Class of 2013

Feature by | Jan 2014 | Issue #84

Illustration by Nicolet Schenck

The craft beer industry might spend all year wringing its hands over the bubble bursting, trademark wars and dilution of quality. But at the heart of the matter are intrepid brewers who put it all on the line to bring craft beer culture to even the most remote pockets of the country. From medal-clad hombrewers to old-school pros looking to get back to basics, the folks behind these new operations are a diverse bunch. Here’s a closer look at just a few of them.

Rip Current Brewing
San Diego, California
Opened: January 2013
Co-founder Paul Sangster has won over 150 medals since he started homebrewing in the early 1990s, including at least one in every BJCP category. In 2011, he was named California Homebrewer of the Year and Ninkasi award winner for Top Homebrewer in the World. At Rip Current, Sangster and Guy Shobe (co-brewer and co-founder) create a custom water profile for every beer they brew. “This is part of how we stand out from the crowd,” says Sangster, noting they make styles from all over the world. True to their San Diego roots, their In the Curl Imperial IPA placed third at this year’s Alpha King Challenge during the Great American Beer Festival. [Jay Brooks]

FreeWheel Brewing Co.
Redwood City, California
Opened: January 2013
Lamenting the lack of real ale in the United States, four friends (including an Englishman) decided to do something about it. One of them, brewer Malcolm McGinnis—who’s homebrewed for 20-plus years—interned at San Francisco’s Magnolia brewpub for a year to learn the ins and outs of cask-conditioned beer. The team also partnered with two English cask breweries, making collaboration beers and sharing techniques. McGinnis says the low carbonation and somewhat warmer temperature of cask ale “allow more flavors to emerge and make for an easier-drinking beer.” To his knowledge, they are the only brewery in the US making nothing but cask beer. [J.B.]

84Feature2Cannonball Creek Brewing Co.
Golden, Colorado
Opened: January 2013
Cannonball Creek opened to overflow crowds in Coors’ hometown with plenty of street cred (co-owners Brian Hutchinson and Jason Stengl had many years’ experience with Colorado’s Mountain Sun family of breweries). The anticipation proved spot-on when Cannonball Creek took two silver medals at the 2013 GABF, for its Featherweight Pale and Battlecat Stout. Hutchinson says the brewers went back and forth about what kind of beer to brew, but “we decided that if we brewed beers that inspired us, that would translate well to our customers.” At Cannonball Creek, that means Belgian-style ales and some of the bigger American styles. [Eric Gorski]

Fairhope Brewing Co.
Fairhope, Alabama
Opened: January 2013
Just because there isn’t a brewery in the state within 200 miles doesn’t mean Fairhope Brewing Company—named after the 16,000-person town in which it resides—has to make boring beer. To that end, brewer Dan Murphy makes small-batch beers like a Papaya Wheat, a Cucumber Saison, a Banana Nut Muffin Dunkelweiss and a Jalapeño IPA. Fairhope’s success so far indicates a bright future for Alabama’s beer culture in general. Kane says, “I think the combination of being somewhat of a novelty in lower Alabama and making some really great beer has made our entry into the market less difficult than one might expect.” [Austin L. Ray]

84Feature3Community Beer Co.
Dallas, Texas
Opened: February 2013
Head brewer Jamie Fulton was only 22 when he graduated from the Doemans Academy in Munich at the top of his class. It was the beginning of an award-studded brewing career for Fulton, who’s settled down in the still-small beer scene of Dallas to re-create his favorite international styles. With a GABF gold under their belt, Community has already doubled capacity and is opening a larger taproom, which they’ll use for charity and arts events. “We want to use our platform to make positive contributions to our community and the people within it,” says founder Kevin Carr. [Courtney Cox]

De Garde Brewing
Tillamook, Oregon
Opened: March 2013
De Garde’s spontaneously fermented beers draw on influences from around the world—starting with Bu Weisse, a 2.1-percent tart ale akin to a Berliner Weisse. (The name is both a nod to the Moroccan word for “my” and De Garde owner Linsey Hamacher’s cat—although Rogers successfully proposed to Hamacher at De Garde’s debut, so Bu is really their cat). From there, Rogers goes in every direction, including Chanin Blanc Regards, a “Double India Wild Ale” brewed with wild yeast and wine grapes, and fermented in gin barrels. But while this wine-loving brewer also experiments with fruit, ultimately, Rogers says, “I just try to get out of the way of the yeast. I wanna let wild ale be wild.” [Brian Yaeger]

