What makes a beer the best beer in America? The answer to that really depends on who you’re asking. For us, it’s a complex matrix of drinkability, accessibility, affordability, and uniqueness. But hitting all those marks at once is hard. And frankly, it doesn’t matter quite as much how good a beer is if we can’t find it or afford it.
That’s why we find this list from Ranker to be legitimately interesting. With the exception of Alaskan Amber — which is hard to find east of the Mississippi — you can actually try all of these beers right now. And though the masses aren’t always spot-on (the Big Bang Theory corollary), the beers below are all affordable, very drinkable, accessible, and pretty damn unique. Even the old microbrews from the 1980s on this list still have something to add to the conversation.
The ten beers below are the result of thousands of votes cast by beer drinkers. Granted, there are undoubtedly better beers in many corners of the country (there are over 8,000 active breweries in the U.S.). But these beers are a good start for anyone looking to change up their macro-beer routine.
10. Samuel Adams Boston Ale
Style: English Pale Ale
Average Price: $10, 6-pack
This throwback recipe harnesses the ingenuity of America’s biggest craft brewer and melds it with English brewing. The beer has a solid malt base that’s amped up with English East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops. The brew is then aged in cool temperatures to really smooth out the flavor notes.
This is a pretty solid autumn beer in our estimation. The mild malt provides a base for spicy and earthy hoppiness. The bitterness is drawn waaaaay back and allows for the caramel aspects of the malt to peek in through the well-rounded body of the beer.
9. The Alchemist Heady Topper
Style: New England IPA
Average Price: $18.99, 4-pack
This is one of the signature beers of the NEIPA hop-bomb movement. It’s been hyped by the highest echelons of the craft beer world.
Does it live up to that hype? No. Nothing can.
This is just a damn-fine beer that’s delicious to drink… if you love heavy doses of dank hops.
This sipper opens with a rush of dank resinous notes with a grassy and floral nature. The taste delivers on those notes with an almost hash oil dankness next to a dry fizzy nature and the distant echo of what were once malts. While this is classified as a NEIPA, it’s not juicy really. It’s way more like a classic West Coast IPA these days, with thorough pine resin and cannabis floral dankness running from beginning to end.
8. North Coast Brewing Co. Old Rasputin
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Average Price: $10.99, 4-pack
This is a classic beer all-around and the most expensive on the list (but only slightly more expensive than the others). It’s been winning awards for decades. It’s also the perfect rainy day accompaniment for this time of year. The hefty ABVs help to take the edge off as well. You can’t go wrong with a bottle or two of this dark stuff.
Deeply roasted cacao nibs meet chocolate malts with a fatty nutty edge. A bit of whiskey vanilla and barrel must arrive on the palate with a sense of spice and more of those chocolatey malts. The bitterness of the dark chocolate moves towards a subtle pine resin dankness at the end.
7. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
Style: American IPA
Average Price: $10.49, 6-pack
This is a quintessential West Coast IPA. The hops are on full display in this beer. But it’s still Sierra Nevada and they know how to balance a beer perfectly between its malty base and hoppy body.
Bright hops greet you with a lean in from mild pine heading toward lemon citrus. That citrus carries through on the palate as a hint of juicy fruit arrives in the background along with a caramel malt backbone. The bright, floral, piney, and juicy hop nature never overpowers as the dry end of this beer arrives and refreshes you to your core.
6. Arrogant Bastard Ale
Style: American Strong Ale
Average Price: $12.99, 6-pack
Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing out in San Diego was a powerhouse in the late 1990s. The beer still satisfies as a reminder to headier times when big, bold hoppy notes were considered “outsider” on the national stage (not that other microbrewers weren’t doing that already for a while).
There’s a sweet maltiness that’s overcome by grassy hops. The dankness is apparent and marries the almost nutty sweetness of the malty underbelly. The sip meanders through citrus, more grassy notes, almost toffee-like maltiness, with a flutter of spice by the end.
5. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
Average Price: $15.29, 6-pack
This beer’s brewing process makes it unique. The brewers continuously add hops for 90 minutes during the brew to layer in a serious amount of hoppy depth. The keyword there is “layer.” While a lot of hops are used in this process, it doesn’t overpower the malty base of the beer and creates a textured experience in the beer’s body.
The bready and caramel malts come through in tandem with the equal parts piney and citrusy hops. The taste delivers on those promises with the addition of Christmas cakes full of candied fruit, rum, and spices. The bitterness is dialed in with a nice cut of citrus that mellows the whole sip out.
4. Anchor Steam
Style: California Common
Average Price: $10.99, 6-pack
Anchor Steam is one of the most unique beers on this list. The brew is a hybrid of lager and ale. The beer is made with cold lager yeasts that are fermented with malts at warm ale-like temperatures. It’s made in shallow, open-topped fermenters, which allows the yeast to work faster and the mix to cool more quickly.
The beer presents you with a nose full of roasted and slightly caramel malts with a bready nature next to a wisp of floral hops. The palate carries on with the malts edging towards a toffee sweetness as the hops linger in the background with a slight pine bitterness.
The sip ends dry, full-bodied, and crisp.
3. Alaskan Amber
Average Price: $9.46, 6-pack
This easy-drinking Altbier — an old German brown ale from the Düsseldorf area — is another perfect rainy day beer to have a six-pack of in the fridge. The beer is all about the malt that’s slow-fermented at cooler temperatures (compared to most ales, that is). All of that makes for a quaffable ale worth trying the next time you’re west of the Mississippi.
Does the Alaskan glacial water come out in the body of this beer? We’d like to think so. The brew really revels in the caramel roasted malts on the nose and in the taste. The hoppiness is there, but more of a floral and resiny accent than the main attraction.
The sip is light-hearted, full-spirited, and damn f*cking tasty.
2. New Belgium Fat Tire
Style: American Red Ale
Average Price: $10.49, 6-pack
This amber ale put New Belgium on the craft beer map back in the day. The brew utilizes Pale, C-80, Munich, and Victory alongside Willamette, Goldings, and Nugget hops that are balanced just right. This Colorado brew is an easy-drinking beer that’s also really easy to find these days. Those are wins.
There’s a buttered and honey-dripping biscuit maltiness up top with a note of green apple tartness and grassy hops. Those sweetened malts are what shine the brightest on the tongue as the hops pop in with floral bitterness.
The sip’s dry fizziness keeps things squarely in the “refreshing” category while still feeling bold.
1. Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Style: Vienna Lager
Average Price: $17.69, 12-pack
This really is the grand-parent of most craft beer these days. The lager launched back in 1984 and has become the cornerstone of both craft brewing, corner liquor stores, and airport bars worldwide. The actual beer marries American malts with German hops, specifically grown in Bavaria for Samuel Adams.
Caramel malts greet you with a whisper of those floral Bavarian hops. The sweet malts mingle with a bit of grain and citrus as the hops ebb and flow in the background. The end is dry and refreshing with the caramel malts taking back center stage.