Ah, New Orleans. The Crescent City. A warm weather destination filled with sprawling patios, debauchery, rich history — and loose liquor laws. Before Prohibition washed through the U.S. in 1920, NOLA was the busiest brewing hub in the South; and today, the city is more alive than ever with the sights and smells of beer. In the past year alone, five new craft breweries have opened up their doors in New Orleans, pushing the total number of breweries in the city past ten and inspiring a new generation of beer-inspired entrepreneurs looking to put NOLA on the craft beer map. So skip the Hurricanes and the Sazeracs, and head out to explore The Big Easy’s booming craft beer scene this year.


Go Here, Drink This

Like most good stories, it’s best to start at the beginning, and in the case of the New Orleans craft beer scene, that means starting at NOLA Brewing Company — the brewery that really put the city on the modern day craft beer map. The opening of NOLA (New Orleans Lager and Ale) Brewery came at time when the city needed beer. The year was 2008, just three years after Hurricane Katrina spread devastation and havoc throughout the city, forcing the only brewery in town at the time to move production outside of New Orleans. That lapse in locally-made beer inspired founder Kirk Coco to bring beer back to New Orleans — which he did when he began brewing and pouring beer in a quirky little joint in the Irish Channel neighborhood. The brewery has since expanded its taproom, teamed up with a local BBQ restaurant, and added a game room and plenty of TVs to catch the Saints play. For the most part, you can’t go wrong here. From the easy-drinking Brown Ale to anything in the brewery’s popular Funk Series of tasty wild ales, there’s a great variety of styles to choose from — each one worthy of seeking out a taste of. Now that you have an idea of what started it all, head over to the Parleaux Beer Lab to see how far the local craft beer industry has come. Located in a converted auto garage in the Bywater community, Parleaux’s namesake is a play on the words ‘by’ and ‘water’ and this new brewery local craft beer scene is creating some funky beers that mirror the creative and exciting spirit of the city. At Parleaux, beer drinkers can try everything from a big-bodied Rye IPA, to a “Grassy Kölsch” made with lemongrass plucked from the brewery’s garden. Choose from plenty of low-ABV, refreshing beers to quench your thirst while you soak up the hot Louisiana sun on the brewery’s bright and spacious patio. From there, follow the Mississippi River as it snakes south for stops at Brieux Carré Brewing Co., the Courtyard Brewery and Urban South Brewery. All three are earning high praise from the New Orleans craft beer community. At Brieux, though small and just barely on the heels of celebrating one year in business, the brewery has already become a destination for craft beer drinkers — thanks to a menu of clean and tasty beers that run the gamut. On tap, you’ll find a few selections of saisons, a healthy offering of hopped-up styles and a handful of darker brews. But if IPAs are your jam, this is the place for you. Brieux is making some big, bold hoppy beers, and craft beer drinkers can’t get enough of them. Down the road at the Courtyard Brewery, you’ll find a rustic taproom full of color and a wide selection of draft beer. Choose from 30 different rotating taps featuring a pretty even mix of house-made brews as well as guest taps from some of the best breweries in the country. Finally, make your way to Urban South — a fast-growing brewery specializing in lagers and IPAs. The draft list here is composed of every kind of beer that you crave when it’s blazing hot outside. Order up a pint and post up in the sprawling dog and kid-friendly warehouse-style taproom complete with arcade games and food trucks. But before your craft beer journey is over, be sure to save time for a visit to Mid-City to check out Second Line Brewing. Aside from killer beers on tap, Second Line has all kind of fun energy and events going on throughout the week, like live jazz music and N’awlins style crawfish boils in the taproom.

Getting Around Town

With a big boom in craft breweries taking place in New Orleans, so too has the growth in beer tourism. Craft beer drinkers can book a ride with The NOLA Brew Bus, which offers a handful of public and private tours on an eccentric party bus that includes stops at multiple breweries throughout the city. A ticket to ride on the 3+ hour public tour will run you $65 and includes stops at three locations and a total of six beers. Tours are available seven days a week. Or reserve your spot on the New Orleans Brews Cruise — a similar operation with stops at three different NOLA breweries. Tickets are $60 per person and include multiple tasters at each stop, snacks and water for the ride, and cold storage for any beer purchases that you’ll inevitably want to make as you explore delicious and exciting craft beer taking over the city of New Orleans.



Man this year has flown by fast. It’s hard to believe that the best eating holidays are just around the corner and it’s once again time to get serious about planning out the perfect pairings for your holiday table, because nothing pairs better with the holiday season than beer. And we’re not just talking any old beer. Some of the best breweries in the country are making some spectacular holiday-inspired brews, and they’re just the thing you need to elevate your big feast. From traditional classically spiced ales to hop-forward offerings, check out these ten holiday beers to stock up on this season and start planning out this year’s holiday menu.



Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA

Sierra Nevada’s beloved holiday ale boasts roots that date back to 1981 when the American-style IPA was first brewed. For a beer that celebrates tradition, it’s anything but traditional. Made with fresh hops, this holiday ale is citrusy and piney and pairs nicely with some of the main dishes on your holiday table, proving that holiday-inspired beers are not strictly dark and spicy.

ABV: 6.8 percent
Pair it With: With that beautiful and slightly fatty roasted turkey on your Thanksgiving or Christmas table.

Ninkasi Brewing Company Sleigh’r

Winning at the game of naming beers, Sleigh’r is Oregon-based Ninkasi Brewing Company’s take on a holiday-inspired brew. Anchored with deep toasted flavors from a combination of roasted barley and chocolate malts, this Winter Ale achieves some serious balance with the addition of Nugget hops that add a pleasant bitterness to the crisp ale.

ABV: 7.2 percent
Pair it With: Sweet potatoes or rich chocolate desserts.

Port Brewing Company Santa’s Little Helper

One sip of Port Brewing Company’s Santa’s Little Helper, and you’ll have cheeks that rival Santa’s rosy glow. At 10 percent ABV, this Imperial Stout is a whopper. Brimming with warming boozy notes and a combination of rich dark cocoa and roasty coffee flavors, this holiday brew can be counted on to get the conversation started at the dinner table.

ABV: 10 percent
Pair it With: Sugar cookies and uncomfortable family dinners.

Boulevard Brewing Company Nutcracker Winter Warmer Ale

The Nutcracker Winter Warmer is a hearty beer that can hold up to hearty dishes, like rich mashed potatoes, wild game entrees and thick caramel or chocolate treats. With a spice-forward profile rounded out with floral notes, the Winter Warmer’s big flavors will cut through and complement a good number of dishes on your festive holiday table.

ABV: 7.8 percent
Pair it With: Carmel dishes, rich chocolate dessert, wild game.

Upslope Brewing Company Christmas Ale

Cracking open a can of Upslope’s Christmas Ale is like cracking open a can of Christmas morning, thanks to a pungent spicy aroma created from an Abbey Ale Yeast that wafts up to meet your nose upon opening. A rich malty sweetness and subtle notes of dried fruit balance out the spicy notes in this beer, making it an excellent, highly pairable beer for your dinner table.

ABV: 8.2 percent
Pair it With: Chestnuts on an open fire and Christmas morning activities.

Southern Tier Brewing Company Salted Caramel Stout

If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “this beer is too sweet for me,” Souther Tier’s Salted Caramel Stout might not be for you, and that’s okay, because that means there’s more for me. This Imperial Milk Stout is the epitome of a dessert beer with it’s bold sweet caramel and toffee flavors softened slightly by the addition of Himalayan pink salt. Don’t bother baking this year. Just serve this beer instead.

ABV: 10 percent
Pair it With: A rich figgy pudding or serve it on its own.

Deschutes Brewery Jubelale

It just isn’t the holidays until someone breaks open a six pack of Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale. This craft beer is synonymous with the holiday season for craft beer lovers, and rightfully so. This winter ale is oozing with warm spice notes, hints of toffee and cocoa and dried fruit crafted from a combination of Bravo, Cascade, Delta, US Tettnang, and East Kent Goldings hops.

ABV: 6.7 percent
Pair it With: A sweet fruit-forward dessert, outdoor winter activities, and that sweet itchy sweater your mom bought you.

Rogue Ales & Spirits Santa’s Private Reserve Ale

Forget the delicate blend of spices and roasted malts, Rogue doesn’t have time for that. Instead, they’ve created the mother of all holiday beers in true Rogue fashion — by brewing up a Belgian Strong Ale that even the real Santa has endorsed. What makes this complex beer a lovely option for the holiday table is the beautiful cherries and raspberries that combine with sweet Belgian candi sugar to create a delicious slightly sweet, slightly tart, full-flavored beer.

ABV: 7.8 percent
Pair it With: Those healthy brussel sprouts that you loaded up with chunks of crispy bacon.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Winter Ale

When it comes to holiday beers, it doesn’t get more classic than Alaskan Brewing Company’s Winter Ale. This beer has been a staple during the holidays since 2000. An English Olde Ale, Alaskan’s Winter Ale is malt-forward and made with spruce tips which gives this traditional holiday ale nice crisp warming flavors to enjoy around the table.

ABV: 6.4 percent
Pair it With: Your main dish if it’s a roasted turkey, lamb or goose, or serve it alongside a warm apple pie.

New Belgium Accumulation

If heavy porters and Imperial Stouts aren’t quite your thing, grab a sixer of New Belgium’s Accumulation White IPA. At 55 IBUs, the strong blend of Centennial, Nugget, Mosaic and Amarillo hops in this bitter IPA is rounded out with a bright and fruity ale yeast and wheat malts. This light-bodied flavorful brew is a great option if your holiday table is filled with hop-heads.

ABV: 6.2 percent
Pair it With: Oysters. Pairing this beer with briny seafood is like squeezing fresh lemon to bring out the full flavors in the dish.



Here we go again. Another day, another beloved brewery is breaking hearts in the craft beer community by relinquishing full ownership of their business. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, Colorado-based Avery Brewing Company sold a 30 percent stake in its brewery to Mahou San Miguel, a Spanish brewing conglomerate that also quietly acquired a 30 percent stake in Founders Brewing Company in 2014. The news came as quite a shock to devout Avery fans who can’t get enough of the brewery’s barrel-aged flavor bombs that constantly push the boundaries of ABV percentages. But at the end of the day, the news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering that one of the most consistent trends in the craft beer industry over the past five years is news of bombshell buyouts of mid-size regional breweries following spendy expansions.



Citing exciting growth and expansion opportunities for the brand, Breckenridge Brewery sold out to Anheuser-Busch’s “High End” at the tail end of 2015, just months after the brewery opened the doors to a brand new $35 million, 85,000 square foot brewery located on 12 acres in Littleton, Colorado. When North Carolina-based Wicked Weed Brewing announced their sale to AB-InBev in May of 2017, the craft brewery, who initially entered the market in 2012, had quickly grown to include four facilities in Asheville, one of which a 40,000 square foot, 50 barrel production brewery that opened in July of 2015. When Lagunitas sold a 50 percent stake in the brewery to Heineken International in the summer of 2017, the deal came just three years after the brewery signed a lease to open a second brewery in the city of Chicago, and two years after the announcement of a third brewery location in construction in Azusa, California. Heineken would go on to complete the full buyout of the brand in 2017. In 2011, Boulevard Brewing Company underwent a $3 million dollar expansion of its original brewery in Kansas City. In 2013, the popular midwest brewery was acquired by Duvel Moorgat Brewery for an undisclosed amount. Sensing a pattern here? In an always-changing and fast-growing craft beer industry, the regional brewery is feeling the big squeeze. No longer able to enjoy the simplicity of simply being the local taproom, mid-size breweries with a regional or national footprint are feeling the pressure, and that pressure isn’t just coming from outside investors waiting on the sidelines to snatch up the financially wounded — the pressure begins with craft beer drinkers.

