Class of 2014: 28 of the Best New Breweries in the US

Feature by | Jan 2015 | Issue #96

Photo by Caylee Betts

If there’s one thing that remains constant in the brewing industry, it’s change. While the last 12 months brought a wave of mergers, expansions and acquisitions, 2014 also saw a spike in new brewery permit applications across the US. From revisiting—and reinventing—historic styles to brewing for a cause, it was a year for innovative brewery openings. Here we profile 28 newcomers.

Defiance Brewing Co.
Hays, Kansas
Opened: January 2014
Matthew Bender and Dylan Sultzer were working at a brewpub in this college town when an interested business partner asked if they were ready to realize their dream. In short order, they found space in a former Pepsi plant and developed a statewide presence with beers in whimsically designed 12-ounce cans. Defiance began packaging a session IPA and an English Mild in March, then added a Golden Ale. But the lower-alcohol lineup is no concession that Kansans fear more potent fare. “It’s not that we question people’s palates at all,” says Bender. Adds Sultzer, “We didn’t want to be too assertive right at first.” Their specialty program includes, so far, an Imperial Stout with cacao nibs and a 120-IBU DIPA.  [Ronnie Crocker]

Other Half Brewing Co.
Brooklyn, New York
Opened: January 2014
When partners Sam Richardson and Matt Monahan opened Other Half in early 2014, they became the first new brewery in Brooklyn in nine years. Their specialties are barrel-aged saisons like Veldrijden Love; big, sticky dark beers like Short Dark & Handsome and Doug Cascadian Dark Ale; and, of course, their arsenal of harmonious hop bombs like Green Diamonds, Hop Showers and All Green Everything. “The hoppy beers are really what’s steering the ship,” says Richardson, whose résumé includes Kelso in Brooklyn and Pyramid in Portland, Ore. “They’re gone pretty much as fast as we can make them.” That’s because many are served right from the source at Other Half’s tasting room, which debuted in May and hosts swarms of weekend crowds.  [Justin Kennedy]

96Feature_WoodlandWoodland Empire
Boise, Idaho
Opened: January 2014
Founders Rob and Keely Landerman take an aesthetic interest in their concoctions that might seem more suited to perfumers or art gallerists than your typical brewer. “Ninety-five percent of the time, something like a song or a book will inspire us,” says Rob, a certified Cicerone who worked as the head brewer at Ranger Creek in San Antonio, Texas. To that end, they built a smoker to custom-smoke malts for a cherrywood-smoked Imperial Stout and a silver-maple-smoked Doppelbock. They’ve hunted down botanicals from Boise’s Botanical Gardens and sourdough culture from a local bakery for a Berliner Weisse, and made their own dark syrup for a Belgian Dubbel. And for an even more personal touch, head brewer Keely designs most of the label art.   [Adrienne So]

Bottle Logic Brewing
Anaheim, California
Opened: February 2014
When Bottle Logic Brewing co-founders Brandon Buckner, Wes Parker and Steve Napolitano were conceptualizing their new brewery’s brand identity, they came up with the idea of an inventor’s workshop. “That’s the coolest place I could imagine spending my time,” Buckner says. To them, craft beer is about innovation—taking the basic styles and doing them well, but also expanding upon them to offer something new. The resulting brews (and their retro-futurist, science-fiction-meets-pulp-fiction vibe) have been attracting fans to their Anaheim, Calif., taproom since it opened in February 2014. From an easy-drinking black lager, Lagerithm, which won gold at GABF, to Toasted in Tahiti, a coconut coffee Pale Ale, Bottle Logic brews for all palates. “We offer approachability for all levels of beer drinking,” says Napolitano.  [Sarah Bennett]

Buoy Beer Co.
Astoria, Oregon
Opened: February 2014
This past Valentine’s Day, Buoy joined Astoria stalwarts like Fort George and Rogue’s pub in their quest to turn this picturesque, industrial town into a premier beer destination. In 2011, local businessman Luke Colvin asked Dan Hamilton, a talented homebrewer, if he’d be interested in starting a brewery in an old cannery building owned by the family of another Astorian, Andrew Bornstein. Buoy is distinguished both by the beauty of its location—floor-to-ceiling windows open onto vistas of the Columbia River—and by Hamilton’s interest in lagering, which resulted in a unique flagship line of Helles, Pils and Czech-style beers in addition to Northwest-influenced ales. Since joining the team, former BridgePort head brewer Kevin Shaw has helped Hamilton refine their recipes for large-scale production brewing.  [Adrienne So]

