So many breweries, so little time … When it comes to craft beer, I don’t discriminate by style. So whatever brewery I visit, it receives an equal shot of making a favorable impression.
In all, I visited breweries in at least six different states in 2017. And I tasted beer in at least 26 different breweries. A big part of my brewery experience this past year was the Kansas City Tap Tour Season 1. To complete it, you had visit 11 different breweries over a couple month period.
While it was an awesome experience, no newly visited venues on the list cracked my Top 10. That said, my late-year first visit (Dec. 28) to a small brewery in Lee’s Summit that’s part of Tap Tour Season 2 clocked in at No. 7. And four more previously visited breweries are in the Tap Tour passport.
So, I could’ve easily been a Kansas City brewery homer. Or … you might think the beer would taste sweeter when I was traveling on vacation. I tried not to think about any of that. I scanned my Untappd account. Then, I quickly scribbled down a list of the places that stood out. A little more than half the list ended up on that scrap of paper.
But … before we get started, a note about Boulevard Brewing Co. I unequivocally LOVE Boulevard for a whole host reasons. With them only recently opening their Tours & Rec Center (late 2016, I believe), I seriously considered adding them to this list. But comparing them to the breweries below is like comparing the studios at Prince’s Paisley Park to my home basement studio. Both conceivably could produce great quality product. But one has done it for a long time. And it’s also now distributed in 39 states. So, the list includes the less obvious selections.
Brent’s Top 10 Breweries of 2017
(10) Brew Lab (Instagram/Twitter) — Kansas City: Becca and I were excited to visit Brew Lab in the new location after its transformation into abrewpub (Becca and I had taken a brewing class there the previous year.). As a result, this place is now a hybrid of taproom, restaurant and mad scientist lab (pun intended) for aspiring homebrewers. If you want to learn about the process of brewing craft beer, this is the place.
And it’s also not a bad spot for brunch. 😉
She: I really enjoyed brewing our own beer. It was fun and we still have a couple bottles left.
(9) Exile Brewing Company (Instagram/Twitter) — Des Moines, Iowa: I had no expectations going in because I visited with a friend while I was in Des Moines helping my brother with his house. This an immaculate brewery just West of downtown Des Moines serves up some pretty meaty stouts.
(8) Inbound (Instagram/Twitter) — Minneapolis, Minnesota: The first of a few Minneapolis breweries mentioned in my best of list. with a wide variety of beers. As a result, it’s a great space for groups. And, if you’re a dog lover, you’ll be in heaven.
(7) Fringe Beerworks (Facebook/Twitter) — Kansas City: This place constantly blows up my Untappd account with new beer selections. Not exactly sure how I started following them. They’re part of Tap Tour Season 2. I finally headed out for a visit. And I’m so glad I found this Lee’s Summit brewery/tap house.
The crowd is as eclectic as the beer selection and decor. Friends and I sat down and played Exploding Kittens while sampling the fine product. People come from all over the city to seek Fringe out.
Apparently, Fringe Beerworks is the first brewery in the Lee’s Summit’s 150-plus-year history.
She: This is one brewery I would really like to try. Hopefully, I’m invited next time.
(6) Stockyards Brewing (Instagram/Twitter) — Kansas City: Located in the Kansas City Stockyards and housed in the Golden Ox — once Kansas City’s premier steakhouse — the nostalgia alone makes brewery a destination. They maintained much of the Golden Ox’s original decor.
So … the spirit of KC’s western heritage is alive and well in a part of the city seeing revitalization. (Make sure to drink enough to beer to hit the loo.).
As for the beer? I’m partial to their Brunch Stout, Rye Porter and — if you want something light (like after running a 5k)–Mexican Lager.
(5) Fulton (Instagram/Twitter) — Minneapolis, Minnesota: Awesome tap room, patio and beer to match. When we headed in for our visit, the weather was beautiful, the staff super friendly and the patrons inside and out were lively.