Trillium Brewing Co.
Boston, Massachusetts
Opened: March 2013
The idea seemed simple enough: open a farmhouse brewery in an urban area. But after finding a space in Boston, Jean-Claude Tetreault and his wife, Esther, spent two years dealing with red tape. Fortunately, offerings like Fort Point Pale Ale, Sunshower Saison and Bug Valley Wild Ale were worth the wait. “We try to take the view of what an artisan American brewery would be like today if a centuries-old beer culture had naturally evolved in New England,” Tetreault says. “Of course, there would be a focus on local, quintessential New England ingredients, natively fermented beers and barrel aging, but at the same time, we’re looking to explore new techniques and ingredients.” [Ben Keene]

Avenues Proper Restaurant & Publick House
Salt Lake City, Utah
Opened: April 2013
Most breweries would view Utah’s arcane liquor laws as a problem to overcome. Not Avenues Proper, which serves tasty, sessionable beers created by former Epic Brewing brewer Rio Connelly. In Utah, beers on draft may not exceed 4-percent ABV. So Connelly must be precise on his 5-barrel system, keeping his grain bills small, closely watching the yeast and never scrimping on ingredients. “I see it as more, ‘constraints breed creativity,’” he says. “There are very technical brewers in Utah.” You may find a Gose, a smoked Chocolate Porter or an Oatmeal Red served on nitro at any given time. With the recent embrace of lower-alcohol, high-flavor beers, craft brewing has finally caught up with Utah law. [E.G.]

84Feature4Bale Breaker Brewing Co.
Moxee, Washington
Opened: April 2013
No one makes a fresher fresh-hop beer than Bale Breaker’s Piled High Imperial Fresh Hop Ale. It’s hard to compete when there’s a brewery situated on the corner of a hop field in the center of the Yakima Valley. Bale Breaker is a side project for the scions of B.T. Loftus Ranches, which has been growing the sticky green flowers since the year before Prohibition ended and is perhaps best known as a primary source of Citra. While their parents and brother mind the bines, brewmaster Kevin Smith, his sister Meghann Quinn and Meghann’s husband Kevin Quinn are brewing and canning the aggressively hopped Topcutter IPA and only slightly more-restrained Field 41 Pale Ale. “The brewery has allowed us to connect directly with craft beer consumers,” says Meghann, “something that our family hasn’t had the chance to do on the farm level.” [Martin Cizmar]

Yellow Springs Brewery
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Opened: April 2013
As owner Nate Cornett distributed Smokin’ Handsome to local bar owners, he made sure to point out that the beer would participate in the 2013 GABF. That was a serious point of pride for the 7-barrel production brewery and tasting room. A few days later, though, a critic posted a jab on Untapped: “It’s good but not GABF good.” How wrong. Smokin’ Handsome brought home a silver medal. “We went back and did a screen shot of that,” says Cornett, whose brewery’s motto is “Crafting Truth to Power.” “We thought that was fucking awesome.” [Rick Armon]

Off Color Brewing
Chicago, Illinois
Opened: May 2013
Don’t expect veteran brewers John Laffler and Dave Bleitner to reinvent the wheel at Off Color Brewing. The brewery, situated in a nondescript warehouse on the edge of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, produces brews like Troublesome, a refreshing blended wheat beer flavored largely by tart and funky lactobacillus, and Screw You Jeremy Danner, a lemon radler aged in gin barrels. “It’s getting to the point where you have to do more than make good beer,” says Laffler, who met Bleitner while the two were studying at the Siebel Institute and honed his craft in the barrel program at Goose Island. “The goal is to make things different. I don’t see any reason to make an IPA.” [Dan Murphy]


Photo by Beana Bern

Lost Nation Brewing
Morrisville, Vermont
Opened: May 2013
Matt Nadeau probably didn’t realize how helpful he was being by relocating Rock Art Brewery to a bigger facility. But his move was just what Allen Van Anda and Jamie Griffith needed. While working together at the Trapp Lager Brewery in Stowe, the two daydreamed of producing their own beers. Now they’re brewing balanced, sessionable styles in the former Rock Art space, where they’ve added a tasting room with a small menu. “We’re able to cover a wide spectrum without a Porter, Brown Ale or an IPA,” says Van Anda. Instead, they brew a Gose, a Pilsner, a Saison, an Amber and Petit Ardennes, a 4.2-percent, Belgian-inspired ale they’ve labeled a Farmhouse Blonde. “We love La Chouffe, but we wanted to be able to have a couple,” says Griffith. On the horizon: wood fermentation and variations on their Saison. [B.K.]

