A newsletter for the industry pro (or aspiring pro).


The Who’s Who of Beer Cool

April 04, 2024

Story: Courtney Iseman

art: Punch


The Who’s Who of Beer Cool

April 04, 2024

Story: Courtney Iseman

art: Punch

The country’s top brewers, beer writers and buyers weigh in on the 10 breweries to know right now.

Last year, we updated a 2020 “who’s who of beer cool” roundup, noting how fast the industry had changed in just three years, from pandemic-influenced consumer behavior to relentless brewery openings to fleeting style trends. It’s a painfully dated trope, but the craft beer industry of 2023 really seemed to then say, “Hold my beer.” In 2024, we’re looking at quite a different scene.

In 2023, craft beer realized it couldn’t just grow forever. Draft sales that have refused to recover post-pandemic, an oversaturated marketplace, changing consumer preferences—these have become familiar refrains when making sense of production dips and brewery closures. Doom journalism declaring craft beer’s end of days has become common, and mergers and acquisitions alongside the loss of iconic brands like Anchor Brewing haven’t helped to lighten the mood. 

Craft beer, however, is far from dead. It’s an industry shifting from being novel to being just another industry. And as long tenures become less guaranteed for breweries, many are innovating more than ever. There are breweries streamlining their lineups to highlight just a few styles and offer education around them, alongside breweries going in the opposite direction, making some of the other in-demand categories like hop water, nonalcoholic beer, hard seltzer, hard tea and ready-to-drink cocktails. The industry’s demographics are also diversifying (if slowly), with more breweries founded by members of underrepresented communities. Even without unchecked growth, it’s still an exciting time in craft beer. In light of that, we’re keeping a few breweries from last year’s list right here, as they continue to lead the charge, and adding some fresh contenders worth paying attention to right now.

Dovetail Brewery | Chicago


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Known for: Traditional European beers (primarily lagers), served via traditional methods
Can to know: Rauchbier

Although Dovetail opened in 2016, it’s enjoyed a recent move to center stage thanks to the trend toward more specialized breweries. Founded by Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink, Dovetail is built on passion for traditions. Brewer and marketing and creative manager Jenny Pfäfflin helps bring these traditions to life, making Dovetail the place to go to experience kölsch service, bierstacheln, treberwurst, and a Berliner Weisse release where Chicago bartenders were invited to create their own riffs on the beer’s time-honored syrups. Dovetail’s standout brew, however, is its rauchbier. The brewery is so all-in on smoked beer, in fact, that it created the annual October social media campaign National Rauchbier Month, and also hosts a yearly smoked beer celebration, Thank You for Smoking, in January. 

Even before streamlined, lager-focused breweries became the cool kids, Dovetail was ignoring the noise of hype styles like hazies and pastry stouts, says beer writer Don Tse. “They invest the time and energy to make their beers delicate and balanced,” he says. “While other brewers shout, Dovetail whispers. Lean in and listen.”

North Park Beer Company | San Diego

Known for: IPAs
Can to know: Hop-Fu! DDH West Coast IPA

The beer landscape may be shifting, but the only change affecting the still-dominant IPA is a narrowing of consumers’ focus: They know what makes an excellent one now, and what doesn’t. Identifying the true IPA masters has never been more relevant. Enter Kelsey McNair’s acclaimed North Park Beer Company. The brewery took the Brewery of the Year award (for breweries producing 2,000–5,000 barrels annually) at 2022’s Great American Beer Festival, and is a frequent collaborator with fellow hype breweries across the country. Before opening the brewery, McNair’s Hop-Fu! IPA became the single most award-winning homebrew recipe in history, and he’s extended that same touch with the brewery’s many IPA substyles.

Joe Stange, managing editor of Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, asserts that although the West Coast IPA is currently enjoying a resurgence, North Park continues to set the standard for the style. “[McNair] is a great tinkerer of recipe and process, borrowing hazy-juicy tricks for his crisp beers and vice versa, dialing them in to exactly where he wants them.”