96Feature_LowdownLowDown Brewery + Kitchen
Denver, Colorado
Opened: February 2014
Unlike many new brewery owners who jump into the business with their fingers crossed, Scott O’Hearn and Philip Phifer brought serious chops to LowDown Brewery + Kitchen. Both are veterans of the Rock Bottom chain—O’Hearn for 20 years. And that experience shows, from the decor to the elevated dishes. “When most people walk into a brewpub, they’re expecting a hickory burger and fries or some chicken wings,” O’Hearn says. At LowDown, they’ll find dishes like bison short ribs braised in beer, and roasted butternut squash salad. And then there’s the beers, which include Selfish, an unusually crisp Pale Ale; Patio Pounding Pilz, which took silver at GABF; and Golden Shower, a Belgian Strong Ale. Next up: a string of barrel-aged beers.  [Jonathan Shikes]

Prohibition Pig
Waterbury, Vermont
Opened: February 2014
Known for their world-class draft list and delicious barbecue, Prohibition Pig officially threw its hat in the brewing ring at the beginning of the year. In 2015, head brewer Nate Johnson and owner Chad Rich will hold a bottle release of their Stout-Porter that has been aging in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, and, along with other sporadic bottle releases, Prohibition Pig will begin to sell growlers out of the pub’s brewery as well. But there’s no need to worry about competition between the already-great tap list and house beers. “We’ve been really lucky with the crowds,” says general manager Berkeley Brooks. “We’re not trying to get people to drink more beer, we’re trying to get more people to drink beer.”  [Matt Osgood]

40 Arpent Brewing Co.
Arabi, Louisiana
Opened: March 2014
40 Arpent Brewing founder Michael Naquin grew up in the Bayou burg of Houma. There, while watching his older brother homebrew, Naquin’s thirst for good beer began. An “arpent” is a French land measurement unit; Naquin’s homebrewed 40 Arpent Pale Ale inspired the 10-barrel brewery’s name. The first official release was New Basin Milk Stout in March 2014. In the Red Beans and Rice Ale, Naquin uses red beans and brewer’s rice. “I was thinking of making a black bean Porter,” says Naquin. “I settled on red bean because I had been brewing an Irish Red and thought it would be an easy transition.” There’s no tasting room yet, but the brewery gives tours on Friday evenings. “That’s all part of our future expansion.”  [Gerard Walen]

96Feature_PenrosePenrose Brewing Co.
Geneva, Illinois
Opened: March 2014
Founders Eric Hobbs and Tom Korder are passionate about bringing robust, Belgian-inspired beers—as well as beer culture—to Geneva, Ill., a picturesque river town just west of Chicago. “We can take people on a journey if they don’t know Belgian beer yet,” explains Korder. “We can introduce them; really get them inspired.” Their tasting room focuses on beer—and beer alone—and is accordingly bereft of typical suburban distractions like televisions and food. After an adjustment period, the Geneva community has come to embrace this vision. “When people first walked in, they were like ‘Where’s the Bears game?’ ‘Why can’t I order food?’” says Hobbs. “But now they’re starting to get what our project is. There’s a real excitement.”  [Scott Kenemore]

Comrade Brewing Co.
Denver, Colorado
Opened: April 2014
Comrade Brewing—named with tongue in cheek for Communism—opened in a part of Denver with little nightlife, but the party—or the Party—has come to Comrade. Founder David Lin and brewer Marks Lanham have built a steady following at their taproom in part because of their Superpower IPA, which rivals some of the state’s best hoppy brews, but also with beers like Koffee Kream Stout and Quit Stalin, a Russian Imperial Stout. At GABF, Comrade took silver for a fresh-hopped version of Superpower. “Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s skill,” Lin says. In this case it was all Lanham, who flexed his hops chops when he worked at Barley Brown’s in Oregon, which won gold in the same category.  [Jonathan Shikes]

Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Athens, Georgia
Opened: April 2014
As the first production brewery in Athens, Ga., since Terrapin Beer Company, Creature Comforts was greeted with larger-than-usual-anticipation. Plus, there’s co-founder David Stein’s pedigree as a BrewDog apprentice and alumnus of Georgia beer institutions like Brick Store Pub and Twain’s Brewpub and Billiards. Then, they won at GABF. “It was an insane moment,” Stein says of their bronze. “We hadn’t even been brewing six months, so it was a huge win for us.” They’re currently rolling cans of their core lineup—Tropicália (an IPA), Bibo (a Pilsner), Reclaimed Rye (an Amber), and Athena (a Berliner Weisse)—into the market, taking stock of how they sell, and plotting their next move. “We never know what’s next, which is just a part of who we are,” Stein says.  [Austin Ray]

