Photography: Richard Haro/Courtesy Visit Fort Collins

Small beer is experiencing a big, handcrafted boom across the American West.

We’re thirsty for handcrafted everything — especially beer — and no more than in the American West, where six of the Brewers Association’s 10 largest craft breweries in 2015 are found. The first on the list, coming in at No. 3, is Chico, California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Established in 1980, Sierra Nevada was an early pioneer in the craft (or micro) brewing movement. That was just three years after the first beer was served at Sonoma, California’s New Albion, considered America’s first craft brewery. Back then, there was no telling beer would gain the same reputation as fine spirits or wine, or that the demand for such quality would be so high and growing.

Now there are more than 4,000 breweries nationwide. (That’s a 100 percent increase since 2011.) And an increasing number of craft breweries are in the West, with Oregon, California, and Colorado among the regional hot spots. Home of New Belgium, Funkwerks, and Odell brewing companies, Fort Collins, Colorado, is unofficially known as the “Napa Valley of beer.” Other states haven’t been sleeping through this boom. Texas’ craft brewing scene is on fire from Dallas to Big Bend. Montana is home to the Lewis & Clark Brewing Company. New Mexico offers an Ale Trail map. Odds are there’s a craft brewery a short ride from where you hang your hat. Before you know it, there just might be one within walking distance.

Check our website during American Craft Beer Week (May 1521), when we will be featuring loads of beer-related web exclusives.

From the May/June 2017 issue.

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