Bow & Arrow Brewing | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Known for: Crisp lagers and bold wild ales and IPAs, celebrating Southwestern flavors
Can to know: Denim Tux Pilsner

A 2024 semifinalist nod from the James Beard Awards for Outstanding Bar has helped place one of the craft beer community’s favorite breweries on a more mainstream stage. Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay opened Bow & Arrow in 2016, making it the first brewery in the United States owned by Indigenous women. Their beers are attention-demanding explorations of Indigenous and local Southwestern ingredients: Pilsners, hazy IPAs, sours and farmhouse ales feature local blue corn, sumac and prickly pear, plus hand-foraged neomexicanus hops, which have grown in New Mexico for centuries. Sheppard and Begay also developed the Native Land initiative, an open collaboration in which breweries brew a certain style of beer to raise awareness and funds for the revitalization and protection of, as well as education around, ancestral lands and agriculture traditions.

Sacred Profane Brewing | Biddeford and Portland, Maine

Known for: Czech-style lagers
Cans to know: The only two cans, Pale Lager and Dark Lager

One of the most important pendulum swings in craft beer for 2024 is the response to over-saturation when it comes to breweries, options, and adjuncts within those options. Many beer drinkers now look to the satisfying simplicity of time-honored styles. Enter Sacred Profane, a minimalist brewery born from founders Michael Fava and Brienne Allan’s unmatched dedication to Czech-style lagers. Both are preceded by their reputations for making excellent beer and eschewing fads. Allan is also known for having sparked craft beer’s own #MeToo movement and following that up with an ongoing initiative encouraging breweries to install meaningful codes of conduct. That trailblazing spirit is also applied to the beers at Sacred Profane, which now has a second taproom in Portland, Maine, so production capacity can double in Biddeford. Fava and Allan brew on an authentic Czech-made tankpub system with side-pour taps, and learned the Czech art of lager serving on-site at a Pilsner Urquell program to boldly focus on just two beers: pale lager and dark lager.

“I think beer had a big maximalism phase, and I love seeing folks pull it back and just focus on quality,” says Ash Croce, a Brooklyn-based writer who’s also worked in the trade. “I love that [Sacred Profane] is committed to these traditional lagers and just perfecting them.”

Dokkaebier | Oakland, California


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Known for: Spotlighting Asian ingredients and flavors
Can to know: Kimchi Sour

Dokkaebier had the tough break of opening in February 2020, but while the buzz around this brewery experienced a pandemic-related delay, beer fans are quickly catching up. Dokkaebier is holistically diversifying craft beer with not only a focus on culture, but with the actual liquid in its cans. From a blonde ale with yuza (Korean for yuzu) to a witbier with galangal and a very popular kimchi sour ale, founder Youngwon Lee and head brewer Aaron Weshnak are both introducing a new audience to these flavors and breaking tired Eurocentric rules around what beer is “supposed” to be. 

Last year, Dokkaebier moved from pop-up status to a permanent Oakland facility and taproom. “Although parked in a new home, Dokkaebier continues to grow its own uncharted course,” says Hop Culture senior content editor Grace Weitz. Citing more examples like a pilsner with bamboo tea leaves and a milk stout with cardamom and green peppercorns, she adds, “Dokkaebier lives and breathes Korean culture, bringing a bit of Lee’s home to craft beer drinkers in the States.”

Back Home Beer | Brooklyn, New York

Known for: Classic styles reimagined with Middle Eastern ingredients
Can to know: Persian Blue Lager

When Zahra Tabatabai launched Back Home Beer in Brooklyn in 2021, the brand’s compelling backstory drew people in; the beer made them stay. Tabatabai was born to Iranian immigrants and began homebrewing to recreate the kind of beer her grandfather made for her family in Iran before alcohol was banned. Inspired by the results, she hit the pavement with her Persian Blue Lager and Sumac Gose, now on shelves and menus and in shops in New York and Washington, D.C. Made with blue salt from Semnan, Iran, the Persian lager represents how creativity and cultural influences can make a tried-and-true style feel brand new. 

“The deeply personal nature of [Back Home’s recipes] really comes through,” says Hannah Kiem of the podcast “Brews with Broads.” “Back Home is more than a beer brand, it’s generations of tradition being brought to the can in your hand—how can you not be obsessed with that?”

