Class of 2016: 34 of the Best New Breweries in the US

Feature by | Jan 2017 | Issue #120
River Roost | Photo by Jack Whitney

In a year when a whopping 861 breweries joined the ranks of America’s booming beer industry, choosing favorites is an almost impossible task. A decade ago that number represented more than half of the national total. So, to help us build our annual feature on brewery openings, we asked our readers, followers, and contributors for their suggestions. Here are 34 of the most promising newcomers, as chosen by you.


River Roost Brewery
White River Junction, Vermont | Opened: February 2016

Most Vermont stops along New England’s beer trail are found within a 45-minute drive from Burlington. River Roost’s Mark Babson is expanding that radius to the village of White River Junction in Hartford. As owner and brewmaster, Babson is a one-man band assembling a quiver of hoppy styles with his 10-barrel brewhouse—standouts include Glimpse DIPA and Martian Moon House IPA. An alum of Magic Hat, Babson considers commercial tutelage a prerequisite to opening a brewery. But as his experience grew, so did his desire to branch off. “I got into [brewing] so that I could make my own beer and not have to crank out the same thing every day,” he shrugs. What’s next? More hoppy beer for sure, but he winks and adds that he has several long fermentation projects tucked away in oak barrels. [Benjamin Whitney]

Photo by Jack Whitney

Foam Brewers
Burlington, Vermont | Opened: April 2016

Stumble into a retrofitted 19th-century timber plant on Burlington’s waterfront and you’re likely to find three things: a gangly mustached man with rubber boots, pungent wort emitting steam from a 7-barrel brewhouse, and raucous ’90s alt music that serves as inspiration for the DIPAs Built To Spill and Pavement. The man behind the mustache is Todd Haire, a 20-year craft veteran and brewmaster of Vermont’s most recent obsession—Foam Brewers. Haire, together with four co-owners, is building an ambitious portfolio of hoppy ales, Saisons, and mixed-culture sours. Just nine months after opening, patrons are already demanding increased volume and distribution. But Haire is keeping his head down. “Our focus will be on having the quality and control of everything we do within these four walls. Ultimately, that’s what we are driving to do.” [Benjamin Whitney]

Foulmouthed Brewing Co.
Portland, Maine | Opened: June 2016

Craig and Julia Dilger brought Foulmouthed Brewing to South Portland, Maine, to pour an eclectic mix of brews into one of America’s best beer cities. You won’t find flagships on Foulmouthed’s six ever-changing tap lines. “[Our] experimental brewing philosophy … has led us to produce over 25 unique beers in our first few months of operation,” says Craig Dilger. One standout is their take on a wheat Saison named Iron Goddess, brewed with honey and tea. For 2017, “we just started our barrel-aging and bottling program and are planning to set up a solera array for blending Brett Saisons,” Craig Dilger says. “But for now we are draft-only, serving the vast majority of our beer right over the bar in the brewpub.” [Matt Osgood]

Photo by Matt Coats

Suarez Family Brewery
Livingston, New York | Opened: June 2016

A few months before the birth of their first child, Dan Suarez (of Hill Farmstead) and Taylor Cocalis Suarez opened their highly anticipated “mom-and-pop production brewery,” which has quickly emerged as a standout. With a focused approach that “emphasizes attention to detail as it pertains to brewing process and technique,” Dan Suarez groups the beers into three categories: unfiltered lagers (Palatine Pils); bright and flavorful low-alcohol ales (Walk, Don’t Run, a hoppy Blonde); and “country beers,” oak-aged Saisons and farmhouse ales of mixed fermentation, utilizing locally grown grains (Triangular Nature, driven by Brettanomyces, brewed with raw buckwheat, and matured briefly in wine barrels). A visit to the charming tasting room is the surest bet to find these releases, though the brewery also self-distributes as far as Troy and New York City. [Niko Krommydas]

Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co.
Framingham, Massachusetts | Opened: August 2016

