Steven M. Peters

Beer rules. It’s the third most consumed beverage in the world, after water and tea. It’s also our favorite form of alcohol: A Gallup poll last year found that 40% of American drinkers prefer beer to the other possibilities. (Wine came in second, at 30%.) And the variety of beer that’s available to us, both domestic and imported, is immense and growing all the time.

Five years ago, according to the Brewers Association, there were 2,822 breweries in America. Today, there are more than 6,000. About 98% of these are small, independent operations — craft breweries. While they are numerous, their output is tiny compared with that of the major commercial brands, accounting for only about 3% of annual beer sales.

Major commercial breweries may produce 40 or 50 million 31-gallon barrels a year or more. To be considered a craft brewery, according to the Brewers Association, a producer must make fewer than six million barrels annually — and most are far smaller. (The term “microbrewery” applies to those that make fewer than 15,000 barrels, and some brewpubs turn out only 10 or 20.)

That means that craft beers can be hard to find, some of them very much so: Some breweries sell special bottlings only by lottery or make them available only for a single day each year. They’re also often quite expensive, in some instances $50 or $100 a bottle or more, reflecting the high costs of production on such a small scale as well as their rarity.

It’s also worth noting that many craft breweries release successive “vintages” of their specialty beers, with the alcohol content, flavorings, and other factors varying at least slightly from year to year.

36. Wide Awake It's Morning
Brewery: Funky Buddha Brewery (Florida)
Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.53 out of 5

Breakfast in a bottle, flavored with coffee and maple-cured bacon — a malty, lightly smoky, heavier version of the brewery's popular Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.

34. Last Buffalo In The Park
Brewery: Funky Buddha Brewery (Florida)
Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.55 out of 5

A black, syrupy elaboration of Funky Buddha's Last Snow porter, flavored with coffee and coconut.

16. Morning Wood
Brewery: Funky Buddha Brewery (Florida)
Beer Advocate avg. rating: 4.65 out of 5

An assertive (12% alcohol by volume) porter, bourbon-barrel-aged and flavored with coffee, bacon, and maple syrup.

June 27th, 2018

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