There's no denying that the craft beer craze has taken over the U.S. Take a look at the numbers: 861 breweries opened for business in the U.S. in 2016, bringing the total in operation to well over 4,000.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, beer is the drink of choice for 43 percent of Americans who drink alcohol, edging out both wine and spirits. And craft beer makes up over 12 percent of the American beer-drinking market.
There's a lot of competition in the world of craft brewing, so 10Best set out to find the best beer bars, brewpubs, new breweries, beer labels, beer festivals, and U.S. cities for enjoying beer. We asked a panel of beer experts and enthusiasts to nominate their 20 favorites in each category, and then we turned it over to our readers to choose the winners.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners.
Best New Brewery: Bond Brothers Beer Company in Cary, N.C.
Started in April 2016, Bond Brothers Beer Company brews up high-quality artisanal beers – mostly ales and sours – for thirsty beer lovers in historic downtown Cary, N.C. The dog- and kid-friendly brewery, taproom and beer garden features 14 beers on tap, monthly brewery tours and a barrel sour program.
Best Brewpub: Titletown Brewing Co. in Green Bay, Wis.
While honoring its hometown’s nickname, Titletown opened in 1996 in the old Chicago & Northwestern railroad depot, which dates back to 1898. Visitors choose between sampling fresh beers in the atmospheric taproom or up on the “roof tap,” which, despite the elements, is open year-round. A variety of vintage spaces and cellars are available for private events.
This being Wisconsin, the kitchen churns out calorific offerings such as fried local cheese curds and a platter of authentic Wisconsin sausages billed as "brats, brats, and more brats."
Best Beer Scene: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Michigan’s second-largest city sports the state’s strongest beer scene, thanks largely to the presence of the world-renowned Founders Brewing Co. Not to be outdone, there are several other brewing operations around town, most notably the Belgian-inspired Brewery Vivant.
The city’s official “Beer City Ale Trail” lists more than 40 breweries in the surrounding area, and the local calendar is constantly filled with beer festivals, events and promotions. Throw in exceptional beer stores such as Siciliano’s Market, and it’s easy to see why Grand Rapids proudly stakes its claim as “Beer City USA.”
Best Beer Label: Captain Banana Unfiltered Wheat Beer
Three Heads Brewing has a whole host of humorous labels for their beers, but one of our favorites is the Captain Banana Unfiltered Wheat Beer. The image on this easy-drinker with just a hint of banana on the tongue depicts Captain Banana, a daring monkey who dreamed of flight.
Best Beer Festival: Great American Beer Festival in Denver
Denver becomes ground zero for beer fans each fall, when the Brewers Association presents the largest collection of American beers in one spot at this premier US beer festival. Hundreds of breweries participate, and beers are served by their brewers, giving enthusiasts the opportunity to speak with them personally.
An educational component features talks by top brewers and innovators, beer-making demos, beer pairing sessions, and even a pavilion dedicated to sustainability. The festival is also a competition, with medals being awarded in more than 90 beer style categories.
Best Beer Bar: The Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, Ill.
Family-owned and operated since 1986, The Bavarian Lodge in the Chicago suburb of Lisle has a beer selection that changes daily, so there's always something new to drink. The variety includes 38 taps and more than 130 bottles and cans, with an emphasis on Belgians and regional craft beers.
Congratulations to all our craft beer winners!