Matthew Steinberg has brewed beer across Massachusetts as a veteran of Mayflower, High Horse, and Blatant. Now, as co-founder and brewmaster at Exhibit ‘A,’ Steinberg collaborates with nearby Valley Malt to customize the grains for each brew, giving him “enormous freedom and creative control.” From what was formerly the Jack’s Abby brewery, Steinberg cranks out drinkable brews like The Cat’s Meow IPA with Citra, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops, and Goody Two Shoes, a traditional Kölsch “with a little modern twist.” Next up for Steinberg is a sour program, a whiskey barrel-aged Barleywine, and a series called the Mindset Project, in which “we explore hops and malt within the Pale Ale style.” [Matt Osgood]

Photo by Jeff Browning

Brewport Brewing Co.
Bridgeport, Connecticut | Opened: August 2016

A dedication to brewing history sets Brewport apart from its peers nationwide. Brewmaster Jeff Browning has been an amateur beer historian since he collected cans in the 1970s, and mixes in pre-Prohibition beer recipes along with his own new creations at this sprawling brewpub that also features brick oven pizza. Browning says the 10,000-batch sheets he’s acquired from regional breweries of yesteryear are often lovingly detailed, down to the pre-brewing room temperature. Some predate the “new” fresh-hopped New England-style IPA by more than 100 years. “The current atmosphere in craft brewing in New England is actually similar beer-wise to what was being brewed back then,” he says. “Now we get to experience history one beer at a time.” [Will Siss]

Photo by Matt Furman

Interboro Spirits & Ales
Brooklyn, New York | Opened: August 2016

In a former woodworking shop in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Jesse Ferguson (of New Jersey’s Carton Brewing and Brooklyn’s Other Half) and Laura Dierks have built Interboro Spirits & Ales, New York City’s first combined brewery and distillery. Both helmed by Ferguson, the 30-barrel brewing system is mere feet (or fingertips) away from the 240-gallon still. The brewery focuses on hashtag-inducing hop-forward ales, many with hip-hop-inspired names like La Dee Da Dee and The Next Episode. Ferguson hopes Interboro will “break down the arbitrary barriers that have been set up between beer and spirits.” Expect future projects like a Saison and a gin derived from the same mash and infused with identical botanicals, apéritifs flavored with different hop varieties, and a Barleywine aged in barrels that previously matured a rye whiskey. [Niko Krommydas]


Photo by Susan Stava

Industrial Arts Brewing Co.
Garnerville, New York | Opened: August 2016

Former Peekskill Brewery and Ithaca Beer Co. brewmaster Jeff “Chief” O’Neil branched out on his own for this spanking new Hudson Valley facility in the historic Garnerville Arts & Industrial Center. The brewery’s stunning pre-Civil War brick exterior is juxtaposed by O’Neil’s tricked-out, fully automated brewhouse—a shiny, custom-built 25-hectoliter number from Germany’s BrauKon. O’Neil uses it to make a variety of hop-forward beers including his flagship Tools of the Trade Extra Pale Ale, the sessionable Safety Glasses IPA, and the rotating-hop series State of the Art Double IPA. Industrial Arts currently distributes drafts throughout the entirety of the Empire State and will roll out 16-ounce tallboy cans of its crushable hoppy ales in the coming months. [Justin Kennedy]


Photo by Jack Sorokin

Birds Fly South Ale Project
Greenville, South Carolina | Opened: September 2016

In a former cotton warehouse, brewmaster-blender Shawn Johnson and his wife Lindsay are producing remarkable sours and Saisons with an array of barrels and foeders. Handsomely built with recycled wooden beams, the tasting room features rotating taps where the creative juices are always flowing. Johnson uses mixed fermentations, incorporating wild yeast, Brettanomyces, stainless, and a variety of wooden vessels. The resulting blends, such as Rumblefish, a Pale Ale with Brett, and Brand New Eyes, a Saison fermented in red wine barrels, come from the solera method of blending over time in puncheons. The twist is adding fresh beer before tapping, and sticking with ambient temperatures year-round, which changes things up. “We are progressively old school,” says Shawn Johnson. [Jonathan Ingram]