96Feature_AslanAslan Brewing Co.
Bellingham, Washington
Opened: May 2014
Three friends in their early twenties, with no commercial brewing experience and an ambitious vision—Aslan could have ended in disaster. But Jack Lamb, Frank Trosset and Pat Haynes were determined to start a different kind of brewpub, with a menu of vibrant dishes made from local produce; low-impact resource management practices, and high-quality, 100 percent organic beer. With help from Trosset’s father Boe, they renovated an old sign company building with recycled materials and invited their friends and neighbors in Bellingham’s brewing community to provide input on the results from their 5-gallon pilot system. Today, the airy, high-ceilinged space is one of the best places to sip on clean, Northwest ales and lagers brewed with the occasional twist—for example, a ginger rye with a hint of lime.  [Adrienne So]

B-52 Brewing Co.
Conroe, Texas
Opened: May 2014
“Beer is selling like crazy in Texas,” says homebrewer-turned-pro Chad Daniel of the family-owned B-52 Brewing. The boom has kept Daniel and his brother, Brent, flying high since their May launch in a park-like setting under the oak trees 45 miles north of downtown Houston. Their success owes both to their Payload Pilsner and Wingman Wheat IPA—tasty beers well suited to the region’s extended warm season—and to recent changes in state law that loosened restrictions on how and where breweries can sell their beers. The new laws also
have boosted awareness of growlers, and many B-52 visitors get their first introduction to the take-home jugs at the Saturday tours. “The growlers have been a huge hit,” Daniel says.  [Ronnie Crocker]

Flagship Brewing Co.
Staten Island, New York
Opened: May 2014
Flagship’s three co-owners, Jay Sykes, John Gordon and Matt McGinley, grew up within earshot of one another in the West Brighton section of Staten Island. In 2014 they reconvened in their hometown to open the island’s second and only currently operating brewery since the 1960s. “Most of the people that live here are from here,” says head brewer Pat Morse, formerly of Harpoon and the only full-time non-native Staten Islander on the crew. “And people that are from here are super prideful of it.” Morse crafts three year-round beers—an American Pale Ale, a Wit and a Dark Mild—and has a deft hand at seasonals like Pastime Summer Ale (sold at the nearby Staten Island Yankee’s stadium). [Justin Kennedy]

96Feature_OrpheusOrpheus Brewing
Atlanta, Georgia
Opened: May 2014
When Jason Pellett started planning Orpheus Brewing, he did it because he couldn’t find many of the beer flavors he wanted, especially sours. So his Atlanta operation opened with inventive takes on tart-inclined beers (a plum Saison, a fig sour) and some rotating IPAs. “I got into brewing first as a beer drinker who wanted more sours, so it’s great to have more available now and know that the scene is about to explode,” Pellett says. With the addition of fermenters, he thinks Orpheus will produce close to 4,000 barrels in 2015. He’s currently filling barrels with sours and Stouts, hoping to eventually build a proper coolship. “I guess the next step is to actually start taking stuff out of the barrels,” he says.  [Austin Ray]

Logboat Brewing Co.
Columbia, Missouri
Opened: May 2014
Returning to his central Missouri homeland after four years in Portland, Ore., Tyson Hunt felt the absence of craft beer. Columbia, Mo., had two brewpubs but no production brewery, meaning that all beer consumed in the college town’s many bars was imported from elsewhere. Things changed when Hunt co-founded Logboat Brewing. Its four flagships—a Pale Ale, an English Mild, a ginger-tinged American wheat and an IPA—are balanced beers designed to appeal to the palates of locals, many of whom are unfamiliar with the flavors and styles of craft beer. “We want people to know that we are in this for the long haul,” says Hunt. “And we’re proud to be a part of this exciting industry.”  [Michael Agnew]

96Feature_AeronautAeronaut Brewing Co.
Somerville, Massachusetts
Opened: June 2014
When it comes to yeast, Aeronaut Brewing believes in keeping everything in-house. “We absolutely cultivate, study and care for [it] in house,” says CEO Ben Holmes. “That’s an ingredient that we could never trust to outsource. Yeast makes the beer.” Holmes also talks excitedly about their “foraging” series, which consists of ales brewed with wild plants collected locally, like staghorn sumac berries from Northfield, Mass. The brewery likes to keep eight beers on tap, ranging from session IPAs to Imperial Stouts, but prides itself on creative concoctions like a smoked butternut Rauchbier. There’s plenty of entertainment at Aeronaut, too, from corn hole to life-sized Scrabble. And don’t worry about eating before visiting, there’s always a food truck parked out front.  [Matt Osgood]

