With more than 5,000 breweries, some of which produce dozens of different beers every year, America is home to the largest and most diverse beer culture in the world. But as exciting new beers appear weekly in bars and on specialty shop shelves, we shouldn’t forget their forebears: the brews that spawned, defined and advanced the craft beer movement, made by the influential brewers who brought our country from a low of less than 100 breweries in 1978 to where we are today. To help better appreciate the history of American craft beer, we reached out to 21 experts from across the American beer scene, including legendary brewers like Ken Grossman and Jim Koch, industry representatives like Julia Herz, and veteran writers like Aaron Goldfarb and Joshua Bernstein. We asked each voter to nominate five to seven American beers that they consider to be the “most important of all time.” The only stipulations were that the beer must have started production after 1960, and it must have met the generally-accepted definition of “craft beer” at the time it was introduced. Voters were limited to two beers from any one brewery and encouraged to diversify their choices across years, states and styles. In the case of brewers, they were allowed to vote for themselves; however, every single beer on this list received multiple votes, meaning a brewer’s self-endorsement only counted if it was seconded by another voter. The final order was determined strictly by the votes received, with the exception of any ties, at which point we used our editorial judgment to determine ranking. The final list, like any list of this type, is sure to spur debate. However, thanks to the collective knowledge and expertise of our 21 voters, we think it’s an exceptionally telling look at the beers that have shaped American craft beer history.—Mike Pomranz

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