The Virginia Beer Co.
Williamsburg, Virginia | Opened: March 2016

The Virginia Beer Co. has four flagship beers—a dry-hopped Amber Ale, an IPA, a citrus wheat, and an Oatmeal Stout—but brewmaster Jonathan Newman’s main focus is on experimentation. “Beer is a work in progress,” he says. “It’s an expression of ideas that are coming to fruition.” Newman develops a new beer each week; past creations have included a Grätzer-style smoked ale, stupendously hopped IPAs, a Bière de Garde, and a molasses wheat beer made in collaboration with the Virginia Historical Society. Formerly an auto garage, the tasting room in downtown Williamsburg near owners Chris Smith and Robby Willey’s alma mater, The College of William & Mary, has reclaimed-wood tables and stone fire pits outside, all with an unobstructed view of the latest beer under development inside. [Taylor Pilkington]

The Veil Brewing Co.
Richmond, Virginia | Opened: April 2016

If you spot tall white clouds billowing from the roof of Richmond’s The Veil Brewing this winter, don’t be alarmed. Head brewer Matt Tarpey and partners Dustin Durrance and Dave Michelow have built a 15-barrel coolship room for spontaneous fermentation atop the building—and it gets steamy. In the wide taproom that’s stylish but spartan (poured concrete, high ceilings, movie-marquee lights), you can taste the resulting Lambic-style beers that are aged in barrels for up to four years. Although The Veil is most known for its hazy, New England-style IPAs (appropriate considering Tarpey’s background at The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead in Vermont), the brewer is quick to dispel the notion that he’s following a trend: “This is not a marketing ploy for me. I make this style of IPA because it’s what I know, and what I love.” [Taylor Pilkington]

Bond Brothers Beer Co.
Cary, North Carolina | Opened: April 2016

The work being done at Bond Brothers Beer Co. may sound familiar: They’ve got a barrel program (64 now, set to double in 2017), make beloved IPAs that range from clear to hazy, and offer an array of rotating brews on 14 taps, from one-offs to IPA and Imperial Stout variants. But there’s more to the picture. “We’re small enough where people who like our beer can try something new every time they come in for a drink,” says brewmaster Whit Baker. Despite nearly 200 breweries in North Carolina, people pack the spacious taproom and 3,000-square-foot beer garden on weekends. While the approach may sound similar to others, Bond Brothers’ attention to detail is paying off. “Everything we do is a form of artistic expression,” says co-owner Jay Bond. [Bryan Roth]

Scofflaw Brewing Co.
Atlanta, Georgia | Opened: July 2016

At a pristine, highly functional Atlanta brewery self-installed by co-founders Matt Shirah and Travis Herman, Scofflaw launched with a series of innovative, bold, and dramatic IPAs. Yet, they are amazingly approachable. “We make what we like,” says Shirah, “and we hope others like them, too.” Herman, a microbiologist with U.C. Davis credentials and stints at top California breweries (Lost Abbey, Russian River), creates cutting-edge American IPAs with his own deft brewhouse tweaks. Whether it’s Basement (a tropical Northeast-style IPA), Westside, (classic, piney West Coast-style IPA), Double Jeopardy (a Pliny-worthy robust imperial) or small-batch Hooligan (a rich blast of hops), Herman essentially has his own style. With 7,000 barrels of annual capacity, Scofflaw has yet to catch up with demand in metro Atlanta. [Jonathan Ingram]

Durty Bull Brewing Co.
Durham, North Carolina | Opened: August 2016

Starting with 30 barrels and two foeders, Durty Bull Brewery is building a following in Durham by focusing on what Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus can offer local beer lovers. At a time when what’s wild is also what’s popular, head brewer Chris Davis’ kettle sours, Belgian-inspired table beers, and a Brett IPA, among others, are a way for Durty Bull to find a singular footing in the Tar Heel State. “A lot of brewers now do a kettle sour or a Gose here or there, but our goal is to fill that full niche, from intro sour beers to extreme,” says Matt Pennisi, manager at Durty Bull. “The industry is going toward more weird and funky beers, and that’s where we’re going to be known [for].” [Bryan Roth]

