5. Cascade Brewing Barrel House
It's hard to pick any of Oregon's myriad brewpubs and say definitively it's better than all the others. RateBeer's long-form list put Cascade up front, but also included Cascade's Portland neighbor Hopworks, Bend's Deschutes Brewery & Public House and Pacific City's Pelican Pub and Brewery. What sets Cascade apart? Sour and barrel-aged beers, and lots of them. Cascade's Elderberry, Strawberry and The Vine grape sours sips like wine, while barrel-aged fruit beers and bourbon-barrel-held "bourbonic" blueberry and cherry beers turn up the heat. The rotating cheese, charcuterie, fruit compote, tapenade and soup selections and full lines of more standard IPAs, saisons, porters and other beers round out the experience, but it's the barrels that keep adventurous beer lovers coming back.
4. The Buckeye Beer Engine
Don't doubt the pull of Ohio's brewpubs. Jackie O's in Athens, Weasel Boy in Zanesville and The Brew Kettle in Strongsville all made RateBeer's list, but Buckeye Beer Engine's 28 taps bested them all. Unlike its upmarket competitors, however, Buckeye isn't afraid to mix high-minded cask ales such as its Aquarius Imperial IPA with a Belgian Strong Ale called Nighty Night, a half-pound burger and pretzel-wrapped hot dog special or an Ohio State game. They'll even knock two bucks off the price of your burger on Mondays if you bike in.
3. Shorts Brewing
In a notoriously tough beer state packed with favorites such as Founders, Dark Horse, Jolly Pumpkin, Bells and Kuhnhenn, the 20 taps at Shorts more than hold their own. All the way up near the top of the mitten in Bellaire, Shorts goes big on beers including the puckeringly bitter Huma Lupa IPA and bourbon-barrel-aged Black Cherry Porter. In true Michigan fashion, Shorts pairs these crafted gems not with burgers and burritos from the grill, but with turkey, ham, bacon, roast beef or pastrami sandwiches from its deli. Catch all of that on a night when there's live music and it's as perfect a Michigan brewpub experience as you'll find.
2. Russian River Brewing
Santa Rosa, Calif.
There's almost no way to get the California brewpub call right, especially when Russian River, Stone, Alpine and Pizza Port are all within state lines. Russian River breaks this tie pretty easily by giving the beer geeks what they want: Some of the best, most sought-after beers on the planet. Its Pliny The Elder double IPA and Supplication and Consecration sour beers are hoarded by beer lovers and used as pawns in multistate trades. Pliny The Elder is regularly considered one of the best beers in the world. At Russian River, they're what's on tap as guest devour chicken wings, meatball sandwiches, pizza and calzones and watch local bands. It's like finding a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild at Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD): Jarring, but welcome.
This is the part where the haters come out of the woodwork and hurl empty Oskar Blues cans at their screens, demanding to know how a craft beer dilettante state such as Florida beats out California, Colorado, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest for best brewpub. Well, No. 1, it's in Florida and has outdoor seating on porches and under trees out front that can be used for most of the year. No. 2, its Mexican/Gulf Coast hybrid menu featuring lump blue crab quesadillas, shrimp burritos and tuna tacos is one of the most fun and imaginative of any of its buttoned-up brewpub counterparts. No. 3 (and perhaps the most compelling reason of all), brewer Doug Dozark is also brew manager at Tampa's powerhouse Cigar City Brewing and keeps Peg's nine taps flowing with gems such as his rare, whiskey-barrel-aged Doug's Original Stout. With owners committed to using native plants, fair-trade ingredients and so little plastic that they shun credit cards and a brewer who was already making the best craft beer in Florida, Peg's Cantina would be a prize in any state. In Florida, it's a bonus. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.