America arguably has a bigger variety of delicious beers now than at any previous point in its boozy history – killer saisons in Baltimore, boiled-oyster stouts from San Francisco, brown ales made with toasted coconut out of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. But what is the king brew of them all, the ultimate Overbeer that knocks all the others out of the barley water?
That's a loaded question, given how the savoring of beer is so subjective. Some people slurp nothing but PBR and Coors Light, attracted by watery, cleanish tastes; others want their suds thick as motor oil; still others (rightly) recoil when confronted by too much hoppiness. But at the 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship, staged this past weekend in Atlanta, an international panel of judges sifted through more than 2,500 beers to find what they deemed America's best cold one. And that wowza tipple is...
#Mashtag, a beer inspired by Twitter.
No. Vomit. According to the judges, it is actually the beers of Capital Brewery, a German-inspired establishment located just west of Madison in Middleton, Wisconsin. Capital won the honorific of "Grand National Champion" after judges swooned over several of its potables, including a gold medal-winning pilsner, a silver-medal amber and a bronze lager called "Supper Club" made with corn grits. Over at Beer Advocate, erudite drinkers have praised that latter brew for its "nice bready almost meaty biscuit flavor" and an aroma like an "unskunked Heineken."
Wisconsin's cities did well across the board, in fact – not surprising, given the state's Germanic roots. The competition's brass has suggested that the motto of "The Dairy State" be transformed into "The Beer State." But brewhouses from all corners of the nation managed to make the final Top 10 list:
1. Capital Brewery - Middleton, Wisconsin
2. Sweetwater Brewing - Atlanta, Georgia
3. Stevens Point Brewing - Stevens Point, Wisconsin
4. Neustadt Springs Brewing - Neustadt, Ontario
5. Big Island Brewhaus - Waimea, Hawaii
6. Reuben's Brews - Seattle, Washington
7. Nebraska Brewing - Papillion, Nebraska
8. Mother Earth Brewing - Kinston, North Carolina
9. Fullsteam Brewing - Durham, North Carolina
10. Oskar Blues Brewery - Longmont, Colorado
The full reckoning of beers is posted at the U.S. Open's website and is quite extensive, covering niche categories like smoked beer, rootbeer and vegetable beers. If you have a sense of humor that borders on the juvenile, there's also a ranking of the year's finest beer names, including Bitch'n Camaro from Indianapolis' Sun King Brewing and, ahem, the Ontario-based Sawdust City's Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus. How Stupid Sexy Flanders didn't make that list, I'll never know.