Your State's Best Beer, Part Two

Eno Sarris, November 04, 2014

If you want to know more about the best beers from Arkansas, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Kentucky, then last week's post is for you. Unfortunately, their best beers ranked in the bottom quintile. 

This week's states all have best beers that are decidedly above average. Since they start around five Beers Above Replacement, they belong in the top 6% of all beers and are "very good" or better.

On to the states!

#40) Nevada -- Joseph James Citra Rye Pale Ale (5 BAR, 123 Style+, 5.5 ABV)

It doesn't look like this bad boy is bottled, but it is a regularly available (if rotating) beer at the Henderson brewery. And since Joseph James owns three of the top five beers in the state, it looks like a trip off strip is the way to go if you want craft beer on your Vegas brojourn. Of course Big Dog is another Vegas big dog, and they are definitively off strip. We already knew craft beer wasn't meant for the big lights and main street, we're used to trekking to the backroads for the best beer. So a trip to Henderson for this citrus and spice pale ale might be in order. If you want to taste the best bottled beer from the state, it's Joseph James' Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout. Good luck finding it, of course. 

#39) New Hampshire -- Portsmouth Kate the Great Stout (5.16 BAR, 124 Style+, 12 ABV)

Perhaps our first official wale, this retired stout currently has nearly 2700 'wants' on Beer Advocate... with 171 'gots.' It hasn't been brewed since 2012, but people are still reviewing it because if they find it, they snatch it with both hands and drink it immediately. Fudge, oak, smoke, espresso, chocolate -- apparently this beer had it all. It's also the fifth-strongest 'best' beer on our list, so put 'alcohol' on that list. We'll leave it number one because in it's retirement for two reasons. First, it's still actively sought after and was in bottles. Second, the number two beer in the state belongs to Portsmouth as well. The Bottle Rocket IPA is year-round, available, and full of fruity dry-hopped goodness. It's also named after an underrated movie, so it has that going for it. Perhaps Portsmouth should be listed on the list of great North Eastern breweries? 

#38) Louisiana -- Parish Brewing Ghost in the Machine DIPA (5.3 BAR, 118 Style+, 8.5 ABV)

We considered leaving Abita Strawator Lager (6.49 BAr, 148 Style+) in the top spot, but it's long retired, and it was a specialty one-off even when it was around. As much as Abita is the Louisiana beer you can find around, their rare beers are better than their bottled stuff -- their best semi-available bottled beer (Bourbon Street) debuts at number eight in the state. And so it's with a clear conscience that we award Parish Brewing the title for their Ghost in the Machine. Well, it was maybe a one-off. But maybe. This beer was bottled and came out earlier this year and the reception was so immediately positive that it's fair to think that it'll see a comeback. Fruity, juicy, and not too sweet, this big DIPA makes worth searching better beer stores near Broussard worth it. 

#37) Alabama -- Good People Snake Handler DIPA (5.52 BAR, 115 Style+, 9.3 ABV) 

Leave it to Alabama to feature a good old canned, year-round, regularly available double IPA as their best beer. No wales for them. Just good old-fashioned pine, malt, and caramel with a whole lot of ABV. A little bit of tropical fruit makes it innovative, but also makes it a bit sweet for some. Since Good People also have three of the top five in Alabama, it makes sense to award them the Must Visit for Birmingham's better craft beer. Avondale's beers don't debut until late in the top ten, but as a brewery, they might give Good People the best run for their money. It's time for their No Joka Mocha stout to come out, and that winter seasonal counts as their best-rated beer. Who doesn't love a milk stout. 

#36) Utah -- Epic Big Bad Baptist Stout (5.63, 116 Style+, 11.7 ABV)

It's very clear that, if in Utah, there are two breweries you must visit. Epic sits in first place, and owns seven of the top ten beers in the state, so we give them the nod first. And the Big Bad Baptist is one of those beers worth going to get, too. Coffee, bittersweet chocolate, barrel, whiskey, vanilla... in a dark brown almost opaque stout... yeah this is another sign that we're getting into the meat of the best beers in America. But don't forget Uinta. Between Uinta and Epic, the two breweries own an unprecedented amount of the beers on the state leaderboard. The top 18 beers are brewed by one or the other. Uinta's Crooked Line Birthday Suit sour, and their Hop Notch, are even avaiable rather widely. Go drink some Utah, even if their beer laws are all crooked. 

#35) Hawaii -- Kona Longboard Island Lager (5.99 BAR, 120 Style+, 4.6 ABV)

West Virginia and Hawaii. Those are the states that boast a lager number one. In Hawaii, it makes a ton of sense. After a day at the beach, reach for an easily soiffable Kona Longboard. That makes more senese to a seawater drenched palate than a deep dark stout full of ABV. And sure, go to the Kona brewery for a good time. But Maui Brewing is an underrated part of the state's beer, and their Mana Wheat is available fairly widely. There's a bit more taste in the Big Wave, so it's maybe a bit more worthy of mainland drinking in the winter. Or even their CoCoNut PorTeR if it's already cold in your city and you want to dream of the islands as you warm your belly. 

#34) Alaska -- Anchorage Bitter Monk Belgian IPA (6.19 BAR, 126 Style+, 9 ABV)

You pretty much knew it would be an Anchorage beer at the top of this list, no disrespect meant to Alaskan Brewing Company. But yeah, Anchorage owns the top six beers in the state. For me personally, it's probably the Love Buzz or the Artic Saison that should win the crown. But I also love Brettanomyces and Anchorage loves Brettanomyces and so we love each other. And the Bitter Monk is a Belgian IPA with Brett, and it's also great. The citrus of the American hops leads to the caramel and molasses of the Belgian pales leads to the sharp peppery hit of brett leads to an almost tart finish. It's a novel, and it's novel. Good enough to be a top-half best beer, this beer hints at just how other-worldly the top top best beers are going to be. 

#33) Montana -- Blackfoot River Single Malt IPA (6.25 BAR, 127 Style+, 6.9 ABV)

What, you were expecting a Big Sky beer, perhaps? Their Moose Drool brown is the beer most associated with Montana, but maybe it's time for that to change. Because Moose Drool is the number nine beer on the state's leaderboard here. Bayern and Kettlehouse brewing companies own two beers on the boards before you get to nine. Of course, you have to head to Helena to make sure you actually get your hands on the unbottled Single Malt IPA -- that wonderful duet of cascade and simcoe with no specialty matls is the breweries' best but it doesn't get wide distribution if the heat maps can be believed.  If you're in Missoula (more likely), check out Bayern Brewing. Their Dragon's Breath dunkelweizen sounds like something I'd like to try. 

#19) Oklahoma -- Prairie Artisan Ale's Prairie Bomb (9.55 BAR, 122 Style+, 14 ABV)

COOP Aleworks F5 IPA (5.99 BAR, 120 Style+, 7 ABV)

A little west coast in flyover country, the F5 IPA is all falconer's flight and columbus hops. If you pine for citrus and pine while you're on a business trip, drink COOP -- unfortunately not in their brewpub, not now. They're moving to a new space, but until then, go find an Oklahoma City bar with craft beer and you'll be able to enjoy one of their beers. Since they own the top three beers in the state, and all three are regularly available, there really isn't a great contender to that thrown. 

EDIT: Of courses the Prairie Bomb  is number one in the state. Our data always needs cleaning up. So Oklahoma's true ranking is actually 19th! Go get the chili pepper coffee aged stout, it's amazing.