As craft beer consumers, we demand a lot from our favorite breweries. We want the freshest and highest quality of beer. We want more options to choose from. We want our breweries to keep up with ludicrous beer trends. And we want them to expand, to distribute the beers we like to drink far and wide so that we can imbibe on our favorite hometown brews across the country and overseas. But we don’t have the same brand loyalty that we did ten years ago, during a time when the breweries we patronized the most were wrapping up meetings with their accountants and lawyers and business advisors and moving forward with multi-million dollar brewery expansions to capitalize on the exponential growth taking place in the industry, that at the time, didn’t show any signs of slowing. When that second boom of craft breweries flooded the market, revenue growth at breweries across the board started to level out, slowing down from triple and double digit growth to something that reflected a much more normal growth rate for any industry — a change that weighed heaviest on the breweries that had stretched beyond their cash flow to expand.

When that time came, Adam Avery and his family-owned brewery had already signed on the dotted line to begin construction on a $27 million brewery. But it wasn’t just any old commercial production facility that Avery set out to build. It was his dream brewery — something he’d been saving and planning for from the space-deprived hodge podge of buildings in the famed alleyway he had been brewing in since opening Avery Brewing Co. with his dad Larry in 1993. Avery finally pulled the trigger and broke ground on his new 67,000 square foot brewery in 2014, and in 2015, he opened the doors to his dream brewery to the public for the first time, and people loved it. Beer drinkers traveled from all over the gawk at the collection of 720-barrel fermenters that make up the facade of the west side of the brewery. Brewers and homebrewers were in awe at the shiny, fancy new brewery’s automated brewing system which increased efficiency in the brewhouse. And curious visitors meandered along a suspended catwalk on educational self-guided tours of the new facility. In addition to making their way onto the list of the top 50 craft breweries in the country, Avery’s new location also came with the space to open a taproom and restaurant onsite, both of which were equipped with 30 different taps.

When the news broke on Tuesday morning that Avery had handed over a 30 percent stake in his longtime dream, the announcement was delivered along with a personal message from Avery to fans of the brewery with a refreshingly transparent take on the deal. Instead of falling back on fumbled words and blanket statements championing the new growth opportunities the partnership would bring, Avery took a moment to acknowledge the cost of the new brewery, and the debt he had acquired to see his dream come to fruition. In a series of interviews in response to the announcement, Avery recognized that the acquisition will allow the brewery to pay off debts incurred while building the new brewery, affirming that the acquired debt was a factor in making the decision to partner with an outside investor, but wasn’t the only factor. In an interview with Brewbound, Avery said, “We didn’t have to do this. It was an unbelievable opportunity. There is a huge debt reduction, and a bunch of cash to the balance sheet and quite a large sum of money going to employees,” who he notes will be receiving an “appreciation bonus.” In addition to addressing the reasoning behind the acquisition, Avery also addressed no longer being considered a craft brewery in the eyes of the Brewers Association who defines a craft brewery as “small, independent, and traditional,” defining independent as “less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.”

“As far as the BA’s definition of what ‘craft’ is, I couldn’t disagree more,” said Avery, who added that he didn’t care that the brewery would no longer meet the BA’s definition of a craft brewery.

As of Wednesday evening, Avery’s candid and unwavering responses to the sale have resulted in a flurry of congratulatory messages and genuine questions on the brewery’s Facebook page from Avery drinkers looking to learn more about partnership.

As the dust settles on another shake-up in the craft beer world, one thing is certain, the calm that follows the news of another acquisition won’t last long. The Avery deal certainly won’t be the last breaking story of a buyout in the industry. Hell, it probably won’t even be the last breaking acquisition story of 2017. But as we wait and speculate which brewery will fall next, craft beer consumers should take a moment to reflect on what ‘craft’ means to them and the role we play in the industry. And brewery owners feeling the pressure and looking to alleviate financial woes brought on from costly expansions should also take a moment to think about what ‘craft’ means to their brand, and take a page from Adam Avery’s book: if the time comes to redefine you brewery dream, don’t sugarcoat or downplay your decision. Like the beers you brew, craft beer drinkers are just looking for something clean and non-artificial to swallow, not a watered down version of the truth.



Like all good things, the Great American Beer Festival has come to end, and for some people in the craft beer industry battling a week-long hangover, it’s not a moment too soon. But there was something different about this year’s fest. From the new layout to the downsized booths, the 2017 GABF had a scaled back look lacking its usual drama. But this year’s fest wasn’t without a little drama. Long security lines had both attendees and brewers frustrated this year and quite whispers about breweries who can no longer carry the Brewers Association’s seal of independence could be heard through the steady roar of noise inside of the Colorado Convention Center. But perhaps one of the biggest changes this year was an overhaul of the awards ceremony. From the location, to the stuffy vibe felt by those who made it inside, Saturday morning had a rocky start.



9:15 am: Big security lines begin to form as the groggy crowd of nervous industry members pass through the upgraded security measures the festival took on this year.

9:30 am: Hundreds of rugged-looking industry folks refueled with burritos and coffee outside of the Mile High Ballroom in the Colorado Convention Center — a festival tradition and motivation for brewers to get up before noon on the final day of the fest. The venue change (the awards ceremony is typically held in the Bellco Theater) proved to be a major problem for the Brewers Association. According to a watchful fire marshall, the room filled to capacity before 10 am, leaving a good chunk of brewery representatives stuck outside, watching the awards on a big screen. Some medal-winning breweries barred from entering were unable to make to it the stage to pick up their award and get the coveted celebratory fist bump from Brewers Association and Great American Beer Festival founder, Charlie Papazian.

10:00 am: The awards kicks off with an annual “thank you” speech from longtime festival organizer, Nancy Johnson. Following her speech, Johnson passes the mic to Bob Pease, president of the BA, who after a short cheers to the brewers, launches into an odd, political introduction to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who shares some memories of his time at Wynkoop Brewing Company to a seemingly confused crowd anxious to get the medal portion of the ceremony started. The vibe in the room is stiff, and it feels more like we all inadvertently signed up for a corporate training retreat instead of a beer competition.

10:10 am: The BA’s craft beer program director, Julia Herz, energetically takes the stage and enthusiastically shares some stats (and gives a plug for the organizations seal of independence) with the room. 7,923 beer entries were logged this year by 2,217 breweries in 99 different categories.

10:15 am: Odell Brewing Company picks up the first medal of the day with a bronze in the Pro-Am category — a unique category which pairs up commercial breweries with homebrewers. 105 West Brewing Company from Castle Rock, Colorado picks up silver, and Denver Beer Company picks up gold, giving Colorado it’s first category sweep of the day.

10:31 am: Figueroa Mountain Brewery picks up their first medal — a bronze in the American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast category for their Wrangler Wheat. The brewery would go on to win two more medals, carrying on their success at the fest for a the second year in a row.

10:40 am: Monday Night Brewing from Atlanta, Georgia picks up a bronze medal in the Chocolate Beer category for Tears of My Enemies, giving the still sleepy audience a good chuckle.

11:02 am: Firestone Walker picks up a bronze medal in the German-Style Pilsener category for their Pivo Pilsener. Pivo was flowing all throughout Denver during GABF week as beer drinkers looking to pace themselves for a heavy week of beer drinking were reaching for the light, flavorful brew between sessions.

11:13 am: Colorado-based Wibby Brewing Company steals the show when brewery co-owner and co-founder, Ryan Wibby, drops to one knee while accepting a silver medal in the Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager category to propose to his girlfriend.

12:20 pm: The last medal is handed out and industry people spill back into the main hall where a mellow crowd of some of the best-dressed festival goers of the weekend are kicking off the member’s only session and the second-to-last session of the festival. Unlike previous years, massive crowds didn’t immediately form in front of the medal winners from the awards ceremony. Instead, breweries like Avery Brewing Company, Bells, and Allagash sported long lines. Even though Colorado brought home 38 medals this year, and Wyoming’s Melvin Brewingbrought their shenanigans to the awards stage to pick up hardware twice, the Mountain Region stayed relatively quiet following the ceremony. Instead, the Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic and Southeast regions were bustling hubs of beer drinkers looking to taste the next generation of craft beer. Rising craft beer states like Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas came away big winners.

3 pm: I hit up the Beer Travel section of the fest. For the first time, tourism officials from some major beer regions and up-and-coming craft beer meccas set up booths inside of the fest to lure fans of craft beer into booking their next beercation in one the handful of beer destinations in the section. Although most booths seemed pretty gimmicky with spin the wheel giveaways and hooky souvenirs, this section of the festival stayed relatively busy throughout the entire festival, furthering the rise in travelers using their vacation time to visit their favorite bucket list breweries.

5 pm: The last session begins with most breweries serving up more “sorry, we’re out” sticky notes than actual beers. The craziest session of the fest brings out the “pour me whatever your highest ABV beer is,” and lots of “I’ll take the dark one.” This continues until it’s time to shut it down for the evening, and officially put the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in the books.



Day two of the 2017 Great American Beer Festival is in the books, and once I again, I got caught up in the sour beer styles and farmhouse ales that were flowing from nearly every booth. While the Thursday night session is usually for the more serious beer drinker looking to taste highly sought after brews before they run out, Friday night’s session is all about fun. Couldn’t make it to the fest? Here’s what you missed on day two.



5:30 pm: After spending the morning listening to festival-goers from Thursday evening rant and rave about Scratch Brewing Company, a microbrewery and farm in southern Illinois, I head straight to the Great Lakes section and taste my way through the brewery’s earthy foraging-inspired line-up of beers. Using yeast strains and ingredients harvested on the 80-acre farm the brewery is located on, the line-up of beers included a delicious oak cherry sour, and a ginger root beer with just the right amount of burn.

5:45 pm: I catch up with Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, about the seal of independence that can be found all over the Colorado Convention Center. The BA recently made a big push to help consumers recognize independent craft breweries and educate craft beer drinkers about the effect that a brewery selling out to big beer has on the entire industry. Much like last year, sell-outs and the fight to stay independent dominated a lot of conversations.

6:00 pm: About 15 people walk by wearing different versions of PBR-themed get-ups. And despite his best efforts to blend in, I spot my first Where’s Waldo of the night.

6:15 pm: Employees from Bull & Bush Brewery wearing some seriously sterile all-white costumes and holding handmade signs appear to be picketing their own brewery booth, but I’m informed they’re dressed like lost lab scientists because the ladies like it…

6:30 pm: Continuing my sour crusade, I spot a short line at Karl Strauss and fill my taster glass with the brewery’s Queen of Tarts — a pucker party in my mouth. Aged in American oak barrels with Michigan tart cherries, the Queen of Tarts is excellent beer for fans of the sour styles.