Midwest & Mountains

Photo by Colin Beckett

Dovetail Brewery
Chicago, Illinois | Opened: May 2016

“We don’t do IPAs,” says Hagen Dost. Dovetail, the brewery and tasting room he co-founded with brewing school buddy (and fellow certified master brewer) Bill Wesselink, focuses on traditional brewing methods—as Dost puts it, “the kind you’d find in a family run brewery in the middle of Bavaria or Belgium.” All of the beer is cooled in Chicago’s first coolship to remove volatile compounds that can lead to unpleasant aromas. The water they use in their lager is treated using reverse osmosis to mimic the water from Pilsen, where the Pilsner style originated. Dovetail’s beers may not be showy, but each one, from the Hefeweizen to the Vienna Lager, is treated with the same careful attention to detail. “There can be beauty in subtlety,” Dost says. [Julia Thiel]

Photo by Rick Spaulding

Modist Brewing
Minneapolis, Minnesota | Opened: April 2016

Mod•ist: \’mä-dist\: a person who modifies. This is the guiding precept of Modist’s founding foursome. They are tinkerers, whether working with wood, building motorcycles, or making beer. They toss style guidelines out the window. Recipes instead are built on questions about flavor. What does 100 percent wheat taste like? Or 70 percent rye? A boatload of oats? And they built a brewhouse to accommodate their explorations. Modist is one of just a handful of small breweries in the US with a mash filter—equipment normally reserved for macros pushing massive volume. It lets them use ingredients in ways that would be difficult on a normal system and achieve grain and water use efficiencies that would be impossible. The result is beer that tinkers with drinkers’ perceptions. [Michael Agnew]

Photo by Gavin Estes

New Image Brewing
Arvada, Colorado | Opened: March 2016

Around Colorado, the word “transplant” evokes negative feelings about Californians driving up real estate prices and Texans who can’t ski. Native Georgians Brandon Capps and Sean Fisher, the young founders of New Image Brewing in the Denver suburb of Arvada, embrace the term. “We are here to make a positive difference in the community,” says Fisher. Fittingly, the brewpub’s biggest hit is East Coast Transplant, a hazy Vermont-style Double IPA that headlines a portfolio heavy on spiced beers and American sours. New Image also stands out for its commitment to mental wellbeing. The brewpub has staged several fundraisers for local mental health organizations, and its long wooden tables are meant to bring people together—Colorado natives and transplants alike. [Eric Gorski]

Photo by Josh Fielder

Boiler Brewing Co.
Lincoln, Nebraska | Opened: April 2016

“There is very little left to the imagination with Tim [Thomssen’s] beers,” says taproom manager Thad Aerts. “[They] all seem to end with an exclamation point.” Twenty-four rotating taps and one or two new releases every week give drinkers lots of bold choices, from brash IPAs to Belgian styles and the massive Koo Koo for Coconut Stout. The beers have also already garnered national attention with silver and bronze medals at the US Open Beer Championship. Even The Grand Manse, the building housing the brewery, makes a big statement. The historic, Beaux Arts Neoclassical structure was built in 1904 as a federal courthouse. Boiler Brewing occupies the former boiler room. The endcaps of two truck-sized boilers now adorn the exposed brick taproom walls. [Michael Agnew]

Photo by Casey Cora

Cruz Blanca
Chicago, Illinois | Opened: May 2016

Inspired by the 19th-century Mexico City brewery of the same name, Cruz Blanca cerveceria and taqueria opened its doors in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The latest addition to Rick Bayless’ small empire (along with sister restaurant Leña Brava, which opened next door at the same time) serves a wide range of styles among the 11 beers on tap: Some, like the flagship Bière de Garde, are modern twists on the classic European styles that the Frenchman who founded the original Cruz Blanca would likely have been brewing, while others are modern standards like IPAs and Porters. Head brewer Jacob Sembrano is particularly excited about the small barrel-aging program he started recently, aging fairly neutral beers in bourbon, sherry, and rum barrels to create sours. “I try to make a canvas for refermentation,” he says. [Julia Thiel]

