The Top 20 Microbreweries?

This is one of the strangest lists of the top anything in the beer world for quite some time. Matador Trips, which bills itself as providing “trip ideas for travelers,” had one of their frequent contributors, Eric Warren, create a list of what they’re calling the “Top 20 Microbreweries in America.” It’s as head-scratching a list as ever I’ve seen. I know these things are almost pure opinion and that reasonable people can differ widely. I come up with my own Top 10 lists most weeks, so I know what a chore it can be. But they should, I feel, have some grounding in reality, and should at least try to maintain some internal consistency, adjust for personal bias (or at least cop to it) and be a reflection of the actual trends or reality (and if not at least be able to support the choices).

So imagine my surprise after nearly 20 years of paying very close attention to the world of beer, that the top two microbreweries in all the land I’ve barely even heard of. I’m sure they’re fine places, and I by no means wish to disparage them, but apart from the locals (and Stan, who’s been everywhere) how many people would have placed these two so high on a list of this title? How many are actually “microbreweries?” At least a few on his list are “brewpubs,” not that there’s anything wrong with that. Boundary Bay Brewing is, for example, currently the largest brewpub in America. Barrio Brewing, the #2 micro, opened in 2007 and doesn’t bottle or can their beer. Another one on the list, the Novare Res Bier Cafe doesn’t even appear to brew beer, but is instead an apparently decent beer bar in Maine. Really, he couldn’t fine one more actual brewery to round out the list?

I’m trying not to be too much of a dick here, but if you’re going to use the term “microbreweries,” it seems reasonable that you should know or find out what it means to be a microbrewery. A Microbrewery has a specific definition, but even beyond that there are some odd choices and glaring omissions that almost anybody paying attention would undoubtedly notice. The author gives no formula or idea of how he made his choices. Dartboard, perhaps? I should point out that Warren has lived in Montana for 25 years and is currently in Maine, so that may at least give some of his choices context.

Here’s the list. You probably know where I stand. What’s your take? Good list, or worthless?

The Top 20 Microbreweries in America, According to Matador Trips

  1. Kettlehouse Brewing, Missoula, Montana
  2. Barrio Brewing, Tucson, Arizona
  3. Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, Oregon
  4. Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  5. Clipper City Brewing, Baltimore, Maryland
  6. Free State Brewing, Lawrence, Kansas
  7. Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que Smokehouse & Brewery, Austin, Texas
  8. Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York
  9. Sleeping Giant Brewery/Lewis and Clark Brewing, Helena, Montana
  10. Deschutes Brewery & Public House, Bend, Oregon
  11. Ale Asylum, Madison, Wisconsin
  12. Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham, Washington
  13. Asheville Pizza & Brewing, Asheville, North Carolina
  14. Moab Brewery, Moab, Utah
  15. AleSmith Brewing, San Diego, California
  16. Long Trail Brewing, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont
  17. Twisp River Pub, Twisp, Washington
  18. Novare Res Bier Cafe, Portland, Maine
  19. Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
  20. New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado



  1. says

    thanks for the posting on this one. I saw this only because Boundary Bay made the list. I also noticed that Twisp did too although I am ashamed to say I have never made the drive (this summer, I promise).


  2. Duke of Dunkel says

    Here’s the obvious answer, from Warren’s bio (link above).

    “About me: I’m a photographer and writer specializing in (atleast on the photography side of it) adventure and travel. I also do commercial photographic work and write fiction.”

    Fiction indeed.

  3. says

    Clipper City and some others don’t even come close to DFH, in my opinion. Of course, that is part of your point…the bias involved. Aren’t some of these technically “craft” breweries because of volume. Either way, the list and the pecking order are a joke, except a couple of choices.

  4. says

    A shocker, I know, but we haven’t been to Kettlehouse or Barrio. I can testify that Novare Res does not brew.

    And for a bit of trivia that Jason Perkins of Allagash once worked for Kettlehouse.

  5. says

    This looks like someone realized that over the years they’ve been to 20 brewpubs, none of which were called the Budweiser Brewpub, and decided to make a list.

    I realized I haven’t used the term “microbrew” in years. The fact that it’sstill in use is so fresh.

  6. Gary Frank says

    WOW!! Having lived in Maine, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Oregon, Michigan and traveling through most of the country and catching brewpubs and microbreweries, I find this list wanting. While there are a few wonderful breweries on the list I wonder how the list was arrived at and as stated above perhaps this is his visit list. I can think of many – Rubicon, Mad River, Russian River, Founders, Shipyard, Goose Island, Victory hell I can go on forever. While these breweries may have great beer (and 8 or 9 do) it’s a weird list.

  7. SteveQ says

    Absolutely worthless.
    Indeed, a couple of favorites of mine are on this list, such as Full Sail and Sleeping Giant / Lewis and Clark.
    But come on, no Stone? Or Bridgport?

  8. says

    Without commenting on the list itself, I can state that Novare Res is a terrific beer bar- great selection and terrific food. But they do NOT brew beer.

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