7:00 pm: I spot the coveted cheese table near brewpub row and lose myself in some smooth and creamy goat cheese. If you’re headed to the fest on Saturday night, head to this booth early, and get some free samples of the good stuff. You’ll be happy you did. If you really want to get crazy, head to the Krave jerky booth for a free sample when you’re done.

7:09 pm: Against my better judgement, I can’t resist the urge to just walk by Ass Clown Brewing Company, and head over to strike up a conversation with this North Carolina brewery about how hard naming businesses can be, and the brewery’s Betwixt 2 Berries — a surprisingly balanced kettle sour made with kiwi and strawberry.

7:22 pm: Some poor soul drops his taster glass, but recovers quickly and leaves the scene of the crime before people can figure out who they’re booing.

7:45 pm: A long line starts building at the Cigar City booth, so I head over to see what the buzz is all about. People are going nuts for the Florida-based brewery’s Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and the Life is Like Milk Stout — a hearty sweet stout aged in bourbon barrels.

7:55 pm: I get my first taste of Drake Brewing Company’s 2017 Lusu’s Love Child — a damn tasty collaboration with Bedrock Wine Company. The Flanders red style sour is just the right amount of tart and boasts big fruity notes with a bit of spice.

8:30 pm: I make it to the Beer and Food pavilion just in the nick of time to catch the charcuterie pairing, but the room is so packed, I can’t find a seat. So instead, I head over to the Sip and Sit section of the fest where a crowd has gathered to listen to Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project talk about different types of fermentation and share samples of the Denver-based brewery’s Petite Sour Peach.

9:00 pm: Things are starting to go downhill and I pass a dinosaur who’s struggling to stay upright. Even though the level of drunkeness rises around this time, the crowd tends to thin out a little bit and the lines start to get smaller. Even with the smaller lines, most of the breweries are out of the most popular brews for the day, and only core beers remain.

9:30 pm: Most people are on the move, heading out to one of the many industry parties raging throughout town. The best part of GABF week in Denver, is you don’t have to have a ticket to each session to taste some rad beers and have a good time. Limited releases, specialty brews and iconic beers from all over the country can pretty much be found on tap at any bar or brewpub in town with a draft system.



In it’s 36th year, brewers from across the country and thirsty beer drinkers from across the world, once again descended on the city of Denver to celebrate (and drink a lot of) craft beer at the Great American Beer Festival.



Festival-goers were greeted with blue skies and cool temps on a beautiful Colorado day. While GABF week has been raging since Monday, Thursday marks the official start of the festival, and the streets of Denver became a sea of gnarly beards and flannel, and badge-clad brewery reps trying to overcome hangovers from the night before. Couldn’t make it to the fest this year? Here’s a recap of some of the action of day one.

5:15 pm: Sounds a New Orleans-esque brass band fill the streets around the Colorado Convention Center, thanks to the dude’s at Melvin Brewing Companywho serenaded GABF-goers waiting in the infamously long line to get in with tunes from an energetic band on a flatbed trailer pulled on a loop by a Melvin Sales van. The brewery also stood out in the sprawling mountain region section of the fest where they poured their notoriously big beers from a bright yellow bus blaring music.

5:20 pm: Security was tightened up at this year’s fest, and attendees were met with airport style security that included a stroll through a metal detector and pat downs of all bags. Although a lot of rumblings could be heard in the security line, most attendees didn’t argue with the new measures introduced this year.

5:30 pm: “I smell beer!” The doors open and throngs of beer drinkers make a mad dash into the fest to be the first in lines for some of their favorite breweries, like Russian River, who quickly accumulated a line that snaked back and forth into the already bustling and slightly chaotic aisle. This year’s festival layout was designed differently from last year, and didn’t seem to be met with quite as much success. In past years, some of the larger and more popular breweries could easily be found at the endcaps of each aisle, but this year, breweries seemed to scale back on the money spent on their GABF booth. Many of the big breweries who shelled out some major dollars last year for prime placement in the fest, were tough to find, and mixed in with hardly-decorated brewery booths, which often caused pile-ups of people trying to creatively find new and more efficient ways to create lines in short spaces.

5:45 pm: The bagpipers are back. In a tradition that has spanned many years, the sounds of well-dressed bag pipers marching through the main hall marks the beginning of the festival.

5:49 pm: The bagpipers stop, and genuinely look lost. I don’t blame them. There’s year’s layout is a little tricky to get accustomed to.

5:50 pm: The bagpipers find their way again, and pick up the tunes once more — which is great for me — since the loud sounds from the pipes cover up the noise of my glass dropping on the Convention Center floor — and saving me from the 30 seconds of humiliation that would have followed should anyone of busted me.

6:00 pm: I venture over to the Protect Craft Guilds section for the first time, and am pleasantly surprised to see the several state brewers guild booths manned by the men and women employed by each guild. At the Minnesota booth, cans of Surly lure me in, but it’s the other brews from smaller state breweries unable to attend the fest, like a Rye IPA from Urban Growler — an all female-run brewery—that really impress me. If you’re interested in checking out new breweries, and learning more about independent craft beer from each state, brewers guilds are a great resource.

6:12 pm:  I run into my first dinosaur, literally. I politely exchange apologies with the Booze Raptor, and we continue on our way.

6:30 pm: I start my long journey through the three rows of breweries in the Meet the Brewers booth. At a festival that’s known for a huge volunteer base that pour beer in place of brewery representatives at most booths, it’s nice to be able to actually grab a beer from someone who can tell you a little more about it. Several popular breweries landed in this section, which was a generic line of slightly decorated black table cloth-clad tables connected together — until the City Star Brewing booth — which was built to stand out in the towering shape of a country farm barn.

7:22 pm: I swing by the Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales booth and am met with disappointment and a sign saying the brewery is out of beer for the evening.

7:25 pm: Spotting a rare short line at Dogfish Head booth which was casually decorated this year apparently to look like my grandma’s basement, I seize the moment and grab one of the brewery’s delicious and citrusy Flesh & Blood IPAs.

7:30 pm: The Good Bugs: Culinary Flavors of Yeast beer and food pairing kicks off in the Beer and Food pavilion. Led by Jensen Cummings of Brewed Food, the first pairing is three different types of sauerkraut made using yeast and bacteria also found in the three different beer offerings paired with the dish. Breweries like Fremont Brewing, Odd 13 Brewing, and Rhinegiest all brewed beers specifically for this pairing — which showcased a rising trend of breweries using yeast to impart major flavors on their beer.

7:45 pm: I get my first unpleasant whiff of other things “fermenting” at the festival.

8:30 pm: I discover the massage therapists waiting in the wings of the main hall, tempting beer drinkers on a mission with a few minutes of peace and quiet amidst a room full of somewhat organized chaos.

9:00 pm: I get a taste of Allagash Brewing Co.’ s Fluxus 2017 — an anniversary beer the brewery recreates each year. This year’s version is a mixed-fermentation saison brewed with rhubarb and packed with flavor.



Heading to the Great American Beer Festival this year? Check out these insider tips on 5 really rad things that you probably didn’t know you could find inside of the fest.


It’s that time of year again. Time to bust out your lederhosen, dust off that half-eaten pretzel necklace stashed in the pocket, and dip into your kids’ college funds so that you can drop a boatload of money to make the pilgrimage to the Great American Beer Festival — the World Series of beer drinking. But if you think this iconic beer fest, which is currently in its 36th year of destroying livers in the state of Colorado, is all high-ABV beers and humiliating people with butterfingers, you’ve got another thing coming this year. Prepare yourself for one hell of a beer fest this October by studying up on these five awesome things you probably didn’t know you could find at the Great American Beer Festival.

Free Food. This is not a joke. You shelled out a couple hundred bucks for a flight to Denver, a pretty penny on lodging for the weekend, and $85 on a coveted ticket into the festival, but did you know that once you make it into the fest, you can give your busted wallet a break? It’s the truth. If you know where to find it, there’s free food all over the Colorado Convention Center during GABF. For starters, there’s a table filled with cheese gloriously mixed into the sea of brewery booths. No strings attached. Just a magnificent spread of complimentary cheese. Turns out, October is American Cheese Month, and the American Cheese Society celebrates every year by serving a massive spread of artisan cheese from cheesemakers and producers across the country at the Great American Beer Festival. You can find this little slice of cheese heaven near the karaoke stage at the back of the festival hall, but be sure to hit this table early on in the evening. Free cheese tends to go quickly in a sprawling event hall full of beer drinkers. Samples of free cheese not enough for you? Then you should hang out in the Beer & Food Pavilion. Here you’ll find expert pairings from chefs and brewers, as well as demonstrations on how to create your own pairings. An ice cream social, charcuterie spreads, slow food and beers from Mexico — you’ll find it all, at no cost, all three days of the fest. Keep this link to the Beer & Food Pavilion’s schedule handy, and take a break from waiting in line to slam taster pours to enjoy some killer food paired with exceptional beer.

Short Lines. This also is not a joke. The Protect Craft Guilds Pavilion is one of the festival’s underutilized areas, and not only will you find shorter lines here, but you’ll also be supporting independently-owned craft breweries and get to sample 178 beers from breweries that are members of 19 different state brewers guilds from across the country. Learn what makes the craft beer scenes in states like Vermont, Michigan, Florida, and Minnesota unique. The best part of this pavilion (aside from promoting independent breweries) is that you’ll have the opportunity to sample brews from up-and-coming breweries not attending the fest this year. Want to learn more about the conversation of why independence is important to the craft beer industry? Don’t miss the Why Independence Matters featured panel on October 6 at 8:30 pm in the Brewers Studio Pavilion to hear from some of the biggest names in independent craft beer speak about what the future holds for independent craft breweries.

You Could Win a Golden Ticket to Have a Private Beer Tasting Tour of GABF. Ever dreamt  of drinking beer with brewery celebrities like Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker, Garret Oliver from The Brooklyn Brewery, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Vinne Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing Co. and Rob Tod from Allagash Brewing Company? Well your dreams could just come true this year. Prior to each evening session, two of these celebrated brewery owners will pluck one lucky GABF attendee and their crew from the entry line inside of Hall A for a private tour of the festival before the doors even open. Dress to impress and be on your wildest behavior, and you just might win the golden ticket.

Hardware Hall of Fame. Yep. The Brewers Association went there this year. They rounded up a variety of 2015 Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup winning brews, and they’re pouring them all from one booth. Try some of the most decorated beers created in recent history at this year’s Heavy Medal booth, located in Hall B near Section Y.

Karaoke. Go big or go home, right? What pairs better with copious amounts of alcohol than a karaoke stage? Find this genius festival entertainment in The Backyard section of GABF, along with live music, yard games, and apparently a DJ named Brian.

Get the full schedule of events and a map of the fest at, or better yet, join the 21st century and download the app…



Are you ready for some football? Football fans have been impatiently waiting for the NFL season to return since, well basically since the last season ended. And the wait is finally over. Regular season kicks off next week, and even though 3.2 beer reigns supreme in the world of hail Mary’s and pigskins, there’s still plenty of great beer to be found at craft breweries near stadiums across the country. Check out these nine taprooms that are the perfect place for craft beer aficionados the pregame at this NFL season.

