Drinking local is an important aspect of supporting craft beer, and in California we’re lucky to have so many world-class breweries close by, but there are many brewers making superlative brews that we just can’t get in our great state.
Through the realities of supply and demand, and an antiquated set of laws that govern the sale and distribution of beer, it is a great challenge for even the biggest of craft breweries to send their product to every city that’s thirsty for them. And for the most part we are ok with that. Beer is best fresh, and unique regional breweries are one of the things that make craft beer interesting. Sometimes though you want to taste the forbidden fruit and discover for yourself what all the hype is about. Here’s a primer on some of the biggest and most notable craft breweries that don’t distribute in California
The Big Boys
Beer from all five of the largest craft breweries in the country are easy to come-by in Los Angeles, but only one of the rest of the top 10 breweries, Lagunitas, is distributed in California. The other four are well respected regional breweries that you should seek out if you’re traveling:
Also known as Matt Brewing Company, this central New York brewery has been making beer since the mid-19th century, and their fans abound. The brewery has seen a lot of history and won a laundry-list of awards. Their current line-up of beers is anchored by their Pale Ale and feature a new White IPA that’s very popular and was recently added to regular production. Their beers are distributed in 26 eastern and mid-west states, though their craft sodas are available in California.
Michigan’s Bell’s is the seventh biggest craft brewery in the country, and they brew one of the hop-hunter’s most sought-after beers: Hopslam. Hoarded with a fervency only rivaled by Pliny-fever, Hopslam is a big Double IPA that gets a lot of attention, but the brewery makes over 30 varieties through the year! Their Summer Seasonal Oberon Ale is nearly as sought-after. Bell’s has limited distribution in 16 states.
Harpoon calls themselves ”New England’s Craft Brewery.” They began brewing in the mid-80s with the goal of bringing the Boston area fresh local beer, and they have been growing ever since. Their Leviathan series of imperial beers is very well regarded, and the Imperial IPA is the flagship. They also produce a line of limited production beers, the 100 Barrel Series, which are considered some of their best. Harpoon beers are distributed throughout the mid-west, east coast, and south.
Rounding out the 10 biggest craft breweries in America is Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. Boulevard’s line-up is split between their core and seasonal line-up of 12 beers which are all local favorites, and another dozen beers they package under their Smoke Stack label for wider distribution. Boulevard wears it’s Mid-West pride on its sleeve, and they even sponsor the KC Royals baseball team and have Boulevard beer poured at the stadium.
It’s a Big Beer Country
Those four breweries may be the biggest producers that are not sending beer to California, but there are literally hundreds of others from well established regional brewers of the mid-west to the new wave of upstart brewers still growing their production capacity and distribution network.
We are living in a phenomenal time for beer, a true renaissance with more excellent beer than you can hope to drink even if you don’t seek out the beers that don’t make it into California. Drinking local is an important part of supporting craft beer culture, but every now and again it’s good to try some of the amazing beers that we don’t see regularly whether it is while traveling, as part of a beer-trade, or at a festival.
Over the next few day’s we’ll be taking a look at some more of the breweries that don’t distribute to our cost. What are some of your favorite craft beers that we don’t get in LA?