November 13, 2019
The 2010s were an enormous decade for craft beer. Production of craft beer in the United States grew from roughly 10 million barrels in 2010 to more than 25 million barrels in 2018, according to the Brewers Association.
Pennsylvania, in particular, thrived as craft beer boomed across the country, thanks in large part to innovative brewing companies like Ardmore's Tired Hands Brewing Company. This week, the 7-year-old brewery received a substantial head nod for its work: Paste magazine named Tired Hands one of the 50 best U.S. breweries of the decade.
The brewery, known best for beers like its famous HopHands pale ale, as well as its huge (and impressive) Fermentaria location in Ardmore, clocked in at No. 43, the only Pennsylvania representative on Paste's best-of list.
The magazine's beer writers and editors explained their decision-making tactics: They were looking for breweries which produced strong beer throughout the decade; breweries with consistency; breweries which innovate; breweries that matter to their immediate communities; and breweries with at least five years of experience by 2019.
Most folks interested in the Philly beer scene would say Tired Hands checks all those boxes, but here's what Paste had to say:
"Although the Pennsylvania stalwarts have brewed a wide variety of styles (including some lovely saisons) right from the start, it’s difficult to separate them from their most famous creation, and if there’s a beer style that sums up the zeitgeist of the 2010s more than milkshake IPA, we haven’t seen it.
"The thought to use lactose in a style where it was practically a foreign substance was a clever one, allowing the Tired Hands brewers to boost the creamy texture and subtle sweetness of their IPAs in a way that worked beautifully with an array of fresh fruit purees. In comparison with the imitation that followed from so many other breweries, Tired Hands milkshake IPAs always seem to strike the ideal balance between fruity vivaciousness and at least a modicum of balance, avoiding the tooth-stripping sweetness that bogged down so many others in our increasingly saccharine beer world.
"It will never be a style for everyone, but Tired Hands has always illustrated what something like milkshake IPA looks like at its best."
Zeroing in on one beer sure makes for an odd list entry, but the Tired Hands will probably take the kudos no matter the circumstances.
Elsewhere, Delaware's ever-popular Dogfish Head (now owned by big beer brand Boston Beer Company) landed at No. 37. The magazine named California's Firestone Walker Brewing Co. the winner of the 2010s.
Considering Philly's fast-booming foodie scene, it doesn't feel like a long shot to say the area will land more than one brewery on the next decade's version of this list.