With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to create a series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
And wouldn’t you know it… we made it to the 50th state – the 51st and final entry in the series. Somehow this 34 month odyssey is finally complete, ending with the last state of the union alphabetically, The Equality State, Wyoming. It only seems fitting that we finish this series with a state who’s nickname is derived from the fact that it was the first state allowing women’s suffrage. Fitting not only because of the events transpiring last year, but also the exciting growth of craft beer’s favor among women today. Passed September 30th, 1889, women in the state were enabled the right to vote, serve as jurists, and hold public office.
Wyoming ranks 50th in total population (over 585 thousand residents), ranks 49th in population density, and houses 23 craft breweries as of 2016 (an increase of 10 since 2011) who are represented by the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild. The state ranks 42nd in total breweries (including D.C.) and 8th in breweries per capita as of 2016, according to the Brewers Association.
Considering the serious frontier nature of the state – small populations surrounded by both desolate terrain and beautiful landforms, the story of Wyoming’s brewing history is relatively concise. And it all started with Green River Brewery which opened in a small town by the same name, and was founded by Adam Braun in 1872 (18 years before statehood). The brewery changed ownership a number of times and changed it’s name to Sweetwater Brewing with the start of Prohibition. It closed up shop in 1931 upon the passing of it’s last owner, Hugo Gaensslen. The brewery itself, seen below, was modeled after the Chicago Water Tower and still stands today.
The other notable early brewery in the state was Casper Brewing Company, which had the misfortune of opening in 1914, just a few years before Prohibition. The brewery got through the dry years, reopening in 1934 when they launched three new brands. Casper shut down briefly in 1944, but reopened again for a few years after World War II, only to close again in 1948.
The first craft brewery to open in the state was Otto Brothers Brewing company in 1988. It was originally located in Wilson, near Jackson and the Grand Tetons range. In 1989, Charlie and Ernie Otto introduced the first modern glass growler (a term that is claimed that the noise made by CO2 leaving the galvanized pails originally used back in the day sounded like a growl). In 1998 the operation was moved over the Idaho border, to the town of Victor, where it’s still in existence as Grand Teton Brewing.
Snake River Brewing, in Jackson, is now the oldest brewery in the state, opening in 1994. Twice winning the GABF Small Brewer of the Year Award, they’ve also won a whopping 36 medals there as well. Black Tooth Brewing, in Sheridan, is the largest producing brewery in the state and has garnered 7 GABF medals since they opened in 2010.
In total, 64 medals have been won by breweries in the state of Wyoming.
3 More Wyoming Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Altitude Chophouse & Brewery (Laramie) – Established in 1999 by Greg Smith and Karen Robillard, this brewery restaurant prides itself in providing sophisticated food and hand-crafted brews, all at an elevation of 7,200 ft. Known for their award winning Mexican Chili, Tumblewheat Pale Wheat and other specialty ales, they’ve also netted 3 GABF medals and many more at a wide variety of festivals. Definitely the place to stop when in Laramie.
Melvin Brewing (Alpine, Jackson & Bellingham, WA) – Arguably the state’s best known brewery outside it’s borders, it was founded in 2009 by Jeremy Tofte. The original location, a Jackson Thai restaurant called Thai Me Up, started on a 20 gallon system. Today they run a 30 barrel system in the small border town of Alpine (population 828) and just opened a brewpub last summer in Bellingham, WA. Known for their hoppy offerings such as 2×4 DIPA, Melvin IPA and Hubert Pale, they’ve won 6 GABF medals, not to mention winning GABF Small Brewery of the year in 2015 and Brewery Group of the Year in 2017.
Wind River Brewing (Pinedale) – Located in the gateway to the Wind River Mountains and the Jackson Hole area, this award winning brewpub was founded in 2008 by Sean and Tamra Watts. Known for having the best beer and food in town, Wind River also has the distinction of being the location where brewers have gathered for a state-wide collaboration brew, which included the formation of the Wyoming Brewers Guild in 2014. Winners of 2 GABF medals, for their Out of Order Porter and Gale Force Pale, Wind River is one of the most established purveyors of great beers in Wyoming.
Find more breweries in the state via the Wyoming Beer Trail map.