Your State's Best Beer, The Final Six

Eno Sarris, March 19, 2015

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. 

Then the sixth post made a last gasp effort in late December and managed Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maine, Connecticut, and Minnesota. Phew. 

Now it's time for the top six. Which should be fairly obvious from both the missing states as well as a quick perusal of our overall leaderboards. But it's still good to finish projects, however late, even if it takes an email (to eno @ beergraphs) to actually remember that you didn't finish said project. 

6) Iowa -- Toppling Goliath pseudo Sue (13.2 BAR, 140 Style+, 5.8 ABV)

This beer might be this author's favorite beer in the top six. Though it purports to showcase the citra hops, there must be some mosaic or the like in there, because pseudo Sue also has the mango juicyness that you've come to love in your favorite new IPA. What makes this even more remarkable of a beer is that it's listed as an American Pale Ale, and it might actually be one. A tweak to the system has the ABV up around seven now, though, so maybe it's pulling a Zombie Dust on us now. In any case, it's a fruit bomb, easy-drinking, fresh and bright IPA that was at the forefront of where the best new pale ales are going before those pale ales got there. Palindrome and Peace Tree are doing some things in Iowa, but Toppling is a true Goliath in the state, as it dominates the state boards

5) Illinois -- Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (13.8 BAR, 129 Style+, 14 BV)

Supposedly, this ranking is for the 2013 version, the sixth-best beer on our overall leaderboards. But Bourbon County Brand Stout has, by itself, inspired much consternation on this site. A whopping *eight* of the top 25 beers come from the BCBS brand, and we have no idea what to do about this. Celebrate it? Sure, look at this ranking. But should we force BCBS into one ranking? But what about some of the varietals, which are surely better than others? It's annoying to give it so many slots on the rankings, but it's also a great beer, better when aged, and enough to twist yourself in moral knots about. So it's appropriate that the 2013 version comes out of the cellar to lead the state. Because of all the variants on this beer, you have to go the second page of the Illinois leaderboards to see how healthy the state's craft beer scene actually is. Pipeworks, Revolution, Half Acre -- the state of this state is sated. 

4) Michigan -- Bells' Hopslam (14.4 BAR, 123 Style+, 10 ABV)

It's not the same every year, but it's a beast every year. The notes of honey may not be as overwhelming in this year's batch, but Hopslam is still a beast made of grapefruit, grass, and honey. It's hop-forward, but it's sweet, and it hides the alcohol well. This is a Big Beer that can stand with the biggest beers, and, by itself, can shift an argument about how Bell's goes up against the big boys in the industry, or even the other big boy in its state. It's Bell's vs Founders in the battle of two epic breweries in a decent beer state, given population size and location. Everybody wants your Hopslam if you've got some, and this writer will take it over two of the three beers that our leaderboards rank above it. 

3) California -- Russian River Pliny the Elder (16.9 BAR, 127 Style+, 8 ABV)

Talk trade with anyone, and you know that Pliny the Elder is a monster that can bring you great returns. Talk to an East Coaster in town, and you know that Pliny the Elder is a tourist attraction. Talk to a bartender in the bay area, and you know Pliny the Elder is a nuisance, an eye-roll of a demand. The limited supply is behind each of these aspects of the beer. The beer itself? It's a hop bomb, bitter and piney and citrus all up in your face. It's probably the quintessential West Coast (D)IPA. It's worth asking if it's rooted in the past, but it's a great beer. And Russian River really brings a one-two punch with Pliny the Younger -- maybe the quintessential TIPA -- atop the California boards. But don't let that two-beer domination fool you. Not only does Russian River make great sours that don't require the same wait, but this is either the best or second-best state for beer, based on quantity and quality, with at least two cities that rank in the top five beer cities in America. 

2) Indiana -- Three Floyds Zombie Dust (17.3 BAR, 143 Style+, 6.4 ABV)

Indiana, as a state, cannot stand up to the behemoth that is California. There's Three Floyds, Sun King, and some upstart younger breweries trying to make a name for themselves. But when you've got Three Floyds in your state, you zoom up the leaderboards. Does Zombie Dust maybe benefit from being called an American Pale Ale? All you have to do is look at how it's 43% better than the average APA, and how it has the best Style+ on this page, to know it might, just a little bit. But it's an impressive beer. A single hop beer (Citra of course), it gives you a complex, well-rounded taste that can hang with any pale ale, of any sort. Don't wait in line for the Dark Lord, just go and get Zombie Dust, and Alpha King, and Arctic Panzer. These guys can brew it. 

1) Vermont -- The Alchemist Heady Topper (19.3 BAR, 130 Style+, 8 ABV)

What an amazing state. The second-smallest state in the union boasts not one, not two, but three of America's best breweries. Yes, Heady Topper is All World, and leads everything. But you cannot award it the state title without at least giving a nod to that farm out there that keeps putting out the classiest of beers (Hill Farmstead), or that other brewery with the great IPAs down the road (Lawson's Finest Liquids). This writer will take the Lawson's he's had over Heady Topper even, but he's yet to have a Hill Farmstead and it's killing him. But the Topper tops all, especially in hoppy, piney, resin taste -- with a mouthfeel that sets it apart. You knew this was coming, and yet, hopefully it was still satisfying. 

A toast! A toast to great beers in some great beer states. Also, a toast to finishing your projects! 

Thanks to Rodrigo Menezes of Wiki Commons for the header image.