As has been well established by now around here, we do talk about beer a decent amount. In keeping with that theme, each summer has featured some amalgamation of a craft beer power rankings post for the ACC.
Last year, we ranked the top three breweries near each of the 14 campuses. As this is the internet, some fans were annoyed. But rather than continuing to expand the list out further to include the top five or 10 breweries or the entire beer scene — both projects are simply too unwieldy — we’re shrinking things down a bit for 2019:
Ranking every ACC football team by the best local craft brewery
That’s singular, so as to even the playing field a little bit between top-heavy cities and more well-rounded ones. Yes, we’re aware the close proximity of the North Carolina schools hurts them a bit here since Duke, UNC and NC State get smaller areas to choose from. There’s zero chance everyone’s going to be happy with the list, no matter what we make the criteria (by the way, here, we’re only counting the main brewery, not satellite tasting rooms).
Also of note, beer has gotten significantly better over the last few years near every campus in the conference. So even the names at the bottom have improved significantly despite a lack of movement up the list.
And of course, feel free to lodge complaints below, as per usual.
1. Boston College Eagles: Trillium Brewing Co.
It’s hard to knock BC off the top of this list considering they have Trillium. And whether you’re a fan of hazy IPAs or not, their collection of beers in that general vein rarely — if ever — disappoint. For the folks in the Northeast, especially, you already know the list of favorites like Congress Street, Fort Point, Melcher Street, etc. Even in a great beer city like Boston, they continue to pace the field.
2. Duke Blue Devils: Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending
Barrel Culture hits it out of the park with wild ales that have an emphasis on excellent and local-focused adjunct flavors. In the “Pie Time” and “Summer Jam” series, respectively, you’ll find fruit-forward sours that really shine a spotlight on those ingredients, and I’ll always celebrate a good blendery-type operation. There are IPAs too, for those not necessarily into more tart beers.
3. N.C. State Wolfpack: Brewery Bhavana
Putting the (great) food aside, Brewery Bhavana’s beers feature unique and creative flavors no matter the style. Though their IPA game has grown like everyone else’s has largely had to in recent years, I’m showing up for the saisons, most of all. Till and Glean in particular are two very easy drinks before you check out the rest of the Belgian styles on the list.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Orpheus Brewing Co.
Orpheus, Atlanta’s best brewery, has continued to bloom up along with the burgeoning beer scene in the city. Though I’m still partial to Transmigration of Souls (DIPA) and Noise and Flesh (wild ale), the other sours and IPAs available are also excellent. It’s also a really cool space to grab a beer and maybe a brewery tour too.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers: Grist House Craft Brewery
Though IPA-heavy, Grist House approaches other styles regularly and does them all well just north of Downtown Pittsburgh. Hazedelic Juice Grenade grabs the headlines as the obligatory hazy option on draft, but Fire on the Hill is one of several options not necessarily in that vein. There are dark beers as well — perhaps a more appropriate selection for football season in Pittsburgh, particularly.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wise Man Brewing
Wise Man does IPAs very well, but is a solid all-around brewery with options all across the spectrum to help balance that out. Check out Body Electric (hazy DIPA) and Chosen Vehicle (pale ale) as entry points before venturing into their milkshake IPAs or various sours and dark beers like the bourbon barrel-aged Merry World Breakfast Stout.
7. Louisville Cardinals: Gravely Brewing Co.
Gravely gives you great beer with a side of great music. And among the options on draft pretty regularly you’ll find some high quality lagers and pilsners as well as a hefeweizen — Doc’s Hefe — a throwback (to me, at least) to when most breweries made the style in some form.
8. Virginia Cavaliers: Reason Beer
Only on the scene for a couple years now, Reason Beer has still managed to earn a decent amount of both local and national acclaim in a short amount of time. Their seemingly generic “R” branding actually stands out more today than more elaborate options and a lot of the beer does too as a more straightforward approach to just making quality beverages. Along with the basics, however, there are also more adventurous ales too, however. Don’t worry.
9. Miami Hurricanes: Wynwood Brewing Co.
Rarely does one of the first breweries out of the gate maintain its place as a/the leader in the market, but Wynwood has managed just fine. And even if the taproom will brew up a “new” IPA and all to satisfy current demand, their staples like La Rubia (blonde), Pop’s Porter and Magic City (pale ale) all hold up really well and possess some of the character of the city with them.
10. Syracuse Orange: Willow Rock Brewing Co.
Most of the Syracuse-area locals will know Willow Rock’s BRUNCH at the very least, and the brewery has plenty more standouts that don’t fit into the typical IPA mold of most spots today. They also have no problem referencing Orange sports, in particular with the Jim — a brown ale. In general, their darker beers are the main attraction, which is increasingly rare.
11. Florida State Seminoles: Lake Tribe Brewing Co.
Lake Tribe is another one of the more balanced breweries on the list here, sporting a variety of dark and light options in various styles all executed well instead of just bearing down on one or two approaches. Of note are the Red Cloud IPA and Night Cap stout. They also brew a black IPA, which unfortunately faded from popularity a few years ago (I actually enjoyed them), but perhaps is now making a comeback?
12. North Carolina Tar Heels: Steel String Brewing Co.
Venturing away from Chapel Hill over to Carrboro, Steel String brings an artsy, creative vibe to brewing — plus they have their own farm. Their taproom features of variety of beers ranging from IPAs to more rustic farmhouse styles, more German options and lighter fare. Big Mon IPA is one of many selections to try out over there.
13. Clemson Tigers: Carolina Bauernhaus Brewery & Winery
Being both a brewery and a winery has seemingly allowed Carolina Bauernhaus the ability to explore how the two worlds collide a bit more than perhaps most breweries. Their taproom features an extensive list of beers, meads and ciders with plenty of barrel fermenting and some interesting adjunct flavors across the board.
14. Virginia Tech Hokies: Eastern Divide Brewing Co.
Tech’s been the slowest to move up this list, but also has the least surrounding area to potentially work with. Eastern Divide is a newer spot, however, looking to change that a bit with beer styles ranging from cream ales and pilsners to Belgian quads and of course, plenty of IPAs. Their quality brews and community emphasis certainly have them off on the right foot so far.