Naming the best breweries in New York is a challenging task. First, regarding quantity, the state ranks third after California and Colorado, counting 423 breweries (as of 2019) within its borders, and that number has been steadily increasing over the years as more brewers enter the craft beer scene. And in the context of quality, choosing the best is also no small feat as New York’s breweries frequently win awards at national beer festivals and competitions; five New York breweries took home medals at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival and seven did so the previous year.
And while the Big Apple boasts many terrific breweries (namely Big Alice, which took home two major awards this year: the Governor's Cup for one of its beers in the New York State Craft Beer Competition and the Best Small Brewing Company of the Year title at the annual Great American Beer Festival), this list covers our favorites found outside city limits. Here are the best breweries around New York State, researched and reviewed one pint at a time.
Other Half Brewing Company
Other Half Brewing Company has only been open since 2014, but since that time, the brewery has built up a substantial cult following of beer lovers that line up around the block of its flagship Brooklyn location to snag cases of its latest releases. It has become so popular that it now has four total locations, including one in the Finger Lakes region of New York (as well as Washington, D.C., and a second Brooklyn spot). Other Half will mostly appeal to hop enthusiasts, as the majority of its beers are IPAs of the traditional, double dry hopped, and high density hop charge varieties, the latter of which is a style pioneered by the OH team (to try it, order the HDHC Roc Showers or the HDHC Dream City). The Finger Lakes region might be known for its many wineries, but take a break from the vineyards for a day to head to the spacious outdoor Other Half Location in Bloomfield to sample their popular IPAs, pale ales, and other hoppy offerings.
Community Beer Works
If Niagara Falls is on your itinerary for your New York trip, be sure to stop in Buffalo to visit Community Beer Works. As hinted at by its name and slogan (“Embeer Buffalo”), this brewery is all about supporting its local community. All of its founders have ties to the city, and the team here is passionate about educating people about beer to encourage more interest and growth in the area’s brewing and beverage community. And Community Beer Works serves up more than a kind-hearted spirit—they also brew some of the best beer in the state and have won several awards. The latest? Their imperial stout, The Snow, took home a gold medal at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival.
Science and research are at the heart of this Middletown brewery. Founded by two professional scientists, Equilibrium’s beers are a result of experimentation with ingredients and processes, trial and error, and ultimately a taste test to see what they’d like to drink. (Many of the beers are named after concepts related to science or math, such as the MC2 or Photon.) Clearly, this model has been a success for them, as fans of the brewery line up hours before a scheduled can release to try their latest concoctions. It’s primarily known for its New England-style and hazy IPAs, but it’s also popular for its sours; the sour ale, There and Back Again Sour Cherry, won the Governor’s Cup in 2018.
As the name suggests, this brewery experiments with mixed cultures, allowing for more creativity and complexity in each of its brews, most of which are sour and fruit beers. Many of their concoctions have a wine connection—fitting for its Finger Lakes location—such as Crushed, a mixed culture saison that includes grapes grown on their own vineyard, or Theme (Batch 2), a version of Batch 1 that has been aged for a longer period in white and red wine barrels and is conditioned with local honey.
Mortalis Brewing Company
Mortalis is yet another brewery on this list that has developed a highly devoted fan base willing to wait in line for hours for new releases, but with much fewer years under its belt compared to the others. This Avon-based brewery got its start in 2018 and quickly rose to beer fame for its Hydra sours and its “culinary beers,” in which the brewers have experimented with food items in beer; take for example the recipe for recent release Thesmophoros Pecan Pie, which includes dark brown sugar, molasses, Georgia pecans, and vanilla beans, or the Ladon Cherry Berry Cheesecake, which mimics the taste of an iconic New York cheesecake.
Beer Tree Brew Co.
Beer Tree is a farm brewery, which means that a majority of the hops and ingredients used in the final brew are sourced from local farms. And that designation is especially a point of pride for Beer Tree (whose slogan is “Beer with Roots”) due to the fact that most of their hops are sourced from their own family farm. What began as experimentation of using their own hops in homebrewing eventually led to the opening of the scenic Port Crane location, set right off the Chenango River. The brewery space itself is worth a stop to enjoy your beverage outside in the spacious patio area or adjacent pasture, or inside its high-ceilinged, wooden interior that showcases the brewing process behind glass windows. Grab a bite to eat while you’re there from the Fox and Farmer food truck on site.
Hudson Valley Brewery
The Hudson Valley beer trail is one of the best in the country, but one brewery in the region stands out from the rest, and that’s Hudson Valley Brewery. Open since 2017, this Beacon location brews a roster of popular IPAs and sours that (once again) entice its patrons to line up hours before opening to get their hands on new releases. And while the beer is reason enough to visit, the brewery also goes above and beyond with the packaging, designing aesthetically pleasing can labels in an array of bright colors and creative designs. Check out their Instagram page to see for yourself.
SingleCut North and Side Stage Tap Room
SingleCut Beersmiths has gained a strong reputation since its founding in Astoria, Queens, in 2012. It now has a second tap room location in Clifton Park, New York (just north of Albany). Singlecut got its start producing hoppy ales and lagers, but over time has introduced more styles, such as stouts and sours, to diversify its lineup. And music lovers will find something special to appreciate here—many of the beers’ names are related to musicians, instruments, or songs, and the name of the brewery itself, SingleCut, is a body style of a guitar. Beer and music, the two passions of founder Rich Buceta (who sold his vintage guitar collection to fund his Queens location opening) are apparent when you visit Singlecut in sight, sound, and taste when you visit this brewery.
Fidens Brewing Company
Open for just over a year, Fidens is the newest brewery on this list, but it’s made a name for itself. It’s mostly known for its popular IPAs that attract beer lovers from all around the capital region (its tap room is in and beyond, and its double IPA, Necessary Means for a Necessary Means took home a medal at the 2020 New York State Craft Beer Competition in the New York State Beer category (which acknowledges beers made with at least 20 percent New York ingredients). You can visit the tap room to try samples of their latest creations or get a growler fill to go.
Prison City Brewing
Prison City brews a variety of beer styles but they’re most known for their sour brews and their IPAs, most notably the Mass Riot, a New England Style IPA, which has won multiple awards from beer festivals and industry publications. This Finger Lakes brewery opened its first location in Auburn in December 2014 and recently opened a second location, the North Street Urban Farm, in December 2020 to increase its production. The beer is only sold at these two locations (not available in stores or at bars), so make a stop at one (or both!) of its tap rooms to taste their delicious brews.
District 96 Beer Factory
When founder John Potenza saw a thirst for locally made craft beer from his customers at Burger Loft (the adjacent restaurant), he and his business partners got to work to provide that, opening up the first brewery in the town of New City (only 18 miles from New York City, making it a doable and worthwhile day trip). District 96 is constantly producing new creations in smaller batches that frequently rotate to make sure there’s always a variety of styles available, including IPAs, stouts, kolsches, and more. Named for its election district, its beers have also taken on politically inspired names; some of the early beers were Silent Majority, The Wit House, and Sexual Relations, and among current offerings are West Wing and Social Anxiety.
Sloop Brewing Co.
Sloop got its start in a Poughkeepsie garage in 2011 when the founders would spend weekends selling their homebrewed beers at Hudson Valley farmers markets. It quickly grew significantly in size and popularity, and eventually opened one of the largest breweries in New York, a 25,000-square-foot space in East Fishkill, New York. It’s known for its IPAs (particularly Juice Bomb, a juicy, hazy, New England-style IPA) but brews other styles as well, including a few sour and stout options.