You’ve seen the lines. Hundreds of 20- and 30-somethings queued around the block, coolers and camp chairs in tow. Some stand for hours, slowly making their way to the entrance of not a streetwear boutique, but a craft brewery.
Hype has taken hold of craft beer, which turned out to be fertile soil for the same fetishism that forced your parents to drive you to the mall for Pokémon cards when you were 10 years old. Except beer isn’t like trading cards or rare coins. It’s perishable, with flavors that fade in a matter of weeks. So if you want to taste the best beer in the country, you need to find someone living close to your target brewery and organize a trade, typically using social media.
“Hype can grow across all platforms, but I can pick up on hype if a brewery happens to be featured across several beer Instagram accounts,” says John Paradiso, the managing editor of Hop Culture Magazine. “Gotta look out for those ‘ISO’ comments.” ISO, or “in search of,” is how beer fans signal that they’re looking to trade for a certain beer. Sometimes a beer is so rare that sellers use online marketplaces to sell individual bottles for many times their retail price. KBBS, a stout produced by Toppling Goliath in Decorah, Iowa, frequently resells for over $1000 on sites like My Beer Collectibles. It comes in 12-ounce bottles.
Beyond a strong social media presence, brewers can focus on certain styles to drive hype. The recipe is often some combination of extremity and scarcity. “Extremely dry-hopped and thick [double IPAs], heavily fruited lactose sours and pastry stouts of wine-strength loaded up with every kind of diabetes-inducing concoction under the sun, these beers are very Instagram-able and get a lot of engagement online,” says Ben Pratt, the owner of As Is, a craft beer bar in New York City. “These are not beers of balance or subtlety. There’s nothing wrong with them per se and they’re fun to drink sometimes. But not every pair of sneakers you own can be Balenciaga.”
The hype doesn’t come without detractors. Neighbors justifiably hate the amusement-park lines that frequently start the night before a release and curl around the block. Some brewers feel pressured to have a coveted beer — typically a hazy IPA — on tap in order to draw in customers that are simply looking to “tick” a beer off on apps like Untappd in order to show that they’ve sampled it. And beer purists, or anyone simply watching their waistline, can’t stomach the palate-numbing, toe-curling flavors that come in cans packed with as many calories as a box of donuts. But hey, do it for the ‘Gram.
While hype has created a subset of drinkers that treat beer like dispassionate collectors, it’s also served as massive front door for new drinkers. Some of which may never have ventured away from macro beer, had they not witnessed a grown man sweatily shoving bottles of imperial stout into a backpack, to be sold at a later date for an unbelievable sum.
For good and for bad, whether well-deserved or just lucky, there are a few dozen breweries across the nation that garner hype once reserved for overpriced shoes and underaged boy bands. Below is a list of breweries that have become meccas to the modern craft beer hypebeast.
Horus Aged Ales
Location: Oceanside, CA
If there’s a playbook on hype culture, Kyle Harrop, the one-man force behind Horus Aged Ales, has read it. Before releasing the first “official” Horus beer in 2018, which sold out in two seconds online, he’d already built a cult following by collaborating with 55 breweries in 2017 and serving up these exclusive one-offs at the best beer festivals across the country. Nowadays, you can find certain Horus beers on the shelf in select markets, but Kyle’s rarer releases will always be nearly impossible to snag, thus creating a level of hype unique even among the rest of this list.
Hudson Valley Brewery
Location: Beacon, NY
Hudson Valley ticks all the right boxes for hype. They were among the first — and inarguably the best — to brew sour IPAs, a style that combines two of the most popular styles of American beer. It’s a blend they pull off with impossibly complex and intense flavors in a way that somehow manages nuance and balance. As unique as the beer is, however, Hudson Valley sets itself apart with its can design, headed by artist Evan M. Cohen. The art is so cerebral and stunning that many drinkers buy prints along with their cans.
The Veil Brewing Co.
Location: Richmond, VA
If you want hazy IPAs and fruit-forward sours in the Richmond area, you head to the trendy Scott’s Addition neighborhood and enter the even trendier The Veil Brewing Co. While the brewery produces a wide range of beer, it’s most noted for its drive to push the limits in the realm of the IPA. When everyone else was churning out double-dry-hopped DIPAs, The Veil was experimenting with triple-dry-hopped TIPAs. And don’t miss out on its Tastee series, which slams you in the face with 16 ounces of smoothie first, beer second.
Other Half Brewing
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Despite recently celebrating their five-year anniversary, the team behind Other Half Brewing are the OGs of hype. They took the torch from Heady Topper — that first hazy DIPA created back when beer didn’t look like orange juice — and made IPAs packaged in minimalist artwork a nationwide phenomenon. The brewery’s been imitated the world over, but it’s still creating what many believe to be the best IPAs in the country. And for a five-year-old brewery, the fact that people still line up the night before releases is impressive, if nothing else.
Three Chiefs Brewing Co.
Location: El Segundo, CA
Founded by three friends from Guam, Three Chiefs opened its doors last September to a line of fans that had camped out for hours. The instant hype was the result of a collab tour that resulted in the creation of Antique Coco and Antique Blue, two beers brewed with J. Wakefield that resold for upward of $600 each. If Three Chiefs is at a beer festival, its line doesn’t die down until the last beer is poured.
