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Ask a Cicerone: Breweries to Watch in 2014
Editor's Note: Ask a what? A Certified Cicerone®. That is, a beer expert who has passed a particular certification exam administered by the Craft Beer Institute. You can think of them as beer sommeliers.
Every year, the beer scene changes a little, and every year, you'll see new unfamiliar bottles and cans at your local beer shop. Which new breweries are worth exploring? Who should be on our radar? We asked our crew of beer experts which breweries we should keep an eye on in 2014: breweries doing exciting things, growing, experimenting, or just making really awesome beer.
Here's what they had to say.
"I wait with bated breath to see anything that Sam Richardson and Matt Monahan of Other Half Brewing decide to do next. They are *just* about to be given clearance to start brewing away on their system located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, which should definitely make NYC beer drinkers quite happy. There's a notable culinary sensibility to how they approach creating beers—based on Matt being trained and working in kitchens across the country before making the sidestep to brewing—and it makes for finely balanced beers with unique nuances that are intriguing but not gimmicky. I'm currently most drawn to their Motueka Pale Ale."—James Tai (Pinch)
"My top pick for brewery to watch this year would have to be Casey Brewing and Blending out of Glenwood Springs, CO. This year at GABF and What the Funk?! (a sour beer event), the surprise hits were the sour beers coming out of AC Golden. Several of their experimental sours were incredible, but the Colorambic that they brought took the cake—it's the closest thing I've ever tasted to a true Belgian gueuze that wasn't actually brewed in Belgium. Late last year, head brewer (and sour brewer extraordinaire) Troy Casey left AC Golden to start up his own operation. He probably won't be releasing any beer for sale until late spring or summer at the earliest, but keep your eyes peeled. Casey's has the potential to become the next Crooked Stave or Hill Farmstead, so try to get your hands on some before it becomes impossible to find."—Pat Fahey (The Cicerone Certification Program)
"There are lots of exciting things happening on the craft beer front in St. Louis. One of the most promising is the major expansion of Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (UCBC). I really like this brewery because it is so different from most other craft brewers. They have two series of beers: 'Reverence' which pays homage to classic beer styles brewed in traditional fashion and 'Revolution' which smashes the boundaries of style guidelines with innovative recipes that are not only interesting and irreverent, but delicious too."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
"California continues to produce ridiculously talented brewers. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, CA, Societe Beer Co. and Modern Times in San Diego, and The Rare Barrel in Berkeley are all going to make amazing beer, get huge buzz, and grow massively in barrel production in 2014 (that can still mean just a few thousand barrels, though). Because they're all small and very young, beer from these breweries will not be widely available. Their bottles, or cans in Modern Time's case, may quickly be relegated to whale status trade bait. If you're in California and get the chance to taste any of them or acquire bottles, don't hesitate!"—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)
"Keep an eye on Stillwater Artisanal Ales based out of the Baltimore area. Since 2009, the owner/brewer, Brian Strumke, has helped pioneer the gypsy brewer movement, collaborating with brewers nationally and internationally to design and brew experimental Belgian style beers. His latest collaboration is with musicians and is called the Sensory Series, which is meant to bring together music and beer for all of our senses. Stillwater beers are pretty widely distributed, but if you're in Baltimore, try his pub, Of Love and Regret, to find the rarer beers."—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)
"One place I'd definitely advise beer lovers to keep on their radar this year is the Peekskill Brewery. In my opinion, some of the most nuanced, unique and delicious beers have been coming out of their new brewery right on the waterfont in Peekskill, NY. One of my favorites, 'Amazeballs' is a juicy, dry-hopped, session IPA that just won silver at GABF. They brew in a very traditional way using a coolship and they don't filter anything. Their 'Simple Sour' berliner weisse is a NYC industry favorite and although they don't let a ton of kegs leave the brewery, it's a very easy place to visit and totally worth the trip."—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)
"Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto is less than two years old, and in my opinion, they've become best brewery in Ontario. They're brewing classic styles, like great session ales and a bang on dubbel and weizenbock; staying on top of trends with things like a single hop series of pales ales and making use of brett in barrel aging; and doing original things that other breweries aren't doing at all, like an imperial saison brewed with lemon and plum. Another Toronto brewery I'm excited about for the future is Amsterdam. One of the oldest breweries in Toronto, for a long time they brewed middle of the road, ho hum beers. But they have a new, very talented, and very creative brewmaster, and and they've been doing a lot of well brewed, interesting beers."—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)
