Here’s the Best Beer from Every State. Hold onto Your Livers.

bottle_Flag_new“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
– Winston Churchill

“All right, brain. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but let’s just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”
– Homer Simpson

Looking for something great to drink? Start with the ABV.

Just kidding. Sort of.

As we continue to look at data from Beer Advocate’s best beers state-by-state, it seems two things are clear: people like high ABV styles and rate high-alcohol beers well.

But what does that mean when looking for a top-notch, truly great beer? While we’ve so far kept these rankings in a vacuum, I wanted to put see what would happen with our “best” beers if we put them in more of a head-to-head scenario.

Which is why today we look at the best of the “best” beers from every state and what particular aspects reinforce the belief that to enjoy a great beer, you may not be drinking responsibly.

For this analysis, I started by taking the top-ranked beer from every state and DC, finishing with a list of 51 beers to rank. If you’re curious about Beer Advocate’s proprietary weighted rating (WR) system, read this.

All the beers selected will appear below, but if you want to see the unadulterated list, here you go.

To focus on drinker preferences, I once again split all the beers into two groups – the top-25 and bottom-26.

Here’s the top half:

State Beer Name Brewery Style ABV WR SRM
Florida Barrel-aged Hunahpu Cigar City Imperial Stout 11 4.73 35
Iowa Kentucky Brunch Toppling Goliath Imperial Stout 13 4.71 35
Vermont Heady Topper Alchemist DIPA 8 4.71 12
California Pliny the Younger Russian River DIPA 11 4.68 12
Illinois BCBS Coffee Goose Island Imperial Stout 13.4 4.67 35
Indiana Barrel-aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord Three Floyds RIS 15 4.66 35
Michigan KBS Founders Imperial Stout 11.2 4.61 35
Connecticut Fuzzy Baby Ducks New England Brewing IPA 6.2 4.56 11
Missouri Barrel-aged Abraxas Perennial Imperial Stout 11 4.56 35
Alaska A Deal with the Devil Anchorage Brewing Barleywine 17.3 4.54 15
Texas Atrial Rubicite Jester King Wild Ale 5.8 4.54 7
Minnesota Abrasive Ale Surly DIPA 9 4.51 12
Wyoming 2×4 Quadruple Pale Melvin Brewing DIPA 10.5 4.5 12
Oregon Abyss Deschutes Imperial Stout 11 4.5 35
Massachusetts Julius Tree House IPA 6.5 4.48 11
Ohio Columbus Bodhi Columbus Brewing DIPA 8 4.47 12
Oklahoma Praire Bomb Prairie Artisan Ales Imperial Stout 14 4.47 35
New Mexico Project Dank La Cumbre IPA 7.5 4.44 11
Wisconsin Sixteen Central Waters Imperial Stout 11 4.43 35
Colorado Uncle Jacob’s Stout Avery Brewing Imperial Stout 14.83 4.4 35
Washington Bourbon Abominable Winter Ale Fremont Strong Ale 11 4.4 17
Maryland Gose Gone Wild Stillwater/Westbrook Gose 4.6 4.4 5
Maine Lunch Maine Brewing IPA 7 4.37 11
Virginia Bourbon Barrel Resolute Three Brothers RIS 13.5 4.37 35
South Carolina Mexican Cake Westbrook Imperial Stout 10.5 4.36 35

… and here’s the bottom:

State Beer Name Brewery Style ABV WR SRM
North Carolina Barrel-aged Sexual Chocolate Foothills RIS 9.75 4.35 35
Pennsylvania Nugget Nectar Troegs Amber 7.5 4.34 14
DC OtWoA DC Brau DIPA 9.2 4.33 12
Utah Big Bad Baptist Epic Imperial Stout 11.8 4.31 35
Georgia Coffee Oatmeal Stout Terrapin Imperial Stout 9.4 4.28 35
Alabama Snake Handler Good People Brewing DIPA 9.3 4.27 12
Delaware 90 Minute Dogfish Head DIPA 9 4.27 12
Kansas Old Backus Free State Barleywine 10.5 4.26 15
New Jersey A Night to End All Dawns Kane Brewing Imperial Stout 13 4.26 35
Kentucky Bo & Luke Against the Grain RIS 14 4.25 35
New Hampshire Baltic Porter Smuttynose Baltic Porter 9.24 4.25 25
Montana Barrel-aged Ivan the Terrible Big Sky RIS 10 4.24 35
New York Choklat Southern Tier Imperial Stout 10 4.24 35
Tennessee Sue Yazoo Brewing Porter 9 4.12 29
Arizona Dragoon Dragoon Brewing IPA 7.3 4.11 11
Nebraska Melange A Trois In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels Nebraksa Brewing Belgian Strong 10 4.09 17
Idaho Trout Hop Grand Teton Black Ale 8.5 4.01 35
Hawaii CoCoNut Porter Maui Brewing Porter 6 3.99 29
Nevada Bourbon Barrel RIS Joseph James Brewing RIS 9.5 3.98 35
Mississippi Timber Beast Lazy Magnolia DIPA 9 3.91 12
West Virginia Dun Glen Bridge Brew Works Dubbel 7.08 3.86 14
Rhode Island Bock Narragansett Maibock 6.5 3.8 9
North Dakota Feast Like a Sultan Laughing Sun IPA 7.2 3.79 11
Louisiana IRISh Channel New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Stout 6.8 3.77 35
Arkansas Paradise Porter Diamond Bear Brewing Porter 6.24 3.76 29
South Dakota Pile O Dirt Crow Peak Porter 6 3.7 29

