Your State's Best Beer, Part Six

Eno Sarris, December 30, 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 really wanted to get into the top ten after that post. 

The fifth post gave up the ghost and bit off a small chunk: South Carolina, Oregon, Ohio, Delaware, New York, and Wisconsin. As you see, we started getting into some of the high population, well-regarded beer states. But we didn't make it into the top ten. 

Today, we hope to get to the top five. Baby steps. (Cleaning up these states takes a lot of time, but again, if you spot a brewery that's missing on the state boards, let us know!) 

13) Florida -- Cigar City Double Barrel Hunahpu (10.41 BAR, 128 Style+, 11.5 ABV)

Okay, this is cheating slightly. But not by much. Because this particular Hunahpu is retired, and so maybe we shoud have used the 9-win regular Hunahpu to represent Florida. With a 9.4-win Cigar City Jai Alai IPA sitting in between the two Hunahpus, at least we got the right brewery and beers to represent Forida. As if there was any doubt. If you can get your hands on a Double Barrel, you're probably going to enjoy the classic Hunahpu taste -- chocolate, vanilla, chile -- with the apple brandy and rum barrel aging on top. If you go IPA, you'll probably like the woody, malty, fruity Jai Alai. Almost everyone else has. The state doesn't have much more to offer right now, with Funky Buddha really the only brewery breaking up the Cigar City dominance on Florida's boards. Perhaps that is going to change soon, as our own Harris King sleuthed up some newcomers in the state recently. 

12) Massachusetts -- Samuel Adams' 10th Anniversary Utopias (10.5 BAR, 133 Style+, 29 ABV)

Personally, I have not had this beer, nor will I ever seek it out. 29% alcohol by volume? The definition of beer can be stretched, but this sounds like a brandy or a cognac. And, by a recent review over at Deadspin, the similarities to harder alcohols don't end at the alcohol content. There might not be a weirder pairing at the top of state leaderboard than Utopias with Jack's Abby Hoponius Union -- the latter being a pale lager that dominates a weak style (146 Style+). Then again, Jack's Abby has some great hopped lagers and pales and imperial pilsners, so it's not that strange to see the Union up top. It's just that the Utopias has five times as much alcohol in it and comes in the bottle you see above. Massachusetts! Where it only takes the top three beers in the state to run the gamut of beermaking! 

11) Missouri -- Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas (10.79 BAR, 128 Style+, 11.2 ABV)

This beer is first, second, and eighth in the Missouri top ten, so, yeah, it deserves its perch. This one's aged in rye whiskey barrels, but you don't suffer too much if you "just" get the regular version. With cacao nibs, ancho chiles, vanilla beans, and cinnamon, this is a hot and sweet stout where every taste blends really nicely into the next. Bourbon and chiles. Coffee and pepper. Malt and molasses. It's a wale -- 10% of the wants have gotten it over at BeerAdvocate -- but even the more attainable versions get lots of love. There's a trio of breweries atop the state, with Schlafly and the Tasmanian IPA providing the bridge down to the best of Boulevard -- Saison Brett, Bourbon Barrel Quad, and Tank 7 Saison. Guess which brewery is not anywhere near the top of the state that houses St. Louis. 

10) Pennsylvania -- Tröegs Nugget Nectar (11.27, 125 Style+, 7.5 ABV)

The state of beer is strong in the state of Pennsylvania. Beers worth trading for populate the top 25, and they're not all from Tröegs. The Nugget Nectar, yes it's a big red ale by name, but it drinks like a little like a big west coast IPA -- all hops and bitter and a punch in the face. Maybe the Nectar isn't the hop bomb that it's made out to be though. Resin, malt, caramel, earth are all in there, but you'll still get a lot of bitter. If that's not your thing, there's plenty left in the state. Want a juicy wet IPA? Try Hop Ranch or how about DirtWolf, last year's runner up for Rookie of the Year? Victory does a whole hell of a lot more than Prima Pils. Voodoo does the big bad barrel aged beers well, while Pizza Boy has some hits, and Tired Hands has more than a few fans on our staff. This is a great beer state (and they get Russian River for some reason). 

9) Maine -- Maine Lunch IPA (11.29 BAR, 130 Style+, 7 ABV)

Maine Beer Company owns the top four spots in Maine, and no matter which Maine Beer you've had, it's obvious why. Everything they do is so.... classy. They don't punch you in the mouth with things. Every beer is well-blended, with a great long taste that asks pardon in the middle and then extends into tea time. Lunch, Dinner, Peeper, Mean Old Tom -- these are very different styles, and yet they have that trademark taste. Maybe reminiscent of New Glarus in that they have a large array of offerings, and yet you know immediately you're drinking a Maine Beer when you get that first sip. Allegash is a strong beer company, and there are a few new breweries pushing upwards on the state's boards, but Maine named their brewery right. The state is theirs.  

8) Connecticut -- New England Gandhi-Bot DIPA (12.09 BAR, 124 Style+, 8.8 ABV)

If Maine owns Maine, then New England Brewing Company owns Connecticut. And Gandhi-Bot owns many, many fans. This is a grapefruit juice DIPA at heart, but there's plenty of malt balance and a nice floral end to the whole experience of sidling up to the Bot. You better like your piney hops, though. This is a very different beer than Lunch, more along the lines of Heady to Lunch's pseudo Sue. The nice thing about New England Brewing, though -- if you don't love the Bot, there are about fifteen other different IPAs to try. Seriously, look at the state's board.

7) Minnesota -- Surly Abrasive DIPA (12.32 BAR, 124 Style+, 9 ABV)

The greatest thing about Abrasive is that, despite the moniker, you never see it coming. There's no way you think this beer is 9% ABV when you're drinking it. There's a bit more tropical fruit in the aroma than Heady Topper, but it has a similar strong malt backbone and is also big on hops, hops, hops. There's some citrus and and pine and floral tastes, but really Abrasive is about surprise from front to back. There's the big fruit smell, so full of sweetness, and then the big piney beer, so full of bitter, and the taste keeps going, with tons of mouthfeel, and maybe finally that hint of alcohol on the end. You can get into arguments about Abrasive versus the other big beers here, and maybe even about whether or not it's Surly's best beer, or Minnesota's. And that's what makes Surly a great brewery, and Minnesota a great beer state. Don't forget to enjoy Indeed and Dangerous Man if you make the trip, they give Surly the best run for its money. (And their cans don't look like energy drinks or 1970s communist posters, if that's not your style.) 

Thanks to Beertography for the header image.