By Meredith Heil, Thrillist — With more than 4,100 breweries and brewpubs now operating in the US, our little country that could has finally joined the ranks of esteemed brewing powerhouses like Germany and Belgium. For years, hubs like San Diego and the Portlands have flooded the market with quality product, nobly inspiring their fellow Americans to choose better beer. But even though those meccas are undoubtedly responsible for America’s new baller status, there are new cities rising to meet them.
The brewers in these 10 cities represent the latest in a long line of ambitious, passionate, and community-minded entrepreneurs willing to throw caution and a ton of cash to wind in the name of great beer. Until now, though, they've been flying quietly under the radar, just waiting for some beer writer, frustrated with covering the same damn IPA release, to come along and blow up their spot. Well, (cue airhorn!), consider it blown.
Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City might seem an unlikely candidate for a top US craft beer destination, but SLC has been building a serious repertoire of world-renowned craft breweries since 2009, when otherwise ultra-conservative governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. eased liquor laws to allow small breweries to sell their wares on site. Though they still had to contend with a multitude of additional regulations (no beer flights, no opening bottles in clear view of customer, a 4% ABV cap on all grocery-store sales), a generation of industrious craft brewers set out to reclaim a little piece of the Western frontier by opening a slew of award-winning breweries throughout the city.
You'd be remiss not to focus on relative old-timers Wasatch Brewery & Squatters Beers, two diverse brands that make up the pioneering Utah Brewers Cooperative (the folks behind Wasatch were responsible for getting brewpubs legalized in the state of Utah way back in '89). These days, the Cooperative's extensive fleet is featured at most bars and restaurants around town, including three Squatters brewpubs (one hidden inside the SLC airport -- you're welcome) and two Wasatch brewpubs. Want to blend in with the locals? Grab a cheekily titled Polygamy Porter: as the motto says, "Why have just one?"
The other big hitter is the eco-friendly Uinta, now a nationally distributed brand. Located on the far west side of the city, Uinta’s 100% solar- and wind-powered production brewery also houses a taproom cafe where beer-seeking visitors can sample a selection of its 20+ quality brews. Bringing up the rear is Epic Brewing, by far Salt Lake's ballsiest small brewery. The fearless dudes behind this uber-creative craft outfit are determined to skirt almost every legal obstacle in their way, hawking a never-ending lineup of high-ABV, full-flavor ales, including an award-winning range of barrel-aged Belgian sours, all sold in 22oz bombers. A visit to their "tapless taproom" -- draft beer is limited to 4% ABV, so it’s all bottle pours here -- is not for the faint of heart, but those who dare are greatly rewarded.
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