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Craft Brewery Experiences (1 Viewer)

Northern Voice

Footballguy
I know we have a beer thread and some discussion about different breweries mixed in here and there through the forum's but I don't think we have a dedicated topic to this point. 

I've visited probably 100+ craft breweries over the past ten years or so, some great, some amazing, some just okay (but they still had beer so not too bad). About a year ago I turned that love of beer into my job, working as a territory manager for a mid sized brewery here in Ontario. 

Starting Monday, I'm taking over as head of sales for a smaller brewery in my hometown. A lot of my focus will be on retail distribution and licensees (pubs, restaurants etc) but I'll also be overseeing online sales and the taproom, so that's my selfish reason for wanting to hear the cool things people have seen. 

One of my favorite things was at Monzon Brewing in Puerto Vallarta which had a "drops in the bucket" program where with every drink you bought, you got a bottlecap to drop in a bucket for one of two chairties featured that month. It is a small donation for each cap that can really add up with time - over 100k donated overall. The beer here was good, not great. 

Another place I loved visiting was 5e Baron in Gatineau, Quebec. This brewery is in an old residential building, with a beautiful tree lined front terrace and fantastic beer. Sometimes I think it's just as simple as that - great environment and great beer. 

I will travel a good distance for really good beer and love seeking it out but at the same time, I will also go to a place with good but not mind blowing beer if it's a great environment, it's an interesting balance.

I'm sure collectively we have tons of brewery experiences, good and bad.

 
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Northern Voice

Footballguy
A lot of the Toronto breweries leave me a bit cold in terms of setting. They have a very "industrial" vibe and I get that is pretty common for the industry (and it's true of the taproom where I'm going) but it's the warmer feeling places that seem to pull me in more. 

An exception is Amsterdam Brewhouse which has an incredible lake front setting and a wide range of very well done, approachable beers, if no "whales" that people are searching out (is this even a thing anymore with so many breweries?) 

 

CletiusMaximus

Footballguy
Sometimes I think it's just as simple as that - great environment and great beer. 
First of all, congrats and best wishes for you on this new journey. Secondly, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. Maybe it seems obvious, but I think many small breweries lose sight of this simple truth and get lost in the trendy gimmicks. I know I’m going to be paying a bit higher prices at a tap room as compared to pounding macro brews at happy hour. It starts with the beer, but I need to be comfortable, have a nice atmosphere and good food. Of all the craft beer places we now have to choose from in my city, surprisingly few get it right. 
 

 

Lehigh98

Footballguy
Sometimes I think it's just as simple as that - great environment and great beer.
This place just opened up less than a mile from my house in the middle of a mostly residential area with tons of upper-middleclass families around.  They bought an old restaurant that used to have problems with flooding from the creek nearby but moved the brewery area uphill a bit so shouldn't be an issue.  I drive by every day on my way to work and on my way home and when its nice out, its completely packed (they had to use a neighboring business for overflow parking that you have to walk along a trail through the woods which is also a cool aspect).  All that to say they had a great eye for a perfect location even though there was an old, rundown, shuttered restaurant on it.  I like the beers so far too but I'm no expert.

Rising River Brewing

Outside 1

Outside 2

 
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Steve Tasker

Footballguy
Obviously the beer is important, but the overall vibe of the place is just as important, if not moreso, IMO.

My old go-to favorite spot locally was literally a nanobrewery started in a garage.  They had a small bar with no seats, walk-up and order, like an 8-tap system - here's an old photo.  I think there were 4 or 5 high-top wooden tables, each with 2 or 4 stools.  You couldn't fit more than maybe 25 people in the place comfortably, but that's okay because it was really never overcrowded even though there were always people drinking and hanging out.  If you were to ask me where they fall in the spectrum of local beer in terms of quality, I'd say they're somewhere in the #3 or #4 range, but the atmosphere was unmatched.  They've since opened a much trendier, larger spot which hits the hipster sweet spot (picture)....still a great place to go, but I miss the old place.

IMO, I want a friendly place, not deserted but not overcrowded teeming with people, with some space to spread out and relax with some friends and some good beer.

 

the moops

Footballguy
It is rare around here to find a place that has great beer, and has a great vibe. Seems like most places lean on one more than the other, but each can be successful.

For me, good beer is obviously the most important #1, but the vibe/decor/location are all up there in terms of importance. I enjoy places that give visitors options. You want to watch a game, sure - here are a couple TVs in that corner. You want to play some games - yep, we got a bookcase full. You want to lounge outside on a nice day - have at it on our back patio that has a fire pit and outdoor couches. You want to just chill and listen to some music - enjoy the jukebox turned up to about a 6 so everyone who doesn't want to groove out can enjoy their thing.