Southern Tier Pittsburgh Taproom

Southern Tier Pittsburgh Taproom

1.) Little Machine — Denver, Colorado

Broncos fans live in the heart of Coors country, but most Denverite’s will reach for a locally-made craft beer over the fizzy yellow stuff any day of the week. If you’re catching a game in Denver, start your game day at Little Machine. Located a stone’s throw from Sports Authority Field at Mile High, this small but innovate brewery opens at 11 a.m. on Sundays, and serves up a handful of delicious beers, like the B.B. Rodriguez Coffee Double Brown, which at 8 percent ABV, might be the only beer you need to get the party started.

2.) Hinterland Brewing Co. — Green Bay, Wisconsin

The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin lives and dies by the Green Bay Packers (literally—one of the only ways to get season tickets to watch this team is to inherit them from a deceased family member). If a trip to iconic Lambeau Field is on your bucket list this season, Hinterland Brewery is the go-to place to pregame with a cold craft beer. The brewery recently opened a spacious and inviting location across the street from Lambeau. Hinterland’s line-up of beer is on point, and instead of bland game day food, the brewery’s restaurant offers up an elevated menu of delicious gameday favorites. And if that isn’t awesome enough, special gameday liquor laws allow football fans to grab a to-go cup full of their favorite Hinterland beer from the brewery, and take it across the street to their tailgating site.

3.) Vice District Brewing Co. — Chicago, Illinois

While not quite in stumbling distance from Solider Field, Vice District Brewing Company is close enough, and one of the best places to grab beer before cheering on da Bears. The large taproom is a great place for you and your jersey-clad friends to grab one of Vice District’s signature unfiltered, unpasteurized beers — like the Cluster? Damn Near Killed Her! Imperial IPA. At 8.4 percent ABV, this smooth and tasty beer will warm you up in the winter before making the short trek over to Solider Field.

4.) Cigar City Brewing Company — Tampa Bay, Florida

You’ll most likely have to grab a Lyft or rally a designated driver to make your way to Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium from the Cigar City taproom, but savoring a hoppy Jai Alai IPA before catching a Buccaneers game makes it all worth it. If you’d rather pregame in a parking lot with hundreds of strangers, that’s cool, too. Just swing by the iconic brewery and fill a super-portable Crowler with as much Cigar City goodness as you need to make your neighboring Budweiser-drinking tailgaters super jealous before heading into the game.

5.) Southern Tier Brewing Co. — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pumpkin beers and football are two of the best things about the fall season, and you can find both at Southern Tier’s Pittsburgh brewpub. Well within stumbling distance to Heinz Field, this brewpub is basically the place to be and be seen before a Steelers game. For starters, it’s huge. Which is why it’s the perfect spot to pregame with your posse. On tap, you can take your pick from 30 Southern Tier and Victory Brewing Company handcrafted beers. And be sure to fill up your stomach with a mouth-watering plate of BBQ pork nachos, or a delicious burger.

6.) Tow Yard Brewing Company — Indianapolis, Indiana

A few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, craft beer drinkers and Andrew Luck fans will find Tow Yard Brewing Company — a brewery and deli housed in a beautiful industrial building. Start your pregame with the brewery’s Impound IPA, a popular American IPA hopped up with Apollo, Columbus and Crystal hops. And finish off your visit with some beer can wings, loaded waffle fries, or one of the $10 burgers found on the deli menu.

7.) The Unknown Brewing Company — Charlotte, North Carolina

Headed to a Carolina Panthers game this season? Start your game day on the beautiful outdoor patio at The Unknown Brewing Company. This N.C. brewery has a long list of fresh brews on tap, including a Pregame Session Ale, which at 4.25 percent ABV, you can (almost) drink all day. Every Sunday, Unknown also releases a limited-release small batch brew — so craft beer aficionados can geek out on beer before painting their faces and taking their foam fingers into Bank of America Stadium.

8.) Day Block Brewing Company — Minneapolis, Minnesota

In Minnesota, drinking beer is just as beloved of a pastime as watching the Vikings. For the ultimate craft beer pregaming near U.S. Bank Stadium, head to the Day Block Brewing Company, located a mere two blocks from the stadium. In addition to a lunch, dinner, and killer Sunday brunch menu, Day Block also serves flights of house-cured bacon… Grab a flight and wash it down with a Stadium Blonde Ale before throwing on your Viking horns and heading into the game.

9.) Intuition Ale Works — Jacksonville, Florida

A short jaunt from the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium, is Intuition Ale Works — a brewery specializing in flavorful small batch brews. This place has a little bit of something for everyone, including a hard cider for that one friend in your group who’s gluten-free. Beer drinkers can sip on beers like the Liver Kick Imperial Black Ale, the SMaSH Tart Saison, or if you’re trying to pace yourself, the Easy on the Eyes Session Ale. Intuition’s kitchen is also serving up plenty of calorie-packed dishes, like fried pickles and pork rind nachos, to balance out your beer-drinking.



Is Colorado’s craft beer scene oversaturated? It’s a question that’s been on the tip of a lot of tongues in the Centennial State recently. With 334 craft breweriescurrently operating within Colorado, and nearly 200 more in the planning or construction phase, it’s easy to see why the state that ranks third in the U.S. for number of breweries per capita has been under the microscope of the craft beer industry lately. In recent years, Colorado’s craft beer scene has played out like a dramatic soap opera, with a handful of breweries shuttering their doors, others falling prey to Big Beer, and even more struggling to stand out in a place where the average beer consumer boasts an above-average knowledge of the beverage, and a noncommittal, wanderlust approach to supporting local breweries. When it comes to craft beer, is there such a thing as too many breweries? Will the relentless boom in the state’s craft beer scene bring the entire local brewing industry down? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Colorado brewers are keeping a close eye on the industry’s quickly-changing landscape.


Growing Pains

In 1979, a time when bland fizzy beer was still the norm, two professors at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and the future owners of the Boulder Beer Company, received the 43rd brewing license in the nation, and the first in the state of Colorado. It was a simpler time, and that blissful simplicity would last for nearly two decades before, like the mighty gold rush in the area a century before, the state experienced a massive boom, this time in the name of hop nuggets instead of gold nuggets. The 90s saw the openings of breweries like New Belgium, Left Hand Brewing Co., Avery, Great Divide, Oskar Blues and Twisted Pine Brewing Company — each brewery forging their own path and successfully establishing their brand in the emerging local beer industry before the second boom came rolling in roughly a decade later.

“It was a different time then,” said Eric Wallace, owner and co-founder of Left Hand Brewing Company. Along with co-founder and college buddy, Dick Doore, Wallace opened the doors to the Longmont-based brewery in 1994 with personal capital the duo had raised for their entrepreneurial endeavor. In a time when the craft beer industry was still getting its feet and spending most of its time working to convert and educate Budweiser drinkers, Left Hand blew up. “We had 10 years of double digit growth and we were scrambling to keep up,” said Wallace. “We used cash flow to fund our growth.”

Today, with the popularity of craft beer still at a high, investors have sunk their claws into craft beer, offering an easy beginning to inexperienced homebrewers and business owners looking to break into the industry, and an easy out for breweries facing the consequences of overextended cash flow. With new sources of funding and more accessible capital came an influx of brewery openings, and a change in the overall look of the craft beer scene. The neighborhood tasting room soon had neighboring competition, and breweries used to posting double to triple-digit growth started to see those numbers slow down.

“It’s a rapidly changing industry,” says Brian O’Connell whose brewery, Renegade Brewing Company, opened in 2011 as the ninth brewery in Denver — a city that is now home to nearly 45 craft breweries. “We’re entering more of a normal growth phase. Renegade posted 110 percent growth from 2014-2015 and we’ve posted roughly 40 percent growth in 2015 and 2016. As we become a bigger industry, it’s inevitable that the growth will slow.”

For Bob Baile, owner of Boulder-based Twisted Pine Brewing Company, keeping up with the brewery next door became a tedious and expensive game. As more breweries entered the local market, Baile witnessed big changes in the off-premise business of the industry. With more breweries came more SKUs, less space on the shelves of local liquor stores, and often times, less attention for brands from busy distributors. In response to the new troubles and challenges plaguing Colorado’s busy craft beer industry, Baile opted to halt packaging and distribution altogether in 2016 and focus on a taproom-only model.

“When we got into this, there were five of us in Boulder County, now there’s over 40. We said, why fight it all?” said Baile, whose brewery was producing 5,000 barrels a year at the time. “It turned out to be the best decision that we ever made.” From the outside, Baile’s decision to pull Twisted Pine products from the shelves and stop packaging sent up industry-wide warning flags throughout the state and beyond, but without his finances being tied up in large quantity-orders for bottles and labels, and in managing distributors and marketing Twisted Pine products in states outside of Colorado, Baile’s reaping the overall rewards of reverting back to the friendly neighborhood watering hole. “This decision eliminated a lot of headaches for us,” he said. “Now our focus is on providing the best experience and the freshest beer for our taproom visitors.”

David Vs. Goliath

While longtime breweries are adjusting to the crowded craft beer scene in Colorado, new breweries are working to find their niche in hopes of standing out. “It’s about finding a gap in the market, and finding a market in the gap,” said Zach Nichols, owner of Cellar West Artisan Ales, a young brewery and barrel house making yeast-forward farmhouse ales in the Foothills of Boulder. “I think there’s always going to be room for the neighborhood brewery that makes every style of beer, but you can only have so many of those in each neighborhood.” In 2016, Nichols joined the ranks of a growing number of Colorado craft breweries entering the state’s market with a dream, a business plan, and an understanding that competition with local breweries doesn’t always mean competition with the big dogs. “I don’t think of us as competing with big local breweries like Oskar Blues,” he said. “We’re so different.” As a new, self-funded brewery in the niche market, Nichols has focused his time and direction on staying nimble as a company. “I have no idea what the industry is going to look like in five years,” he said. “When other breweries are setting goals of growing from 20,000 barrels to 35,000 barrels a year, my goal is to be open next year.”

Is Change A Bad Thing?

Ask brewery owners, brewers and representatives of the beer industry in Colorado if they think the state’s craft beer market is oversaturated and you’ll get a mixed bag of emotions and opinions on the topic. Some will call out breweries that are in the industry for the wrong reasons. Others will speculate why local breweries are being courted, and ultimately swallowed up by conglomerates like AB InBev. Most are starting to watch their backs a little more, but hoping that the camaraderie the industry as a whole is know for will continue to define the industry they’ve chosen to dedicate their time and money to. And some recognize the unexpected benefits of a growing number of breweries opening in the state. “With more competition, breweries really have to work more for their business, which is ultimately a good thing,” said O’Connell, who’s seen local breweries become more creative and more strategic in response to the growing scene. “The competition that has come in has elevated all of us.”

So is the overall answer to the question yes? Is Colorado’s craft beer scene oversaturated?

