Laws were broken. Lots of them. Exactly how many, I couldn't say. Dozens, surely. But we did it. We got a craft beer from all 50 states for a blind taste-off.
It wasn't easy. Favors were called in from friends back East and hundreds of dollars were spent to buy and ship cheap lagers available at the grocery store in their native land. And we bootlegged—a lot.
Some of the beers we sampled for this project were smuggled out of their home state as "live yeast samples." One was mailed as a "tap handle" while another came stuffed inside a teddy bear.
Because as far as America has come since Prohibition smothered the nascent American brewing scene, allowing purveyors of fizzy yellow piss water to consolidate their consolidations until they'd spoiled this country's beer, it's still really hard to move beer around this country. If you live in Oregon, chances are you've never had a Bell's Two Hearted Ale from Michigan. If you live in Arizona, good luck getting Russian River's Pliny the Elder from neighboring California. Folks Back East still can't find Fat Tire or Black Butte Porter. Politicians, alcohol distributors and breweries have colluded to keep it very hard to sample the best craft beers from other parts of the country. It got even harder a couple weeks ago when eBay started cracking down on beer sales.
These laws are dumb. And I make no apology for defying them, and for enlisting others to defy them. Free the beer!
Having gotten all 50 bottles—thanks in large part to intern John Locanthi, who attacked this project like a full-time job—we set out to figure out which state has the best flagship beer.
How did we determine the flagship? Mostly, we picked the largest brewery in the state's signature brew. Sometimes we went with the best-known beer from the state or a beer that represents the spirit of the state. These aren't the "best" craft beers from each state—they're just a little taste of the state in liquid form.
Willamette Week then assembled a team of 12 beer tasters with impeccable credentials for a blind taste test on a recent Sunday afternoon. You can read more about them here.
Our tasters independently rated each beer on a scale of 1-100. We averaged the scores to elect the President of Beers.
Over the next 40 days we'll be blogging about 40 craft beers and the states they hail from. We'll announce the top 10, including the winner, on October 3.
What state drinks the best beer?
We can't tell you quite yet.
What state drinks the worst beer?
Pennsylvania, of course.
Follow this map every day for a new President of Beers post: