It's not that North Dakota has particularly onerous or backward beer laws. This is a state where public intoxication isn't even a crime. It's just a state with 690,000 people and exactly two breweries: The brewpub-deprived Fargo Brewing in Fargo and an outpost of the Granite Hills national brewpub chain, also in Fargo. Is Granite Hills better than nothing? Yes. Would Granite Hills be No. 1 if it had any local competition? Probably not. There's a great business opportunity in this state for anyone who's willing to take it. Until then, it draws a blank on brewpubs.
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.
Oklahoma is yet another state where perfectly good beers go to die. If it wasn't for brewpubs, every beer in the state would be watered down to the 4% ABV limits deemed appropriate by Oklahoma's powers that be. While you can't carry out the original-recipe version's of Choc's 8% ABV Belgian-Style Dubbel, which took gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009, or the 11% Belgian-Style Quad, which won gold at the World Beer Cup in 2010, even low-voltage brews such as the 1919 American pale wheat ale make lovely session beers. The Italian dishes such as grilled shrimp alfredo and antipasto with Muenster cheese made fresh in Krebs are all nice touches and are best enjoyed with the wine-strength Belgians while you can get them.
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.
Selin's Grove Brewing
What happens when you take a couple of workers from the New Belgium brewery in Colorado and drop them in Central Pennsylvania? You suddenly have some of the best beer on the East Coast in a location usually only frequented by Susquehana University students and alums. Selin's Grove's 12 taps are all reserved for home-grown brews including an IPA that can hang with any of its Colorado competitors. The pub menu's small, but locally produced bread, soft pretzels, salsa and cheeses are great complements to the palate-tickling Wee Heavy Scottish Ale, River Rat Tripel and Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout. Rhode Island
Providence, R.I. It looks like a hippie stronghold from the outside and like a well-worn campus hangout on the inside (complete with beery aroma), but Trinity Brewhouse has been a favored stop for tourists, Providence College fans and minor-league hockey aficionados alike. It could get by selling the same pitchers of pale brew as its neighbors, but its core-warming brews like 9% ABV Redrum Imperial Red Ale and Cascadian Dark Ale come in quite handy when the cold sets in. Each gets the furnace going and goes mighty well with "Zuppa di Brew" local mussels and chorizo, lobster mac and cheese and "double loaded" ravioli stuffed with potato, cheddar and chives, topped with melted monterey jack, colby cheddar, sour cream and bacon bits.