Jessie O'Brien's picture

12 Experiential Taprooms and Brewpubs in Craft Brewing

experiential taprooms brewpubs

A quick look at 12 notable experiential taprooms and brewpubs in craft brewing. With competition growing for local watering holes on all sides, these breweries opted for a unique style or aesthetic beyond the beer to keep drinkers coming back for more.

The craft beer boom may have slowed to a smolder, but the market still grew another 4 percent in 2018 according to The Brewers Association. Craft beer only accounts for 13.2 percent of the entire market, but despite that fact, in some states, it seems like there’s competition for your nightly pint on every corner. Craft brewers may feel pressure to separate themselves from the pack (or the six-pack).

Such was the case for Kevin Van Winkle and Bob Lichens, co-owners of Endo Brewing Co. (above) out of Lafayette, Colo., an outdoorsy, cycling-centric town outside of Boulder.

“It’s not just standing out anymore. Now, everybody realizes you have to build that experience,” Lichens says. “A lot of people make great beer and have a good location, so how do you make people come out otherwise. What else do you do?”

Van Winkle and Lichens met though mountain biking, where a cold beer after a rough ride is a common ritual. When they decided to open Endo in 2017, incorporating mountain biking into the brewery was a natural fit. Without alienating non-riders, the brewery caters to biking culture beyond the name of its beers. The most innovative aspect of the taproom is the bike shop that serves as an extension of the beer bar. Bikers can make an appointment for a tune and sip on a Post-Ride Ultra while they wait. Endo also hosts bike movie nights, group rides, bike-packing travel meetups, and the only thing that plays on the bar’s two TVs are biking videos.

“It’s a way to extend the camaraderie,” Lichens says. “I know I am guilty of showing up for a ride just for the beer after.”

Just like Endo, there are plenty of other taprooms carving out their niche in an industry that already leans heavily into novelty and experimentation. Here is a short sampling of the many, many taprooms that employ more than tasty brews to stand out in a crowd.


bookhouse brewing in cleveland, ohio

Strange Bedfellows

Drinking is a time-honored tradition in the literary world. Hemingway and Thompson were as skilled at penning masterpieces as they were at guzzling booze. But less common than writing and drinking is reading and drinking. That didn’t deter watering holes like Cleveland’s Bookhouse Brewing (above) and Denver’s Fiction Beer Company from combining the solo activity with a social one at their bookworm taprooms. Both businesses host book clubs and swaps, and Bookhouse also offers a free library. They encourage buzzed readers to leave a book behind if they decide to pull one from their beer-spattered shelves.

The blue-collar attitude of beer doesn't readily fit with the white-collar, white-tablecloth ethos of a Michelin Star restaurant, but Band of Bohemia made it work. The Chicago brewpub is the only one in the U.S. to claim the coveted award. The beers are as fancy as the saffron fettuccine and seared foie gras with ingredients like Maitake mushrooms, sassafras and yucca in its various offerings. While there isn't a taproom yet, the Bohemia crew has openly talked about opening one on the horizon despite a failed Kickstarter campaign. Beer sure can clean up nice.

On the opposite end of the spectrum—think less black tie and more cleavage—Pinups and Pints combines the brewpub with the strip club. Just outside of Dayton, Ohio, the hybrid offers pours like Thigh HighPA and other cheeky names. They might not have a Michelin Star rating, but Pinups is still the breast brewpub around!

More unique taprooms: Superhero-themed Unsung Brewing Co., Anaheim, CA; Cannabis-infused Ceria Brewing Co., Denver, CO


signature brew tap handles

Sudsy Sounds 

Anyone who has been to a concert knows how wrong it feels to stand in the crowd empty-handed. Beer blends well with most activities, but music and beer, in particular, are a perfect pair. Signature Brew (above) out of London incorporates music in multiple aspects of its concept. Most notable is its taproom that is connected to a venue for live music, music quizzes, open mics and other music-focused events 7-days-per-week. Their standard lineup of pours includes names like Roadie and Backstage IPA, but Signature also works with bands such as Mastodon, alt-J and Mogwai to make artist collaboration beers.

