The votes are in 

Zymurgy's tally of the best commercial beers

Zymurgy (n): 1. The branch of applied chemistry dealing with fermentation, as in winemaking, brewing, the preparation of yeast, etc.; 2. the journal of the American Homebrewers Association.

This is a great word to know to impress your friends, plus it scores 25 points in Scrabble, even without a double or triple letter score. Zymurgy, the magazine, recently published the results of its yearly tally of the best commercial beers available in America as voted on by its subscribers. Voters selected their 20 favorite beers, and from more than 1,100 ballots, this year’s winner was Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA. It was followed in a tie for second by Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale and stalwart craft beer pioneer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

All three breweries scored a second entry in the top 20, as well (Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, and Stone IPA). Celebration Ale is categorized as an IPA, so it appears that the American interpretation of the British export ale has become the national beer of American beer geeks. I’m OK with that. Other beers in the top 20 include Alaskan Smoked Porter, Guinness Draught, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Victory Prima Pils, and Ommegang Hennepin. You can see the full list, along with top rated breweries and best imports, here.

In looking over the list for beers that I need to try, I couldn’t help but notice that despite the recent influx of new beers, there are still many great breweries that do not distribute in Georgia. The antiquated three-tier distribution system works against smaller breweries, which are competing for shelf space and marketing dollars against the Big Three macrobreweries that together control around 80 percent of the market. Some of Georgia’s distributors are working hard to promote their craft beer selection (the massive effort of Savannah Distributing for Dogfish Head beers being an example). For most distributors, however, the specialty beer market is just a bastard child that is too much trouble.

Among the top 25 breweries in the Zymurgy poll, 11 have little or no distribution in Georgia. Third place Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, Mich.), as well as Three Floyd’s Brewing Company (Munster, Ind.), and Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, Calif.) are particularly missed. In some cases, production is not high enough to distribute in Georgia, but given the regulatory climate for alcohol, many brewers don’t consider our state worth their time and effort. Let your bartenders and retailers know if you want something they don’t have, and perhaps word will travel up the chain. And continue to put pressure on your representatives to stand up against the good ole boy distribution system.

Beer Dinner Marathon:
If you have the stamina and the money, you can hit three different beer dinners to start off next week, but you might not make it into work Thursday. Monday, July 23, at the recently opened 5th Earl Market in Decatur, Carmen Cappello, executive chef of JCL Global Culinary and former executive chef at Sweet Lowdown, will present a four-course dinner with beer pairings from Flying Dog Brewery’s litter of ales from Colorado. The ice cream dessert made with Horn Dog barleywine ale sounds particularly intriguing. Call the 5th Earl Market at 404-377-5477 or e-mail Brian Falcon at for details.

Brooklyn Brewery’s head brewer and noted expert on food and beer pairings, Garrett Oliver, will be in Atlanta next week for two beer dinners featuring his award-winning beers. The first is Tuesday, July 24, at Taco Mac Lindbergh City Center, and will feature a reception and four courses, each served with a different Brooklyn beer. E-mail to reserve your place.

The following night, Wednesday, July 25, four Brooklyn beers will be served with four courses at Shaun’s in Inman Park. Call 404-577-4358 for reservations. The menus and beer pairings can be viewed on the Brooklyn Brewery website’s events page.

Talking Head columnist Jeff Holland can be reached at


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