But customer service is right up there with the taste of their beer. A knowledgeable bartender who is aware of who needs their next beer, and will give you a sample without being asked if you show interest in a beer. Someone who will listen to your banter but not forget about the other people waiting for a beer. Someone who will make right any mistakes.  

 

jamny

Footballguy
We made a permanent move to Boise last year and the craft brewery scene here is awesome. We have like 8 or 9 breweries within walking distance and we try them all. Our new favorite is Mother Earth, which only recently opened. Besides a good variety of excellent beer, the seating indoor and out is laid out really well, allowing some privacy if you want or being in the crowd if you prefer. Very friendly staff and a few TV's. No food but they regularly have food trucks on site. Just a great and welcoming environment.

Another of our favorites is Mad Swede. For me, it's strictly for the great beer. They get a good crowd for their open mic nights, trivia nights, comedy nights, etc. They're fairly new too but quickly gained popularity. 

Barbarian Brewery has a new location that we haven't tried yet but their downtown spot is really good. They have excellent beer and sours.

There are a bunch others of varying quality in product and atmosphere. Great beer comes first. I like when they have special limited releases that I make sure I get a chance to try. We like places that are very dog friendly too. Payette does a good job with that, but you need the right type of space. Make sure to take acoustics into consideration. Some places ignore it and they are so loud when crowded that you can barely hear the person next to you. We will usually only go back when they are less crowded.

Good luck...keep us posted!

 

Steve Tasker

Footballguy
Also I'll throw out there that I'm a stickler for visible signs of brewing activity.  People visible working in the brewery, the delightful smells of the malt, the hops etc, being able to see the cleanliness of their working conditions, and so on.  There's a running joke about a place locally here that has pretty decent beer that we have no idea whether they actually brew beer on site.  They have the setup, but I have never once seen any actual indication that they are using the equipment.  It never has the traditional smells, or the heat/warmth that can come off the boil, anything like that, when you're in the place.  It almost looks like it's just for show.

 

Steve Tasker

Footballguy
Hill Farmstead is my favorite ever, with Suarez Family a close second (he used to work at Hill Farmstead.)

As far as setups, hard to beat Tree House Brewing.  Great space.  
Been to Tree House but I've never been able to sit down and relax there, always in-and-out, so I haven't really been able to comment on the setup other than just passing through.  Suarez Family is on my shortlist, it's all the way across the state though.  Their beers that I've had have all been great, and the place looks super cool from the photos.

 

Northern Voice

Footballguy
will give you a sample without being asked if you show interest in a beer. 
:goodposting:
Two of the stronger beers at the new brewery are a Hefeweizen and a Witbier. I think it would be cool if someone orders one to automatically give them a small sample of the other and a ten second description of the similarity and difference between the two styles. Hopefully they want a full pour or cans to go of the one they didn't get the first time as well. 

I also know not everyone is as big a beer nerd as me and need to keep that in mind. 

 

jamny

Footballguy
A lot of my focus will be on retail distribution and licensees (pubs, restaurants etc) but I'll also be overseeing online sales and the taproom, so that's my selfish reason for wanting to hear the cool things people have seen. 
Getting the beer in the local supermarkets is big, imo. I'll always search out my newest favorite when I go shopping to have a six in the fridge.

 

Northern Voice

Footballguy
Also I'll throw out there that I'm a stickler for visible signs of brewing activity.  People visible working in the brewery, the delightful smells of the malt, the hops etc, being able to see the cleanliness of their working conditions, and so on.  There's a running joke about a place locally here that has pretty decent beer that we have no idea whether they actually brew beer on site.  
I agree with this and it's something that can be improved at the brewery. There is brewing every day so the smells etc will be there but there's not great visibility to it. 

It's one of those situations where it started as one unit of the building and has (awesomely) grown to a second and now a third unit but it's also laid out that way, where the brewing area feels very seperate from the taproom. 

 

jamny

Footballguy
Two of the stronger beers at the new brewery are a Hefeweizen and a Witbier. I think it would be cool if someone orders one to automatically give them a small sample of the other and a ten second description of the similarity and difference between the two styles. Hopefully they want a full pour or cans to go of the one they didn't get the first time as well. 

I also know not everyone is as big a beer nerd as me and need to keep that in mind. 
True. I'll always accept a taste but my wife wouldn't care. Once she has one she likes, usually a tame lager/pilsner, she has no interest in any other.