Photo by Jeff Hardesty

Narrow Gauge Brewing Co.
Florissant, Missouri  | Opened: June 2016

Named after the railroad that connected Florissant to St. Louis in the 1870s, Narrow Gauge Brewing found a home in the former banquet space of Cugino’s, a beer-focused Italian bar and restaurant in the St. Louis suburbs co-owned by brewery co-founders Ben Goldkamp and Dave Beckham. Only available on tap at Cugino’s, the selection is hop heavy (hazy favorites Hoppy Meal Pale Ale and Fallen Flag IPA sell out fast). “Our customers are asking for IPAs, and IPAs are my go-to beer,” says co-founder and brewer Jeff Hardesty. “It has to do with the fact that we brew East Coast-style IPAs, and you don’t see a ton of those around here.” To meet demands, Hardesty has already tripled fermentor capacity in his 3-barrel brewhouse. [Bill Babbitt]

Photo by Buck Gunn/Hatch New Media

Mother Stewart’s Brewing Co.
Springfield, Ohio | Opened: July 2016

Ohio’s long-defunct Springfield Metallic Casket Company was reborn as Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company thanks to an a multimillion-dollar project helmed by Kevin and John Loftis. The city’s first craft brewery features an 8,500-square-foot taproom and a 20-barrel brewing system, producing clean, traditional beers like a Vienna lager and Belgian Blonde. But what sets it apart is its 9,000-square-foot patio and grass-covered “playground.” “We focused on our backyard, creating a fun, family friendly environment, and a true community gathering spot,” says Kevin Loftis. Named after Springfield temperance advocate Eliza Daniel “Mother” Stewart, the end result is a place for mom and dad to enjoy a great beer on the patio while watching the kids play in the backyard—Mother Stewart’s backyard, that is. [Bill Babbitt]

American Solera
Tulsa, Oklahoma | Opened: August 2016

Chase Healey detached from his successful Prairie Artisan Ales project to open this experimental endeavor. He’s packed the new West Tulsa space with the gamut of oak fermentors—including barrels, casks, and a flock of foeders—to focus on long-fermented, mixed-culture wild ales. He also installed a coolship inside an open-on-both-ends shipping container for spontaneous ale production. “It’s an opportunity for me to practice and perfect as a brewer,” says Healey, “to become more hands-on again.” So far, he’s released several multistage fermented beers like Foeder Cerise, a sour Golden Ale aged on tart cherries for six months in Italian oak foeders. But it’s not all wood and funk—one of the latest releases, produced in a clean cellar in a separate building, is a canned Double IPA called Terpy Citra. [Justin Kennedy]

Bierstadt Lagerhaus
Denver, Colorado | Opened: August 2016

If you want a taste of Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ Slow Pour Pils, you’re going to have to wait. All told, it will take about five minutes for the Northern Germany-inspired Pilsner to arrive with the perfect foamy head poking out of the special glass designed to hold it. Brewing partners Bill Eye and Ashleigh Carter like to take their time. This makes sense since Bierstadt Lagerhaus exclusively brews labor-intensive lagers on its 30-barrel, 1930s copper system imported from Bavaria. “We think the classics are the classics for a reason—that they’ve stood the test of time,” Eye says. “We are not making anything with a twist.” The brewery’s three year-round beers—the Pils, a Helles, and a Dunkel—are expertly crafted new classics worth waiting for. [Eric Gorski]

Round Town Brewery
Indianapolis, Indiana | Opened: October 2016

Less than three months after opening its doors inside a renovated industrial building called the Biltwell Event Center, Round Town Brewery has already won the taste buds of Indy beer aficionados with its flagship Vienna lager and Happy Face Pale Ale, plus rotating selections like K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simcoe, Stupid), a West Coast-style IPA with Simcoe and Crystal hops. Owner and head brewer Jerry Sutherlin “isn’t out to create the next big thing or next weird style, but rather strives for quality and consistency above all else,” says co-owner Max Schenk. According to Schenk, who manages the taproom, Sutherlin’s true-to-style creations are already so popular, Round Town plans to add additional taps to the current six. [Robert Annis]