Ardent Craft Ales
Richmond, Virginia
Opened: June 2014
In 2011, Ardent co-founders Tom Sullivan, Kevin O’Leary (a Cambridge Brewing Company veteran) and Paul Karns resolved to turn their garage-based homebrewers cooperative into a commercial brewery. “We started thinking, maybe we could be selling our beer rather than giving it away,” says Sullivan. They converted a spot in Richmond’s burgeoning Scott’s Addition neighborhood into a 15-barrel brewhouse, taproom and beer garden. They debuted in May with three drafts: a bone-dry Saison, a rotating-hop American IPA and a Honey Ginger ale, made with fresh roots and local honey. O’Leary’s recent experiments include Virginia Common, a steam beer made with corn and Cluster hops, and Jane’s Percimon, a persimmon ale based on an 18th-century recipe from the Virginia Historical Society.  [Justin Kennedy]

Moody Tongue Brewing Co.
Chicago, Illinois
Opened: June 2014
Moody Tongue founders Jared Rouben and Jeremy Cohn have a precise vision for what Rouben calls “culinary brewing”—highest-end beer, served in fine restaurants, and employing all the artistry of a Michelin-starred chef’s creations. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Rouben’s philosophy includes sourcing the best ingredients and knowing how to handle them in the brewing process to “showcase layers of flavors and aromatics in our beers as a chef would do with a dish,” he explains. In late 2014, Moody Tongue made waves when it introduced a Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner priced at $120 per bottle and available only by lottery or—true to Rouben’s vision—at restaurants like Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York.  [Scott Kenemore]

OEC Brewing
Oxford, Connecticut
Opened: June 2014
Last summer, Ben Neidhart and his team of brewers at OEC (Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, Latin for “The Order of the Eccentric Brewers”) began pouring their idiosyncratic versions of historic styles next door to his family’s distribution company, B. United International. This Nutmeg State brewery veers away from a traditional lineup, focusing instead on crafting sour and blended ales ranging from Witbiers and Saisons to Porters and Braggots. Each beer also comes with suggestions on serving temperature and glassware. “We are this place in the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut that makes really funky and eccentric beers,” says Neidhart, OEC’s brewmaster. “For those who search these kinds of beers out we try to have a very inviting and welcoming atmosphere in our tasting room.”  [Matt Osgood]


Photo by Benjamin Moore

Barreled Souls Brewing Co.
Saco, Maine
Opened: July 2014
Friends since fourth grade, Matt Mills and Chris Schofield made a mark on the New England beer scene by opening a nanobrewery and tasting room that exclusively features barrel-fermented beers. Schofield brews in small batches, the variety of which range from standard styles to beers incorporating cucumber, peaches or hibiscus flowers. Barreled Souls also uses a traditional yet uncommon brewing technique, employing a version of the Burton Union system, which enables live yeast to be harvested for later batches. “The fermentation system creates a very comfortable environment for the yeast and allows us to capture a healthy yeast crop from each batch,” says Schofield. “Over generations the yeast does acclimate to the system and we end up with a selectively bred strain that flourishes.”  [Carla Jean Lauter]

Bauhaus Brew Labs
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Opened: July 2014
The eight founders of Bauhaus Brew Labs were inspired by the Bauhaus architectural school of 1920s Germany, where artists sought a melding of form and function to bring artfulness to everyday life. For president and head brewer Matt Schwandt, beer is an expression of art and craft that injects an easy dose of beauty and enhanced sociability to the day. That’s reflected in his flagship beer Wonderstuff Neü Bohemian Pilsner—an easy-drinking lager with a subtle splash of Citra hops to give it a playful edge. “We take classic lager styles that we love so well, and skew them a bit with our sense of play and adventure,” says Schwandt. That playfulness continues in the taproom, where splashes of bright color hearken back to the Bauhaus aesthetic.  [Michael Agnew]