 

Northern Voice

Footballguy
Getting the beer in the local supermarkets is big, imo. I'll always search out my newest favorite when I go shopping to have a six in the fridge.
This is basically what I've done for the past decade (with coffee) so getting the distribution up in grocery and liquor stores is the real #1 reason I'm being brought in. It's a huge huge factor but it's already my strength, where the taproom and online are completely new to me - but I asked them to oversee it all 

 
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jamny

Footballguy
This is basically what I've done for the past decade (with coffee) so getting the distribution up in grocery and liquor stores is the real #1 reason I'm being brought in. It's a huge huge factor but it's already my strength, where the taproom and online are completely new to me - but I asked them to oversee it all 
Our local Fred Meyer does a cool thing, not sure if it's common in other places. They have a separate fridge with all local breweries and you can mix and match a six pack for $9.99. Great to try new ones without having to buy a whole 6.

 

Northern Voice

Footballguy
Our local Fred Meyer does a cool thing, not sure if it's common in other places. They have a separate fridge with all local breweries and you can mix and match a six pack for $9.99. Great to try new ones without having to buy a whole 6.
I love the idea of the local brewery fridge, there are quite a few in this area and they could certainly fill it. And my brewery has the only good hazy IPA which would help quite a bit sales wise in such a fridge. 

Alcohol isn't allowed to be discounted in Ontario (with some exceptions for happy hours and government approved monthly promotions). The beer has to be the same price at the grocery store as it is at the liquor store and the brewery, so the second part is unfortunately a no-go. 

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
A lot of the Toronto breweries leave me a bit cold in terms of setting. They have a very "industrial" vibe and I get that is pretty common for the industry (and it's true of the taproom where I'm going) but it's the warmer feeling places that seem to pull me in more. 

An exception is Amsterdam Brewhouse which has an incredible lake front setting and a wide range of very well done, approachable beers, if no "whales" that people are searching out (is this even a thing anymore with so many breweries?) 
LOL, have this sitting on my desk: link

Wasn't there also a Rotterdam Brewhouse? On King or Queen? Or Yonge?

 
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mr. furley

Footballguy
my expectations/hopes for a brewery

1) a solid, doesn't have to be spectacular, variety of your own beer + rotating guest taps. understanding that the trendy/fad beers of the day are what some people want to see, i hate when that's the only thing on tap. give me a stout, a porter, a pale, a solid fresh IPA and a couple offerings from another local brewery who doesn't have their own space and/or is just kicking up and i'm happy.

2) it can't be sterile and "modern" looking. it has to feel lived in and comfy. not like i'm in fear of breaking something just by touching it. make it homey.

3) space to gather with friends. not just a long bar with stools side by side. a few couches, some bigger tables for 6-8 people to sit at and chat.

4) music should be in the background. too many places are absolutely ####### blaring music and or tv's. it's distracting, overwhelming and unwelcoming. play whatever you want. just make it so people can talk.

5) as much as possible can the pretentious bartender shtick. yes, i want them to know what they're serving me and to have drank it but i don't need a lecture and/or to have someone tell me what i'm doing wrong while i'm drinking my beer. 

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
I agree with most of the stuff other people are saying here. My favorite for atmosphere in Charlotte is the Southpark location of Legion. 

The main room is designed as a Foeder so it's like you're sitting inside it. You can see it in the link below. 

It also has great food and an upstairs area that has more tvs and games and another bar. 

Link

 

Steve Tasker

Footballguy
5) as much as possible can the pretentious bartender shtick. yes, i want them to know what they're serving me and to have drank it but i don't need a lecture and/or to have someone tell me what i'm doing wrong while i'm drinking my beer. 
This is key and it's a delicate balance IMO.

If I'm in a new place, maybe a new city or a brewery where I don't expect to return anytime soon if ever, I'll often narrow down my selections to a handful of beers and ask the bartender what they recommend.  I don't expect every bartender to be a deep-dive expert in brewing, but they should be able to give tangible high points of a beer in a brief sentence or two.  It is very clear when the bartender is clueless as to the beers they're serving (my favorite description when asking about a beer was "it tastes like an ale"). 

But at the same time, I don't need a lecture or feel like I'm being talked down to; trust me, I understand the brewing process, the flavor profiles of the various ingredients...I want you to be passionate about your product without making me feel like you're looking down on me.  I'm asking your opinion because I can't decide which of the beers I want, and I want to know what you, the bartender, think about the beers off the cuff, and which one you prefer and why.

 
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mr. furley

Footballguy
This is key and it's a delicate balance IMO.

