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Home Beer Editor Are these the best beers in America?

Are these the best beers in America?

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This week, Zymurgy—a publication of the American Homebrewers Association—released its annual list of the best commercial beers in America, which were voted in by members of the organization. The results are, well, familiar. Here’s a look at the top five beers:

Zymurgy’s 2013 Best Beers in America
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
4. Bell’s Hopslam
5. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

These are all fantastic beers, and definitely some of the best in the country, if not the world—I actually enjoyed a Sculpin last night. Browsing the top 50 beers, it’s clear hoppy beers are continuing to rise in popularity, but you probably don’t need a list to tell you that. What is interesting is how similar this list looks to last year.

Zymurgy’s 2012 Best Beers in America
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
4. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
5. Stone Arrogant Bastard

And the year prior:

Zymurgy’s 2011 Best Beers in America
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3T. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
3T. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
5. Bell’s Hopslam

And, for good measure, the year before:

Zymurgy’s 2010 Best Beers in America
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. Stone Arrogant Bastard
4. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
5. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

There’s not much to read into this beyond the apparent fact that the majority of Homebrewers Association members who vote like hoppy beers, which certainly mirrors most craft beer drinkers. But, just because the top ranked beers haven’t changed much in the last few years, doesn’t mean the list is stagnant: Lagunitas Sucks, Stone Enjoy By and The Alchemist Heady Topper are a few newcomers that cracked the top 50. And, because this list relies on people actually tasting the beer, notable breweries with limited distribution like Hill Farmstead, which was named the “Best Brewery in the World 2013” by Ratebeer.com, are absent—The Alchemist is an exception.

So what’s the biggest take-away from this year’s list? It’s full of phenomenal beer. Figure out which ones you haven’t tried and get drinking.

21 Comments

  • Andy says:

    That’s a pretty narrow view of the beer in America. All IPAs (single or imperial).

    Lame list, despite the fact that each of those beers is damn good

  • Rick says:

    I agree. You would think Home Brewers would like more variety. Hoppiness to the extreme has become a necessity if you want to grab the craft beer market. IMO, there is such a thing as too hoppy but I am definitely in the minority.

  • Chris says:

    No such list can exist. Why? Because no two people have the same exact tastes.

    Oh, and I doubt the author of those lists has tried every single beer in America.

  • Ernie says:

    As a home brewer and having been in recent competitions, this is a pretty good view of where home brewers point their attention. The list is all hoppy because hops are winning the competitions. I like a good hoppy beer as much as anyone and maybe more (I have a pale and an ipa on tap now), but there is something to be said for other styles as well.

  • Henry says:

    Ok if your telling me that hops win, then the Brewers are nowhere close. Pliny is a Given, but no younger? Where’s the VT beers? Any home brewer should aspire to produce something like Heady, Lawsons or Hill. As a Matter of fact if you went IPA nothing other than Cali or VT IPA’s should be on the list.

  • Bill says:

    The haters are going to hate. Probably because they aren’t AHA members and don’t get Zymurgy magazine. Which is a brilliant resource for homebrewers and beer lovers. (Even if you aren’t a homebrewer you should check it out!) I think that the list is great! If there is a beer on it you haven’t tried yet it gives you an incentive to go pick some up and make sure you can “cross it off your list.” I can’t disagree that their list contains some of the best beers I have ever had. And some I have yet to try. I think that they could appease some of the naysayers if they broke the list down and had a few “sub lists” for different styles. This way the hop heads can be happy and the malty beer lovers can have their list too. I love hoppy beers though so I see no real problems as it is.

  • Jim says:

    all ipa’s? seriously? and i’m sorry but 90 minute doesn’t deserve to be in that list even if it were the best ipa’s in the country. nor does two hearted. i like both those beers but even if we’re going by strictly ipa’s (which you shouldn’t), there are plenty of other ipa’s out there that blow those two out of the water.

  • O'Myrah says:

    Hello, in order for this assessment to be valid as to it’s fairness, the Beer Editor, Zymurgy, and other friends of Home Brew, need to partake of products made by at least the Top 20 Craft Brewers, mandated, no exception!
    As well, Zymurgy, needs to evaluate the new up and coming convergences of styles emerging in the market to see if there’s a diamond on the rough to give credibility to this article.
    It does not appear that has occurred here. The scope of exposure is more myopic than bi picture!

  • Dave says:

    I have no problem with hoppy beers, but this list is a bit too hop heavy. I agree they should have had sub-lists of other beers as well. Honestly I like hops, but there is a such thing as having too much of something. I honestly am tired of IPA’s all over the place and would love to see a good Belgian or heck even an amber showing from craft beers. Luckily one local brewery here has one of the best Scottish ales I have ever tried along with a pretty tasty Kolsch. So even my friends who don’t like IPA’s at all can drink something.

  • Jim says:

    Odd, but I had my first Two Hearted Ale just last night and to be honest, I found it thin flavored. I’d replace it on the list with either Terrapin Hopsecutioner or Highland Gaelic Ale.

  • Mike says:

    Looks like each and every one of the commenters has missed the point: these beers are VOTED ON by the readership of Zymurgy, all of whom are AHA members. These are not random lists made by the editors, these are the top vote getters. No sublists, no “up and coming styles,” the one question asked on the ballot is “What do you think is the best beer in America?” Period.

    If you go back further in time, there were certainly other winners, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine and New Belgium Fat Tire come to mind as two from the past 10 years. Obviously, Draft Mag didn’t do their complete due diligence in reporting, nor did they do an adequate job reporting that these are the results of a popularity contest, nothing more or less.

  • Shannon says:

    Beer finder: shipyard.com

  • Andy says:

    Mike, I did not miss that point. Nevertheless, it’s a sad list, because you would think beer lovers would have a wider range of appreciation.

  • Brett says:

    Complaining about this list is like complaining about a CNN poll of its readers. Just because it is not what you, as an individual, would choose does not make it a “sad list” of responses.

  • TC says:

    Considering I can’t (and probably won’t) get half of them in my area…um…totally disagree. Maybe if we made it a more fair poll like just from craft breweries with more than a two state distribution area and then another poll for more limited distribution areas?

  • Dave says:

    As a former professional brewer, and a rabid homebrewer still, this list is very sad. While all of these beers are good, and some great, it just seems that everyone went with the beers with the biggest hype. Not very adventurous, and very narrow minded. Too bad. There is a world beyond hops.

  • Marco says:

    Of course these are the “Best” beers in America; they have the alcohol and the hops required to make it onto any ‘best’ beer list. I long for the day when our taste buds have not become so corrupted by big beers and we can appreciate the subtle pleasures of a quality, pure lager or Pilsner style so much that those beers will merit inclusion on such lists.

  • Bomber says:

    Some of you are missing the point. This is a list that was voted on by thousands of people. If you really look at the list, all these beers come from the bigger craft breweries across the country. This means more people are familiar and have access to these beers. Quit over analyzing a popularity contest. Of course there are beers that that are of equal or higher quality out there, but are smaller and limited to a small percentage of the beer drinking population. The big hopbombs are obviously what is trendy right now. That is exactly what the list shows. I wish I had the opportunity to taste many of the small breweries across the country, but this list does have a lot of solid beers on it. Especially beers I can get my hands on locally.

  • Todd says:

    Looks like nobody made it to the Northwest!

  • Ed.A says:

    Seeing as how Heady Topper nor Ghandi Bot is not on the list…it means nothing.

  • Jamoosh says:

    Bomber is on the right track here. Most people don’t consider the distribution footprint when looking at the results. Smaller breweries with only local distribution don’t really stand much of a chance of making this list.

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