“I don’t think it’s oversaturation at this point,” says Andreas Gil Zaldana, newly minted executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild. “I think what we’re seeing is a deceleration of growth. People are being more strategic about where they’re opening and why.” Time will only tell of Colorado’s crowded craft beer scene will mean more closed breweries and a decline in the overall craft beer economy. But for new breweries wanting to open up shop in the state, Eric Wallace is hoping they heed this message: “Have a plan that matters, and be part of the community. Craft brewing is more than just beer, it’s a community. So if you’re just coming in to copy cat everybody because you’re hoping to get rich — you’re missing the point of this industry.”



Chicago is one heck of a boozy city, there’s no doubt about it. But that isn’t much of a surprise, considering the city’s roots run deep in German and Irish ancestry. It’s a city built on hopes, and dreams—and loose liquor laws. Even Chicago’s main source of transportation, the Metra, allows booze on the train after 7 pm or all day on specific dates during “festival season” which pretty much runs from March to late August… With loads of summertime sunshine, and about a billion-and-one things to do, Chicago is an excellent place to visit this time of year. Take our word for it and check out these tips to turn your Chicago vacation into the ultimate beercation.


Drink + Eat:

With a Heineken-controlled Lagunitas brewery and AB-InBev’s golden child, Goose Island, taking up real estate in Chicago, the city’s craft beer scene often gets a bad rap. But don’t be fooled. There’s still plenty of quality, delicious independent craft beer flowing through the city. Add these stellar breweries to your list of places to visit while beercationing in the Windy City.

Half Acre Beer Company

The Half Acre Beer Company is growing, which is good for everyone because in addition to a production brewery on the north side of town, Half Acre also operates a brewhouse, tap room and kitchen in the charming Lincoln neighborhood—which is serving up fresh pints of the much-loved citrusy, easy-drinking Daisy Cutter Pale Ale along with ridiculously good nachos topped with “science cheese” and pickled carrots, red onions, and jalapeños. Half Acre’s tap room is a short cab ride from downtown and a great place to post up with a laptop, should you need to “get some work done” while you’re traveling.

Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing’s bold approach to craft beer landed them at the number 46 spot on the Brewers Association’s Top 50 Breweries of 2016. Along with six canned core beer offerings, Revolution is also brewing up six beers each year as part of their League of Heroes series—because everyone needs to be saved by a great beer now and then. In addition to the popular League of Heroes series, and the Deep Woods barrel-aged series, this Chicago brewery also cans two high gravity whoppers—the 1ZEnuff Imperial IPA that weighs in at 11 percent ABV, and the Unsessionable Imperial IPA—a 10 percenter made with a flavorful punch of Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, and Galaxy hops.

Two Brothers Artisan Brewing

Celebrating 20 years in the beer business, Two Brothers Brewing’s current motto is “you can buy our beer, but you can’t buy our brewery,” so rest assured that you won’t need to modify your plans when you add this stop to your list of places to visit. For the full Two Brothers package, head the tap house for a hearty Italian Beef sandwich, a pint of the brewery’s anniversary brew— theTwenty-Plus Pilsner Lager made with German and Czech hops—and if it’s Saturday afternoon, a free brewery tour.

Forbidden Root Restaurant and Brewery

One of the new kids on the block, Forbidden Root is a self-proclaimed botanical brewery that opened it’s doors in the city’s West Town in early 2016. Inspired by nature, Forbidden Root’s line-up of brews include the recently-released Money on My Rind Wheat Ale made with juniper and grapefruit, a balanced Fernetic Imperial Black Ale brewed with a crazy list of ingredients including: rhubarb root, peppermint, saffron, wormwood and star anise, and the Smoochie Boochies, a fruity, hazy unfiltered Double IPA that rings in at 8 percent ABV. Pair one of their earthy beers with a tasty dish from the brunch menu, lunch menu, or all-day menu which is served until 10 pm.

Hopleaf Bar

In 2016, the legendary Hopleaf Bar earned one of Michelin’s prestigious Bib Gourmand awards, which are given to restaurants offering “exceptional good food at moderate prices.” Add in a two-page rotating beer menu featuring the best of the best from breweries like Jolly Pumpkin, Allagash, Blackberry Farms, Perennial and more, and this place is a must-visit while exploring Chicago.


Keep the craft beer flowing throughout your trip by booking a room at the Fairmount Hotel in downtown Chicago. This luxury hotel is the home of Columbus Tap—a tap house offering a midwestern-focused food menu that highlights seasonal ingredients, and a beer list that showcases the crème de la crème of local craft beer. Choose from one of 16 different taps which include two nitro taps, and explore the local and regional beer scene without ever leaving your hotel.


Turn those classic “touristy” Chicago activities into craft beer-filled fun.

Wrigley Field

It’s not a trip to Chicago in the summertime without catching a game at Wrigley Field—especially now that the lovable Cubbies are the reigning World Series champions. Inside of the park, you’re more likely to find tall boys of Old Style than you are a quality craft beer, but the Wrigleyville neighborhood is home to a handful of surprisingly excellent bars that boast the perfect blend of dive bar and killer craft beer bar. If you plan on catching a game, start your day with a tour of the historic field that includes a stroll throughout Wrigley and ends on the field—I repeat—ends standing on Wrigley Field. Game day tours are $25 per person and start at 9 am, which means you’ll have a few hours to explore the eccentric, booze-filled neighborhood that is Wrigleyville. Located just beyond the deep right center field wall, Murphy’s Bleachers sports bar has been a game day institution for more than 80 years. While this beer joint has a charming dive bar feel, it has 11 beers on draft, which often includes a rotating seasonal from the infamous 3 Floyd’s Brewing Company, which is located roughly an hour outside of the city. murphysbleachers.comSlightly off the beaten path, but still within stumbling distance of Wrigley Field, is Guthries Tavern—a funky, homey joint that offers 75 craft beers on draft from a slew of the best breweries in the country, like Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing Co. Founders, Desthil and more. This craft beer mecca always has draft and bottle specials up for grab, and serves a straight-forward bar food menu that will keep you honest while hydrating yourself with craft beer all day.

Bobby’s Bikes and Hikes

Combine those stereotypical travel must-do’s in town into one fun day from the seat of a bike. Bobby’s Bike Hike is a guide company offering up a wide selection of guided tours of the city, but if you’re looking to sip on some craft beer along the way, check out the Bikes, Bites & Brews Tour. From the seat of a bicycle, over the course of four hours, you’ll cruise through the city, munching on deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and sipping on local craft brews. Plus you’ll ride past a lot of the city’s touristy destinations, and if you’re lucky, end along the shores of Lake Michigan, where you can snap that perfect “Wish You Were Here” shot to smear in the faces of all of your social media friends. Pricing starts at $60.50 per person.



It’s summertime and the living is easy. Warm weather means it’s time to clean off the grill, break out the good brews, and gather together with friends. When it comes to preparing the perfect backyard BBQ menu, take a page from some of the top brewmasters and brewpub chefs in the country with these six beer-iffic summer BBQ dishes.

Roy’s Ribs – Recipe by Taylor A. Smith, Executive Chef of Drake’s Dealership by Drake’s Brewing Co.

Roy’s Ribs – Recipe by Taylor A. Smith, Executive Chef of Drake’s Dealership by Drake’s Brewing Co.

Beer Can Chicken

Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO

4 Whole 2.5-3.5 lb Chickens
6 Tablespoons of Rog’s Rub
2 Oranges Cut in Half
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Thyme
4 Cans of Dale’s Pale Ale
1 Cup of Favorite BBQ Sauce
4 Tablespoons Salt

1.) Clean chicken thoroughly.
2.) Place a half of orange in each chicken.
3.) Rub with thyme and salt.
4.) Place whole chicken in large container and marinate with 3 cans of beer overnight. Be sure to turn them if the beer does not cover them totally.
5.) Drink the fourth can of beer.
6.) Pull chickens out of beer marinade (do not drink!) and rub with Rog’s Rub.
7.) In a smoker or using an indirect cooking technique, place whole chickens, breast meat up, and cook at 250 degrees for 2.5 hours.
8.) Lightly brush on BBQ sauce and continue cooking for 1 hour. Skin should be sweet and crispy.

Brewmaster Burgers

Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York

2 lbs of Freshly Ground Beef (Chuck)
1 Medium Yellow Onion
3 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
2/3 Cup of Robust Red Wine
1/2 Stick Salted Butter, chilled
2 Teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper (Coarse)
1/4 lb Gruyere or Swiss Cheese, Freshly Grated
Slice Tomatoes
4 Large Onion Rolls, Sliced and Toasted on the Inside
Olive Oil

1.) Chop the onion finely. Using a sharp knife, cut the butter into small pea-sized pieces (the butter has to be cold, or you’ll have a hard time doing this.) Wash your hands, because you’re about to get busy.
2.) Put the chopped beef into a large bowl. Add in the onion and the wine. Using your hands, knead the wine and onion into the meat until fully incorporated. Add the butter chips, the cumin, and the pepper, and knead further until the butter looks well-distributed. Add salt to taste, knead it in, and form the meat into four even-sized patties.
3.) If you’re going to cook the burgers on the stove, then use a hot cast iron skillet, coast lightly with olive oil (you can use peanut oil if you’re worried about smoke from the pan) and add the patties. Cook the burgers to your preferred temperature using medium heat.
4.) If you’re grilling the burgers, coat the grill with the olive oil and grill over hot coals. In either case, when the burgers seem a minute or two from being done, add the grated cheese on top and cover for the final minute of cooking.
5.) Remove from heat, and build your burger with onion rolls, tomato and condiments.

Roy’s Ribs

Recipe by Taylor A. Smith, Executive Chef of Drake’s Dealership by Drake’s Brewing Co.

2 Full Racks of St. Louis Ribs
1 22 ounce Drake’s Drakonic Imperial Stout (plus several more to drink)
1 Bottle of Your Favorite BBQ Sauce or 24 ounces of your own recipe

For the Rub

1 Cup White Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 Teaspoon Pink Curing Salt (optional)
1 Cup Hungarian Paprika
1 Tablespoon Dark Chili Powder
1 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1 1/2 Teaspoon of Coriander
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Mustard Powder

Makes about 4 cups. Combine all ingredients either by sifting together, or pulsing in a food processor. Set aside 1 cup for finishing.

For the Ribs

Wrap ribs in plastic loosely (the wrap will shrink while ribs cook), then make an envelope out of foil by pulling out a length greater than twice that of the ribs. Place the ribs on one side and fold over. Leave 4-6 inches of space at the opening as you will need it later to pour out drippings. Make sure all seams are crimped well and sealed. Allow ribs to rest in the refrigerator 18-24 hours. Remove from fridge 1-2 hours before cooking. Preheat oven to 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Cook ribs 3-4 hours on a sheet pan (on middle rack in the oven). Check at 3 hours. Carefully open 1 envelope and wiggle a bone. If it feels like it will pull away if tugged, the ribs are done. Don’t be fooled by the idea that the meat should fall from the bone. At this stage, you want to feel like the bone will pull out IF YOU TRY. The ribs are going to continue to cook as they rest. Allow ribs to rest 1 hour before opening packages. Open the end of the envelope and pour out the drippings into a sauce pan.

