Your State's Best Beer, Part One

Eno Sarris, October 30, 2014

Who doesn't love a list. A leaderboard. A slide show. 

Before you scoff and say that's some bad New Journalism, remember that a big part of the beer experience is beer tourism. You travel, and you try the best beer that state has to offer. And so, use this more like a resource. In case you're about to travel to Arkansas or the next nine states on this list, you've got a one-stop shop for the best beers, which usually come from the best breweries. And even if they don't, they're probably good enough to go after anyway. 

So, the best beer per state. We kick it off with the ten worst best beers, in reverse order, because showbusiness. 

#51) Arkansas -- Fossil Cave La Brea Brown (2.03 BAR, 118 Style+, 6.0 ABV)

Sure, the list of beers on our leaderboards for the state isn't long. Arkansas only has 22 entrants on our boards. People need to use untappd more or be more about social media, though, because as a state, Arkansas has the second-biggest population on our botom ten. Guess this sort of thing happens when half your counties are dry. In the meantime, enjoy a brown from Fossil Cave. This coffee brown only rates as an average beer and isn't available widely, but local drinkers give it the thumbs up. Their Paleo Pale Ale also comes in fifth in the state, so if you're in Fayetteville, it looks like Fossil Cave is the place to be. Maybe that sentence is a hint for why Arkansas ended up last in our states. 

#50) North Dakota -- Laughing Sun Feast Like a Sultan IPA (2.37 BAR, 118 Style+, 7.2 ABV)

Now North Dakota has an excuse for not racking up the check-ins that helps ramp up a Beers Above Replacement score. They've got the third-lowest population of any state in America. (Though Vermont is now shrugging with a smile.) They also only have one beer on our leaderboards, so Laughing Sun it was going to be. This IPA is light in color and lets all the hops do the talking -- think passionfruit plus citrus. Sounds good, now head on over to Bismarck for a taste. 

#49) West Virginia -- Bridge Brew Works Longpoint Lager (2.68 BAR, 140 Style+, 4.6 ABV)

Only three states are rolling out a lager as their best beer, so West Virginia is one of a small group that is proud to boast the bubbly yellow. Only two states boast beers with lower alcohol by volume as their best beer, too, so maybe it's about day drinking in the mountains of West Virginia. There are eight beers with positive ratings in West Virigina, and Bridge Brew Works has two of them, so maybe Fayetteville is once again the place to be. Or head over to Morgantown, where Morgantown Brewing has four of the eight. In any case, the Longpoint Lager and the Coffee Stout (second on the list) head up the state and do so with pride. (It might help a little that they have an untappd feed on their website, but who's counting.) 

#48) Wyoming -- Snake River Pako's IPA (3.01 BAR, 113 Sytle+, 6.8 ABV)

It's not nice to suggest that Jackson Hole is the only reason to go to Wyoming, but it does make sense to say that if you go to Jackson Hole for the skiing, you should go to Snake River for the drinking. Becauase they own seven of the 11 beers on the Wyoming leaderboard. Simcoe and columbus hops and only 60 IBU make this beer an easy drink after a long day of sportsing. Most soiffers of Pako's say it's a resiny citrus IPA that won't necessarily make you write home, but will add positively to your appraisal of your (likely) vacation in the area. 

#47) Idaho -- Sockeye Dagger Falls IPA (3.82 BAR, 116 Style+, 6.3 ABV)

At almost four BAR, we're finally moving from above average to very good according to this handy chart. So congratulations to Idaho for straddling that line with Sockeye. Just a joke, really, because the state of beer in Idaho is stronger than any to this point. 67 beers on the leaderboards, 38 of them above zero BAR, and six different breweries in the top ten -- that says vibrant beer communities. This IPA is bigger than Pako's, though. 100 IBU and reviews that laud the beer for being "ridiculosly hoppy" are evidence enough. If you'd like the best dark beer in Idaho, head from Boise to McCall and have Salmon River's Buzz Buzz Porter just for kicks. 

