The Best Breweries in America. For Eating

By: Lee Breslouer

Credit: Lee Breslouer/Thrillist

Most breweries have some sort of food in their taprooms, even if it’s just a bucket of stale pretzels. But food isn’t always an afterthought at breweries: take, for example, these spots that put almost as much love into their food menus as they do to their tap offerings. Come for the brisket and IPA. Stay for the dan dan noodles and lager.

Credit: Flickr/Emilee Rader

Munster, IN
Both the personnel in the kitchen and the menu have changed over the years, but the food has constantly remained a draw at 3 Floyds’ cozy brewpub, on par with the chance to enjoy some fresh Zombie Dust on tap. You’ll likely encounter a wait… but if you go ahead and take a brewery tour they’ll hold your spot, and there’s a good chance a table will be ready upon the tour’s completion. At that point, you’ll have the chance to enjoy decidedly atypical brewpub fare like steaming bowls of ramen with seared bacon and pickled porcinis, lamb & currant meatballs, and a duck sausage Scotch egg. Of course, if you decide you just want a burger, its house-ground version with tomato jam and maple bacon on a fluffy potato roll should more than do the trick.

Boulder, CO
Avery used to cram its entire brewing operation and taproom into a tiny industrial park in Boulder. Nowadays, the brewery’s… still in a tiny industrial park in Boulder. But! It’s significantly upgraded its brewing operation and opened a sizable taproom inside a 67,000sqft building. It even has a gift shop! (C’mon, buy a T-shirt and support American craft beer, cheapskate.) The brews have always been top notch (Uncle Jacob’s, Tweak, Hog Heaven), but the food has never been better. That’s due to the new smoker, which serves up Wagyu brisket, spare ribs, andouille, and smoked prime rib to packed crowds. Other popular eats include BBQ nachos with brisket or pork and smoked Gouda-topped burgers, which tend to ruin T-shirts. Luckily…

Credit: Flickr/Anne White

Cooperstown, NY
Visiting Cooperstown solely to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame is like visiting Orlando just for the fantastic gift shops (seriously, we love gift shops). Skip the baseball worship and swing (!) by Cooperstown’s real draw, with its Belgian-style beers (the Three Philosophers quadrupel ale brings immediate understanding of the meaning of life) and Belgian-inspired eats like the chicken & waffles covered in vanilla/pepper gravy and wild-caught Maine mussels. In the summer, the outdoor patio opens and a brewery-owned food truck dishes out even more food options. Last summer it was a BBQ truck, and while the truck’s concept for this year hasn’t been hashed out yet, we don’t think it’ll strike out. We’re going to quit now while we’re on a hot streak. Ugh.

Credit: Flickr/Steven Depolo

Grand Rapids, MI
One of the most enlightening brewery experiences in Michigan, Vivant might be housed in an old funeral chapel, but the food goes well beyond Communion crackers. Taking to heart the Belgian roots of the brewery’s top-tier offerings (Big Red Coq is our favorite, and not just because we like saying it to your mom), the menu’s stacked with French and Belgian classics sourced from local farms and made from scratch in house. That means you’ll be getting boards of carefully selected charcuterie and cheese, Euro-fied takes on American classics (yes, duck confit nachos), a daily risotto, and steak frites from a cow you probably saw grazing on your way over. So it is written. Amen.

Portland, OR
Beer and food are the two things that Portland takes more seriously than anything, except maybe debating gentrification while drinking $5 coffee in “developing” neighborhoods. As such, many of the city’s 70+ breweries throw down when it comes to food, with everything from haggis to wings to gourmet s’mores. But BTU has captured our imaginations (and stomachs) by combining the unlikely duo of brewery and Chinese restaurant. And – surprise! – both the food and beer are fantastic. Dim sum classics like bao and red-oil dumplings are the perfect drinking snacks, sure, but it’s joyous to discover that dishes like dan dan noodles and Buddha’s beef pair so marvelously with beers like the sour Sword, the Jade Tiger IPA, and a German-style dunkel called Banana Cry. You’re a long way from a combo platter and a tallboy.

Rehoboth Beach, DE
Dogfish does the majority of its brewing in a new facility in Milton, but the original brewing location in Rehoboth Beach still churns out beers to pair with the pub food coming out of the kitchen. The food there is practically soaked in their incredible beer, but not in a gross way where it’s super soggy or anything. To wit, it ranges from 60 Minute IPA-battered codfish, to duck poutine with Chicory Stout gravy, to burgers topped with scrapple and Noble Rot hollandaise or a bacon-stuffed onion ring.

Credit: Andy Kryza/Thrillist

North Olmsted, OH; Portland, OR; Pittsburgh, PA
Yes, the folks behind the cultishly beloved Hop JuJu make gigantic burgers and pizzas and wings, which are all well and good. But damned does Fat Head’s menu take everything to the next level. The place stays close to its Polish roots in Ohio with pierogi and sausages. Meats ranging from prime rib to pulled pork, brisket, and wings the size of bald eagles (seriously, call the police) are smoked in house. It’s like a BBQ joint, a burger spot, a pizzeria, and a brewery combined forces to make every American go up a cup size. We think the “Head’s” in the name might just be there because just plain “Fat” was a bit on the nose. We’d have loved it either way.

