Yesterday we looked at some of the most sought-after beers from the biggest breweries that don’t send their beer into California. In today’s installment we focus on the regional operations and newer breweries making hype-worthy beers.
The craft beer market is beholden to supply and demand in a way that few commodities are in this age of mass production. Craft beer is time intensive and difficult to make, and even the biggest craft brewers only make a fraction of the beer that the big industrial brewers can. This often means that even the most ambitious brewer can’t meet the demand for product locally, let alone in a wide distribution network. As a result, many of the country’s best breweries don’t even try to expand into new markets and happily only sell their beers locally.
Apart from the largest craft breweries there are a handful of regional breweries who limit their distribution so that their thirsty local customers can get their fill.
Michigan’s Founders Brewing is rated the second best brewery in the world by beer review site Rate Beer, and several of their beers sought-out by beer drinkers from coast-to-coast. The KBS barrel aged coffee stout perhaps being the prime example. The new All Day IPA is often cited as one of the finest examples of the nascent session-IPA style as well.
New Glarus (link)
Located in the wilds of Wisconsin, New Glarus is a small brewery that focuses on crafted exceptional beers that they don’t send out of their home-state. The demand in WI is just too high for New Glarus to make enough beer for a wider distribution. Known for creative brews, like the Belgian Red brewed with cherries and excellent seasonal offerings, their commitment to quality has helped their beers become some of the most desired limited production beers in America.
3Floyds are a brewery with such a fanatical cult following that a one-day festival has begun centered around the release of their Dark Lord Imperial Russian Stout. The Indiana brewery concentrates on the Chicagoland area, and on making big beers to keep their devotees happy. Their American wheat Gumballhead and Alpha King, their flagship pale ale, are said to be some of the regions best craft beers, and something you should seek-out if you’re in Chicago.
The west coast might be the nexus of the craft beer revolution, but the middle west is true beer country. And St Louis’ Schlafly is situated in its heart, just miles away from the historic Anheuser-Busch HQ. Schlalfy is well-loved in STL, and they are committed to limiting their distribution area to where a truck can travel to in a single day. They produce a wide-range of beers, with half-a-dozen core beers and a large variety of seasonal and brewer’s choice options. They brew several variations of wheat beers, with the Yakima Wheat being one of our favorites.
More new breweries are starting production now than at any point in America’s history, and there are no signs of the industry slowing down. These breweries are well established as respected producers of superlative beers, and they’re not even 10 years old.
Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewing was founded in 2004, and they’ve been expanding ever since. A devoted canner of craft beers, each of their new releases gets more hype than the last from the beer-press. Sixpoint is known for its hoppy beers, with Resin and Bengali Tiger getting high marks from reviewers. Their new summer hefe Apollo seemingly makes every “top beers for summer” list this year as well.
Surly Brewing (link)
Another craft brewery in Minnesota, Surly started as a humble home brewing operation and has grown into a respected craft beer force in the twin cities. Their flagship IPA Furious regularly makes lists of the best beers in the country. The explosion of Surly’s popularity has been so great that the brewers are in the planning phases of a massive “destination brewery” project that will expand their reach into new markets. Let’s hope they make it to California.
How to Score a Whale
These breweries might not officially distribute to Los Angeles, but there are ways around antiquated distribution channels if you’re dedicated to getting your hands on some of these beers.
Laws governing the sale and shipping of beer are convoluted and outdated, and it has traditionally been very difficult to purchase beer from online vendors. There are a couple of new options, though often the shipping costs outweigh the benefits of score the elusive bottles. There are several new outfits that look like they could be good options (disclaimer: we have not ordered from any of these, just read reviews of the services:)
- Letspour.com: a wine and beer on-line retailer run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts.
- Beerjobber.com: a member-based beer sales site.
- Archerliquors.com: A chicago based liquor store that ships across the country and has a great selection of the hard-to-find mid-west breweries.
A slippery slope perhaps, but there will always be craft beer fans in other regions who want some Pliny or Ballast Point just as much as you want some Founders or Surly beers. Any of the major beer forums will have trading areas, or you can take to reddit’s /beertrades. Just be weary of the laws on shipping beer, and do not use the USPS.
Some local beer sellers will handle the trading for you, sending California exclusive product to other regions in return for the beers we just can’t get out here. We’re not sure of the legality of this, but we’ve scored some Founders beers at a local bottle shop recently, so always keep your eyes open and get to know the buys at your favorite bottle-shop!
Beer festivals can be a great place to try breweries that don’t regularly distribute to Southern California. Check the listing of brewers attending a local festival if you are on the look-out for something particular, and you might be in luck.
Regardless how well-regarded the rest of the country’s breweries are, and how rare and sought after some of their offerings are, we can take comfort in knowing that we live in the best place for craft beer in the nation. Southern California has some of the best and most ambitions craft breweries in the world, and Northern California some of the oldest and most respected. If that wasn’t enough to secure our place as truly the best beer region in the country we also tend to be in the distribution area for all of the great Pacific Northwest breweries as well!
So lets not grouse about the beers from the East Coast and Mid West that we can’t have and crack open some delicious local craft beer instead!