#46) Tennessee -- Yazoo 10th Anniversary White IPA (4.16 BAR, 123 Style+, 6 ABV)

This selection is both appropriate and inappropriate. It's right that it's Yazoo, at least, because that's the first brewery that comes to mind when you think of the state. Usually. It is worth mentoning here that they only own two of the top ten beers on the state's board. But it's too bad that this is number one, because it was a celebrational ale that was only brewed once. Perhaps instead we should celebrate Calfkiller's Grassroots Ale, an APA that's described as fruity and floral and is now available in growler fill stations in Nashville. The first regularly bottled beer on the board also belongs to Yazoo -- the Hefe -- so look for Yazoo if you don't want to try too hard. 

#45) Nebraska -- Nebraska Melange a Trois Belgian Strong (4.23 BAR, 121 BAR, 10 ABV) 

Nebraska distinguishes itself by being the only state that boasts a Belgian Strong number one, but it's only the tenth-strongest number one, so it's not about ABV here. This outstanding beer is hard to find -- it's in the Reserve Series -- but it's worth seeking. A Belgian strong blonde that's then aged six months in French Oak Chardonnay barrels, the Melange a Trois has some of that white wine sweetness, plus oak tannins, to mimic that dry/sweet feeling you get from great white wines. Another Nebraskan reserve, the Apricot au Poivre (an aged saison) makes Papillion practically a beer destination. You want to try those beers, don't you? 

#44) South Dakota -- Crow Peak Mjolinir Ale (4.27 BAR, 135 Style+, 7.8 ABV)

We shouldn't put this one up, but it's literally first on the list. This herbed spice beer -- a spruce tree IPA that defies most categorization -- hasn't been available since the 2011 Papillion BeerFest. So really the South Dakota beer is Wooden Legs Split Rock Creek Pale, a 4.14 BAR APA that's available in Brookings, South Dakota at the brewery. So do you want to go to Brookings for Wooden Legs or Spearfish for Crow Peak is the question you'll have to answer on your own. 

#43) Rhode Island -- Revival Double Black IPA (4.34 BAR, 122 Style+, 8.5 ABV)

Here's a (rotating) bottled (black) IPA for your top beer! Phew! This roasty black IPA hides its alcohol well and leaves you with a more coffee and chocolate than hops feeling when you finish. But it is interesting that Rhode Island's top regular IPA comes in at 18th on the state's boards. This is a state that enjoys its stouts, pumpkins, strongs ales and dark ales -- there's even two Oktoberfests in the top 10. That's rare. Here's a lively state that likes it dark. It's just not a huge state, so they haven't raised the likes of Revival, Grey Sail, and Coastal Extreme to the level of national awareness. 

#42) Kansas -- Tall Grass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat (4.41 BAR, 118 Style+, 5 ABV)

That's a roller coaster of a name right there. You could be ambivalent, excited, disgusted and then intrigued before you finish reading the label. This milk stout is rotating, but it raises enough eyes when it's out to lead the leaderboard for the state. The Buffalo Sweat varietal starts with the same roasty nutty smell, but the vanilla steps through from the beginning. Critics call it a bit sweet, but considering that the second-best beer in Kansas is another Buffalo Sweat varietal, it looks like Tall Grass is the beer to look for in Kansas.  You can find their 8-Bit Pale Ale in Chicago, so it's not just a regional brewery. 

#41) Kentucky -- Lexington Brewing Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (4.41 BAR, 115 Style+, 8.19 ABV)

Troegs Nugget Nectar is on the only other red to lead a state, but you have to give Country Boy the nod when it comes to naming their beer with a smile -- their Red-Headed Stepchild leads the state. Unfortunately, this beer is also retired. Perhaps we won't list the retired beers in upcoming versions. Let's make this decision now. In Kentucky, the active leader is the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Lexington Brewing. The English Strong is an award-winning beer aged six weeks in fresh bourbon barrels for vanilla and oak flavors. Nice thing about this beer is you can find it, too. Bo & Luke Porter from Against the Grain is also right there, and worth seeking out.