Akron, OH
Hoppin’ Frog doesn’t look like much from the outside. Hell, it kind of looks something out of Storage Wars. But like the exteriors of the places where that dickhead yells “Yuuuuuuuuup!,” there are amazing things inside, and we’re not talking antiques. Hoppin’ Frog is one of the best things to come out of Ohio’s brewing boom, with its barrel-aged B.O.R.I.S. earning worldwide acclaim. And if you’re serving food with beers that good, it better be on par. The place’s kitchen follows suit by being similarly deceptive: there’s not even a grill or fryer. But the limitations have resulted in wonders, among them a massive charcuterie board, stuffed Hungarian peppers, an upscale Cuban, house-smoked meats, and a fancy take on pork & beans so good, you’ll forget to even bother with a Something About Mary joke.

Ithaca, NY
The brewery lauded for its Flower Power IPA has a fairly standard taproom menu of wood-fired pizzas and burgers, with many of the ingredients coming from local farms in the Finger Lakes area. Menu highlights include a locally made sausage infused with its Nut Brown ale, a veggie burger made with brewer’s grain, and ever-changing specials like fried chicken prepared in a different style (Korean, buttermilk fried) week after week. But the real value-add at Ithaca is the fact that what you’re eating was grown pretty damn close to where you’re sitting – nearly 75% of the produce in the restaurant over the summer comes from its own greenhouse, a serious accomplishment considering the brewery’s size. Feel free to congratulate us for not making a reference to the fact that the outdoor space is gorges. Ah, crap.

Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Austin, TX
In Texas, destination eating is typically synonymous with brisket, but Jester King Brewery’s on-site wood-fired pizza oven is almost reason enough to make the 30-minute trek west to the brewery’s beautiful ranch compound. Named after a cow that snuck its way into the brewery’s spent grain and literally ate itself to death, Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza specializes in Neapolitan pizza with a little added crunch to the crust and fresh toppings from local farms, including mushrooms from an on-site fungus operation, as well as seasonal pies with things like figs, herb & nutmeg bechamel, and local unpasteurized honey. Plus, every slice comes with a free serving of live bluegrass or country music.

Houston, TX
Texas’ oldest craft brewery, Saint Arnold got started way back in 1994, and has been around so long that the current exec chef (who’s worked in kitchens across Houston) applied for a job on the bottling line 15 years ago. Consider yourself lucky he didn’t get the job bottling the Great American Beer Fest medal-winning Summer Pils or Weedwacker, because now he’s busy making crawfish rolls, beer-infused queso, hand-cut fries (poutine, anyone?), and floats using house-made root beer and Mexican vanilla from nearby Fat Cat Creamery.

Credit: Flickr/Sally Crossthwaite

Escondido, CA
Talking about Stone’s influence in the craft universe is like talking about oxygen’s importance to humankind. Do you even have to? (Yes, yes we do.) But the food (and, by extension, the brews) in the stunningly landscaped Escondido-based World Bistro & Gardens is also on point. This is Stone’s HQ, and the food reminds you exactly where you are: a cheddar, garlic & Stone Ruination IPA soup, “mojo pork” brined in Go To IPA, and a slow-smoked beef sandwich dressed with spicy cola BBQ sauce.

Minneapolis, MN
It’s a surprise to no one with taste buds that Surly makes some of the best beer in both Minnesota and the entire country, but with the opening of the “mega-brewplex,” it’s upped its food game to match the extra space said brewplex affords it. This means two separate and equally delicious places to eat: a Beer Hall that serves offerings like fried chicken sandwiches with kohlrabi slaw and pepita-crusted catfish, and a more upscale Brewer’s Table with a four-course chef & brewer pairing menu featuring such delicacies as marlin crudo with tangerine and cashews, seared foie gras, and duck with Szechuan pears. The Hall opens at 11am, but there’s no wrong time to knock back a Coffee Bender and an entire charcuterie board.

Brooklyn, NY
Many brewery taprooms without kitchens contract a rotating fleet of local food trucks to feed the drinking public. And that is a good and fine system that everyone can agree generally works. But Threes takes that rotating-food-truck thing and replaces it with rotating restaurants cooking in its 8,000sqft behemoth of a full-scale production facility. The end result has been kitchen takeovers from the likes of Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, a local Korean BBQ spot, and the current occupants, Brooklyn restaurants Dover and Battersby. These days expect fresh oysters, cheddar brats, and horseradish beer cheese. The farmhouse beers are beloved, so drink a Wandering Bine saison or pair their 9.4% ABV IPA with something spicy.

If you know Wicked Weed, you know the barrel program is where it’s at, to quote Beck. The brewery’s Funkatorium is the tiny taproom in which it’s best to experience what the sour fermentation has to offer, and the food program further elevates the beer. It’s a tiny menu – rotating cheeses from farms both local and international, charcuterie boards and pickles, and a series of flatbreads way fancier than any pizza you’ve had before. Hot bread is pumped out from a tiny convection oven, as there isn’t room for a range back in the kitchen. You won’t complain, as a rainbow trout with crème fraiche flatbread will pair nicely with any of the farmhouse or fruitier beers. And for a dessert of sorts, order a chocolate bar garnished with sea salt and Cascade hops, allowing you to have your beer and eat it too.

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