Duel Brewing
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Opened: July 2013
Talk about the art of craft brewing is not lip service at Duel Brewing. In a city known as a hub for the arts, the first craft brewery to open in 15 years has walls adorned with owner Trent Edwards’ paintings, and beers named for the masters. Edwards, 53, is a painter and career vagabond who has managed a Starbucks shop in Los Angeles and a 16-screen movie theater in Tucson. He caught the homebrewing bug and opened Duel, specializing in Belgian style-beers. The top-selling Dark Ryder (11-percent ABV) is a Dark Strong Ale with deep cherry and plum notes. The 14-percent Goya Stout is named for the Spanish romantic painter. “I’m an ambitious guy,” Edwards says. “As an artist, you just want to keep going after it.” [E.G.]

Three Taverns Brewery
Atlanta, Georgia
Opened: July 2013
Brian Purcell has a new lease on life. “Every morning, I practically leap out of bed to get to the brewery and back to work,” says the 50-year-old former marketing professional who worked with clients like Coca Cola. Purcell opened his Belgian-inspired Three Taverns Brewery in mid-2013 with early highlights like a Belgian-style Russian Imperial Stout and a Belgian-style IPA. Brewer Joran Van Ginderachter—the 27-year-old founder of Brouwers Verzet in Belgium and nephew of New Belgium’s Peter Bouckaert—has been working closely with Purcell to fine-tune his recipes and create new ones. Three Taverns plans to unveil its much-anticipated Quad, Quasimodo, with the first-annual Quasimodo Day in the spring. Says Purcell, “I’ve never had this much fun working in my whole life.” [A.L.R.]

84Feature6Wiley Roots Brewing Co.
Greeley, Colorado
Opened: July 2013
When married couple Kyle and Miranda Carbaugh opened Wiley Roots, one of their first beers was Super 77 American Wheat, named for a farm tractor purchased in the 1940s by Miranda’s grandparents. The beer captures the brewery’s “grain-to-glass” philosophy. Just three months later, that wheat beer won a bronze medal at the GABF, giving the 7-barrel startup instant credibility. “It’s a lot of validation and vindication,” says Kyle, a former accountant who, as a relatively new homebrewer, encountered initial skepticism about going pro from fellow homebrewers. Wiley Roots focuses on seasonal beers, is experimenting with small-batch single releases (like a Caliente-hopped Brown Ale with molasses) and plans to can in 2014. [E.G.]

Quest Brewing Co.
Greenville, South Carolina
Opened: July 2013
Homebrewer Andrew Watts left his IT job and partnered with longtime pro brewer Don Richardson (formerly of Boulder Beer Co. and Cottonwood Brewery) to open Quest, a 25-barrel brewhouse and taproom in Greenville, S.C. They have four core beers—a Smoked Porter, Coffee Stout, IPA and Belgian Pale—on draft at more than 100 local accounts, and plans to can are in the works. Watts calls his late brother, Sean, Quest’s “silent partner,” crediting him for the desire to make beer “the right way.” “Sean’s favorite was Saison Dupont,” Watts says. “We plan to delve further into Belgian styles, and I envision there will be one beer named after his legacy.” [E.B]

Faction Brewing
Alameda, California
Opened: August 2013
Bay Area rock-star brewer Rodger Davis has been a fixture of the local beer scene since arriving at San Francisco Brewing Co. in 1997. After brewing at Drake’s and Triple Rock, he and his wife, Claudia Pamparana—who spent years at the 21st Amendment brewery—opened Faction Brewery. Situated on a former naval base, the 20-barrel brewhouse is dwarfed inside a 32,000-square-foot former airplane hangar, with an entire room set aside for future barrel-aging projects. The initial beers include Davis’ Pale Ale, an Oatmeal Stout and a line of Belgian-inspired brews. Faction will also release a new IPA every few months, utilizing a rotating selection of hops. Besides it being his favorite style, Davis says, “I’d have a hard time producing the same IPA every time I mashed one in.” [J.B.]

Woodfour Brewing Co.
Sebastopol, California
Opened: August 2013
Woodfour co-founder Seth Wood attended culinary school and then worked in the wine world before getting together with his business partner, Olav Vier, who grew up in the beer culture of his native Germany. Together, they chose the town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County as the ideal location for lovers of beer, food and wine. It was a great choice for the brewpub, as the formerly wine-centric Sonoma now boasts 20 breweries, a number that has doubled in just a few short years. Wood is brewing an eclectic range of mostly session beers that showcase local hops, along with making complex sours. He focuses on “[creating] beers that make sense next to food,” pairing his brews with Woodfour’s seasonal, locally sourced cuisine. [J.B.]