Establishments like TRVE Brewing Company built their taprooms on a musical foundation that is shaken by the growls blasted on the bar speakers. The space is a haven for metalheads who rarely get to hear their musical tastes in public settings. Also setting TRVE apart is their gear that looks like it's pulled right from an Iron Maiden merch table. The band-tee inspired designs complete with daggers and pentagrams are more wearable than the typical beer bro-branded shirt.

More music-centric taprooms: Ska Brewing, Durango, CO; Gravely Brewing Co., Louisville, KY


pilot brewing facade

Incubators

Pilot programs are a fairly new concept that has been taking over taprooms. The idea behind places like Chicago’s Pilot Project is to shepherd fledgling brewers from hobbyists to professionals. Expensive brewing equipment and shallow pockets often prevent novices from making that transition. Pilot Project also provides resources from packaging materials to marketing support. The best part is beer lovers get the opportunity to experience the fresh creative energy in the tasting room.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s Pilot Brewing Company (above) is a solo operation that focuses on small-batch runs. The experimentation won the nanobrewery two medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2019 including a silver medal in the Contemporary Gose category and a bronze in the Bock category.

Other incubator taproomLABrewatory, Portland, OR


brewdog brewery the doghouse hotel

Bed and Brews

Just like Google, breweries are creating all-you-need experiences to keep you on their property. Take, for instance, The Doghouse (above) craft beer hotel located in Cleveland, Ohio’s BrewDog Brewery. (Brewdog Kennels is a boutique version of the Doghouse, located above one of the multiple BrewDog locations.) The 6,000 square-foot space has been transformed into a beer amusement park complete with a flowing tap in each guest room as well as a mini-fridge in the bathroom for anyone who desperately needs a shower beer. Veteran Delaware brewery Dogfish Head also opened a hotel, Dogfish Inn,  in 2014. Each of the 16 rooms comes with a mini-bar and growler-toting guests can fill up during their tour of the brewery. Fireside chats are the mesmerizing meeting spot for beer nerds to solve the world’s problems.

Both locations offer on-site restaurants, taprooms, as well as tours, events and games. Plus, at the Doghouse, guests receive a free beer at check-in, an amenity preferable to shower caps and miniature shampoos.

More bed and brews: Woodstock Inn Brewery, Woodstock, NH; Grande Lakes, Orlando, FL


brewery vivant collage of interior images

All About Ambiance

Almost as important as the beer itself is the environment to drink it in. One that stands out is Grand Rapids' Brewery Vivant (above). Guests can enjoy European-style beers in an old funeral home and chapel that was repurposed to meet historic designation status. The stained-glass windows and arched ceilings create an old-world atmosphere while the brewery's ethos concentrates on modern sustainability. For instance, the brewery captures rainwater runoff, and they only use cans for easier recycling while also implementing other environmentally friendly systems.

Some taprooms embrace their locations' natural environment, such as Plan Bee Farm Brewery from Poughkeepsie, New York. The brewery uses 100 percent New York State ingredients, including their yeast that's cultivated from beehive honeycomb. Located on a 25-acre farm, the original 1830s barn is a rustic escape in the Hudson Valley.

More taprooms with astounding ambiance: Twisted Hippo, Chicago, IL; The Depot, Reno, NV

What’s the best way to discover more experiential taprooms? Why, get out there and explore this wide world yourself! As craft beer becomes more segmented, there will likely be more variety and more “out-there” concepts to get drinkers into taprooms. Let us know of other interesting experiential taprooms in the comments or on social media. Cheers!

All Images Courtesy Respective Breweries

Comments

djrmar19's picture
The Doghouse Hotel and BrewDog Brewery are in the Columbus, Ohio area.

Comments

djrmar19's picture
The Doghouse Hotel and BrewDog Brewery are in the Columbus, Ohio area.

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