Pacific Northwest

Great Notion Brewing
Portland, Oregon | Opened: January 2016

From day one Great Notion’s motto has been, “With a passion for hops and the patience for sour.” And those would be trite, hollow words if the dual brewers—James Dugan and Andy Miller—didn’t put their mash where their mouth is. They debuted with signature IPAs Juice Box, Juice, Jr., and Ripe that had hopheads beating down the door for a taste—and crowlers to trade. Great Notion is Oregon’s master of the “hazy IPA” bursting with late-addition, fruit-throwing hops seemingly plucked from orchards and citrus groves. Add to this winning GABF silver, right out of the gate, in American-style Sour Ale for Heart of Gold—a barrel-aged Saison with peaches—and Great Notion is clearly Portland’s newest shining star. [Brian Yaeger]

Cloudburst Brewing
Seattle, Washington | Opened: January 2016

Steve Luke, Cloudburst’s owner and brewmaster, spent years honing his craft at places like Allagash, Rogue Issaquah, and recently wrapped up a four-year stint at Elysian. Among Seattle’s beer aficionados, Cloudburst’s was the most anticipated new brewery opening in ages. “Local beer lovers rooted for us from the day I announced my intentions to leave Elysian,” says Luke. “Their enthusiasm and thirst for small, local, independent beer continues to inspire me.” The bare-bones, cozy brewery and beer-only tasting room is located just two blocks away from Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, which is where Luke regularly shops for the ever-changing fresh ingredients he uses to enhance each batch of Market Fresh Saison, like rosemary, cranberries, sage, grapefruit, or whatever happens to look good that day. [Kendall Jones]

Perihelion Brewery
Seattle, Washington | Opened: February 2016

In a city with over 60 breweries, every neighborhood in Seattle has at least one, but it wasn’t until 2016 that Beacon Hill got a brewery to call its own. A table or barstool inside this friendly little brewpub is highly coveted, but a covered patio with four propane fire pits offers year-round outdoor seating for stalwart beer lovers. You’ll usually find 11 house-brewed beers on tap to accompany the food, which is every bit as impressive as Les McAuliffe’s beer. “As longtime residents, I can’t think of any other neighborhood where I’d want to have my brewery,” says McAuliffe, who co-owns Perihelion with his wife, Karin Paulsen. “There wasn’t even a place to fill a growler on Beacon Hill and the community immediately embraced our venue as their own.” [Kendall Jones]

Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery
Newberg, Oregon | Opened: May 2016

There’s “local,” and then there’s Wolves & People. From owner Christian DeBenedetti’s family run hazelnut farm in rural Oregon, DeBenedetti and co-worker Zach Farrington pump out Grisettes, Saisons, and other Belgian-inspired offerings, relying heavily on ingredients like Pacific Northwest barley and local and farm-grown produce (heirloom rhubarb, white truffle, figs, and, yes, hazelnut). They’ve released 35 beers since opening, and are set on serious diversity in the future, unveiling everything from a canned Pilsener to a Saison conditioned with rose hip yeast. “I’m most proud of taking our family’s empty, historic barn and working to turn it into a vibrant brewery against all logistical and financial odds,” says DeBenedetti. “I’m also proud of the beers that we’ve brought to life here—especially our line of “Sebastian” Saisons, named for the Bavarian pioneer who named the city of Newberg and lived on the land where our farm is now.” [Brad Japhe]

Alesong Brewing & Blending
Eugene, Oregon | Opened: June 2016

Co-founding brewmaster Matt Van Wyk says, “We look at the beers Alesong makes not unlike a musician creating a song. Both are creative endeavors, made for the pleasure of others. [They’re] not just a single note, nor a single instrument, [but] a harmonious blend of all the pieces resonating together.” When it comes to brewing barrel-aged beers, Van Wyk is no dilettante. Before Alesong, his bourbon-aged Barleywine, Wooden Hell, earned Floosmoor Station one of its four medals in 2006. He then spent years in Eugene at Oakshire creating a lasting legacy of barrel-aged strong ales (including GABF gold for Hellshire III in 2013). If Alesong’s 2016 GABF gold medal, in Brett Beer for Touch of Brett, is any indication, Van Wyk’s new soundtrack may resemble a choir of angels. [Brian Yaeger]

