What’s the single best beer brewed in your state? You just get one pick. No ties, no second place, no “also ran.”
Tough, right? Sure to cause a flame war in the comments? Well let’s get ready to throw down, because this week we’re going through every region of the country and picking the very best beer in each state. These are the beers worth traveling for, the beers that demand your love, the very cream of the crop.
We looked for the tastiest, the hoppiest, the maltiest — the single most iconic brew in each of the 50 states. These are the best beers from the Midwest Region. Cheers!
INDIANA — ZOMBIE DUST
Indiana has the advantage having vast agriculture with plenty of water, so brewing beer is a given — even if the hops are usually from Washington. Indiana’s biggest craft brewer is 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and there’s really no way not to go with one of their beers.
Zombie Dust is the perfect America Pale Ale for the coming apocalypse, and it clocks a manageable 6.2 percent ABV. This beer is the gold standard for well-balanced hops that never overwhelm — the 60 IBUs are very do-able. The burst of orange and grapefruit zest on the nose is followed by a piney and floral hoppiness. The caramel malt beneath it all brings that balance, creating something really special.
IOWA — KING SUE
Iowa doesn’t have a list of breweries that reaches into the triple digits like a lot their neighboring states. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to put out some serious beers.
Toppling Goliath Brewing Company’s King Sue is a goliath American Double IPA. The deep use of Citra hops makes for a very dank beer. The hops shine with lemon and grapefruit zest that almost explodes from the can. This is a hophead’s beer. The IBUs register over 100 so expect to pucker those lips with every sip.
ILLINOIS — BOURBON COUNTY BRAND STOUT
Where to even start with this state…? Chicago alone has so many great breweries that no matter which beer we pick, people are going to be pissed. So we’re going with an American Imperial Stout that’s best when aged — the stone cold classic Bourbon County Brand Stout.
Goose Island Beer Co.’s iconic stout hits on the heavier end of the alcohol scales with a 13.8 percent ABV. There are six malts in the mix here, offering up an intensely roasted flavor profile that ranges from coffee to toffee to raisins to the darkest cherries from the end of summer. It’s all brought to malty and creamy heights with the bourbon barrel aging, which adds a vanilla and oak dimension to an already fantastic beer.
KANSAS — OLD BACKUS BARLEYWINE
Kansas doesn’t have the seemingly endless selection of, say, Illinois. But, it has some serious beer waiting to be drunk the next time you’re eating fried ravioli.
Free State Brewing Co.’s Old Backus Barleywine is a great beer and a wonderful example of the style. The nose will give off a brown bread sweetness that’s followed by a deep maltiness that leans into toast, raisins, dark fruits, and toffee. All of that flavor delivers a strong beer that registers a 10.5 percent ABV. Take your time with this one, really savor it.
MICHIGAN — BACKWOODS BASTARD
Michigan is another state with a lot of beer and a lot of opinions about that beer. Let’s cut to the chase here and go with a great beer that’s also a lesser indulged in style — a scotch ale.
Founders Brewing Company’s Backwoods Bastard takes a lot from the bourbon oak it’s aged in, giving it nice hints of oak and vanilla. That’s mixed in with the deep caramelization thanks to the long boil of the wort. Expect to find hints of figs, caramel, dark cherries, and plenty of bourbon with an ever so slight bitterness at the end.
MINNESOTA — DARKNESS
Hey, if you’re going to be in Minnesota, you may as well try one of their most coveted beers — Darkness.
Surly Brewing Company’s Russian Imperial Stout recently switched up their barrels for aging. Since 2014 they’re using Rye Whiskey barrels from High West out in Utah. This adds a bit more spicy pepperiness, while maintaining the notes of vanilla and wood. That’s all accented nicely by black cherry, raisin, deeply roasted cacao, and a nice hint of coffee. It’s a very dark pour with a 10.3 percent ABV that gets better with age. Happy hunting for this one.
MISSOURI — SAISON DU FERMIER
One of Missouri’s best beers offers a breath of fresh against the onslaught of imperial stouts and double IPAs that reign supreme in so many other spots around America. Side Project Brewing went another direction — Belgium.
Saison du Fermier subtly blends malty wheat and yeasts to create a lactic masterpiece. This beer is effervescent in its farmhouse sourness. The Chardonnay barrel fermentation helps to accentuate the lemon zest citrus notes and barnyard funk. This one stands out as a well-done interpretation of the classic Belgian style.
NEBRASKA — MELANGE A TROIS
Belgium probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think Nebraska. Which, fair enough. But, they know how to make a decent version of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale that stands out as one of the state’s best beers.
Nebraska Brewing Company’s Melange a Trios (get your minds out of the French bedroom) is part of the brewery’s reserve edition that spends six months in Chardonnay barrels. That time in oak imparts a grape sweetness and woody spiciness into a peach, apple, and apricot forward beer. All that smooth wine and fruit does a great job at hiding the impressive 11.3 percent ABV. So sip this one slowly while enjoying an amuse-bouche or two.
NORTH DAKOTA — WOODCHIPPER IPA
North Dakota has a pretty small beer scene in the grand scheme of things. Finding a non-macro brew is a hit and miss task. However, we think Fargo Brewing Company is doing some of the best work in the state.
Woodchipper IPA uses five hops and four malts to create a nicely balanced American IPA. The 6.2 percent ABV beer keeps the hops in check at strong 70 IBUs that bursts with lemon citrus and pine before giving way to a slight sweet malt. It’s refreshingly well made.
OHIO — DRAGONSADDLE
Oh, Ohio. So many beers to choose from. So many beer opinions … beer-pinions? Ohio goes hard with beer. So we’ll go hard too and pick one of the hardest hopped beers on tap anywhere.
Hoof Hearted Brewing’s Triple IPA Dragonsaddle throws any idea of maltiness into the ditch and speeds away into the hoppy sunset. It’s all hop everything, is what we’re saying. It’s so hoppy that it smells more like the hops horticultural cousin cannabis than beer. That dank comes with a lot of tropical fruitiness in the passionfruit, mango, and guava range. This beer clocks in at 11.2 percent ABV and kicks one of the hoppiest punches out there.
SOUTH DAKOTA — SIMCOE SESSION IPA
If you’re drinking beer in South Dakota, you may as well be drinking it with bikers at a roadhouse-cum-brewery. The Knuckle Saloon & Grill brews a long list of rotating beers through the year and serves them in a uniquely SoDak setting that’s worth a drop in in its own right.
Their Simcoe Session American IPA is a pine and citrus forward beer that gets the job done. It’s a session, so the ABV is below five percent — meaning you can drink more than one or two. And did we mention, you can drink it in a road house.
WISCONSIN — DANCING MAN WHEAT
Wisconsin is often called the heaviest drinking state in America (according to self-reporting “studies”). Well, whether or not they drink the most up there, they do know their way around brewing a beer. New Glarus Brewing Company more than proves Wisconsin’s prowess with their deep bench of great beers.
Dancing Man Wheat is a superb example of the German Hefeweizen. The wheat and yeast bring out strong hits of banana, clove, and cinnamon with a slight lemon and earthiness. The yeasts create a nice creamy texture that doesn’t feel too heavy and does a great job of hiding the rather high 7.2 percent ABV. Overall, this a great beer from some seriously great brewers.