Craft Beer Vigilantes | What is your favorite brewery?
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What is your favorite brewery?

This is the first of many collaborative CBV posts where Vigilantes will weigh in on one question. First up: What is your favorite brewery?

Jon (@DrinkDrankBlog)

It’s really difficult for me to choose my favorite brewery; I love trying new things and in general drink as many beers as I can from far and wide but if I had to choose, I’d choose Beavertown.

As a Londoner, these guys are local to me and I just can’t stop going back to their beers. Gamma Ray was one of the first beers that got me into “craft beer”. When I first tried it in the Jolly Butcher’s in Stoke Newington around 2012, little did I know at the time that it would become one of the most iconic beers of London’s craft beer revolution.

Their core range is solid. Gamma Ray is my favorite APA. Neck Oil is a great pale ale. 8 Ball is my favorite rye beer. Holy Cowbell, an Indian Porter, was a revelation to me. Their specials are great too; ‘Spresso is one of the most intense coffee stouts I’ve ever had. Bloody ‘Ell is a super juicy blood orange IPA. I could go on…

Last year they opened a pop-up pub not far from me which had about 20 tap lines, including exclusive specials. I was like a kid in a candy shop and went multiple times. Sometimes even by myself, just to try their beers.

As I said, I usually try new beers whenever I can, but I’ve drank their core range more times than I can remember. There’s something about their beer that excites me; I’m hooked! Did I mention their can art is amazing too?

Jamie (@southcoastbarbellsandbeer)

Being asked to pick your favourite brewery is a little like being asked what your favourite movie is. You think you have a straight answer… Predator! But then you remember how much you enjoyed Top Gun first time round… then you recall how blown away you were by Nolan’s masterpiece The Dark Knight! Before you know it you’re struggling to limit it to a top ten, let alone a single favourite.

Picking my preferred brewery has followed a similar pattern. Established British breweries like Cloudwater, Buxton and Northern Monk all deserve a mention, whilst new kids on the block Deya, Verdant and Time and Tide would all comfortably crack my top ten (and probably all be the near the top of that list). But for me one of the best things about the craft beer marketplace is discovering those small outfits creating quality products in your local area and in that respect I am blessed.  Southsea Brewing Company come a very close second; their DIPA Heavy Artillery in particular is a stonking beer that stands up to some of the best I’ve tasted. But my favourite brewery of the bunch? Well that honour goes to Portsmouth based Staggeringly Good, and for a number of reasons.

When I first moved to Portsmouth it was a pint of StaggerSaurus IPA that tempted me into craft beer. Since then I have worked through and been consistently impressed by all of their core range as well as most of their seasonal specials. The recent extra hoppy version of their AIPA Velcirapture is a hazy wonder.  Although a relatively young brewery they have a flourishing taproom which is one of the coolest places I know in which to drink beer and in keeping with modern brewing techniques all of their beers are unfined and 100% natural. And if all of that wasn’t enough, their beers all have dinosaurs on them!

My choice of favourite brewery may surprise some, especially considering the excellent beer we have in the UK. But in my eyes Staggeringly Good tick all of the boxes and I predict they have some massive things in ahead of them.

Justin (@the_toots)

In a region with a huge Craft Beer scene, its hard to pick a favorite Bay Area brewery. One that has been brewing killer beer for almost 30 years is San Leandro’s Drake’s Brewing Co. Housed in a former Caterpillar manufacturing plant, they began brewing traditional English Ales but soon moved on to hop forward West Coast style. In 2002, Drake’s took home Gold at GABF for their delightful IPA. The beer that got me hooked on Drake’s was definitely their outrageous Denogginizer. Since getting hooked on this insane DIPA, I’ve witnessed their brewers create plenty of delicious libations that always keep me coming back.

Building on their continued popularity in the Bay Area and beyond, they’ve expanded to meet their demand. After many years of hosting First Friday Beer and BBQs in their parking lot behind Walmart, they finally expanded to create a Barrel House next door. A comfortable place with live music, scrumptious food, and all of their amazing brews. Last year they opened a second location in the vibrant Uptown neighborhood of Oakland. Drake’s Dealership is a perfect place to kick back, enjoy wood-fired pizza and sip on some 32 beers to choose from.

What’s Drake’s up to next? West Sacramento

Raul (@marty_mcfly127)

Living in South Florida there are not many choices when it comes to craft breweries, there’s maybe about a dozen and a half or so spread out over a 2-hour driving distance from where I live. I can’t say I’ve visited them all but out of the ones I have visited, J. Wakefield Brewing is my favorite.

On top of producing world-class beer, they do things that few other breweries in South Florida are doing but a lot of those in the West or North-East coasts are on a regular basis. JWB have a focused core range and produce and release many limited or special edition beers as well. A lot of these beers are collaborations with other amazing breweries from across the country, which gives me the opportunity to be able to try beers made by some of the breweries I wish to visit.