Crowns & Hops Brewing Co. | Inglewood, California

Known for: IPAs
Can to know: BPLB Hazy IPA

Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter’s Crowns & Hops Brewing Co. began seven years ago with their instantly popular “Black People Love Beer” tees, representing a mission to push for equity, access and inclusion in craft beer. When the brand evolved into a brewing company, it debuted with a stellar lineup. Their HBCU IPAs, whose names pay homage to historically Black colleges and universities, are intended to highlight the diversity of hop expression in both West Coast and hazy styles, while their 8 Trill Pils is not just a beautifully made pilsner, but its proceeds benefit its namesake nonprofit founded by Ashburn and Hunter.

“Their beer, branding and presence speak for themselves,” says Chris Maestro, who owns Brooklyn beer bar BierWax with wife Yahaira Gil-Maestro. “Everything we’ve poured from them has been excellent. What really sets them apart, though, is their commitment to diversity ... both Beny and Teo have inspired countless brewers and craft beer entrepreneurs of color, including Yahaira and myself.”

Lady Justice Brewing Company | Englewood, Colorado

Known for: English, German and Belgian styles with fresh updates
Can to know: Strawberry LaLager

Ask anyone in craft beer who inspires them as a leader in the industry and they’ll probably cite Lady Justice. Cofounders Betsy Lay, Kate Power and Jen Cuesta, with co-owner Alison Wisneski, have not just been active in their industry-wide diversity and inclusion efforts, they have also set an example for how taprooms can be inclusive and welcoming to all. It doesn’t hurt that their intentional taproom-as-community-gathering-place also serves up some outstanding beer. Lady Justice is where to head to find styles you won’t find many other places, done right. Think ESBs and Scottish ales, alongside crowd-pleasers like fruited lagers and hazy pale ales.

“The beer is wide-ranging and creative, without feeling unfocused or ‘We’re a silly Flavortown brewery’ vibes,” says beer writer Ryan Pachmayer. “If I get a spiced winter ale from them, I know it will be balanced and flavorful, not cloying and in your face.” 

Elsewhere Brewing | Atlanta

Known for: Czech-style lagers and Belgian ales
Can to know: Gest Czech-Style Dark Lager

Well-known breweries like Monday Night Brewing and hyped lager producers like Halfway Crooks often steal the craft beer spotlight in Atlanta, but Elsewhere Brewing, which opened in fall 2020, has finally been gaining some well-deserved attention on a national scale. Founders Sam and Sara Kazmer explored younger craft beer scenes in South America and storied brewing traditions throughout Europe, and, with director of brewing operations Josh Watterson, make timeless beers that represent these different regions.

Elsewhere’s beer list includes a little bit of everything, but each style is brewed as meticulously as the next. Especially popular are Czech-style dark lager Gest, West Coast IPA Viridity, and Belgian-style tripel Tripel. “Every beer captures not just the style but also the taste of place for each style,” says Jen Blair, an Atlanta-based podcaster and educator. Blair and beer writer Stephanie Grant point out Elsewhere’s culture, too, as reason to embrace the brewery. It’s veteran- and woman-owned, promotes inclusivity with regular drag events and, with the launch of its Elsewhere Adventure Club, is dedicated to promoting beer tourism.

Vine Street Brewing | Kansas City, Missouri

Known for: Time-honored lagers plus forward-thinking IPAs and sours
Can to know: Jazzman Dark Lager

When Kemet Coleman, Elliott Ivory and Woodie Bonds Jr. opened Vine Street in 2023, the brewery immediately garnered buzz for being Missouri’s first Black-owned brewery, its vibrant brand identity, its inclusivity mission and, of course, its beer. Vine Street’s first flagship beer was a dark lager called Jazzman, setting the brewery apart from others who take the safer path of introducing themselves with instant crowd-pleasers. (Dark lager certainly has its devotees among beer geeks, but can be a harder sell to more casual beer drinkers.) Vine Street’s offering has proven delicious enough to be a hit. Beyond Jazzman, there’s homage paid to historical styles like the Kentucky Common, a malty, dry-finishing low-ABV ale; IPAs brewed with of-the-moment hops; and sour ales made in collaboration with funk-soul bands, like The Phantastics. Vine Street is one to watch for both its beer and the community it fosters as Coleman, Ivory and Bonds Jr. welcome more BIPOC folks into beer. 

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