To highlight the differences, here’s the quick and dirty look at the averaged ABV, weighted rating and SRM (color) from both of the above lists, pitted against the averages for all 507 beers pulled from my original list for comparison:

Top-25 Best
Bottom-26 Best
All Beer AVG
10.5 ABV 8.9 ABV 8.1 ABV
4.52 WR 4.1 WR 4.06 WR
23 SRM 24 SRM 18 SRM

One new twist I wanted to include was the value for Standard Reference Method, or SRM, which measures the color intensity of a beer. In layman’s terms, the higher the number, the darker the beer. A jet-black Russian imperial stout, for example, would register at the top of the scale at 40. For simplicity’s sake, the SRMs for each beer are averaged from their respective style.

So what does this all mean? Well, after yesterday’s look at how ABV might impact ratings, this emphasizes why.

The top-25 clearly has a higher ABV against both the bottom-26 and the overall average, not to mention a rather large difference in Beer Advocate’s weighted ranking score. I was rather surprised the the bottom-26, even though it’s the “best of” what states had to offer, barely beat the “all beer” average in weighted rating.

I included SRM because it once again shows that higher ABV beers (which can often end up being dark stouts or porters like we see here, but obviously not always) perform well. The average SRM for the top and bottom are virtually the same.

Perhaps most important, 18 of the 25 beers in the top half are imperial stouts, double IPAs and a barleywine. Bottom 26? 13 beers from those styles.

Which leads me into the next post nicely. If these are the characteristics that define the best American beers from across the country, what would that patriotic brew look like, exactly? With a little help from my friends, we’re going to find out.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


15 thoughts on “Here’s the Best Beer from Every State. Hold onto Your Livers.

  1. I can confirm that Bodhi is the best beer in Ohio and one of the best beers in the world. Down with Heady up with Bodhi!

    1. I would second Tom’s motion here, although tasted blind and back to back Bodhi and Heady are pretty similar in my opinion.

      On a topic more closely related to the post it is interesting to note that two sour beers made this list and they reside at the opposite end of the abv spectrum. One trait they do share with Imperial Stouts, Barleywines and DIPAs is a bold flavor profile that takes some time to learn to love (an acquired taste if you will).

      It would be interesting to take a closer look at common characteristics of the most highly rated beers that have a moderate to low abv. To me those beers are the most impressive.

      1. Spoiler alert: I have one more hodgepodge of data I plan to share next week that touches on this exactly! Great minds, and all that…

    2. Gosh, I look forward to trying this beer some day. Then again, I also look forward to trying Heady, too.

  2. Interesting finding, especially about the bottom 26 having far fewer stouts, IPAs, and barleywines.

    Wonder if the stouts, IPAs, and barley wines dominate the rankings because breweries focus on perfecting these (due to their popularity) or if it signals drinkers’ actual taste preferences?

    E.g. if a handful of the well respected regional brewers all came out with drool-inspiring saisons, would it help mold drinkers’ preferences towards enjoying lighter SRM beers? (Maybe the way San Diego led the IPA movement, if my limited beer history serves me correctly?)

    1. I’m sure I’ve given some thought to this exact “chicken and the egg” scenario. I’ve written a couple of series on the cross section of what “best beer” is to drinkers that may be of interest:
      What Zymurgy’s “Best Beers” Ranking Tells Us About “Boring” Beer
      What RateBeer Rankings Tell Us About Preferences and Bias

      Part of the reason these beers do so well is most certainly the rarity and hype often associated with the best of these styles. That alone can influence our perception. But it also gets back to this comment from a previous post. I think Americans seek out big, bold flavors in any of our food and drink and these styles can play to that.

  3. Reblogged this on Be A Better Bartender and commented:
    A great run down, would love to take the time and do a beer tour of America using this list as a guide. Great work again from the guys at ‘This Is Why I’m Drunk’.

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