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Beer Sunday

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I had my first New York-distributed Bell’s last night. Bough a 6-pack of Oarsman, had a Two-Hearted IPA at a restaurant. Forgot how great Bell’s is. And it made me wonder, of the breweries with a reasonably large distribution who specialize in doing a huge variety of beers quite well, what is the top brewer? I figure there are 4 competitors:

A. Bell’s
B. Deschutes
C. Founders
D. Southern Tier

I recognize that these are not necessarily the best brewers in the nation. One could make a case for Stone or Ommegang or Hill Farmstead for instance but they don’t have the breadth of styles of the other 4. Brooklyn does excellent higher end beers but I’m rather indifferent to their base products. Elysian might deserve a mention here but their national distribution is significantly less than the other 4, despite its somewhat unexpected arrival in New York and Pennsylvania, basically jumping over the entire country from the Northwest.

Now my west coast bias tells me, correctly, that the region has better beer than everywhere else. So I want to go for Deschutes here. But whatever is in the water in Michigan works pretty bloody well because Bell’s and Founders are both beyond outstanding beers. Even when I don’t care for the genre, like that raspberry thing Founders is pushing right now, I’ll try it because I respect the brewers enough (in this case, it is basically like drinking raspberry jam, which is not my thing) and I know it will be well-crafted.

So to waste some time on Sunday, what is your vote for best all-encompassing brewery with a reasonable distribution area?

…(djw) in comments, “Terry Teagle the Touchdown Beagle” links to this map, which is pretty neat. I found a couple of things out of date–Full Pint is in Ohio now, and Ballast Point is in Washington. But those are both quite recent developments. It’s interesting how many small northwest breweries are available in Vermont, but nowhere else East of the Mississippi. Was also surprised to see that Old Schoolhouse, which may be my favorite Washington brewery, is available in New Jersey and Maryland. They stick to more or less standard styles, but they do them all quite well.

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