We’re out of the dark ages in SEC country in relation to beer. With the influx of the craft beer scene, fans no longer have to settle for yellow fizzy and watered-down, mass-produced swill.
During opening week, you can drink a light and refreshing Gose. As the weather gets cooler a nice porter with a hint of hazelnut is in order. If your team is lucky enough to make it to mid-January for championship play, maybe a coffee stout is your move.
As the craft beer has evolved during the last 10 years, there is now a Southern brewery in every SEC city that can fulfill the desires of revelers looking for refreshment.
In honor of the impending season we’ve decided to rank each of the 14 schools based upon the craft breweries in the city of the university. Unlike most power rankings in the SEC there are no losers here. We’ve based the listed on quality and quantity of suds being brewed in each of the college towns.
Since the list is based on the college towns there won’t be any beer from stalwarts such as Sweetwater, Orpheus, Wild Heaven and others in Atlanta. There also won’t be any beer from the fine folks at Good People in Birmingham.
Here’s our list. If we’ve missed your favorite or want to debate feel free to hit up the comment section.
14. Auburn – Red Clay Brewing is in Opelika, which is a short distance from the Plains. The brewery has interns from the Brewing Sciences and Operations program at Auburn University. So expect Auburn to rise in the craft beer scene in the next few years. Southern Bumpkin is a sweet potato brown ale and it’s like drinking a piece of sweet potato pie.
13. Ole Miss – According to Brewers Association there’s only one brewery in the city of Oxford and its aptly named Oxford Brewing Company. The fledgling brewery is best known for its Sorority Blonde, which is a perfect session beer for warm day on the Grove.
12. Mississippi State – Mayhew Junction and SweetGum are leading in this burgeoning market for craft beer. Mississippi was late to the legalization of home brewing in 2007, but in the last five years the state has seen a lot growth. A prime example of the evolution of beer in Starkville is Mayhew Junction’s La Saison De Chihuahua. It is jalapeno flavored saison, which parlays the sweet flavor normally found in a saison with the spice of locally-grown jalapenos.
11. Texas A&M – Much like the Aggies’ relationship to the Longhorns, in spite of recent success, College Station is the little brother to Austin in the beer scene. Jester King and (512) Brewing Company are nationally known out of Austin, whereas Blackwater Draw and New Republic are just now starting to make headway. The Warimono from New Republic is a glorious Belgian Tripel. It has fruity and sweet notes with hints of spicy yeast. It has a 9.0 ABV (alcohol by volume) but drinks like a session beer.
10. Tennessee — Saw Works and Crafty Bastard Brewing are two of the leaders in a city that is becoming a haven for people seeking good beer. There are at least six more breweries coming in the next year, so don’t be surprised if Knoxville shoots up the next list. The Big Bastard IPA is the beer that best represents the market. It has dank smell and has hints of strawberry in the initial taste. It is a 9.1 percent ABV and has smooth finish.
9. Louisiana State — Tin Roof Brewing started as most breweries do with a group of homebrewers, who figured that they could make a living selling their wares. Since early 2011 it has become the flagship beer maker in Baton Rouge. Check out the Parade Ground Coffee Company which comes around Mardi Gras season. The delectable beer produces locally-sourced coffee with a blend of mocha and French Roast. It is full of coffee and chocolate delights.
8. Arkansas – Apple Blossom Brewing, Fossil Cove and Columbus House are in a friendly battle for the title of the best brewery in Fayetteville. The city offers a healthy mix of brew pubs and breweries, and the beer drinking has stepped up from PBR to fine porters. Spottie Ottie Oatmeal Stout is bold and complex beer from Columbus House.
7. Missouri – Bur Oak is the top brewery in Columbia, and they’re very innovative. Boone County Brown is an example of the ingenuity of the brewery. It tastes like a smooth mix of dark chocolate and coffee. The caramel hued brew has an ABV of 5.4 and is easy to drink to celebrate victory or commiserate about a tough loss.
6. Vanderbilt — Nashville is the largest city on the list and now a hotbed for foodies. However, the craft beer scene hasn’t caught up yet. Breweries like Yazoo, Czann’s and Jackalope are setting out to change the city’s beer scene. Gerst Amber Ale by Yazoo pays homage to the pre-prohibition local brewery in town. It is well made amber beer with a refreshing taste.
5. South Carolina – Swamp Cabbage and River Rat are the main production breweries in town. There are at least four more in planning to go along with several brew pubs, bottle shops and beer bars. Moncks Corner Abbey Ale by River Rat is the perfect beer to pair with a grilled steak. It is brewed with French malts and hops. Belgian candy sugar and Trappist yeast are used to give this beer a hint of fruit flavor in the finish.
4. Kentucky — Even beginning craft beer drinkers likely are familiar with Alltech’s Kentucky Bourbon Ale. It is sold in more than 20 states around the country. The beer has helped popularize the barrel age movement. While that is a good beer, the more advanced connoisseurs are sipping on West 6th Street’s beers.
3. Alabama – Druid City, Black Warrior and Band of Brothers have become anchors in the city of Tuscaloosa. There are several good beers to choose from in title town. Druid City’s Downtown North Porter stands out. It is a robust beer with decadent chocolate and vanilla flavors from start to finish.
2. Florida – First Magnitude and Swamp Head are the head of the class in swiftly growing market. These two breweries have had great showings in many national brewing competitions and are looking to grow even more in the next few years. Swamp Head’s Cottonmouth is witbier brewed in traditional Belgian style. The beer is crisp and refreshing with a sweet finish. It’s perfect for a hot day in The Swamp.
1. Georgia – The Dawgs may not make it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, but it is the king of Southern beer cities. John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski started Terrapin Brewery in the late 1990s and it has become one the top breweries in the country. The legend of beers such a Hopsecutioner and Wake and Bake are enough to make Athens No. 1. That’s not to mention the impressive number of craft beer bars and proximity to Atlanta’s breweries. But it doesn’t stop there. Creature Comforts has come along and become a major player. Its Tropicalia is a balanced and soft juicy IPA. Instead of the bitter flavors normally found in an IPA this beer is as sweet a Georgia Peach on a warm day.