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The 8 Best Breweries and Brewpubs in the Midwest
Brew-lovers, rejoice: Here's where to find great beers across the heartland.
Craft-beer aficionados can sample world-class brews in underrated places, like Davenport, Iowa and Amherst, Wisconsin.(Getty Images)
If you haven't noticed, craft beer scenes are cropping up across the country. And these days, people are exploring beyond veritable brewpubs, microbreweries and watering holes in their hometowns in search of the next great locally produced lager. Whether you want hearty oatmeal stouts, toasty meads or distinctive IPAs, you'll find no shortage of outstanding pints to sample in the heartland, the epicenter of America's burgeoning beer culture. To help direct you to the best of the best, we've put together the ultimate list of the Midwest's must-visit brewpubs. So, grab your growler and head to these booming beer spots.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you're looking to recreate a scene out of "Cheers" sans the melodrama, head to HopCat. With locally crafted brews on tap, like the HopCat Wit vs. Wisdom, and Belgian-style wheats from Holland, this brewpub has a diverse and eclectic range of delicious beers to choose from. The vibe is friendly and laid-back, and you probably won't leave without making at least one friend at the bar. And if hunger sets in, don't skip pairing a plate of mac and cheese with your beer flight. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Often touted as Ohio's most celebrated brewery, Great Lakes is a beloved spot for beer-loving Clevelanders. Since debuting in the early 80s, the Cleveland-based brewery has quickly morphed into a national brand, selling their most popular brews, like the Dortmunder Gold Lager and the holiday Christmas Ale, in 13 states. Even though they produce more than 130,000 barrels annually, the brewery is still humble to its roots and loves catering to patrons who stop by for a tasting or a pint. Great Lakes even boasts nine beers on tap that change according to the season along with an excellent menu, making it an ideal place to grab a bite during happy hour.
Central Waters Brewing Company
Located in Amherst, a small central Wisconsin town with a population of less than 2,000, from the outside Central Waters Brewing Company appears more like a barn house than a brewery. However, after taking one step into the renovated taproom, you'll be rewarded with the pleasant aroma of flavorful hops. And, of course, you'll likely find craft beer hipsters sipping the Mudpuppy Porter, but you'll also find regular Joes, enjoying a pint while they watch the game. Opened in 1998, Central Waters has won multiple awards for its barrel-aged stouts and continues to be regaled by top outlets as one of the top 10 brewpubs in the country. If you can bear the thought of an icy Wisconsin winter, head to Amherst for their 18th-anniversary party on Jan. 30, which will highlight their top brews with live music and food.
Goose Island Beer Co.
Touted as Chicago's original brewery, Goose Island Beer Co. has been brewing their own ales and lagers since 1998. They're known for their Honker's Ale, a rich malty brew with a light hoppy finish, but they also feature 10 other homemade brews on tap, like the 312 Urban Wheat Ale. If you can, get your hands on their revered barrel-aged beer (like the Bourbon County Brand Stout), which is brewed on the premises. Apart from excellent beer, the Lincoln Park brewpub also serves a delicious array of mouthwatering pub fare, like wings, barbecue sandwiches and more.
Front Street Brewery
Although Front Street Brewery has only been around since 1992, the building it occupies has been standing on Davenport's quaint North Front Street for more than 100 years, giving it the title of Iowa's oldest pub. After stepping inside, you'll feel like you've been transported back into the early 1900's. The bars are made of rich, dark wood and the dining room is dimly lit with Tiffany glass replica lamps. And though the brewery's ambiance charms visitors, it's the beer that keep people returning year after year. The Coastal Kolsch and Riptide Raspberry Wheat Ale are local favorites, but available brews on tap change according to the season. In addition to sampling hearty pints of your favorite beers, Front Street offers free tastings and tours to offer insight into their beer-brewing process. While you're there, make sure to order their buttermilk breaded onions or beer nuggets.
Boulevard Brewing Company
Kansas City, Missouri
Since opening in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Company has been a staple in the Kansas City beer scene. Decorated with a tall, branded chimney stack, exposed brick buildings and three-stories of sustainable brewing space, you can easily spend a few hours sampling and touring the historic Bavarian-style brew location. You'd be remiss to leave without tasting their award-winning Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, which earned a high approval rating in the Washington Post's 2015 Beer Madness competition, which calculates readers' top brew picks across the country. Boulevard Brewing Company is also revered for its IPAs, especially its Single-Wide and Heavy Lifting varieties. After sampling their 30 unique beers, take a tour of the expansive property, which houses two event spaces, a tasting room and enough equipment to brew over 600,000 barrels of beer a year.
Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery
With over 50 breweries and taprooms in the Twin Cities alone, sampling Minneapolis' famed beers can seem like an intimidating task. But fret not: visiting the local hotspot, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Washington Avenue, is a perfect place to start your beer jaunt. Featuring new varieties on tap every week and 10 free-flowing kegs pouring bartenders' favorites, you can always find an original flavor to taste. Make sure to sample their famous Black H20 Stout or the lighter Masala Mama IPA. And consider pairing their hearty ales with a side of their melt-in-your-mouth fried cheese curds or their mac and cheeseburger topped with fried mac and cheese.
Keweenaw Brewing Company
Located in the beautiful college town of Houghton, Keweenaw Brewing Company prides itself as the Upper Peninsula's largest brewer. The taproom is a true microbrewery, so the only fare you'll find on the menu is salted peanuts. However, their open door policy allows any patron to bring their own snack as they sip on a Pick Axe Blonde Ale or a Widow Maker Black Ale. And its rustic interior beckons you to sit and stay awhile with two large bars, a cozy fireplace and plush leather couches. In addition to regular ales, Keweenaw also brews their own root beer, birch and ginger beer for lighter, non-alcoholic sips.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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