Standout Southern Breweries

These thirty-two entrants in our Craft Brewery Bracket are making their mark

Photo: Margaret Houston

Grab a growler and get to know some of the South’s finest craft-beer makers. These thirty-two breweries are battling it out in our Southern Craft Brewery Bracket (cast your votes now).

  • Against the Grain

    Louisville, Kentucky (founded 2011)

    What began as a brewpub serving smoked meats and one-off brews out of Slugger Field baseball stadium has grown to reach far beyond the Bluegrass State. While The Brown Note and Citra Ass Down IPA are readily available, AtG eschews flagships in favor of an array of offerings organized into several categories—session, hop, whim, dark, and smoke. The annual release of Bo & Luke barrel-aged Imperial smoked stout is a bona fide happening. atgbrewery.com

  • Back Forty Beer Company

    Gadsden, Alabama (founded 2009)

    Back Forty Beer Company helped put Alabama on the craft-beer map when it launched with Naked Pig Pale Ale in 2009, the year state legislators raised the legal limit for beer from six percent to 13.9 percent ABV. But it was Truck Stop Honey, Back Forty’s flagship brown ale brewed with Alabama wildflower honey, that launched the brewery into regional renown. backfortybeer.com 

  • Bearded Iris Brewing

    Nashville, Tennessee (founded 2016)

    Cult favorites Homestyle, a juicy single-hopped New England-style IPA, and Scatterbrain, a resinous IPA loaded with Simcoe hops, make a wonderful introduction to Bearded Iris, but they’re just the start. Head to the tap room in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood for the brewery’s full array of hop-forward and barrel-aged beers, including Attention Please Imperial IPA and Chasing Rainbows, a Pilsner-based IPA brewed with copious hop additions and Lupulin powder. beardedirisbrewing.com

  • Blackberry Farm Brewery

    Walland, Tennessee (founded 2011)

    Located on an expansive farm in far-east Tennessee about a half hour southeast of Knoxville, Blackberry Farm Brewery specializes in delicate, complex, barrel-aged saisons that are stocked in many of the South’s finest restaurants. But they’re not solely stuck in the realm of old-world Belgian styles. Blackberry’s newer line of cans features pilsner and hoppier fare like pale ale and IPA. blackberryfarm.com/brewery

  • Bluejacket

    Washington, D.C. (founded 2013)

    Craft-beer impresario Greg Engert created what resembles a steampunk version of Willy Wonka’s brewhouse when he co-founded Bluejacket in a renovated early twentieth-century factory in Washington’s Navy Yards. Filled with gleaming chrome and copper, including nearly twenty different fermentation vessels—most of them suspended on mezzanines and walkways above the Arsenal restaurant—the space is designed to craft any type of beer that strikes a brewer’s whim. Constant experimentation flows from Bluejacket’s tap handles. bluejacketdc.com 

  • Burial Beer Co.

    Asheville, North Carolina (founded 2013)

    With their intricate, heavy metal-inspired label art, cans of Burial stand out in a crowd. It’s the liquid inside, however, that really sets the brewery apart. From the lineup of IPAs like Surf Wax and Scythe Rye, to a porter brewed with North Carolina-grown sweet potatoes, and Skillet Donut Stout, they’re all worth trying. To find Burial’s taproom, just look for the mural of Tom Selleck arm-in-arm with Sloth (from the mid-1980s cult classic The Goonies) in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood. burialbeer.com

  • Cigar City Brewing

    Tampa, Florida (founded 2007)

    Cigar City draws inspiration from Tampa’s Latin culture and coastal setting with flavorful, easy-drinking beers like its flagship Jai Alai IPA, Tampa-style Lager, and Florida Cracker, a Belgian-style white ale brewed with coriander and orange peel. Its inventive barrel-aged creations, however, are what beer geeks seek. The annual release of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout—aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chilies, and cinnamon—even warrants its own festival. cigarcitybrewing.com 

  • Country Boy Brewing

    Lexington, Kentucky (founded 2012)

