Article by: Eric Blumenfeld,
Beerspoke Tours CEO
Chances are, if you're in a college town, you've got an abundance of opportunities for a good time. That's pretty much always been the case. What hasn't always, or even often, been the case, is that many college towns are now also beacons of craft beer goodness.
As the college year winds down and the students head out, the fun and the brewing doesn't stop. In fact, this might be the time to swing by these awesome places in a slightly more chill state. Here are three college towns to hit up for tasty brews:
University of Colorado Boulder
When it comes to choosing a college to attend, its surrounding town is usually just a nice extra piece. But Boulder is one place where the town is often likely a deciding factor. Stellar views of the Rockies, 300 days of sunshine, some of the best hiking and skiing on the planet in your backyard, boutique shops, great restaurants...and beeeeeeeer. For a pretty small town, they're incredibly well-stocked with incredible craft breweries and oodles of options for post-hike/bike/ski craft brews. Up until late 2017, when they sold a 30% stake in the brewery to a Spanish brewing conglomerate (thus removing their "craft" brewer status, according to the Brewers Association), Avery Brewing was one of them. But just because their technical craft status is gone, that doesn't mean that they're not still putting out fantastic stuff every day. Mountain and Southern Sun Pubs and Breweries, way smaller than Avery, are no frills, friendly brewpubs that pride themselves on their patrons having real experiences with their neighbors over their killer beers. There's Fate Brewing Co., making stellar craft beer and pairing it with stellar craft food, all in a spacious location (both inside and out) with a very friendly and knowledgeable staff. Wild Woods Brewery, created by 2 Wisconsin transplants with passions for craft beer and the outdoors, brew beers to pair with any adventure, and serve out of their bright, welcoming taproom. Sanitas Brewing Co. is another local favorite -- brewing great beers of all styles, in a naturally well-lit space with an excellent patio and enough yard space for bocce ball and cornhole. In a land of 300 sunny days, if the majority of them are spent with a beer and cornhole, you're doing something right.
Not too long ago, when you were talking about Durham, you were discussing Duke basketball (and your intense love or passionate hatred of them) or tobacco. What you were certainly not talking about was craft beer. My, how times have changed. Durham has been wildly refurbished and is now a dream destination for both foodies and beer geeks. I'll let you find the food on your own time. As for the beer, well that's what you're here for. Start with Ponysaurus, which Thrillist calls one of the 50 most underrated breweries in America. One of the more unique and massive bi-level outdoor spaces. These guys take their beer seriously...but, from what we gather, not much else. and that's a good thing. Next up, Fullsteam. Got kids? Want to hit up an awesome spot that is large enough, with enough games for kids to be welcome and keep themselves entertained while you drink all the beer? Like breweries with a heart, with a passion for great beer, but also a passion for supporting the local economy, local farmers and other agricultural players? You're going to love this place. You want a really unique beer experience? Head to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to its eponymous beloved Triple A Minor League baseball team, and have some cold craft beers brewed in the stadium by Bull Durham Beer Co. And, while we're doing "unique", swing by Sam's Quik Shop. Located basically in the parking lot of a gas station between Duke's East and West Campuses, you'll probably enter wondering if you're in the right place...once inside, you'll wonder no more. Between here and their second location, you might actually be overwhelmed by your choices. If that happens...sorry, I guess?
Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan
Even without the beer, Ann Arbor is one of the most beloved college towns in the country. Fortunately, it happens to never be "without the beer". An eminently walkable town, you can stroll for hours and see the best of the arts, culture, food, nightlife, festivals, special events and, of course, Michigan football and basketball. If you're passing through the midwest and are anywhere in the area, Ann Arbor is somewhere you should stop, where you can spend days on any one of the aforementioned pastimes. But consider also passing the time at HOMES Brewery, which opened merely a year ago and has already built itself a hell of a rep. Their chill, hipstery vibing, open-air taproom is a stellar place to drink their excellent beers, which, to this point, have trended heavily to pale ales and IPAs (and go quite well with their also excellent Asian street food menu). Another must is Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery. One of the now several offshoots throughout Michigan from the Original Jolly Pumpkin Brewery (which is only 8 miles away in Dexter, MI), they've made their name by 1) well, having a great name, but more importantly 2) brewing incredible Belgian-style sours, aging all their beers in oak barrels fermenting in wild yeast. If you want the best of beer and Ann Arbor arts, head to Pointless Brewery & Theatre. That's right -- it's an improv theatre, regularly staging hilarity, while also performing the improvisational art of creating new craft beers. What else can I say? It's brilliant! And, of course, you can't skip the amazing craft beer bars, like Ashley's Ann Arbor, Siris Restaruant and Cigar Bar, and The Session Room, each viewed as top-notch celebrators of craft beer, with massive selections of local and hard-to-find brews.
This is not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg of college towns that are doing it right. We haven't even gotten to Austin TX, Eugene OR and Burlington VT. Which makes me feel like maybe we should. Ok, then. To Be Continued...