Your State's Best Beer: Part Five

Eno Sarris, December 04, 2014

In the first post, we covered Arkansas, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Kentucky.

In the second post, Nevada, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Alabama, Utah, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, and Oklahoma showed their best beers. 

The third post only covered Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, and Washington. 

The fourth post tried to rally and ended up with Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, DC, New Mexico, and New Jersey. We've got to get to the top ten today or this will get ridiculous. 

So let's get to the top twenty state's best beers today! 

#20) South Carolina -- Westbrook Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Mexican Cake (9.26 BAR, 143 Style+, 10 ABV)

The winner of the longest beer name among the states' best, Westbrook's effort makes me want to eat the beer as much as drink it. Unfortunately it's retired, and a whale. Over 700 people have registered as wanting it, and 27 have had their request satistified. Why is the Westbrook still number one in South Carolina then? Because Mexican Cake has a whopping six of the top ten slots in the state. Looks like you can't go wrong with any Mexican Cake -- it's all cinnamon, chocolate, and chiles, so you get thick double stout taste and mouthfeel with a chocolate cinnamon middle and a pepper finish. Boy King DIPA from COAST brewing has a legitimate beef though. It sits as the best beer behind a retired beer, and is the only DIPA in the top ten for South Carolina. RJ Rockers should also get some love here -- with a Koelsch in the top three in the state, it'll catch your eye. It caught ours

#19) Oklahoma -- Prairie Bomb (9.51 BAR, 122 Style+, 14 ABV)

Whoopsy! Check the second post above. Still cleaning up the leaderboards. 

#18) Oregon -- Deschutes Abyss (9.65 BAR, 129 Style+, 11 ABV)

This is a world-class beer. It is aptly named. It's not about effervescence here. It's about the deepest, darkest, roastiest, coffeeist, silkiest, thickest stout you may ever have. If you don't like it, it's probably because it's a little too thick and silky and coffee. But -- obviously -- most people like it. And this is tops in a state with a lot of competition. Logsdon's Peche n' Brett peach farmhouse is another world-class beer, sweet and peppery all at once. And Boneyard follows with a troika of great IPAs. And don't forget Cascade's sours, which also sit there at the top and make Oregon an elite state. (Even if they are possibly a little over-priced and you should stick to the Sang Royal and the Blackcap versions of the line to make sure you get enough bang for your buck.)

#17) Ohio -- Fat Head's Head Hunter (9.81 BAR, 125 Style+, 7.4 ABV)

As a state, maybe Ohio isn't up to Oregon's standards. Or maybe it's just full of less-hyped breweries. Because the Headhunter is a great IPA with a big bold smell that makes it worthy of this list. The body is more about ease in delivery, but you still get a nice fistful of fruit and juice and hops. And if you look at the rest of the state, you see the competition is fierce. Columbus Brewing has Bodhi and Creeper, and some Ohioans think those two are underrated compared to the Head Hunter. This writer has loved every Hoppin' Frog beer he's ever had. And then there's Thirsty Dog, Brew Kettle, and Great Lakes. In fact, Fat Heads is the only brewery with two beers in the top ten. That's a vibrant beer community.

#16) Delaware -- Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (9.93 BAR, 119 Style+, 18 ABV) 

The mini run of strong-stronger-strongest beers ends with the strongest beer to lead a state: the vaunted 120-minute "IPA." We put the rabbit ears on that style name because this tastes almost like a big-hop barleywine. Of course, the hops is what separates the barleywines from the India Pale Ales, and this beer in particular has a ton of hops in it, as it's boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops. But it's still fair to question the style listing on this big beer. There are liquors with lower ABV. Maybe just enjoy this brown sugar juicy hops bomb, and delight in the fact that Dogfish Head owns pratically every slot on Delaware's state leaderboard

#15) New York -- Southern Tier Pumking (10.02 BAR, 127 Style+, 8.6 ABV)

One of two pumpkin beers to lead a state, Pumking truly is king of its style. And King of New York. Brewed with clean 2-row malt and actual pureed pumpkin, this one tastes like pumpkin pie. Because not only do you get the 'spice packet' of nutmeg, ginger, and allspice, but you also get a cornbread/crust type finish on the beer as well. Like many pumpkin beers, though, the Pumking is not without its detractors. Perhaps then you'd rather try Ithaca's Flower Power, which is the IPA most associated with the state. It's a defacto fourth on the boards. Lower in the top ten is Sixpoints' Resin and Hi-Res, both worthy beers. The state of beer in New York has been held back by some old laws, but it's rallying recently. 

#14) Wisconsin -- New Glarus Serendipity (10.04 BAR, 138 Style+, 4 ABV)

Okay so Serendipity is great. An apple, cranberry, and cherry sour that has a bit of creaminess to the mouthfeel and yet the bright, crisp finish of a sour -- without puckering your face -- Serendipity might be the perfect crossover sour if it was easy to find. Critics find it a bit sweet, but in true New Glarus style, the beer is well-balanced to most. Here's the other thing, though. Beers 1-5 on the Wisconsin list are also from New Glarus. Okay, that's fine. Here's what's weird: they're all fruit or sour beers. And number six on the list is the Radler from Leinenkugel, before another fruit beer from New Glarus. Maybe this state loves sweet and sour tastes. Or maybe it's the influence of New Glarus being out in front in that state. Other top beers from them include Spotted Cow -- a delicious cream ale -- and their Moon Man IPA. Maybe we'll know if it's the state or the breweries as Sprecher, Central Waters, and Ale Asylum begin to stretch their distribution. Wisconsin is a foundational beer state -- it would be interesting to find out if it's a general love for sours that's happening there, or one brewery leading from the front. 

I think it would be fun to finish with the top five, so we'll stretch this out just a bit more.