1. Pine Mountain Pilsner, Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon.
Pine Mountain is a Pilsner that actually has some character to it. German style and light, this brew is the perfect patio beer. It tastes clean and I’d recommend pouring it from the bottle into a chilled glass as the fresh air will bring out the full flavor.
2. Upslope Brown Ale, Upslope Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado.
Not many breweries can master a brown ale the way Upslope has. This one hits like a dark porter — chocolatey and thick with hints of roasted coffee — with a surprisingly smooth finish. Perhaps the best part is that Upslope cans their beers, so you can take them with you on the river, on the mountain, or on the (insert any place-based noun here).
3. Cream Ale, Snow Eagle Brewing & Grill, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
This beer drinks like a soda — best when it’s hot out and served very cold. A bit on the sweet side, it is finished with Cascade hops and offers a western US take on a beer typically found further east. This beer pairs well with sushi, Yakisoba, and other Japanese fare served at the brewpub.
4. Dale’s Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewing Company, Lyons, Colorado.
In Colorado, Dale’s Pale Ale is a household name, and its reputation has been spreading well beyond the Centennial State. Oskar Blues hit a grand slam with this beer: It’s a bit heavy but not too hoppy and easy enough to drink. No one is going to complain if you bring a 12 pack of Dale’s cans to a dinner party.
5. Pliny The Elder, Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, California.
Pliny The Elder is not messing around. This double IPA is strong (and intense) enough that it has become somewhat of a legend. The brewers at Russian River have also created limited annual release called Pliny The Younger to take it up yet another notch — a ‘triple’ IPA, finishing at about 10.25% ABV.
6. Stone IPA, Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California.
Stone Brewing has reached epic status on the IPA front. They have an entire line of year-round IPA releases, but the flagship is a must-try. If you are typically a Bud Light drinker, you may have a tough time with Stone’s beer because it hits the tongue with a sharp bite and a strong, hoppy finish.
7. Sin City Amber, Sin City Brewing Company, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sin City Amber (and the rest of their beer line) is only available in Vegas and is brewed according to the Rheinheitsgebot, the 1516 German beer purity law. The brewery’s Facebook page identifies them as a religious center, ironic because their beer bars are possibly the most genuine thing you’ll find along the strip.
8. Pinstripe Red Ale, Ska Brewing, Durango, Colorado.
Ska’s Pinstripe is the easiest red ale to drink among the legion of red beer that dots Colorado’s beer-scape. Caramel malts add to a fruity finish, making this one of the most sessionable craft beers around.
9. Beard Beer, Rogue, Newport, Oregon.
Billed as an ‘American Wild Ale,’ the Beard Beer is the most hipster thing out of a brewery famous for IPAs. While they joke that this beer contains actual beard yeast, fear not, beard yeast simply refers to Rogue’s blend of Pacman, wild brewers, and workhorse yeast. This beer is one you’ll want to try after sitting over a meal, perhaps with a dessert or after drinking a porter.
10. Islander Pale Ale Dry-Hopped, Maritime Pacific Brewery, Seattle, Washington.
Yakima and Czech Republic hops combine to make a traditional pale ale, but the brewers at Maritime throw extra hops into theirs to create a beer with a much stronger flavor. This kicks the brew from an easy-to-drink sipper to a craft lover’s delight.
11. Laguitas IPA, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California.
There is a reason this beer is found in liquor stores around the country — it’s really damn good. Instead of coating the taste buds with overwhelming hoppiness, the brewers at Lagunitas have mastered the full-body effect. Caramel malts ease some of the pain and the overall flavor of the beer is very rounded. It is worth a try even if IPAs aren’t your thing.
12. Avalanche Winter Ale, Snoqualmie Falls Brewing, Snoqualmie, Washington.
A dark red beer that lets complex malty flavors define its legacy. This beer is perfect after a long day on the slopes (or during), as it is a thick, hearty winter ale. It is, however, easy enough to drink that it is possible to have two and maybe still want one more. The brewers tweak the recipe slightly each year so every time the beer is released drinkers can look forward to a familiar but fresh experience.
13. Sawtooth Ridge Golden Ale, Bitter Root Brewing, Hamilton, Montana.
Gluten reduced and still delicious. An easy drinker that is available in cans. Perfect for rafting or any other activities that involve hot sun and long amounts of time spent outdoors. Sessionable and light enough that the novice in your group will enjoy it.
14. Full Suspension Pale Ale, Squatters, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Squatters have taken home two Great American Beer Festival golds with this brew. It is unfiltered and drinks on the rawer side of pale ales. They don’t try to hide any of the flavor or character by adding a bunch of additional ingredients, letting the brew speak for itself.
15. Sweetwater Wheat, Bitter Creek Brewing, Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Bitter Creek Brewing is the perfect place to stop for a meal and a beer as you traverse the windy I-80 corridor. Their wheat beer is the most consistent of the bunch when it comes to satisfaction, a smooth, light brew that strays far from the trendy IPA crowd.
16. Organic Zwickel Beer, Red Rock Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah.
An ode to old-school German brewing, this beer is unpasteurized and unfiltered, just like they used to make ‘em. This style dates back to the middle ages, so you can feel historical and claim your need to do further research to justify ordering another round.
17. Fred, Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon.
Weighing in at 10% ABV, the Fred is made with Belgian candi sugar and, according to brewery founder Alan Sprints, is inspired by beer writer and historian Fred Eckhardt. It is a definitive golden strong ale.
18. Hop Scotch Ale, Three Rivers Brewery, Farmington, New Mexico.
Smokey and sweet, like a good neat Scotch. This beer is malty and incredibly addicting, the perfect kick off to a round of Frisbee golf at the amazing course on the edge of town. It finishes dry, and is a strong one, 8.1% ABV. Not the most sessionable of beers but perfect for getting the session started.
19. White Ale, Four Peaks Brewing Company, Tempe, Arizona.
No beer list is complete without a good White Ale, and Four Peaks does it well. A witbier with a heavy emphasis on local oranges and an aroma of coriander. If you are in Tempe in the summer or fall, a refreshing brew like this one really hits the spot.
20. Pinnacle Porter, Bend Brewing Company, Bend, Oregon.
Dark, thick, and heavy. What you see is what you get with the Pinnacle Porter. In true Porter fashion, this brew brings a good dose of sweetness to it. It remains not for the faint of heart (or liver).