84Feature8Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Gilbert, Arizona
Opened: September 2013
When he’s not at his small brewery attached to a Bruegger’s Bagels, you’ll find Arizona Wilderness founder and brewmaster Jonathan Buford searching for a suitable native brewing yeast in his inhospitably arid state. “We found a high-country strain among the oaks outside of Flagstaff,” Buford says. It’s similar to a chardonnay wine strain, and “so beautiful.” Before he opened Wilderness, Buford owned a window-cleaning business, which is where he came upon the key ingredient to his excellent Superstition Coffee Stout. “I was servicing a house that was roasting coffee in the garage. Over the next few visits to their home, we formed a great relationship, and I told him that I intended to brew with his coffee.” And so he did. In its first full year, Arizona Wilderness will do 700 barrels and has no plans to expand beyond that. Buford says, “99.9% of our beers will be sold at our pub.” [M.C.]

Side Project Brewing
St. Louis, Missouri
Opened: September 2013
“I don’t like pumping out the same thing over and over again,” says Cory King, head brewer at Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis. “I want more of a challenge.” With this “side project”—which shares space with Perennial—the chemistry grad has an excuse to experiment. To make one of their debut beers, The Origin, King aged a blend of Imperial Stout, black oatwine and Baltic Porter in Rittenhouse Rye whiskey barrels with Madagascar vanilla beans for 20 months. About 300 people lined up ahead of the noon release. “Everything was sold out before I opened the doors,” King says. Next up for Side Project: Blended sour beers, an Imperial Black American Wild Ale aged in whiskey barrels with sour cherries, and wild ale fermented with yeast King captured on his family’s farm near Puxico, Mo. [Sarah Gish]

Washington DC
Opened: October 2013
Bluejacket, a long-awaited venture from DC beer maven Greg Engert (Rustico, ChurchKey) and head brewer Megan Parisi (formerly of Cambridge Brewing Co. in Massachusetts), opened with 25 house-made beers—20 drafts and five on cask—that the team had been crafting for two years. “We are drawing inspiration from every angle—a seasonal ingredient, a dish, a style or flavor—the possibilities so far have shown endless,” says Engert. Beers span from Figure 8, a Wee Heavy brewed with figs and spices, to The Duel, an IPA finished with Brett. Engert expects Bluejacket, which also features a 15-barrel coolship, to make 5,000 barrels a year. Just wait until April; Bluejacket is three blocks from the Nationals’ ballpark. [Greg Kitsock]

Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
San Francisco, California
Opened: October 2013
Co-founder Connor Casey is a veteran of both the wine and beer industries. While working at the Marin Brewing Company, he met co-founder and head brewer Tim Sciascia, a Boston native who has also worked for Samuel Adams. Together, they’re offering a rotating lineup of fresh, hoppy beers, plus some sours, and laying down others in barrels for future release. Their lineup will be constantly changing, “depending on what fresh fruits are available, and what wine and bourbon barrels can be found,” says Casey. So get their most recent brew—a taco-spiced IPA collaboration with Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands—while you can. [J.B.]

84Feature10Ecliptic Brewing
Portland, Oregon
Opened: October 2013
Oregon brewing legend John Harris got his professional start at McMenamins, the first post-Prohibition brewpub in Oregon, in 1985. Then a brewpub in Bend opened called Deschutes, where Harris created Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale in 1988. Up next: brewmaster of Full Sail’s Riverplace location in Portland, Ore. His stellar (or interstellar) new creation is Ecliptic, a 15-barrel brewpub named for our astral journey around the sun. “We will be naming beers after stars, nebula, galaxies and other astronomical themes,” says amateur astronomer Harris. Arcturus is an orange giant some 36.7 light years away, but it’s also Ecliptic’s first IPA, packed with C-hops. “Creating a new beer is a cosmic thing, really,” says Harris. “[You’re] combining ingredients and bringing it to life.” [B.Y.]

Great Raft Brewing
Shreveport, Louisiana
Opened: October 2013
Louisiana natives Andrew and Lindsay Nations were living in Washington DC when the couple decided to return home to open Shreveport’s first production brewery since Prohibition. “On the plane ride to DC after visiting family, my wife and I decided we weren’t coming back to Shreveport without a business plan,” Andrew says. “By the time we landed, we had completed the framework for what would become Great Raft.” Great Raft sold the first keg from its pilot system in October. Now that construction on their 20-barrel brewhouse is complete, they plan to roll out to 20 draft accounts and open the on-site tasting room, followed by cans in February. Nations says he hopes Great Raft’s production, led by chief brewer Harvey Kenney, will reach 1,500 barrels in 2014. Most of that will come from its year-round offerings: a Schwarzbier, Pale Lager and American Pale Ale. [E.B.]

Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery
Denver, Colorado
Opened: November 2013
Wayne Burns has Bell’s Brewing and Mountain Sun on his résumé, but he earned his big-beer reputation at Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. in Warren, Mich., where he brewed Fourth Dementia Olde Ale, a gold-medal winner at 2010’s GABF and World Beer Cup. That recipe inspired one of Jagged Mountain’s debut beers, an Old Ale, the first in a line of strong ales. The chalkboard also features an American-style IPA, Scotch Ale and Belgo-American Black IPA, among others. As a starter beer, the brewery chose a low-alcohol Saison instead of a more conventional Wheat or Pilsner. “We do want to be interesting,” says co-owner RJ Banat, “but we also want to be accessible.” [E.G.]

Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery
Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania
Opened: November 2013
The General Lafayette Inn—a Colonial-era building that last functioned as a (famously haunted) brewery—sat vacant for three years before Philadelphia craft beer impresario Erin Wallace rescued it. Wallace, owner of two Philly beer bars, wasted no time signing six-time GABF medalist Scott Morrison as the brewer. Morrison has been a star of the Pennsylvania beer scene for years, including game-changing roles at Dock Street and McKenzie’s. “I’m hoping to make Barren Hill a must-stop destination in the area,” he says, noting that there are four breweries within 6 miles of Barren Hill. The brewpub debuted with some Belgian styles, which Morrison is known for, but he also threw a pre-Pro German Pale Ale, Imperial Pils and Berliner Double Weisse into the mix, and promises more surprise styles in the future. [C.C.]

Adroit Theory Brewing Co.
Purcellville, Virginia
Opened: December 2013
Scheduled for a soft opening at the end of December, Adroit Theory (run by owner Mark Osborne and brewer Greg Skotzko) intends to do away with the concept of a flagship brand, brewing a new beer each week on their half-barrel Sabco system. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and the palates of our potential clientele to show that you can have a portfolio of only complex and esoteric beers,” says Osborne. Test batches lean toward the big, boozy and barrel-conditioned, like B/A/Y/S (“Black As Your Soul”), an Imperial Stout aged on chestnuts and hazelnuts; G/I/A/A (“God is an American”), a DIPA aged on ash spirals; and T/P/D (“The Perfect Drug”), an absinthe-inspired Saison brewed with wormwood and basil, and served with a green sugar cube. [G.K.]

2014: Year of the Homebrewer?
Even today’s world-famous brewers were wide-eyed newbs at some point, mopping up boil-overs and scanning forums (or books!) for advice. Here are a few serious hobbyists who are putting their money where their wort is in 2014.

Medusa Brewing Co.
Hudson, Massachusetts
Helmed by three friends, including award-winning homebrewer Keith Antul and Tom Sutter, co-owner of Worcester beer bar Armsby Abbey, Medusa will offer full pours in their taproom.

Courtyard Brewery
New Orleans
Husband-and-wife team Scott Wood and Lindsay Hellwig will open their 3-barrel brewery and taproom with a focus on strong, hop-forward beers worthy of pairing with the local cuisine.

Oak Park Brewing Co.
Sacramento, California
After earning a few medals, homebrewer Tom Karvonen has decided to go pro with his high-octane English and Belgian ales, opening a brewery attached to the also-new Thirsty Fork restaurant.

Spellbound Brewery
Mount Holly, New Jersey
This 20-barrel brewhouse will be one of several New Jersey ventures to launch since the state changed laws to embrace brewery startups. Look for one-offs and cans from these homebrewing veterans.

Twin Leaf Brewery
Asheville, North Carolina
Tim and Steph Weber have been planning to open a brewery in Asheville for years. Five core beers (a Wit, ESB, IPA, Oatmeal Stout and Tripel) will be complemented by small-batch specials.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative
Bucking the Kickstarter trend, Fair State’s early investors will actually own a share of the company, which means discounts, a vote in board elections and input on the session-oriented recipes.

Four Quarters Brewing
Winooski, Vermont
Brian Eckert (member of the well-known Green Mountain Mashers homebrew club) promises high-quality, draft-only Belgian and American styles from his 4-barrel system. 

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