California, Hawaii & Southwest

Photo by Shelby Moore

Helio Basin Brewing Co.
Phoenix, Arizona | Opened: July 2016

The unspoken and dirty secret of the craft brewing community has been a dearth of quality control at small-scale operations. That’s definitely not a problem at Helio Basin Brewing Company in Phoenix, Ariz. The 15-barrel brewpub is the product of co-owners Mike Conley and Dustin Hazer, the latter of whom was once the head brewer at Southern Tier Brewing Company and understands the meaning of quality control. “We wanted to do a brewpub that focused on high-quality beer and food,” says Hazer, “just keep it at that.” While Hazer manages the lineup of traditional-style beers, head chef Tamara Stanger runs the award-winning kitchen. Together, the small team at Helio Basin has quickly made it a popular gathering place for the local community. [Sean Lewis]

Arts District Brewing Co.
Los Angeles, California | Opened: January 2016

After a December soft opening, Arts District joined downtown Los Angeles’ suddenly dense craft brewing landscape in early 2016. The 15-barrel brewpub and local hang appeals to its namesake neighborhood with eclectic drafts and a lively gathering space. Less than a year into operation, it took home hardware from GABF, securing silver for Cowboy Curtis in the increasingly competitive Smoke Beer category. It’s a balanced take on a style that can be unforgivingly one-dimensional. Director of beer operations Brian Lenzo—a longtime fixture of the local craft scene—is also particularly fond of his brewery’s Double IPA, Crazy Gideon, as well as Velveteen Rabbit, its Oatmeal Stout. Thirsty patrons come for the signature brews, and linger for the skeeball and sausages. [Brad Japhe]

Photo by Sarah Bennett

Brouwerij West
San Pedro, California | Opened: February 2016

For six years, Brian Mercer drove from Los Angeles to the Bay Area twice a month to contract brew, then bottle, his traditional Belgian-style beers, releasing them under the name Brouwerij West, a nod to his industry roots as America’s first importer of Belgian candy syrup. Now Mercer unleashes his creativity at Brouwerij West’s new home: 56,000-square-foot WWII-era warehouse a block from the waterfront in San Pedro. “We’ve had lots more opportunity to expand our offerings,” he says. “We’re not so rigid.” Armed with a funky house strain brought in from his homebrew days, Mercer (along with head brewer Jeremy Czuleger) is putting out everything from 100 percent Brett beers to an unfiltered German Pilsner. A mash filter bought to increase water efficiency also allows for unconventional grain bills, meaning taproom-only one-offs could be spiked with rye, wheat, or spelt. [Sarah Bennett]

Beer Lab HI
Honolulu, Hawaii | Opened: March 2016

Think of Hawaii and surfing, sun, pineapples, and pork might come to mind. Soon enough, at least if Beer Lab HI has its way, you may just think about Brettanomyces-fermented beer as well. Located in Honolulu, Oahu’s newest brewery specializes in Brett beers and is taking locals and tourists alike on a new South Pacific adventure. “Our concept is constantly trying to innovate new flavors for our public,” says co-owner Kevin Teruya. “In Hawaii we’re not exposed to as many beers as the mainland. We try to introduce as many new flavors as possible.” On their 7-barrel system, Teruya and co-owners Derek Taguchi and Nicolas Wong are turning out innovative interpretations of classic styles and redefining what it means to be a Hawaiian brewery. [Sean Lewis]

Homage Brewing
Pomona, California | Opened: May 2016

Matt Garcia and Jeremiah Bignell know about building a creative project from scratch—both spent most of their adult lives as touring musicians before launching Homage, a storefront brewery in Pomona’s Arts Colony. There they explore their mutual love of funky, sour beers thanks to Bignell’s old homebrew barrels. “It’s hard to say what’s really in there at this point,” Bignell admits of the yeast mixture, which created a Lambic-like complexity that’s made them stand out among new sour-focused breweries. But the duo aren’t only doing mixed fermentation with their 5-barrel setup. About a quarter of the taproom-only beers are clean: IPAs and Pale Ales; Belgian Strong Ales; a Stout. A merch area is stocked with shirts that riff on famous punk album covers and everything is named after favorite songs or albums (Black Ales In The Sunset, Low End Theory). “Beer fills that creative void that I no longer put into music,” Garcia says. [Sarah Bennett]