We got so caught up in the revelry that I actually forgot to check in some beers on Untappd. Their Russian Imperial Stout Worthy Adversary was noteworthy (again pun intended). And I’m getting a bit selective about my IPAs, but you should give their Specter a go.
(4) Torn Label (Instagram/Twitter) — Kansas City: With beers like Old Believer, Bloody Christmas and Quadjillo, Torn Label occupies a special place in my heart. In year’s past, it might have occupied the top spot. Located in the eastern part of Crossroads Art District, Torn Label is a 15-barrel brewhouse with a small tasting room and expansive patio. It’s limited releases are outstanding. And when the summer months roll around, you can likely find me there on a First Friday evening.
(3) Martin City Brewing (Instagram/Twitter) — Kansas City: We live out in south Kansas City, so Martin City Brewing Company sees more action than most of the other destinations on this list. Honestly, other than Boulevard, this has become my “go-to” craft brewery.
Divided by Locus Street, this place triples as a pub, pizza place (outstanding at that) and brewery with a diverse beer selection. The pub side of the street serves a selection of their beer and other craft brewers. But, if you’re only allowed one visit, hit the pizza/brewery side. Enjoy their full selection of beers. And then get yourself a crowler (or two) for the trip home.
Speaking of a crowler in demand. This Minneapolis brewery nearly climbed to the top of the list with a single beer. I would seriously contemplate paying $1 million for their Peanut Butter Porter. Okay I’m being a bit hyperbolic. But I will be returning to Minneapolis in 2018 with an empty carry-on designated exclusively to as much of the PBP as I can squeeze into it.
And to say their hits are limited to a single beer is unfair. It seemed like they had 25 beers on their board. The Coconut Milk Stout was like an Almond Joy in a glass. Yes, please. And their logo? That beard is my spirit animal.
Becca purchased one of their baseball Tees and wears it frequently. Seeing it always makes me smile.
You know it’s good #craftbeer when you consider giving in to the following demands (received via text): Your @dangerousman Peanut Butter Porter is my hostage! Bring $1,000,000 or else I drink it. . . . #porter #beer #beerporn #dangerousman #dangerousmanbrewing #iknewbetter #ransom #ransomdemand #hostage #somefriend #image #damnit #peanutbutter #peanutbutterporter
She: The Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter is my #1! So sad we drank it all.
… And my top spot.
Amazing beer. Solid people. And what a tasting room!
In mid-November, Becca and I had car trouble on our way to a wedding in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While we waited for the dealership to diagnose the problem, we headed to Prairie Artisan Ales. After enjoying their signature Bomb Stout for years, I’ve always wanted to visit their tasting room.
We quickly befriended one of the brewers because of his love for Kansas City beer. Long story short, we had to return to Oklahoma and I surprised our new friend with some KC beer, including my last bottle of Boulevard’s Requiem for a Pancake. He was quite pleased and returned the favor by sending me the following special release beers:
- Barrel Aged Bomb
- Barrel Aged Christmas Bomb
- Whiskey Barrel Noir
- Ozark Beer Company BDCS (2017)
When you blend great beer with great people (offering home delivery doesn’t hurt either), you earn the top spot in my book.
She: Also try the Pumpkin Humus. We like it so much we had it again on our return trip.
Other Craft Breweries of Note
Now, my favorite breweries of 2017 left off some fine places. In Kansas City, Brewery Emperial (one of our recent top restaurants), Crane Brewing, Double Shift, and Red Crow, all could have made the list. Others that received consideration, also included Modist (Minneapolis), Sea Dog Brewing Company (Maine) and Big River Grille & Brewing Works (only because it is in Disney World).
What Craft Breweries are to Come in 2018
With trips to New York City and New Orleans already in the books this January, I’ve logged a few early contenders for the 2018 list. And forthcoming trips to Maine, New Mexico and Washington state (Seattle), will likely lead to some top-notch selections.
Some Kansas City trips will be made to Amerisports Brew Pub (because Becca used to work the head brewer at Pony Express Brewing) and KC Bier Co. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to the latter.
What brewery did you truly enjoy last year? Let me know in the Comments …