J. Wakefield Brewing
Location: Miami, FL
Home of Wakefest, a hype-machine of a beer festival that takes place in the trendy Wynwood neighborhood each February, J. Wakefield is the brewery that other breweries vie to collab with. They want a chance to get sprinkled with some of the magic that has been following Jonathan Wakefield since he was a homebrewer making waves for his sour beer brewed with tons of Floridian fruit. J. Wakefield’s sours — two of which once concurrently held the top spots on Ratebeer’s list of the best Berliner weisses in the world — are covered in provocative, and sometimes controversial, artwork.
Monkish Brewing Co.
Location: Torrance, CA
When Henry Nguyen opened his brewery in 2012, his focus was on Belgian beers, not trendy IPAs. He even had a “NO MSG, NO IPA” sign on display at the brewery. That all changed in 2016, when he dipped his toe into the hoppy hype train. Now, Monkish IPAs are among the most coveted in the nation, with Torrance locals trading the beer with super fans from across the nation.
Tired Hands Brewing Company
Location: Ardmore, PA
HopHands, an ale brewed with oats, was such a revelation when it debuted in 2012 that it was famously panned by BeerAdvocate critics, while being widely loved by drinkers in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The turgid beer helped launch a revolution in hazy beer, but the fact that owner Jean Broillet has stayed small — and treats his craft as culinary experimentation and artistic expression (he illustrates the cans in his unique style) — make the beers hard to get but well worth the trip.
Tree House Brewing Company
Location: Charlton, MA
You can’t talk about hype in craft beer without mentioning Tree House. The brewery, founded in 2011, has thousands of fans making the weekly trek to its remote diggs in western Massachusetts for a chance to buy four or five beers. That’s not a typo. While other breweries allow customers to buy multiple 4-packs of even their most hyped releases, Tree House’s beer is so coveted that they drastically limit the amount of beer any one person can buy.
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Location: Greenboro, VT
The cult of Shaun Hill needs no introduction. He cut his teeth brewing in Denmark before returning to his remote hometown of only 762 residents to open his brewery, which is now uniformly considered the best brewery in the nation. Nowadays, Hill serves as a sort of brewer incubator, with many of his team going on to establish world-class breweries themselves.
Angry Chair Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Angry Chair’s hype is so intense that it caused a rift between the brewery and its neighbors after a release of Barrel-Aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake, a highly sought-after pastry stout that had fans lining up the night before the noon release. The brewery’s highly traded stouts continue to pose the question: when does a beer stop being a beer and start being dessert?
Location: Middletown, NY
Founded by two MIT grads, Equilibrium uses a science-heavy approach to create flavors using hops that are seldom seen elsewhere. The brewery then moved on to wild ales, and, most recently, stouts, which are quickly proving to be as sought-after as its IPAs. Among craft beer fans, the Equilibrium team has been elevated to rockstar-level; if you see the founders at a beer festival, expect to find one of them standing on a table pouring beer directly into people’s mouths.
Bottle Logic Brewing
Location: Anaheim, CA
Each year since 2014, Bottle Logic has hosted Week of Logic, an event that serves 4,200 people on its busiest days and a destination for fans of legendary stouts, of which Bottle Logic is a frequent producer. Keep an eye out for their yearly release of Fundamental Observation, an imperial stout everyone should try at least once.
Side Project Brewing
Location: Maplewood, MO
Founded by Cory King while he was working at Perennial Artisan Ales, this 100 percent barrel-aged brewery specializes in wild beers, saisons and, increasingly, stouts. The limited nature of the barrel-aged beers makes them highly sought-after, with aficionados clamoring for its saisons while hypebeasts take aim at the stouts.
Great Notion Brewery
Location: Portland, OR
James Dugan produces some freaky beers. On Great Notion’s opening day, his tap list included an imperial stout “fermented with an irresponsible amount of maple syrup” and a New England style IPA, which was uncommon in the Pacific Northwest. The brewery rapidly expanded, doubling down on culinary-inspired beer (the most popular beers are called Double Stack and Blueberry Muffin) and adorning the cans with incredible artwork. The beers’ uniqueness have made them nearly impossible to imitate among competitors.
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Location: Capitola, CA
Started in a modest farmhouse with just $10,000, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (SARA) has grown to cult status. The bottles are so hard to get — you need to be part of their brewery club and pick up the bottles in person — that three of the $20 bottles were re-sold for $550. The brewery became something larger than anyone expected, and when brewery co-owners Tim Clifford and Adair Paterno ended their marriage (not amicably either) they decided to stick together, because “SARA had become our identity, for both of us,” Clifford said.
Inu Island Ales
Location: Kaneohe, HI
Definitely the least well-known of the bunch, the hype for Inu Island Ales is all about scarcity, which becomes obvious once you consider the Hawaiian locale. That makes the beer nearly impossible to find on the mainland, and a beer darling to locals. Your best bet for sampling their coveted stouts is finding them at a beer fest, but expect to stand in line.