For the Sauce

Collect as much of the rib juices as you can, and combine it with 1 bomber of Drake’s Drakonic Stout and a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. While the ribs are cooking, reduce the sauce to your desired viscosity.

To Finish the Ribs

Cut the cooled ribs into the desired portion size (I like to serve in 2-3 bone sets). The ribs should be cool, but not chilled. If you are working with cold ribs, warm them through for 4-5 minutes in the oven first. Preheat the broiler, with the rack at the top. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place rib portions on the sheet pan and brush lightly with the sauce. Place under the broiler. DO NOT WALK AWAY OR CLOSE THE DOOR. Caramelize the ribs until nice and charred.

To Serve

Brush the ribs with the sauce again and dust well with the remaining rib space. Serve with heated sauce on the side to dip. To serve from the frill, simply replace the oven steps by charring the ribs on the grill. Finish the same way.

Ellie’s Brown Ale Barbecue Sauce

Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

1/4 Cup Garlic (minced)
1/4 Cup Shallots (minced)
1/2 Cup White Onion (rough dice)
1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Cans of Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale
3/4 Cup of Malt Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Mustard Seed
3/4 Cups of Honey
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cups Ketchup
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard
1/4 Cup Ground Mustard

1.) Sauté onions, garlic, shallots in butter until they are almost burnt.
2.) Add 1.5 cans of Ellie’s Brown Ale and malt vinegar.
3.) Let simmer for about 30 minutes to reduce some of the liquid.
4.) While simmering, drink the other .5 can of Ellie’s Brown Ale.
5.) Add the remaining ingredients.
6.) Let simmer for another 40 minutes.
7.) Allow to cool, then puree in a blender.
8.) Use as a marinade or apply after meat is cooked.

Ale Potato Chips

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR

3 Medium Potatoes, Sliced
1 1/4 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Cornstarch
1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Olive Oil
1 12 ounce Bottle Red Chair NWPA

Mix the flour with the spice, cornstarch and beer to create a batter. Heat the oil in a sauce pot over medium hight heat. Dip the potato slice into the batter and fry in the oil until golden brown. Serve with homemade ketchup and a pint of Red Chair NWPA

Three Philosophers Ultimate Brownies

Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY

5 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
1 Cup Butter
2 Cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 Cup Three Philosophers Reduce to 1/2 Cup
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Flour
Pinch of Salt
1 1/2 Cup Walnut Pieces
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate together. Let Cool. Beat eggs, sugar, beer, and vanilla. Add chocolate/butter mixture, then mix in flour. Fold in walnuts and chocolate bits. Pour in 9” x 12” greased aluminum pan. Bake for 33 minutes at 350 degrees. Check for doneness. Let cool before cutting.



Love them or hate them, the trend of sour beers is far from over. In fact, it’s spawned an uber-popular new niche in the craft beer industry, giving brewers a new outlet to experiment with ingredients and fermentation techniques, and a whole new appreciation for yeast and bacteria…


But what is a sour a beer? The art of intentionally making beers that are sour to the taste can involve many different brewing techniques. It can be done over a long period of time aging in fermentation vessels like oak barrels (the traditional method), or over a short period of time (think kettle sours—the new school method). It most likely features some combination of LactobacillusSaccharomycesBrettanomyces, or Pediococcus yeast cultures as part of the ingredients list. Lambic, Gose, and Berliner Weisse are all styles that fall in the family of sour beers, but it’s American-style sours and wild and spontaneous ales that are currently all the rage throughout brewhouses in the U.S.—mostly due to the fact that the rules of these styles of beer are still being written. It was somewhere in the first decade of the twenty-first century, sometime in between the craft beer industry’s over-hopped IPA phase, and the (understandably) subsequent phase of lighter session beers, that the sour trend first emerged. And from the sour trend, some of America’s most iconic brewery’s with some of the most devout and cult-like followers, were born.

Take Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, for example. When owner Ron Jeffries opened up his boutique brewery in 2004 in the very small town of Dexter, Michigan, most of the craft breweries currently operating in the U.S. today were just a twinkle in some homebrewers eye. But over a decade later, Jolly Pumpkin has become a mecca, a sought-out destination for people that enjoy a complex, flavorful sour beer. The insane popularity of Jolly Pumpkin has catapulted Jeffries to celebrity status in the industry, and has enabled the famed brewer to open additional brewpub locations in Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Detroit—solidifying a steady future for sour beers—at least in the state of Michigan.

In Oregon, Portland-based Cascade Brewing, an award-winning brewery and barrel house, the concept of sour beers came along more by default and less by intention. Originally founded in 1998, Cascade set out to make traditional ales, but the hopped-up pale ale and IPA craze left owner Art Larrance and brewmaster Ron Gansberg searching for something different. The proximity of wine country left the two pondering the process of barrel aging, and in 2007, the brewery started their journey to becoming one of the leading producers of sour beers in the U.S. The brewery’s huge barrel house features roughly 1,400 French oak, Kentucky Bourbon, and Northwest wine barrels. Discovering and mastering the sour trend gave Cascade the momentum to open a production facility, barrel house, 23,000 square-foot blending house and distribution center, and a restaurant in southwest Portland.

The Pacific Northwest has become a hub for sour beer production, and not by accident. Wine country is full of wine barrels, just waiting to be filled with beer. In Berkley, California, The Rare Barrel opened their doors in 2013, offering only oak barrel-aged sour beers. Self-proclaimed “sour-heads”, the folks behind The Rare Barrel host periodic search parties, allowing an enthusiastic team of craft beer fans to taste their way through the brewery’s barrel house in search of the best rare barrel to make available to the public. Though relatively new to the sour scene, the Rare Barrel continues to make waves throughout the industry, and with beers like Apropos of Nothing—a golden sour aged with elderberries and lavender and a 2015 GABF medal winner—it’s easy to taste why.

And the movement is moving. Down through the state of California, where places like The Bruery and Lost Abbey have become the poster children for sour beers. Perhaps the most industry-celebrated brewery in the sour beer niche is The Bruery, which took the craft beer world and awards ceremonies by storm when they opened their “boutique” craft brewery in Orange County in 2008. With a huge barrel-aging program and vision based on experimental ales, The Bruery’s unique approach to craft beer has earned them eight medals at the Great American Beer Festival in the past seven years. In southern California, Vince Marsaglia of Port Brewing believed in traditional “lost” abbey-style beers and the wonders of barrel aging so much, that he opened Lost Abbey in 2006. Aptly named for multiple reasons, Lost Abbey’s Framboise de Amorosa Barrel-Aged Raspberry Sour will make you believe in heaven. Only a year after opening, back in the early days of the sour movement, Lost Abbey picked up the Small Brewery of the Year award at the Great American Beer Festival, a symbol of what the sour beer trend would become. Lesser known, but gaining steam in their home state of California and beyond, is Sante Adairius Rustic Ales—a small brewery celebrated for their wine barrel-aged beers and yeast and bacteria experimentation. The brewery’s rustic ales are filled with natural ingredients and are created as an ode to traditional Belgian brewing.  Tucked away, north of Los Angeles, Jim Crooks and Jeffers Richardson are making amazing wine barrel aged sour ales at the Buellton BarrelWorks facility.  BarrelWorks is a must stop regardless of which direction you are headed.

The state of Colorado has also become a sour hub, thanks to one of the most well-known sour beer brewers in the entire craft beer industry. The Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project stole the sour beer spotlight in 2010 when owner, Chad Yakobson, opened a small operation focused on creating unique, sour tasting beers using traditional aging methods. Just sours. Nothing more, nothing less. Yakobson, who literally has a masters degree in yeast, originally started working on his concept of sour and wild ales by contracting out brewing space at another Denver brewery. From there, Yakobson continued working on his dream, creating only sour beers and building a name for himself, not just in the sour world, but in the always-expanding world of craft beer as well. Today, Yakobson’s success includes a shiny brewhouse complete with a coolship—an old-school piece of brewing equipment that naturally cools down wort—and a bustling distribution business that features a diverse portfolio that includes Melvin Brewing Co. and Blackberry Farms—a Tennessee brewery that specializes in farmhouse ales. Crooked Stave’s unique approach has also spread throughout Colorado, and today, several breweries in the Centennial State have emerged as stand-outs in the craft of sours, like Casey Blending and Brewing, Funkwerks, and Black Project Spontaneous Wild Ales. And when the booming and growing craft beer industry caught up to Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, sparking stunted growth for the brewery’s iconic Fat Tire Amber Ale, New Belgium turned to their barrels to breathe new life into their brand. 2015 saw the brewery focus on the release the Lips of Faith series—a series of speciality sour and barrel-aged brews including La Folie—a sour brown ale that has reignited a new generation of New Belgium patrons.

One of the most elusive players in the sour beer movement is also one of the most well known. Jester King, located in  Austin, Texas, has been creating mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation beers since 2011, highlighting natural ingredients found on and around their 200- acre farm. Ever been to a beer festival where Jester King was pouring? Then I’m sure you understand how worth it standing in that massive line to their booth was. Although Jester King beers are some of the most sought after beers in the sour trend, the brewery only produces 1,500 barrels of beer each year, which means if you happen to track one down, you should buy it, immediately.

One of the latest shining stars in the sour beer movement is Corey King and his brewery, Side Project Brewing. This St. Louis brewery has been rocking and rolling since 2014, slowly gaining recognition for it’s line-up made up of 100% barrel-aged beers. In it’s first two years, Side Project gained enough momentum that at the end of 2016, Corey and his wife Karen King were able to open their first tasting room inside of the brewery digs.

And although both Russian River and Wicked Weed specialize in beers outside of the sours, (cough, cough—Pliny), both breweries are making some of the most beloved sour beers on the market. Supplication, Consecration, Sanctification—Russian River plays on their winery past to create delicious barrel-aged sours to go along with their long list of other award-winning and respected brews. And Wicked Weed’s love of experimenting with funky flavors inspired the brewery to open a second brewing facility called the Funkatorium, where they’re brewing up all of their funky and barrel-aged beers and serving them to lucky visitors to the Funkatorium’s taproom.

So no, the sour beer movement isn’t over. With massive growth taking place at sour beer-specific breweries all over the country, it’s clear that the movement is just getting started. At the 2017 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony, it was announced that the American-Style Sour Ale category had received 142 entries—proof that the trend of sour beers has solidified it’s place in craft beer. Breweries like Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado are rapidly expanding their barrel-aging programs and even throwing massive sell-out sour beer festivals. Not on board with the sour beer movement yet? Not sure about beers that will make you pucker up and are described with words like funky and tart? Then grab a bottle from one of the breweries above. As the sour beer trend continues to grow and settle in, more and more breweries are dabbling in sour beers—and they’re doing ‘em up right.



In 2011, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev) began a shopping spree that would go on to include the acquisition of one of its biggest competitors (SABMiller) plus eight of some of the fastest-growing microbreweries in the United States—sparking major unrest and a new dialogue about the pressures of “big beer” throughout the craft beer industry. Today, the lure of big beer is as prevalent as ever, with stories of acquisitions featuring some of America’s craft brewery darlings dominating social media and plastered across headlines of newspapers and beer publications far and wide. A divide is growing in the industry, and the platform where the independent craft breweries stand is getting smaller and smaller everyday.