"With new breweries opening up on a daily basis, it's tough to determine which will actually be brewing anything especially interesting. However, a relatively new brewery located in the outskirts of Bend, OR called Ale Apothecary has been creating some of the most interesting beers coming out of the Northwest. With only two year-round beers and two publicly available seasonals, Ale Apothecary is brewing hybrid wild ales reminiscent of Belgian lambic with a Northwest twist. Look for the Sahati which is Apothecary's northwest interpretation of the Finnish style sahti brewed with spruce tips and cascade hops."—Ryan Spencer (Bailey's Taproom)
"In terms of impact on the industry: honestly, there's no craft brewery in the country more exciting to watch right now than Lagunitas. They are growing so astonishingly fast and continuing to make great beers at great prices. If craft beer is going to some day overtake the big guys, the world needs more breweries with their eye for business. They seem to be making all the right moves and are setting an example for the rest of the industry. On the merits of the liquid: I'd say, keep an eye on Sante Adairius. Most beer geeks have at least heard of these guys by now, but they make exclusively great beer. Sours, saisons, porters, IPAs--across the board brilliant stuff. And they just finished an expansion. Speaking of expansion, Jack's Abby just more-than-doubled their capacity, and I absolutely love their beers. Excellent lagers in a world where lagers aren't cool. Keep an eye out for them as they push into new markets in the Northeast."—Mike Reis (Lime Ventures)
"Elysian Brewing has been one of my favorite day-in day-out breweries of the last couple of years. With their recent expansion, they've started moving beyond Oregon and Washington. Beyond their famous pumpkin beers, they've got a great seasonal program and a rotating IPA program. They're creating interesting beer with unique ingredients that are still drinkable. Their everyday beers are tasty. Their special beers are interesting. Elysian Brewing should definitely be on your 'seek out' list."—Christopher Barnes (I Think About Beer and Columbia Distributing)
"Verboten Brewing in Loveland, Colorado is the brewery to watch in 2014. Their name comes from all of the 'forbidden' beer ingredients according to the the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516). They have 11 or 12 on tap at all times: Killer Boots is a rich porter that has housemade caramel swirled in at the end of the boil, Thinking of Something Orange is a bright and refreshing wheat ale with orange blossom honey and orange peel, and I Believe in Pink is an Imperial Saison with pink peppercorns brewed in collaboration with the women's educational group (The Verboten Sisterhood) founded by co-owner Angie. Every time I go there something new is on tap, the friendly owners and taproom staff are ready and willing to let you preview the latest before diving into a glass, and I can honestly say I've never been let down by anything I've tried."—Becki Kregoski (Bites 'n Brews)
"Breweries making expansions in 2014 include West Coast staples heading East with Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues opening new breweries in North Carolina and Lagunitas opening in Chicago. No city's beer scene is exploding more than San Diego's right now and I expect Societe as well as Alpine (just outside of the city) to continue to build on their much deserved 2013 buzz. Firestone Walker plans on adding several new specialty releases (including sours) to their already stellar reserve series lineup and they will be as highly sought after as ever. Sour beers are definitely a trend to watch as they should continue to rise in popularity with Crooked Stave (Colorado), Jester King (Texas), and Allagash (Maine) all recently releasing some of the best American sours on the market."—Tyler Morton (Taste of Tops)
"Of the younger breweries in the game in California, my personal favorites include The Rare Barrel in Berkeley, Cellarmaker in San Francisco, Altamont in Livermore, Berryessa in Winters, HenHouse in Petaluma, Societe in San Diego, and Sante Adairius in Capitola. Each of these operations works directly with the pubs that pour their beers to ensure hoppy beers are poured 100% brewery-fresh and that the serving staff has all of the information they need to represent the beers and the brands properly. This cooperative model between beer brewers and beer retailers is the most welcome shift I am currently seeing in our industry. And it pays off: of the breweries l just listed, I know that HenHouse and Sante Adairius have major expansions in the works and the rest cannot keep up with rapidly growing demand for the work."—Sayre Piotrkowski (Hog's Apothecary)
What new breweries are on your beer radar? Tell us about your picks for 'breweries to watch in 2014' in the comments below.