 40 states and five countries.

Florida Brewery’s Edible 6-pack Rings Protect Marine Animals

A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic, and a lot of that plastic comes from the rings that hold together six-packs of beer, soda and other beverages. The marine life that lives in the oceans ingest plastics, too. These toxic plastics harm the health of our sea life, often killing them.

Saltwater Brewery in Florida created a six-pack ring that feeds animals instead of killing them. Many six-pack rings from beer end up in the ocean, so the brewery took barley and wheat remnants from the brewing process and turned them into an edible, compostable, biodegradable product that holds together a six-pack but doesn’t harm birds or sea life if it ends up in the ocean. It’s also strong enough to handle the weight of a six-pack.

This is the first time a 100 percent edible and biodegradable packaging has been implemented in the beer industry. The manufacturing cost of the edible six-pack ring raises the price of the beer, but the narrator of the video points out that if most breweries implemented this safe and sustainable product, the cost would be competitive with the plastic six-pack rings. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

Why has no one thought of this before? In addition to being impressed by this product, I’m wondering how quickly I can put together a business plan, get funding and partner with Saltwater Brewery to open up a plant that can produce edible six-pack rings for all breweries.

I bet there’s money to be made from this smart, responsible idea.

[vimeo id=”165947724″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Where Does Tampa/St. Pete Rank on the ‘Unexpected Brewery Cities’ List?

Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Milwaukee might be the U.S.’s most widely acknowledged beer cities, but don’t discount the underdogs. Here are five unexpected brewery towns worth rooting for.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

brew-1

With two dozen breweries in this southwestern hub of just more than 500,000 residents, Albuquerque is set to become a heavy hitter on the craft scene. In 2011, the Duke City’s La Cumbre Brewing Company took home top honors from the Great American Brew Festival for its Elevated IPA. New Mexico is high on hops, with breweries facing off each summer in the state’s IPA Challenge. Other acclaimed taprooms include Marble Brewery and Tractor Brewing.

Anchorage, Alaska

brew-2

The glasses are always frosted at the eight great breweries in this chilly state’s metropolis. Glacier Brewhouse boasts the seasonal Big Woody, a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gold-medal barleywine; fruity IPAs and oak-aged Imperial Blondes are also on the menu there. You’ll find Midnight Sun Brewing Co.’s craft creations on tap in top bars throughout Alaska—in particular, the 20-inch Oosik Amber Ale, a German-style altbier named after a prominent protuberance of the male walrus.

Asheville, North Carolina

brew-3

This southern town is too genteel to call attention to its accolades, which include being named 2010 BeerCity USA by Examiner.com readers. Asheville’s brewery acclaim began in 1994, with the ascent of the Highland Brewing Company, whose operation was built almost entirely from retrofitted dairy equipment. Highland’s Black Mocha Stout has taken home awards from the GABF and the World Beer Cup. For a neighborhood brewery, grab a barstool at Wedge Brewing in the River Arts District.

Burlington, Vermont

brew-4

Vermont might be a small state, but with the highest number of breweries per capita, it’s marinating in stouts and ales. Burlington’s granddaddy establishment, Vermont Pub & Brewery, has three award-winners on tap: the Karlswalde Russian Imperial Stout, known for its warm finish; the Forbidden Fruit, blended with raspberries; and the caramel Burly Irish Ale. Magic Hat Brewing Company, one of the largest microbreweries in the U.S., is also based in Burlington.

Tampa/St. Pete, Florida

brew-5

Counting 24 breweries in its greater metropolitan area, this burg is Florida’s beertopia. Dunedin Brewery is the state’s oldest continuously operated brewery. It has a stable of solid taps, as well as seasonal hits such as Leonard Croon’s Old Mean Stout. Cigar City Brewing crafts a variety of ales perfect for sipping in the Florida heat, including the Jai Alai and Humidor Series IPAs. Saint Somewhere Brewing makes traditional Belgian-style ales, adding local ingredients such as Palmetto berries and hibiscus flowers.