By 2014, 30 states will be the subjects of beer guides for the thirsty traveler. Those that have been covered only in regional guidebooks (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia) may merit stand-alone coverage sooner or later. But what of the other 20 states?
Kyle Weaver, acquisitions editor at Stackpole Books, lists the questions he asks before adding a state to his publication wish list: “Is there a culture of beer? Are there breweries that are well known, not only in their state, but across the country? Are there a significant number of them? Are they regularly written about? Is there a guild that connects the brewers?” He also cautions that book sales in general are weak in some states.
To this we might add for consideration state laws that help or hinder the development of a thriving beer industry and evidence of interest, such as festivals or enthusiastic homebrew clubs. Add all these factors together, and some of these states deserve writerly attention.
Alabama: only 11 breweries. The grassroots group Free The Hops successfully raised the ABV cap on beer to 13.9 percent. Twenty-five dry counties. The only state where homebrewing is still illegal, though a bill to allow it is under consideration—again.
Arizona: 47 breweries, a number of festivals and lots of tourism. States with fewer breweries have built a successful beer touring industry.
Arkansas: Only 10 breweries. First Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival held in 2012.
Georgia: 25 breweries, including Terrapin and SweetWater, which are well-known beyond the state. The grassroots group Georgians for World Class Beer successfully raised the ABV cap on beer to 14 percent, allowing a healthy diversity of styles.
Idaho: 31 breweries, thriving tourism.
Kansas: 18 breweries. Very restrictive alcohol laws. Midwest Beer Fest in Wichita.
Kentucky: 17 breweries. Doesn’t bourbon pretty much start off as beer?
Louisiana: 12 breweries. Very permissive alcohol laws, but the Hurricane is more popular than craft beer on Bourbon Street. Abita is nationally known.
Mississippi: 2 breweries. 10 percent ABV cap may somewhat restrict the range of styles. Homebrewing legalized in 2013. No brewers guild. The grassroots group Raise Your Pints is active.
Missouri: Very permissive alcohol laws. 52 craft breweries and home of one very prominent mainstream brewery. Surely this is America’s beeriest state. Boulevard is nationally known.
Nebraska: 20 breweries, some award-winning, but with limited distribution.
Nevada: Very permissive alcohol laws, 23 breweries, but none with national reputations.
New Mexico: 29 breweries and a great tourist trade.
North Dakota: 4 breweries, no brewers guild.
Oklahoma: 14 breweries. Third annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival scheduled.
South Dakota: 9 breweries. 14 percent ABV cap on beer allows reasonable range of styles. No brewers guild.
Tennessee: 36 breweries, including Boscos, a classic brewpub. Can’t someone forge a connection between country and western music and craft beer?
Utah: 21 breweries. Despite a difficult legal climate, Utah Brewers Guild has made its mark. And the tourism possibilities are impressive.
West Virginia: 7 breweries. 12 percent ABV cap on beer. No brewers guild.
Wyoming: 17 breweries, amazing tourist destinations. No brewers guild.