If I'm in a new place, maybe a new city or a brewery where I don't expect to return anytime soon if ever, I'll often narrow down my selections to a handful of beers and ask the bartender what they recommend.  I don't expect every bartender to be a deep-dive expert in brewing, but they should be able to give tangible high points of a beer in a brief sentence or two.  It is very clear when the bartender is clueless as to the beers they're serving (my favorite description when asking about a beer was "it tastes like an ale"). 

But at the same time, I don't need a lecture or feel like I'm being talked down to; trust me, I understand the brewing process, the flavor profiles of the various ingredients...I want you to be passionate about your product without making me feel like you're looking down on me.  I'm asking your opinion because I can't decide which of the beers I want, and I want to know what you, the bartender, think about the beers off the cuff, and which one you prefer and why.
i'm not near as knowledgeable about beer as you are, but i'm with you 100% on this.

i'm looking for a quick pitch on the two or three options i'm waffling over. help push me off my static indecision.

 

Ron Swanson

Footballguy
Friendly, engaging staff is #1. 

A cool feature of our little hometown brewery is their "Buy a Friend a Beer" chalkboard. It may be common but I haven't seen it at others I've visited.

And either have good food, or don't have food. If you microwave pretzels and cheese, I'm out.

 

Steve Tasker

Footballguy
Friendly, engaging staff is #1. 

A cool feature of our little hometown brewery is their "Buy a Friend a Beer" chalkboard. It may be common but I haven't seen it at others I've visited.

And either have good food, or don't have food. If you microwave pretzels and cheese, I'm out.
Some of this may depend on state/local law.  In NY, the law states - or at least it used to as of a few years ago - that in order to serve a full pour of an alcoholic beverage, you need to offer some sort of food item.  Otherwise you could only give short 2 oz sample pours.  There were a handful of places here that would give out things like free nuts, or have small bags of chips or pretzels available for like 50 cents.  No one would really ever buy them, but they were required by law to offer them, otherwise they couldn't serve full pints.

 
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Zow

Footballguy
I enjoy hanging out at craft breweries for sure and I enjoy most of them. If I'm being picky, while I certainly care about the beer, I generally want an open venue with the mash tanks visible and ideally some sort of view. Also, if I'm going to hang there frequently or for awhile, it's gotta have good food. Traditional bar food is fine provided they put some effort in. 

My all-time is Four Peaks in Tempe, AZ prior to the sale to Inbev.* When my wife and I were dating we'd post up there weekly Sunday mornings and watch the Vikings game (it's a Vikings bar). Great beer and surprisingly decent food. The owner really cared about the menu and would do nostalgic Minnesota dishes like tater tot hot dish, fried walleye, etc. Also the Tempe weather in the winter is near perfect. 

Collectively, it's hard to beat just going from brewery to brewery in Ocean Beach, CA. Just amazing. Also, last night I was in Minneapolis I was pretty damn impressed with the collection of craft breweries by each other. 

With kids now I rarely get to do this kind of thing, but I do enjoy the days of hitting breweries with some UnTappd friends and drinking the day away. 

*Contrary to my UnTappd friends who think the owner is a "sell-out," I don't blame the owner for selling at all as he cashed in for millions and owns a beautiful Scottsdale home. The reason I use this time marker is because after the owner left, most likely to increase profit margins the corporation who took over really streamlined the food options and lowered the quality. It's still a fun hang with good beer but I miss the nuanced menu and specials. 

 

Zow

Footballguy
Friendly, engaging staff is #1. 

A cool feature of our little hometown brewery is their "Buy a Friend a Beer" chalkboard. It may be common but I haven't seen it at others I've visited.

And either have good food, or don't have food. If you microwave pretzels and cheese, I'm out.
:yes:  

 

General Malaise

Poop Lord
Friendly, engaging staff is #1. 

A cool feature of our little hometown brewery is their "Buy a Friend a Beer" chalkboard. It may be common but I haven't seen it at others I've visited.

And either have good food, or don't have food. If you microwave pretzels and cheese, I'm out.
:goodposting:

I agree with this guy.  Great beer is important, of course, but good lord, put just a LITTLE effort in your menu or don't have one at all.  You want to park a food truck or two on site and let them handle the grub, fine.  But don't put 98% of your time in crafting the best IPA in the history of the world and 2% on your food.  You need balance.  

Also - and this is key:  HAVE OTHER OPTIONS!  Offer some good wine!  Put some non-alcoholic options on tap.  Boneyard Brewing (my favorite) has a line of CBD Sparkling Elixers.  Give the designated driver's some fun options.  Have some Kombucha on tap.  My wife isn't going to drink beer, but we will hit a brew pub if they have good food AND good wines available.    I'm astonished when we visit a brew pup and all they have is boxed wine or crap from the bargain bin.  Step up your game.