    Country Boy was founded by four Kentucky gents—two of whom bonded over international craft beers while teaching in Japan. Offerings like Cougar Bait blonde ale and Shotgun Wedding brown ale are staples, but the brewery’s exploratory streak is best expressed in its more culinary-inspired creations, like Nate’s Coffee Stout, made with locally roasted coffee; Papaw’s Red, an Imperial red ale aged in bourbon-barrels; Jalapeno Smoked Porter; and especially its Living Proof series of wild and sour ales, which often include fruit additions. countryboybrewing.com 

  • Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

    Athens, Georgia (founded 2014)

    These Classic City beer makers were the first to open in Athens since Terrapin. That’s a big reputation to live up to (and alongside), but they’ve shown no problem taking on the responsibility. The brewery has built an empire on an IPA called Tropicalia, while winning awards and making beer lovers swoon over one of the finest wood programs in all of beer. The future seems limitless for this quickly-growing Georgia institution. creaturecomfortsbeer.com

  • Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co.

    Charleston, South Carolina (founded 2014)

    You have to work to stand out in a food and drink scene like Charleston’s. Which is one of the reasons why Edmund’s Oast makes small batches of grisette, medieval English ale, and barrel-aged old ale, to name a few of their more obscure styles. Pair those brews with sandwiches, pizza, and thoughtful takes on Southern staples and, well, look at that: You’re standing out in Charleston—and beyond. edmundsoast.com

  • Fonta Flora

    Morgantown, North Carolina (founded 2013)

    Most beers made at Fonta Flora, a small farmhouse brewery in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, incorporate locally grown or foraged ingredients, including malted grains, herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables, and wild plants. While the brewery produces a variety of styles—including its award-winning dry Irish stout—it’s best known for its series of Appalachian Wild Ales. These blended mixed-culture fermentations often include adjuncts like foraged honeysuckle and locally grown fennel. fontaflora.com

  • Good People Brewing Company

    Birmingham, Alabama (founded 2008)

    Alabama’s oldest and largest operating craft brewery, Good People helped lead the charge in bringing the state’s antiquated blue laws into a new millennium. El Gordo Russian Imperial stout scrapes the upper threshold of the state’s ABV limit at 13.9 percent, while Good People’s core lineup—including a pale, a brown, a wheat, and an IPA—are all excellent examples of the styles. Snake Handler Double IPA is a perennial favorite among hop heads. goodpeoplebrewing.com

  • Great Raft Brewing

    Shreveport, Louisiana (founded 2013)

    As the first brewery to open in Shreveport since Prohibition and only the ninth craft brewery to open in Louisiana, Great Raft walks the line between producing well-executed, approachable beers like its Southern Drawl Pilsner, brewed with Louisiana-grown rice, and Commotion pale ale, alongside more adventurous offerings like bourbon-barrel aged Old Mad Joy Baltic porter; Farmhouse Slang, a mixed-fermentation saison; and Oceans Between Us, an IPA fermented with wild yeast. The beer is dry-hopped with a different hop strain with each release. greatraftbrewing.com

  • Green Bench Brewing Co.

    St. Petersburg, Florida (founded 2013)

    Before Khris Johnson joined Green Bench, he won a pile of homebrewing medals in Florida, eventually earning professional experience at Cigar City. These days, he’s a known quantity on the national craft scene, and his beer (which includes elegant wood-aged saisons and straight-ahead hoppy stuff) is distributed to elite accounts all over the world via legendary beer importers the Shelton Brothers. It just goes to show what hard work and dedication can do. greenbenchbrewing.com

  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

    Richmond, Virginia (founded 2011)

    Before Virginia was one of the most exciting beer states in the United States, home to hotshot new beer makers (The Veil) as well as an East Coast location for California and Colorado craft vets (Stone, Ballast Point, Deschutes), there was Hardywood. While known for their big-bottle specialties (like Gingerbread stout), they make an impressive array of canned IPAs and a taproom-only lager that will be seeing a wider release soon. Plus, their quality assurance program is next to none. hardywood.com

  • Heavy Seas Beer

    Baltimore, Maryland (founded 1995)

