Emily Hutto's picture

Top of the Taps: America's Five Best Taprooms (Issue 31)

What are the best brewery tasting rooms in the country? That’s a question that has been plaguing me because my answer is long-winded, and possibly endless. I could write entire books, if not bibles, on the subject. 

In effort to distill the list of America’s 5000+ breweries down to only five of the very best, I needed qualifiers... and a big disclaimer. I established criteria for this daunting list, and I’ll forewarn that this is a non-exhaustive collection of breweries based entirely and subjectively on my personal preferences.

First and foremost, it’s all about the beer. World-class beer that’s clean, balanced, and interesting, to be exact. My friend Tony Lawrence who owns Bend’s Boneyard Brewery calls this trifecta the “beer order of operations”. He believes that beer should be free off off-flavors, balanced in flavor and aroma, and thought-provoking in order to write home about. Boneyard’s beers are all of these things. Their brewpub is in the works but because they don’t quite serve food— my next criterion—I’ll save the brewery a well-deserved place on a future best-of list.

The only thing better than imbibing an amazing beer is pairing it with amazing food. I appreciate breweries that take as much care in crafting quality food as they do their beer, and have included establishments below that do just that.

If a beer pairing can be enjoyed in a space that’s inviting, then the brewery experience is a home run. Ambiance is thus the third yardstick for this best-of list.

When I visit a brewery, I often have a lot of questions. I want to know nitty gritty process details about any given beer, why the brewer chose to brew that style, and what on the menu might pair best with it. Friendly and knowledgable staff is so important to the craft beer experience, and therefore the next qualifier. A big thanks to the servers at the breweries below for putting up with my endless inquiries.

So there you have it— world class beer, thoughtful food menus, welcoming spaces, and informed staff have inspired my choices for the best brewery tasting rooms in the United States. Without further ado, here they are.


Taxman Brewing Company

You’d never expect to find an Belgian-inspired gastropub in a farm town in an area of the country otherwise dominated by lagers and hoppy beer styles, and thus the appeal of Taxman Brewing. The owners of this three-year old company are former tax professionals who met in Belgium doing consulting work, and believe it or not they chose Bargersville, Indiana to open their brewery because it reminded them of some of the European towns they visited.

The only IPA to be found at Taxman is the Hop Collector IPA, brewed with candi sugar and fermented with Belgian yeast. The rest of the year-round canned lineup includes a Saison, a Tripel, a Quad, an Abbey-style Blond, and an Abbey-style Dubbel, and visitors can find a number of other European-inspired beer styles on draft in the tasting room. The beers complement the Indianan-meets-Belgian menu sourced from nearby farms— think mussels, frites, farm-fresh salads, and grass-fed burgers. You’ll want to dip into all of the house-made sauces and stay on Taxman’s cozy industrial-chic patio for even more tastes of the extensive beer list.



Everybody’s Brewing

It’s easy to linger at all of these breweries. At Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, Washington, you might not be able to take your eyes off the epic view of Mt. Hood from the outdoor patio. Everybody’s is just across the Columbia River and state border from beer town Hood River, and ironically enough the only brewery in the area with a clear view of the darling W’Yeast.

The mission here is to truly make something for everyone— from the clean, crisp Country Boy IPA and the balanced, refreshing Daily Bread Common Ale to the self-explanatory Hoppy AF Double IPA Sprinkles Hibiscus Sour Red Ale, and everything in between, Everybody’s has done just that. The food menu is sure to impress, with inspired pub classics and burritos that strike the perfect balance of healthy and hearty for the many kiteboarders and mountain bikers who visit the brewery après.



Jester King Brewery

Upon arrival at Jester King’s farm property in the hills of Austin, Texas, you’ll probably wonder why it’s taken you so long to get here. As you leave, you’ll likely be planning your next visit. This brewery is crafting some of the country’s most sought-after farmhouse, sour and wild ales, as well as spontaneously fermented beers via coolship. Not to mention they’re curating one of the region’s best and longest bottle lists. Add the extensive beer selection to the wood-fired pizzas made to order onsite at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, throw in some yard games that are set up across the property, and savor the backdrop of Texas Hill Country’s idyllic rolling hills. The Jester King experience is a truly remarkable nod to beer’s historic farmhouse roots.



Scratch Brewing

Another farmhouse brewery that guests travel great distances to visit is Scratch Brewing Company. Tucked into miles and miles of farmland in Southern Illinois, Scratch has become nationally recognized in its four short years as one of the most agriculture-centric craft breweries in the country. Scratch utilizes plants, fruit, herbs, hops, and other ingredients grown on the property (such as nettle, elderberry, ginger, dandelion, maple sap, hickory, lavender, juniper, and chanterelle mushrooms) to craft and inspire their curious beers. The brewery’s food menu is sourced locally, and bread and pizza dough are baked in-house from scratch.

Visiting homebrewers shouldn’t miss the newer book written by Scratch’s owners, The Homebrewer’s Almanac, which delves into brewing with farmed and foraged ingredients.



Ponysaurus Brewing

At Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham, North Carolina the staff is serious about the beer, but not much else. This eccentric company serves true-to-style beers out of taps that are made from sawed-in-half pony and dinosaur toys. One of the brewery’s most popular offerings is the Don’t Be Mean To People: Golden Rule Saison brewed with local malt and sorghum molasses. There’s a “Pony Roar” station set up at the bar where you can write letters to US Senators, and a huge, two-story patio where you can grub from rotating, local food trucks or reserve one of the brewery’s outdoor grills to cook your own beer-paired feast of house-made bratwursts and Southern-style sides.

What are your favorite taprooms in the United States? What criteria determine your list?



(Photos Courtesy Respective Breweries)

Comments

Runnerinblack's picture
While there is no disagreement with your selection of Everybody's, it is not the only brewery in the gorge with a view of Hood. Solera Brewing also has a killer view of Wy'east
emilyhutto's picture
Thank you so much for this comment @Runnerinblack! You are so right, and Solera is so good. What I meant to convey here is that you can hang out in downtown Hood River all day and not see Wy'east until you need to pop over the river and up in elevation a bit. Didn't mean to confuse or exclude Solera. Thanks for reading!

Comments

Runnerinblack's picture
While there is no disagreement with your selection of Everybody's, it is not the only brewery in the gorge with a view of Hood. Solera Brewing also has a killer view of Wy'east
emilyhutto's picture
Thank you so much for this comment @Runnerinblack! You are so right, and Solera is so good. What I meant to convey here is that you can hang out in downtown Hood River all day and not see Wy'east until you need to pop over the river and up in elevation a bit. Didn't mean to confuse or exclude Solera. Thanks for reading!

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