A Vermont brewery held strong at the top while international brewers slipped significantly.
Since 2001, RateBeer — one of the first big crowd-sourced beer review websites — has been presenting its RateBeer Best Awards, digging through and analyzing its data to determine which beers and breweries were deemed the best according to its user base. The site says that “more than a half million beers from over 27,000 brewers worldwide were tallied” to determine this year’s results — and in the end, ten breweries rose to the top.
The 2019 “Best Brewers in the World” according to RateBeer are…
1. Hill Farmstead Brewery (Vermont)
2. Russian River Brewing (California)
3. Trillium Brewing Company (Massachusetts)
4. Cigar City Brewing (Florida)
5. Tree House Brewing Company (Massachusetts)
6. AleSmith Brewing Company (California)
7. Three Floyds Brewing Company (Indiana)
8. New Glarus Brewing Company (Wisconsin)
9. Side Project Brewing (Missouri)
10. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (California)
Compared to last year’s list, you can easily spot some major similarities and some major differences. Hill Farmstead maintains the top spot for the sixth year in a row, and considering how much the rest of the list has changed, that is an amazing accomplishment. The other breweries hanging around from last year’s list are Trillium (still third), AleSmith (dropped from fourth last year), and Cigar City (jumped up from eighth last year).
Possibly the biggest change is that no international brewers landed a spot on this year’s list. Last year, three (or four, depending on your perspective) breweries came from outside the U.S. England’s Cloudwater dropped from #2 down to #14, Sweden’s Omnipollo plummeted from sixth all the way down to sixty-sixth, and Denmark’s Mikkeller slipped from #9 down to #17. Meanwhile, Evil Twin — formerly a gypsy brewery with ties to Denmark that is about to open its first production facility in New York — well, international or not, it dropped from tenth to sixty-third.
So what’s with all the shakeups? RateBeer founder Joe Tucker told Forbes that — with over 7,000 breweries in America alone and thousands more overseas — the industry is simply more competitive than it’s ever been before. “Something that stands out now is just how crowded the space is, particularly among some of our ‘best new brewers’ alumni. It used to be that star new brewers were more likely to grow to a sustainable size with the same or improved quality, and keep their space in our top new brewers list,” he said. “It seems that as more brewers crowd the space, these young stars have a harder time staying in the spotlight.”
It’s also worth noting that as breweries try to stand out from the crowd, many are taking more risks, which can lead to lower ratings if these one-offs don’t quite hit everyone’s palate perfectly. Needless to say, risks aren’t necessarily a bad thing; again, it’s just part of a shifting industry. And as someone who drinks beer for a living and is familiar with most of the brands listed in the top 100, these are all great breweries: There’s certainly no shame even in dropping as “low” as #66.