    Founder Hugh Sisson started Maryland’s first brewpub in 1995 and has been a mainstay in the state’s brewing scene ever since. Rebranded as Heavy Seas in 2010, the brewery is known for consistently producing award-winning beers like flagships Cutlass Vienna-style lager, Powder Monkey Pale Ale, and Gold Ale. Barrel-aged brews like Siren Noire Imperial chocolate stout and Schnee Boot eisbock explore uncharted waters, while Heavy Seas’ Partnerships series features collaborations with other leading craft brewers. hsbeer.com

  • Holy City Brewing

    Charleston, South Carolina (founded 2011)

    Holy City has come a long way from its original brewhouse, which was made out of welded-together used bicycle parts, to winning Great American Beer Festival medals. They make humble wheats and porters, but also dabble in myraid styles, from lagers to IPAs to farmhouse ales. In an increasingly crowded South Carolina scene, they’re one of the must-drinks. holycitybrewing.com

  • J. Wakefield Brewing

    Miami, Florida (founded 2015)

    Frequent a Southern craft-beer festival of late, and you’re likely to spot glasses filled with glowing green, head-turning pink, and similarly bright-hued brews from J. Wakefield’s booth. Founder Jonathan Wakefield’s Florida Weisse beers—his take on the Berliner Weisse style—begin with a tart wheat base and copious amounts of Florida-grown fruits added post-fermentation, like the mango, guava, and passion fruit that go into Miami Madness. His more traditional styles are also excellent. jwakefieldbrewing

  • Jester King Brewery

    Austin, Texas (founded 2010)

    Yes, Jester King makes very fine, very of-the-land farmhouse ales with ingredients from the surrounding Texas Hill Country, and yes, those beers are some of the best beers on the planet. (One suggestion, if you can find it: Atrial Rubicite, a positively stunning wild ale aged on raspberries in oak barrels.) It’s almost upsetting how good the beer is. But have you been to their farm? Be careful—if you visit, you may never go home. The kids and dogs running around. The on-site pizza place. The goats! jesterkingbrewery.com

  • Lost Forty Brewing

    Little Rock, Arkansas (founded 2014)

    Arkansas may be one of the final frontiers of Southern brewing, but you wouldn’t know it looking at Lost Forty’s lineup. Their eye-catching packaging designs show off on-trend beers (a Mexican lager here, a hazy IPA there) that are well-received (their Rye Barrel-Aged Forest King Imperial Stout is averaging a 4.26 on beer-rating app Untappd). Plus, their Instagram food game is ridiculously mouth-watering. lost40brewing.com

  • NoDa Brewing Co.

    Charlotte, North Carolina (founded 2011)

    NoDa’s chief brew masters honed their chops as members of the Carolina Brewmasters, one of America’s oldest homebrewing clubs. That technical expertise coupled with a homebrewer’s everything-in-the-spice-rack approach shines through in brews like the prolifically hopped Hop, Drop ’n Roll IPA, a gold-award winner at the 2014 World Beer Cup; Satsuma Orange IPA; and NoDaJiTo, a Mojito-inspired Belgian wit infused with mint leaves and lime zest. nodabrewing.com

  • NOLA Brewing

    New Orleans, Louisiana (founded 2009)

    Before New Orleans was a burgeoning beer town, there was NOLA Brewing. Coming up on 10 years now, the Big Easy vet laid down the foundation in a famous cocktail city that would eventually play host to upstarts like The Courtyard Brewery. Not content to rest on those laurels, though, NOLA is keeping up with the kids these days, brewing hazy double IPAs, double dry-hopped sours, and complex wild ales. nolabrewing.com

  • Ozark Beer Company

    Rogers, Arkansas (founded 2013)

    Hard work and honest beer are the pillars on which Ozark Beer Company was built. A sturdy list of popular craft styles—coffee stout, Belgian strong ale, IPA, pale ale—attests to that. But it’s Ozark’s commitment to its community and craft beer culture that have seen it emerge as one of the Natural State’s early beer-making pioneers. ozarkbeercompany.com

  • Parish Brewing Co.