Stone Brewing Co. Lead Brewer Jeremy Moynier

Stone Brewing Co. Lead Brewer Jeremy Moynier

But at the end of the day, breweries turning over the reigns to conglomerates like ABInBev and Constellation Brands are walking away with some serious cash. San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing—the makers of the iconic Sculpin Grapefruit IPA—agreed to a $1 billion deal with Constellation Brands after more than two decades of business. That’s a hell of a lot of zeros on a check cut to a couple of guys who honed their brewing skills in their college apartment. The reality is, brewery owner is a flashy way to say entrepreneur, and in the end, entrepreneurs are in business to make money. It’s why they venture down the stressful, long hour-filled rabbit hole that is owning a business—and a crazy one like a craft brewery at that. But with more than 4,000 craft breweries operating in the U.S. today, what does it mean for the industry as a whole when one of the clan sells to big beer? In a 2015 interview with Forbes Magazine, Meg Gill, co-owner of AB-InBev-acquired Golden Road Brewing spoke about the benefits of selling her business to big beer.

“In current markets, we will have thousands more retailers over night and hundreds of new sales people introducing our brands,” said Gill, also citing new marketing resources and access to new ingredients as pluses in the positive column of the deal. Overnight, six packs of Point The Way IPA found themselves in better placements on more shelves in liquor stores across the country. With retail shelf space already crammed and the quest to gain more draft handles becoming more competitive, the independent little guys are getting bumped farther down in the cooler, and on the totem pole, every time a craft brewery is acquired by big beer. Start-up breweries and small independent breweries have limited resources in the sales and marketing departments, which means every craft brewery backed by big beer is out there right now, cruising along the unleveled playing field, bumping the small neighborhood brewery to the bottom of the shelf—or worse—off of the shelf completely. So what does that mean for the future of the little guys? The craft breweries unwilling to sacrifice their independence for extra zeros after the dollar sign. What does the future of independent craft beer look like?

When Steve and Leslie Kaczeus open the doors to their small brewery in the tiny town of Niwot, Colo. in 2012, they had already maxed out their credit cards, home equity, and life savings to get their longtime dream of owning a brewery—sans outside investors—off of the ground. Determined to stay independent in the middle of a massive craft brewery burst in Colorado, the husband and wife owners of Bootstrap Brewing Company got scrappy—leveraging knowledge, ingredients, equipment, staff and other resources from any local brewery willing to help for a reasonable price. Innovation became a full time job for the Kaczeus’, who sought out like-minded people in the brewing industry, tracking down a business that allowed them to lease kegs instead of buy them, a budget-friendly option that helped get their new product in the hands of local beer drinkers. Utilizing feedback from fellow industry members, they opted for glass bombers when the time came to discuss packaging their product for retail sales. Unable to meet the exorbitant order minimums of most can orders, starting small and staying cost-friendly with bombers allowed the brewery to gain a big enough following to eventually justify calling Mobile Canning Systems—a company born during the craft beer boom that delivers a temporary mobile canning line and offers canning supplies for sale to breweries not quite financially ready to splurge on their own canning line—an important piece of equipment that Bootstrap recently purchased—thanks to their penny-wise business decisions over the past five years. But innovation aside, the biggest asset to independent craft breweries is the industry itself. In 2013, in the midst of a nation-wide hop shortage, Steve Kaczeus found himself completely out of his contracted simcoe hops—the star ingredient in his top-selling Insane Rush IPA. It was a post on a brewers forum by Boston Beer Company that helped Kaczeus acquire the hops and keep up with production of his popular beer. In middle of the shortage, Jim Koch and crew announced that they had contracted out additional hops to sell at cost to small breweries in the industry hit hard by the shortage. And it doesn’t stop there. As the Kaczeus’ prepare to open a second production facility and taproom in Colorado, they took a moment to thank and appreciate the tight-knit community of brewers that helped get them there. It was Boulder-based brewery, Sanitas Brewing Company, that allowed the Kaczeus’ to contract out unused brewery space to help the small brewery meet the demand for their product after completely maxing out space at their initial location. It’s the staff at Boulder Beer Company that wash Bootstrap’s kegs for a small cost while the brewery works towards acquiring its own keg washer. It’s the crew at Odd 13 Brewing that orders can lids together with Bootstrap, keeping costs lower for both breweries and allowing each to reach the high minimums that can often be major road blocks for small breweries looking to grow. And it was seasoned brewers, like Tim Matthews at Oskar Blues Brewery, that shared their hard-earned knowledge about brewing and beer over many pints throughout Bootstrap’s five years. Everybody enjoying a slice of the karma pie topped with a little profit-infused frosting along the way.



“We started this business because we decided that if we were going to work this damn hard, we’re going to work for ourselves,” said Steve Kaczeus. “Being an independent brewery also means we get to make the beers that we like to drink.”

And while big beer is still lurking around dimly-lit corners, waiting to step into the light and flash cheaply-made shiny objects at vulnerable passerbys, independent craft brewers shouldn’t be scared. There’s still a place in the world of beer for independence. There’s still a place for partnerships to be forged, like Victory Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing’s alliance that ensures independent growth and wards off the evil forces of investor vultures descending on the industry. There’s definitely a place for the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) breweries—like Left Hand Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company—who each moved to an employee-owned business model in recent years—bypassing private equity firms in the process. And there’s certainly a place for a unified front—brewers linked arm in arm—whispering technical equipment advice in each other’s ears and passing around hops while standing tall together in the stone-cold face of big beer.



Oh, Michigan. Sometime in the past decade, the “Mitten State” emerged as a serious player on the national craft beer scene—thanks to an increase in malting companies and local hop and barley farms, a dedicated Brewers Guild, and a handful of visionaries whose unique approaches to craft beer years ago is paying off today. As of 2015, Michigan ranked sixth in the country in number of craft breweries per state, earning the high ranking with an arsenal of seriously sudsy cities—like the city of Ann Arbor. Known nationwide for a diverse and delicious dining scene, Ann Arbor is also home to a diverse, delicious and well-established craft beer scene. It’s the perfect place for a full-blown beercation. Not only is the city’s downtown hub ridiculously adorable, but it’s fairly small—which means the majority of your beer explorations can, and should, be done by foot. From cult-like status breweries like Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, to craft beer bars that are serving up some of the best beer in the country—we have the ultimate guide to Ann Arbor’s craft beer scene.

The Beer Grotto Ann Arbor Michigan

The Beer Grotto Ann Arbor Michigan

Downtown Ann Arbor


Ann Arbor’s downtown is about as charming as it gets. But perhaps the best thing about this little craft beer hub, is that just about everything is within walking distance. Stumble out of one brewery, and you’ll pretty much land at the doorstep of the next. Here’s a look at the must-visit breweries in Ann Arbor’s downtown.


Arbor Brewing Company


Affectionately known as “ABC”, Arbor Brewing Company is the culmination of hard work and a serious passion for beer by owners Matt and Rene Greff, who originally opened the pub and eatery in 1995. Today, this downtown gem is a go-to hangout spot for locals and tourists alike to cozy up in the inviting brewpub for a clean, crisp, and flavorful brew, and some not-so-traditional pub food. On the menu at this eatery, you’ll find pierogis, three different types of poutine, pickled beets, and more. Arbor Brewing Company also has a killer cellar and a successful sour program—which is located in the basement of the brewery’s historic building. If there’s a sour on the menu, don’t pass up a taster.

Grizzly Peak Brewing Company

Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, Grizzly Peak’s story also dates back to 1995, when the popular local brewery opened their doors in a century-old building in the city. Today—Grizzly Peak has amassed several store fronts on their original block—creating one big maze of places to drink beer. There’s a little nook for everyone. Whether you want to watch the big game, are rolling with the entire family, or are into that cool speakeasy vibe—Grizzly Peak’s set-up has the space and a place that will fit your needs. When you embark on your tasting journey at this brewpub, be sure to check out the Victor’s Gold Kolsch-style beer—which features Saaz hops and a subtle fruity finish. The brewery’s best-seller, the malty and caramel-forward Steelhead Red, is also a must-try.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery


If sour beers are your jam, then you’ve probably heard of a little place called Jolly Pumpkin. While the main brewing operations for Jolly Pumpkin are located just about twenty minutes outside of Ann Arbor, there’s a delightfully dangerous Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery location in the city’s downtown area. It’s a two-story slice of heaven for fans of wild ales. The Maracaibo Especial Sour Brown Ale is spiced with cinnamon and sweet orange peel and is not to be missed when visiting this iconic beer destination.

Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery

Barbeque and beer go hand-in-hand, and Blue Tractor is making some of the best versions of both. Also centrally located in downtown Ann Arbor, Blue Tractor is a relatively new to the city’s craft beer scene, but they’re keeping their barstools full with award-winning beer and great barbeque. While the brewery is only pouring from six taps in their taproom, they’re making the most of what they have. The brewery’s draft handles rotate often but always include a variety of beers from the light-bodied American Cream Ale, to the hopped-up Bumper Crop American IPA, to the Pitmaster Porter, which pairs nicely with smoky flavors coming out of the kitchen.

Venture Farther

While these breweries don’t boast the convenience factor that the downtown Ann Arbor breweries have, they’re definitely worth a visit. Snag a Lyft, take a mini-road trip, hitchhike—I don’t care how you get there—just get there.

Null Taphouse

This is it. The place where Jolly Pumpkin’s beer slumbers away in wine barrels. But you won’t just find Jolly Pumpkin brews at this unique taproom. “Null” stands for “Northern United Liquid Libations” which is an umbrella that local breweries like Jolly Pumpkin, Grizzly Peak, the North Peak Brewing Company, Nomad Beer and a winery and distillery are all connected by. It’s an interesting situation of like-minded business owners teaming up in order to grow—but the best part of the entire situation is that you’ll find libations from every single one of the Null partners in this funky taproom in Dexter, MI—which only about a 20-minute drive from Ann Arbor. This is also the place to stock up on all of the Jolly Pumpkin bottles that you can to ship back for beer cellar back home.

Wolverine State Brewing Company

If you’re a hater of Michigan University football—this brewery might not be for you. But if you can look past the Wolverines crushing your team this year, then Wolverine State Brewing Company is worth a visit. Located in Ann Arbor, but just outside of the downtown area, Wolverine State is only brewing up lagers—some damn tasty lagers. Go for the popular Gulo Gulo India Pale Lager (and the 2019 Nachos loaded with smoked pulled pork!) but don’t leave without a taste of the Massacre: a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Dark Lager—which at 13 percent ABV, is true to its name. Wolverine State also offers beer specials every day of the week and brewery tours upon request.


Salt Springs Brewery

A craft brewery inside of a church? Now that’s something to give thanks for. A short drive from Ann Arbor in the small town of Saline is Salt Springs Brewery—an excellent craft brewery and restaurant housed in a beautifully historic Methodist church. The building still retains the stunning stained-glass windows, and the ethereal feeling of guilt. But these days, the gorgeous open interior of the church is as inviting as it gets, and with the amazing brunch menu this place is pumping out on the weekends, it’ll make you change your mind about going to church on Sundays. The Big Brown Bunny Porter is a 6.9 percent ABV glass of creamy, rich, and slightly sweet perfection, and pairs nicely with the fresh and local ingredients threaded throughout the kitchen’s delicious menu offerings.

