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Let’s go for a beer. Chances are, we’ve heard this phrase uttered, or we’ve said it ourselves. Of course, the importance of the phrase pales in comparison to the inevitable inquiry that follows: “Where?”
It’s a loaded question. Not only does the beer have to be good – and made in-house – but the atmosphere must be ideal. The noise level should be just right, the music shouldn’t be too intrusive, the food should be tasty, and people should look like they’re having fun.
We’re here to help provide you with several answers to this conundrum. We’ve put together a list of the best brewhouses from around the globe. Each of these venues brings their own take on the brewhouse theme, but they all connect in perhaps the most crucial way possible. Specifically, it’s nearly impossible to not have a good time at these spots.
What to Look for at a Proper Brewhouse
There are a few elements that any brewhouse worth their weight will possess. If they don’t have these elements, then it probably shouldn’t be considered a brewhouse.
- A comfortable, but not too comfortable atmosphere – White linen tablecloths and high-end silverware are nice enough in a proper setting. However, they hold no quarter in a brewhouse. The atmosphere here will be laid back enough for jeans and a T-shirt. At the same time, the ambiance should be slightly elevated, so that the riff-raff more suited for dive bar conditions don’t arrive.
- A good selection of house-made brews – you can get away from keeping a few taps reserved for other breweries, and even one for one of the corporate brewers – your friend that always insists on drinking Bud will appreciate this. However, any good brewhouse will have a healthy chunk of their taps devoted to their own brand. After all, there’s no better place to have a good artisan beer than at the source.
- Food is a must – If there is one thing better than beer, it’s beer paired with food. A proper brewhouse will pair their selection of house-made suds with a nice selection of bites. More importantly, the food won’t be just rudimentary grub put on a menu as an afterthought. It will carry as much forethought and devotion to quality as the brew.
With these metrics in mind, let’s dive into some of the top brew houses that can be found on the planet.
Founded in 1978, this Southern California-based chain has been doing the brewhouse thing long before craft beer became a widespread catchphrase. 40 years later, the venue’s numerous locations are still going strong.
The Good Stuff
The quality of BJ’s beer has not regressed in the face of ever-increasing competition. Its brewery is still operating on an award-winning level, as witnessed by the medals it received at the Great American Beer Festival. Their selection of brews run the gamut from hoppy IPAs to robust stouts, and they’ve recently started pumping out their own cider for good measure.
The food they serve with the beers strikes the appropriate brewpub note. You’ll find burgers, ribs, Chicago-style pizzas and other plates that are casual and approachable but are well-executed. Plus, the portions are such that if you leave the spot hungry, it’s your own fault.
The Bad Stuff
The one downside BJ’s suffers from is a bit of identity crisis. While all of the locations have the word BJs in them, the ones that carry the name BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse ironically don’t have breweries. The locations that do brew their beers are called BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery.
While the beer you are getting at the Brewhouse locations is indeed brewed by the restaurant, it’s not being brewed on site. If you have intentions of coming to a Brewhouse venue and geeking out with the brewmaster, you’re going to be disappointed.
If you haven’t heard of this Indiana-based chain, you will soon. The company behind the restaurant struck a deal with an Arizona-based holding company in late 2016, and the plan is to take the brewhouse concept internationally in the near future.
The Good Stuff
Scotty’s restaurants are associated with Thr3e Wise Men Brewery in Broad Ripple, Indiana. The partnership with the brewery and it’s self-proclaimed “beer snobs” makes it easy for guests to enjoy a genuine, if not prominent, slice of the Midwestern craft beer scene. They also have a decent selection of other Midwestern craft beers that vary from location to location – an inclusion that adds a touch of uniqueness.
The food here is approachable and casual – think burgers, sandwiches, and shareable appetizers – and they all pair rather well with whatever brew you choose to imbibe. They also have a rotating “burger of the month” to add to the intrigue.
The Bad Stuff
As is the case with any acquisition and mass proliferation, there comes a cloud of concern; one that’s driven by a fear that the beer quality will suffer as a by-product of all the expansion. This, in turn, may disrupt the integrity of their core restaurants in Indiana. Time will tell.
Beer and a movie. Two things that pair rather well together. It’s something that this chain of cinema-microbrewery hybrid knows very well. The locations are sparse if not a little random – their seven locations are found in New Mexico, Indiana, Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Texas where they’re headquartered – but each venue provides extra incentive to go out and see a movie instead of waiting for it on Netflix.
The Good Stuff
While the idea of expanded food and drink options are becoming more of a thing in certain movie chains, Flix scores big time by offering their own craft beers. They also deserve a lot of credit for keeping the ABV of their beers at a reasonable level. This will help keep you from watching the end of that action movie or romantic comedy in a buzzy haze.
Each venue also offers a good range of food that can easily be enjoyed while watching a movie. You won’t see anything fancy here, just a solid selection of burgers, pizzas, wraps, and snacks. Chances are, this is the kind of food you reach for when you decide to eat while watching a movie at home.
The Bad Stuff
The beer selection, while eclectic in their style, is very small. Enthusiasts will just have six selections to choose from before they settle into their seats. Plus, they don’t make any beers exclusive to one theater, so there’s no uniqueness to the programs. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Temple Brew House
Leave it to London to have one of the world’s quirkiest brewhouses. Located in the city’s Temple district not that far from the banks of the Thames, the venue’s industrial design and oddly mismatched furniture make it very clear that this is a venue where any manner of pretentiousness can take a hike. This is a great vibe to promote if you’re a brewhouse.
The Good Stuff
Temple Brew House is home to Essex Street Brewery – literally. The brewery is located in the heart of the brewhouse; according to the website, the craft beers made here travel a mere 15 feet from the tank to your glass. This not only offers the chance to geek out appropriately with the on-premise brewmaster, but it also affords the chance to take a brewery tour.
The food menu also touts a similar freshness, adhering to the use of fresh, local ingredients as much as possible. Unlike some of the brewhouses across the pond, these options can venture into more advanced territory, something perhaps best demonstrated by its curry spiced squid plate served with lime and coriander mayo.
The Bad Stuff
As fun, informal, and beer-geeky as Temple can be, it is a sports bar at its core. What this means is, weekends are packed with EPL fans cheering and chanting as they watch their favorite club on the telly. This may be a bit problematic for those looking for a more chill space to grab a craft pint.
Our Choice for the Best
When we close our eyes and envision what a brewhouse should feel like, a place that looks an awful lot like BJs comes to mind. Its combination of classically unpretentious food and beer that’s good enough to win prestigious medals makes the place we want to drop in and enjoy a brew.
With that being said, each of these venues offers a different take on the brewhouse concept. As is the case with anything relating to beer, this makes things subjective. What you may love isn’t necessarily something that the next person is into.
Of course, the only way to know what you like for sure is to experience these venues for yourself. This isn’t a terrible proposal in the least bit. After all, there is some craft beer involved.