    New Orleans, Louisiana (founded 2012)

    For many beer nerds in the South and beyond, Parish Brewing Co. is known for Ghost in the Machine, a double IPA with a big reputation and even bigger flavor (“HAZY/TROPICAL/PURE HOP JUICE,” Parish’s website promises). But their lineup has grown more diverse by the year, led by the Louisiana wheat ale that started it all, Canebrake (which is available in a strawberry variant, too). parishbeer.com

  • Peticolas Brewing Company

    Dallas, Texas (founded 2011)

    Michael Peticolas left a successful law career to found his namesake brewery, acting as sole employee during its first year of operation. Good call. Royal Scandal, an English pale ale, soon medaled at the Great American Beer Festival, followed by Great Scot! and It’s Always Something, a Belgian strong ale. The brewery’s wide-ranging lineup includes session beers like the cocktail-inspired GrIN & Tonic, as well as high-gravity brews like Velvet Hammer strong ale. peticolasbrewing.com

  • Prairie Artisan Ales

    Tulsa, Oklahoma (founded 2013)

    Beer literally didn’t exist in Oklahoma before Prairie Artisan Ales came along. Kidding! Sort of. Because, seriously, beer like this certainly didn’t exist in the Sooner State before Prairie. Tart, beautiful wild ales. Big, boozy, stouts that taste like dessert. These guys have carved out a rewarding Southern niche that’s made its way all around the globe. prairieales.com

  • Scofflaw Brewing Co.

    Atlanta, Georgia (founded 2016)

    These outspoken Atlantans are as well known for their brash attitudes as they are the dozens of hoppy beers they’ve cranked out in a mere couple years. Meanwhile, they’re growing faster than just about any brewery in the world. All hopped out on their IPAs? Try the dangerously-easy-to-drink barrel-aged Absentium imperial stout. scofflawbeer.com

  • Southern Prohibition Brewing

    Hattiesburg, Mississippi (founded in 2013)

    Its name is a reference to its region. But it’s also, as the brewery writes, “a daily reminder of the hurdles that exist as a craft brewery located in South Mississippi.” But Southern Prohibition Brewing doesn’t let its slow-to-adapt state—Mississippi was one of the final states to allow beer makers to sell directly to customers—stifle its creativity. For example, on tap at the time of this writing: a gose, a baltic porter, a grisette, and a chocolate milk stout. soprobrewing.com

  • The Veil Brewing Co.

    Richmond, Virginia (founded 2016)

    If haze is your thing, if you get down with joose bombs, if citrus-overloaded beers in tallboy cans are what do it for you, well, The Veil is the brewery for you. They crank out a bunch of those cans in their taproom. It’s a cool place, for sure, but not too cool. Post an Instagram. Cheers with a friend. Take a home a four-pack of the tallboys. You won’t regret it. theveilbrewing.com

  • Westbrook Brewing

    Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (founded 2010)

    Cult-favorite Mexican Cake—a seasonal Imperial stout aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla, habaneros, and cinnamon—began as a celebration beer created for brewery founders Morgan and Edward Westbrook’s wedding reception. Flagships Westbrook IPA; One Claw Rye Pale Ale; Gose, a German-style sour wheat ale; and the culinary-inspired White Thai, a Belgian witbier spiced with lemongrass and ginger root, pair perfectly with the brewery’s coastal setting. westbrookbrewing.com

  • Wiseacre Brewing Co.

    Memphis, Tennessee (founded 2013)

    There are plenty of reasons to enjoy Wiseacre. Their design is gorgeous, their attitude is smart, and their beers? They are a triumph. But if you’re only going to sample one of them, let it be Tiny Bomb, a wildly refreshing, honey-spiked pale lager that’s better than just about any other pilsner in the South. (In the country? Yes, maybe.) The only thing better than drinking one is drinking a second. wiseacrebrew.com

  • Yazoo Brewing Co.

    Nashville, Tennessee (founded 2003)

    Tennessee’s largest craft brewer, Yazoo remains a name that’s frequently on drinkers’ lips for good reason. Its award-winning Hefewiezen is world class, and Yazoo’s “Embrace the Funk” sour and wild ale program consistently turns out tasty riffs on classic styles, often incorporating locally sourced ingredients. The brewery even obtained a distillery license to craft Sue, a 9.2-percent cherrywood-smoked Baltic porter that was the state’s first legally brewed high-gravity beer. yazoobrew.com