Casey Brewing & Blending
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Opened: July 2014
Casey Brewing and Blending doesn’t keep regular hours, doesn’t sell much beer beyond the small mountain town of Glenwood Springs and doesn’t have its own kettle or mash tun. But that hasn’t stopped lovers of wild and sour ales from driving several hours to try owner Troy Casey’s creations. “The Belgians have been doing this for centuries,” says Casey, who makes wort at a nearby brewery, then transports it to his own facility to ferment in oak barrels with wild yeasts and bacteria. “There were more blenders in Brussels than brewers … and that’s my passion, too.” So far, Casey has released a couple of Saisons and a series of sours blended with Colorado fruit. He plans to increase production in 2015.  [Jonathan Shikes]

Photo by Caylee Betts

Photo by Caylee Betts

Ex Novo Brewing
Portland, Oregon
Opened: July 2014
“I decided Ex Novo would be a nonprofit after dozens of conversations with close friends,” says founder Joel Gregory. “It would be a great mix of our core values to add purpose to each pint of beer.” It’s a typical Portland community-oriented mindset, and one that’s reflected in the brewpub’s design—the bathrooms have diaper-changing stations and sports fans can watch games on widescreen televisions above the bar. Ex Novo’s lineup consists of Northwest-inspired Pale Ales, IPAs and Reds, all clean and mild, more drinkable than you might expect given the focus on complex hop flavor. The recent hire of former Deschutes brewer Jason Barbee should also help Gregory move his barrel-aging and sour beer programs forward. All net profits go toward causes like MercyCorps and the International Justice Mission.  [Adrienne So]

First Magnitude Brewing Co.
Gainesville, Florida
Opened: August 2014
First Magnitude, the name of Gainesville’s newest brewery, refers to the north central Florida springs gushing more than 100 cubic feet of fresh water per second. “We wanted something that linked us to the area,” says founder and head brewer John Denny. First Magnitude Brewing Company occupies a 21,000-square-foot former warehouse in the college town’s South Main district. In The Source, a tasting room adjacent to the 15-barrel brewhouse, and in the outdoor beer garden, customers enjoy 20 taps of both house-brewed and local beer. Most of First Magnitude’s beers—like the recent Devil’s Black Eye, a black IPA with a trio of C hops—start on a 1.5-barrel pilot system before entering full production.  [Gerard Walen]

Bagby Beer Co.
Oceanside, California
Opened: September 2014
Until he began brewing at his new 11,000-square-foot compound during the summer of 2014, Jeff Bagby hadn’t made a commercial beer in nearly three years. Instead, the former director of brewpub operations for Southern California brewpub chain Pizza Port (and former head brewer at Pizza Port Carlsbad) was busy overseeing construction of Bagby Beer Company, his restaurant, brewery and beer garden in Oceanside. Though known for making hoppy, West Coast-style IPAs, Ambers and Pale Ales, it was a Dry Irish Stout that won Bagby his first GABF medal with his own brand. “I believe being a good brewer and being a beer fan is about knowing, appreciating and enjoying all beer styles,” he says. “We have barely scratched the surface of the different beer styles we’ll brew here.”  [Sarah Bennett]

Tributary Brewing Co.
Kittery, Maine
Opened: September 2014
This fall, in one of the most anticipated brewery openings of 2014, Tod Mott (creator of Portsmouth Brewery’s celebrated Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout) finally opened a brewery of his own. Jeff Goodno, who joins Mott as lead brewer, comes to Tributary from Victory Brewing. Together, Mott and Goodno have stepped onto the scene with a small beer lineup to start, including the stunning Tributary Pale Ale that has an aroma that will stay with you for days. “We have brewed 20 batches of beer so far, encompassing 12 styles,” says co-founder Galen Mott. While no Russian Imperial Stouts have appeared on tap yet, the recently-released Oatmeal Stout should be hearty enough to keep us from demanding the return of Kate, at least for now.  [Carla Jean Lauter]

Haw River Farmhouse Ales
Saxapahaw, North Carolina
Opened: October 2014
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, husband and wife duo Ben Woodward and Dawnya Bohager decided the sleepy town of Saxapahaw (pop. 1,600), half an hour west of Chapel Hill, was the right place to make Belgian-inspired brews like their Farmhouse Saison, Belgian Oatmeal Pale, Breakfast Dubbel and Farmhouse IPA. While they were shooting for 1,000 barrels this year, it looks like they’ll end up making double their original estimate. But don’t expect Haw River Farmhouse Ales to produce much more than 5,000 in a year. Like their small town (where they can walk next door to see bands and down the street to a butcher shop), they like serving their neighbors. “Staying fairly small with a focus on quality and creativity is important to us,” Woodward says.  [Austin Ray]