Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
(NOTE: This story was originally published by Mr. Porter.)
There’s certainly no shortage of amazing American beer these days. But a few breweries in particular are not only producing fantastic liquid -- they’re doing so with a commendably high level of style, too. With well-designed packaging, elegant branding and handsome taprooms, these companies are truly raising the bar to a level commensurate with the fantastic product they’re producing in brew kettles and barrels every day.
The creative renaissance makes sense, too: with over 5,000 breweries in the country now, brewers are coming to realise that in order to stay relevant, craftsmanship can’t end with the hop addition -- it must continue through the imbiber’s experience at the bar or at home.
As a longtime freelance beer writer and editor-in-chief of The Beer Necessities, I’ve personally visited hundreds of breweries and tasted thousands of beers. (Tough gig, I know.) And so, to raise a glass to great beer (and style), here are five breweries that truly combine hip with hop.
Walk past the graffitied, windowless brick exterior of 195 Centre Street, and you’d never suspect that the building shelters human life, much less an entire brewery. That is, unless it’s a can release day at Other Half Brewing. Burly bearded Brooklynites and female beer nerds alike will wait in line for hours on end to purchase this New York cult brewery’s latest IPA. And while the beer is world class, so is the brewery’s sense of style: with its distressed furniture, giant mounted kudu bust, chalkboard menu, and peeling walls, this hip-hop blasting hole-in-the-wall is almost too Brooklyn. And the cans in which their precious brew is packaged are not to be crushed once finished: the art for beers like Cheddar + Broccoli double IPA, and Superfun! pale ale are modern masterpieces.
credits:"Matt Coats / Other Half" align:center
If Other Half is a headquarters of sorts for east coast hipsterdom, Modern Times holds the west coast crown. Their Fermentorium in Point Loma is adorned with a tumbleweed chandelier and a Post-it note mosaic of Mr Michael Jackson and his chimp Bubbles. Meanwhile, the brewery’s Flavordome taproom in North Park is of equal interest: with a lampshade mosaic ceiling and a bar made of VHS tapes, the venue would make any quirky thrift shopper feel at home. Let’s not forget the beer, of course, like their hoppy amber ale Blazing World, or supremely balanced Black House oatmeal coffee stout. Seeing as this is a San Diego brewery, there are plenty of West Coast IPAs to go around too, of course (check out Booming Rollers in the spring; City of the Sun in the winter). All this, and they roast their own excellent single-origin coffee? If only they also offered rooms for rent…
Few breweries so thoroughly encapsulate Pacific Northwest vibes in beer bottles like 10 Barrel does. The brand is seemingly obsessed with year-round outdoor adventure, encouraging fans to enjoy their many hop-forward, refreshing beers in the midst of activities ranging from hiking, to biking, to snowboarding. While their bottle labels aren’t especially remarkable yet, their three can releases are some of the coolest and most recognizable in the market. Presented in sleek, minimalistic white containers with nothing more than a bit of colored Helvetica text, Raspberry and Cucumber Crush are a pair of astonishingly thirst-quenching American sour ales. But the most ubiquitous of the three, Pub Beer, comes in a perfectly unfussy black and white package: effective means of conveying that this brew is also “brewed to crush.” Which is, incidentally, exactly what you’ll want to do with this simple, easy-drinking, no-nonsense American lager.
credits:"10 Barrel Brewing Co."
A brewery can’t stay in business for over 20 years and not know what it’s doing in the brew house. (Yes, 20 years is a long time in craft brew years.) While Tröegs, around since 1996, has long been respected for fantastic beers such as Nugget Nectar imperial amber ale, and Perpetual IPA, it was never known for being especially “hip” until late 2015, when the company underwent a total rebranding. The brewery traded in their rugged late-1990s-style logo for a host of clean, modern beer labels and icons more representative of their New World takes on Old World classics like English ales and German lagers. And all of these wonders can be enjoyed in Tröegs’ state-of-the-art tasting room, a wide open airplane hangar-like space with full view of beautiful brewing equipment.
credits:"Tröegs Independent Brewing"
In just three short years, Creature Comforts has already established itself as one of the best Southern breweries in the game. They’ve got it all: a spacious rustic-meets-industrial tasting room; award-winning beers that pay respect to industry trends without compromising their unique identity; and of course, thoughtful, refined branding that reflects all of this. Everything from the font to the artwork on their cans manages to echo the approachable yet sophisticated – beer they produce. The brewery isn’t afraid to experiment, but does tend to gravitate towards a few styles in particular -- including sessionable (i.e. low ABV) sours, IPAs, and lagers (after all, refreshing beer is always appreciated in the South). Look out for their tasty trademark Tropicália IPA (the fruit-forward name says it all), or Athena Berliner Weisse (a tart, German-style wheat beer).
Note: 10 Barrel Brewing Co. is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.