Craft Beer Bars


With such a vibrant brewing scene, it’s no surprise that Ann Arbor is also home to a handful of excellent craft beer bars. Here are a few of our favorite craft-centric joints to hit when in the area.


Beer Grotto

The Beer Grotto is one of those awesome local spots with an inviting neighborhood vibe that draws you back time and time again. With 35+ taps that are rotating with an exceptional mix of limited beers, special releases, and flagship favorites from craft breweries all of the country, this small, but oh-so-worthy craft beer bar packs a mighty punch. This Beer Grotto is also a craft beer shop, which means you can fill up a growler or Crowler® of your favorite beers on tap and take them with you.



Since 1983, Ashley’s has been a popular watering hole in the area, and today, the Cheers-meets-local-dive-bar is a serious craft beer bar that’s serving up beer from 100+ taps. It isnt’ pretentious. It’s located right in downtown Ann Arbor, and it’s the place to kick back, enjoy some delicious beers, and get some excellent pub food in your stomach before heading back out into the city on your craft beer adventures.


While this sprawling craft beer bar is technically a chain with locations all over the midwest, HopCat is still definitely worth a visit when discovering Ann Arbor beer. Like Ashley’s, HopCat is also located in downtown Ann Arbor, and also boasts 100+ taps, but you’’re always guaranteed to find at least 40 taps dedicated to local breweries at this place. HopCat gets crazy busy on most nights, so get there early, be prepared for a little wait—or—head here for a little craft beer night cap.



January 5-7 brought the return of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival to the snowy mountains of Colorado—the small ski town of Breckenridge taking over hosting honors from Vail for the first time in the long history of this big and boozy event. In its 17th year, Big Beers continues to attract the cream of the crop of the craft beer world for three days every winter. If you think the Great American Beer Festival is the industry event to hit up to see your favorite craft beer celebrities—well, you’re still right—but if you want to see what they look like when they’re laid back, enjoying a winter wonderland of a semi-vacation, sipping and pouring some of the best beers from their portfolios and cellars, then get your shit together and don’t miss this festival next year.

Photographs by Thomas Kolicko

Unlike a lot of profit-driven beer fests that take place throughout the always expanding festival season, Big Beers co-founders, Laura Lodge and her brother Bill Lodge, transcend taboo bad beer event production habits by placing a heavy focus on educational opportunities, for both the brewer and the drinker types, and create an excellent platform where people of all levels of craft beer knowledge and experience can have a real conversation about the current state and future insights of the industry. Seminars this year reflected the subtle shift happening in the industry where more and more breweries are sourcing ingredients on a local level. Maltsters, hop farmers, and brewers from brewery’s of all sizes led informative panels with titles like, “Experimenting with Local Maltsters,” “Discovering Fruit & Fruit Flavors in Brewing,” and “Brewery Terroir”—a 50-minute panel presentation featuring four brewmasters from all over the country who each shared the results of brewing the same recipe, but with ingredients found in their specific ‘hoods. Aside from some confusion on the layout of the maze-like, two-story festival grounds at the slope-side Beaver Run Resort, the festival upheld it’s reputation as a magnet for the upper echelon of the craft beer world—not necessarily in wealth—but in passion.

But at the end of the day, it was all about the beer—and the line-up for this festival was pretty epic. Exceptional beers were poured by big hitters like Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Lost Abbey and Surly, along with small and up-and-coming craft breweries throughout the states, and even a handful of breweries from overseas, like Belgium’s Brouwerij Verhaeghe—the makers of the iconic Duchesse De Bourgogne. Some breweries only had a few beers that met the festival’s guidelines of all beers being 7% ABV of higher, Belgian in style, and experimental in nature. Trends seen throughout the festival included an interesting connection between the craft beer and the craft cocktail communities with several breweries concocting brews to mimic classic cocktails, like Wicked Weed’s Old Fashioned, Zwei’s White Russian Imperial Stout, and Boulevard Brewing’s Rye on Rye—Sazerac. Peaches and peanut butter continued to dominant the seasonal ingredients game, but plums and rye malts were delightfully at the top of the ingredients list this year.

Beers We Could Have Consumed All Day But Would Probably Be Dead

2009 Fort – Dogfish Head Brewing Company – 15-16% ABV
One of my top five favorite beers from the fest, this aged ale brewed with a heavy hand of raspberry juice left my speechless for a few seconds, along with the fact that Sam Calagione poured it himself. Sam sightings at beer fests are kind of the best.

Krieky Bones Wild Ale with Sour Cherries – Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
I’m a sucker for a flavorful but balanced sour, and Firestone’s Krieky Bones hit the spot this weekend. A Flanders Red-style beer aged in a French Oak foeder for 24 months, completed with sour Montmorency cherries—the Krieky Bones didn’t last long in the glass.

Utopias – Sam Adams/ Boston Beer Company – 29% ABV
This beer raised my level of tipsy up three notches, but it was so worth it. Utopias is a rich, malty, dark, and slightly fruity unicorn of a beer that deserved to be sipped and savored. I saw a brewery rep (that shall remain nameless) slam a full pour of this. Just thinking about that moment makes my liver hurt again.

La Muir Morte – Wicked Weed Brewing – 6.5% ABV
Yep. As you would expect, Wicked Weed had a line right out of the gate, but after reaching the front of the line and getting my hands on this barrel-aged sour fermented with a boatload of whole blackberries, the wait was absolutely worth it.

Surly Darkness Russian Imperial Stout – Surly Brewing Company -12% ABV
This is a big beer, full of chocolate, cherry and coffee notes. This beer dominated my palate for a good two turns around the room, which was just long enough to hit up some of the random tables stocked with bowls of bread chunks and water stations.

Maple Scotch Ale – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – 7.3% ABV
“But I thought you weren’t a fan of peat!” said someone that clearly doesn’t know me at all after my eyes rolled back in my head following a sip of Sierra Nevada’s exceptional Maple Scotch Ale. Sure, they also brought a Barrel-Aged Narwhal—but my god—the smokey and sugar combination in the Maple Scotch Ale is something I’ll dream about for awhile.




It’s here. One of the busiest and most grueling travel weeks of the year. If you’re lucky, you’ll skate through airports with the greatest of ease, effortlessly making your way through security, to your gate, and onto the plane, where you’ll enjoy a comfortable flight to your holiday destination of choice. But let’s be real—the chances of that happening are pretty slim—which is why we put together this guide to help you track down craft beer in some of the most common airports in the U.S. for layovers, overnighters, and delays during the holiday season.


Fingers crossed you won’t actually need this guide this week, but just in case…

Denver International Airport

Root Down DIA (Concourse C)

When members of the craft beer industry pass through the Denver International Airport, this is most likely where you’ll find them. Root Down DIA has 20+ tap handles dedicated to Colorado craft beers—with a couple of gluten-free beers and ciders mixed in to boot. And the brunch and dinner menus are pretty killer, too. If weather strands you in Denver this holiday season—don’t panic. Just head to Root Down DIA and take your own tour of Colorado craft breweries without ever leaving your barstool.

Lounge 5280 (Concourse B)

If you’re traveling with a crew of (gasp!) non-beer drinkers this week, then suggest grabbing a drink at Lounge 5280 located in Concourse B. Along with an admirable selection of Colorado craft beers, this airport gem is also serving up a huge menu of spirits, including several delicious Colorado-inspired craft cocktails. A little something boozy for everyone.

Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs (Concourse B)

If you get delayed in Concourse B of DIA, head straight to Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs. This beloved Denver establishment is also serving up it’s popular menu at the city’s airport. Along with a handful of craft beers on tap, Steve’s also has a large selection of speciality hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches—all for under $10 each.

The Boulder Beer Taphouse at DIA (Main Terminal)

Colorado’s first craft brewery is technically located in the city of Boulder, but if your time in the state is limited to the interior of the airport, then head to The Boulder Beer Taphouse. Here you’ll find a selection of this trailblazing brewery’s craft beer staples, like the The Buff Gold Golden Ale and Mojo IPA, along with a selection of limited release brews and rotating “Brewer’s Choice” speciality beers.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Carolina Beer Company (Terminal D)

I don’t know about you, but a good chunk of my airline layovers occur at the Charlotte Douglas Airport, and unlike some of the other airports on this list—good, locally-made craft beers are a little harder to track down in this busy travel hub. Charlotte Douglas is pretty easy to maneuver around in, so it don’t worry about venturing away from your gate to find yourself some craft beer. Head to Terminal D where you’ll find The Carolina Beer Company. Though the airport location doesn’t come with a huge amount of beer options, the brews that are available are pretty decent, and will definitely suffice for fans of craft beer with a few hours of time on their hands to kill.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Goose Island Brewing Co. (Terminals 1 & 3)

Yep, Goose Island still rules the roost in the Windy City, which is why it’s the most accessible option for craft beer fans looking for a brew between flights. You’ll find Goose Island hubs in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3—both locations featuring a handful of the brewery’s well-known selection of draft and bottled beers. Both airport locations are also serving up standard pub fare, but if you can’t fathom a visit to the Chicago area without enjoying a sinfully good Chicago dog, then take advantage of O’Hare’s awesome liquor laws, order a beer to go, and head over to Terminal 1 where you can order a Chicago Dog done up right at America’s Dog.

Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap (Terminal 2)

A staple in Chicago’s dining scene, Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap lives up to it’s name—even in the confines of the O’Hare airport. You’ll find a respectable selection of Chicago-area craft brews along with traditional pub fare with a Chicago twist.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

SweetWater Draft House & Grill (Concourse B)

A visit to the ATL should always include a crisp, refreshing pint of 420 Extra Pale Ale, but if you’re visit to Georgia’s capital stops at the airport, then you’re still in luck. SweetWater Brewing Company has a draft house and grill in Concourse B. This gem in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport always includes a handful of SweetWater beers on tap, with several more of the brewery’s beers available in bottle form. Good beer and good burgers pair nicely together, and this is a great spot in the airport to find both.

San Francisco Intercontinental Airport

Firewood Cafe (International Terminal – Near Gate A1/Domestic Terminal – Terminal 3)

If your holiday travels leave you stranded in the San Francisco Airport, be grateful—there are worse places for craft beer drinkers to be stranded. If you’re layover is a long one, head over to one of the Firewood Cafe locations in SFO. Both cafe’s have a full-service bar with a decently-large selection of affordable beers on tap. You’ll also find delicious pizza and lighter airport fare on the menu.

Perry’s (Terminal 1 – Boarding Area C near Gate 42)

Sit down and take a load off at Perry’s in SFO. A popular San Francisco dining joint, Perry’s has a respectable selection of beers on tap, and boasts a comfortable vibe that will make you forget you’re stuck at the airport. Beer pairs nicely with juicy burgers and sandwiches, which is what you’ll find on the menu at Perry’s.