 
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General Malaise

Poop Lord
Our local Fred Meyer does a cool thing, not sure if it's common in other places. They have a separate fridge with all local breweries and you can mix and match a six pack for $9.99. Great to try new ones without having to buy a whole 6.


Do they have a growler station at your Freddy's?  Our local one had a growler station and I loved it.  They offered 'happy hour' fills before 5pm, which knocked a buck or two off the fill.  LOVED IT.  

But Covid took it away and it's not coming back. :(

 

jamny

Footballguy
Do they have a growler station at your Freddy's?  Our local one had a growler station and I loved it.  They offered 'happy hour' fills before 5pm, which knocked a buck or two off the fill.  LOVED IT.  

But Covid took it away and it's not coming back. :(
that sounds cool! But no, not here.

 

Summer Wheat

Footballguy
Used to be a big craft beer person, but after getting number of crappy beers for 10-12 dollar a glass I am getting over it fast.

 

Don Quixote

Footballguy
I like some good outdoor space for kids to run around. A place near me that I think does it well with that is 2 Silos Brewing (article with some pictures here). The beer there isn't the greatest, but makes up for it with venue -- lots of different places to hang out, decent food (including variety of more than just standard pub food), a playground (as well as ice cream truck) for the kiddos to keep them occupied, cornhole boards, etc. 

 

nirad3

Footballguy
Zow said:
My all-time is Four Peaks in Tempe, AZ prior to the sale to Inbev.* When my wife and I were dating we'd post up there weekly Sunday mornings and watch the Vikings game (it's a Vikings bar). Great beer and surprisingly decent food. The owner really cared about the menu and would do nostalgic Minnesota dishes like tater tot hot dish, fried walleye, etc. Also the Tempe weather in the winter is near perfect. 


@cap'n grunge you go here yet?  Skol!

 

HellToupee

Footballguy
Hill Farmstead is my favorite ever, with Suarez Family a close second (he used to work at Hill Farmstead.)

As far as setups, hard to beat Tree House Brewing.  Great space.  
Treehouse is phenomenal, luckily they are opening a new building 2 miles from my house. Is Hill pretty much still a barn and picnic tables or did the modernize? Lovely beverages there

 

HellToupee

Footballguy
Summer Wheat said:
Used to be a big craft beer person, but after getting number of crappy beers for 10-12 dollar a glass I am getting over it fast.
I’ve been on an old school macro kick lately

 

Brony

Footballguy
We've been hitting all of the breweries in my area over the last few years.   Some fire pits outside, an atmosphere that is inviting and not cold, and some music help a lot.  A menu with clear descriptions of the options (style, ABV etc) is critical and I hate when there are lots of beers on the menu that are unavailable. 

I'm in the camp not really interested in the tanks and pipes.  As long as the beer is fresh and they keep their lines clean, I don't care if they brewed it there or 5 miles away.  Maybe my chem eng background knows that those tanks can be prisitine or filthy on the inside; their appearance does nothing for me.. 

I really like the experience at Hop Lot in Suttons Bay MI. 

 
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DA RAIDERS

willy t flyers
Location and vibe are HUGE. the beer here is mediocre imho, but the location is odd and awesome.  It’s right on the train tracks.  They have a great building and really spent a lot of effort on the interior. 

 

heckmanm

Footballguy
When I walk into a new (to me) brewery, the first thing i look for is a simple lager or failing that, a simple blonde or pale ale.  If everything on the menu is massively hopped or flavored, I will become immediately suspcious that you're trying to hide flaws in your brewing process.  If you put a Munich Helles on tap, there's nowhere to hide a mistake.

 

jwb

Footballguy
Excellent thread. Lots of good suggestions so far.

Obviously, good beer is important.

I like food too. Your food menu need not be overwhelming -  just having some apps and a few decent things for lunch is usually ok with me. If you can't do food, at least do snacks. One place I liked had pint glasses of goldfish crackers for a few bucks, and a few other snacks. Then they started making decent sandwiches and salads.. 

I'll second having a few basics always on hand, and have some beers across the entire ABV scale too. I hate when there are 14 beers, and only two are under 6.9%. Someone else mentioned not being "out" of too many items. I agree. If my second choice is "oh, sorry, we're out of that too", I'm usually not happy with the place.

I like places that let you pick your own flight on a card or chalkboard - that's always cool. 

 

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