So even though they have this core lineup of beers like El Jefe and Hops 4 Teacher, they go above and beyond for their patrons by not just producing “introductory” craft beers but experiment with ingredients you wouldn’t normally find in other beers produced in the area. They also have an outstanding sour program producing some of the most sought after sour beers in the country. I was not at all into sours until I tried a few from JWB and then immediately fell in love with the style!

Speaking of beers, when they do announce a release, it can sometimes turn into an event like those on the West and the NE coasts. No other brewery have I gone to and waited in line for 6 hours to buy their beer. Most would think that is an insane amount of time to spend waiting in line but the line itself is an event. You get to meet and hang with other like-minded craft beer drinkers and share some phenomenal beers in the process. Part of acquiring highly sought after beer is the joy that I and most craft beer drinkers have, which is sharing that experience.

Lastly, the crew at JWB makes this a great place for me to visit. From the bartenders to the brewers I have been able to develop relationships over time which I’m appreciative of. I enjoy walking in the door when I get chances to stop by and hear “hey, Marty!” because someone remembers me, and it’s not just me but true for many that walk through that brewery’s door. That is the difference between visiting and being welcomed!

Keith (@BeerSelfie)

I was “founded” in Chico, California in 1980. Sound like anyone else you know? I’m pretty much obligated to respond with Sierra Nevada. Obligation or not, I really do love my hometown brewery, and not just because of their proximity. For 37 years these craft beer pioneers have maintained their independence and brewed world-class craft beers. Their consistency and quality are really beyond compare.  I’ll freely admit they aren’t the most nimble when it comes to craft beer trends, at least not with their national brands. It took them years to catch on to the sour beer trend, and they have still only released a handful. They were a few years behind the trend with fruited beers when they released Sidecar Orange Pale Ale and they’re just starting to experiment with New England style IPAs. However, if you frequent any of their locations (Chico, Mills River, Berkeley) you know they’re are always putting out new brews. I make it into the Chico taproom at least once a month, and there is always something new and interesting on tap. It’s not always the hot new style, but clearly, that isn’t Sierra Nevada’s focus.

When Sierra Nevada does step into something new they can change the craft beer landscape overnight.  They revolutionized IPAs with Celebration, then once again with Torpedo and its namesake dry-hopping device. They upped the ante on distilled/extract hops with Hop Hunter by steam distilling wet hops before they even left the fields. And think about this: when they released their Otra Vez gose-style ale it was instantly the most widely distributed sour beer ever. Once they commit to something, they regularly change craft beer for the better.

Sierra Nevada’s “buzz” and sales have leveled off a bit in the last decade, but they continue to innovate; they’re a great community member, and they continue to maintain their independence. That’s why after 37 years of co-existing in Chico, California they are still my favorite brewery.

Nick (@thegreatbeerdad)

I’ve thought really hard about how to define my favorite brewery. On brewing brilliance, I would say Cloudwater. Consistently good and always pushing themselves to do better. I’ve honestly never had a bad beer from them. Do I base my decision on the breweries interaction with its customers and it’s willingness to listen? If so, I’d go with Time and Tide. They’re always engaging and interacting with their loyal customers. Do I look local, at the breweries that have welcomed me through their doors and taught me a lot about brewing and beer? If so, then Lost and Grounded would get my vote.

However, whilst trying to decide, I kept thinking back to where it all began, when I was a younger real ale drinker and when I took a chance on two stand out bottles in my local off license from two American breweries I’d barely heard of, without which I would never have embarked on this craft adventure. I speak of Sierra Nevada and Anchor. My first proper craft beers were Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Anchor Steam, which opened my eyes to a whole world of different styles and flavors. These are two beers that, whilst not being such a fuss as the latest hazy juice bombs, will always have a place in my heart and in my fridge and for that reason, I’m awarding co-favourite brewery to these American staples!

Robyn (@lovebeerlookhere)

This is such a hard decision to make. Not only are there too many brilliant breweries in the world, the best of the best just keep on delivering outstanding results that up the game time and time again. If I were to whittle it down to one, I would have to say…Northern Monk are my current favourite. Both in quality and style, these guys are no joke and don’t seem to have any intentions of slowing down. They manage to create high quality beer from the palest of pale to the darkest of dark, showing great skill and ability to produce a variety of brews without having to fall on one style. Not only do the produce exceptional quality beers, they give a platform to artists and creatives to showcase their work with their Patrons Projects. This is something more breweries should do and is pointedly admirable of them to pioneer. So there you have it. Robyn’s favourite brewery is Northern Monk Brew Co.


Edited by Alex. Featured image (five glasses) provided by Dave.

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