December 20th, 2011
In college towns, you'll find a population dominated by college students, and within these towns are plenty of specialty businesses that cater to the student crowd: bars, book shops, inexpensive eateries, and coffee shops, to name a few. In some of the more fortunate college towns, you'll also find excellent breweries, some of them making beers that are sought after by beer geeks all over the world. Certainly, there's a link between academic excellence and great beer — we just haven't been able to prove it yet. And while not every college student appreciates a finely crafted beer, the growing ranks of enlightened college beer drinkers would be lucky to find themselves studying near one of these great breweries.
We've listed 12 of the best college town breweries out there, but we're certain there are even more worthy brewers out there, especially budding new breweries that have flown under our radar. Please be sure to share your favorite college town brewery in the comments.
As the capital of Texas and home to the University of Texas, Austin is also home to a dozen breweries and counting, with more in the planning stages. Even in this crowded market, Independence really stands out for its excellent beer portfolio. Standards include the Austin Amber Ale, Bootlegger Brown, Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout, and Stash IPA. We're thinking, though, that University of Texas students especially appreciate Oklahoma Suks, an American Amber/Red Ale that's brewed each year for the OU vs. UT game. Other special treats from Independence include the Jasperilla Old Ale, a French farmhouse saison called Epanoui, and Braggot, made with Texas wildflower honey. Also notable in Austin are North by Northwest, which earned a bronze at GABF for Barton Kriek, as well as Great American Beer Fest silver winners Austin Beerworks and Uncle Billy's Brew & Que.
Avery Brewing Company
Boulder, Colo., is another great college town with no shortage of beer. In this mountain town full of hippies and hipsters alike from the University of Colorado, you'll find Avery, Mountain Sun, Boulder Beer, Upslope, and Twisted Pine, all doing a great job of serving excellent beer. But Avery Brewing is really the star of Boulder with its reputation for putting out really amazing, adventurous beers. Two of Avery's beers, Fifteen and Brabant, have taken home medals from GABF in the Experimental Beer category, and standards Ellie's Brown, Avery IPA, Out of Bounds, Kaiser Oktoberfest, and Hog Heaven have all won awards as well. Students enjoy the brewery's cozy tap room, with themed nights, live music, and plenty of mind-blowing beer.
Colorado, in general, is rich with great beer, with the aforementioned Boulder breweries, several great ones in Denver, and plenty more scattered around the state, but Fort Collins is a great place to be if you're a college beer lover. The home of Colorado State University boasts not only New Belgium Brewing, but the up and coming Funkwerks, Odell, Crooked Stave, Left Hand, and more. New Belgium is a town favorite, though, for its ubiquitous Fat Tire, which can be found throughout Fort Collins and, really, college towns everywhere. But beyond this old staple are some really interesting beers, particularly in the brewery's Lips of Faith series, which highlights beers that push the envelope in terms of spices, barrel aging, and often, souring agents. New Belgium is a popular brewery not just in Fort Collins, but nationwide, and GABF judges seem to be fans as well: the brewery has earned no fewer than 25 GABF medals.
Lots of people aren't even aware that Utah is allowed to have beer, much less produce awesome brews like those from Uinta, Red Rock, Squatters, and other Salt Lake City breweries. In fact, Draft magazine named the town, home of the University of Utah, a Beertown, USA, highlighting the city's great resources for beer lovers and those seeking an active lifestyle. College students, business professionals, and out-of-town conference attendees alike pack into the Squatters Pub & Brewery, which has won countless awards for its beers both under the pub name and through its Utah Brewers Cooperative with Park City's Wasatch Brewing. Some of the brewery's most popular beers are its Black Forest Schwarzbier, India Pale Ale, Provo Girl Pilsner, and Vienna Lager.
Vermont Pub & Brewery
Burlington, Vt., is a classic college town, with the University of Vermont, Burlington College, and Champlain College all located in the city limits. But it's also a beer town, rightly fitting for Vermont, which has more breweries per capita than any other state. Burlington boasts Vermont Pub & Brewery, the state's oldest craft brewery, American Flatbread, and the nation's eighth-largest craft brewer, Magic Hat. Since opening in 1988, Vermont Pub & Brewery has celebrated much success, with a gold GABF medal for their flagship Burly Irish Ale, as well as medals for Forbidden Fruit and Handsome Micks' Smoked Stout. Conveniently located near the city's community college, Champlain College, and the University of Vermont on, you guessed it, College Street, we're sure that the city's college students agree that this brewery is great and here to stay.
Cigar City Brewing
In Tampa, Fla., you'll find the University of South Florida, one of the largest individual college campuses in the United States. But perhaps more importantly, you'll find Cigar City, a brewery that is rated among the highest of the high with an A+, "world class" rating on Beer Advocate. Every college student should be so lucky to study in a city that's home to a brewery like this one. Cigar City is just three years old, yet has won the gold at GABF for both its Minaret ESB and Humidor Series IPA, while also becoming a favorite for craft beer lovers nationwide. Their bottles are among the most sought after in craft beer, and often quite hard to find, but University of South Florida students have the convenience of living right in the same city as this legendary beer, where the tap room is open every day and available for tastings, growler fills, and bottles to take home.
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you'll not only find Wake Forest University, but also Foothills Brewing, an award-winning brewery that's been around since 2004. With several GABF wins, including a gold for their Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout, Wake Forest students are lucky to have such a great beer resource right in the area. And students who are interested in learning more about beer can take advantage of Foothills' Beer School, a detailed class that discusses the brewing process, along with a brewery tour and samples of current beers. Also worth noting are Winston-Salem's neighbor, Asheville, which was named Draft magazine's 2010 Beer City USA, and the acclaimed Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville (yes, there is a real Farmville).
Cambridge Brewing Company
Boston is a huge, bustling city that's bursting with colleges and breweries alike: there are more than 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area and at least 25 breweries and brewpubs. Just north of Boston, the small town of Cambridge is known for its two most prominent universities, Harvard and MIT. Cambridge is not only blessed with an excellent educational pedigree, but also some pretty awesome beer. Within walking distance of MIT, you'll find Cambridge Brewing Company, a comfortable brewpub that's serving up awesome beer on a regular basis and earning a reputation for creatively pushing the envelope with beer. With several GABF medals under their belt, Cambridge is especially proud of its three gold medal brews: Arquebus, The Wind Cried Mari, and Triple Threat, all three of them experimental, specialty, or brewed with herbs and spices. But the great minds at Harvard and MIT aren't limited to just Cambridge Brewing Company. A new brewery, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, has begun to release critically acclaimed beers, and in the greater Boston area, you'll find Clown Shoes, Harpoon, Mercury, and even the legendary Sam Adams, all offering excellent beer for the college masses in the Boston area.
Terrapin Beer Company
Athens, Ga., is a college town that credits its initial growth to the University of Georgia, the first state-chartered university in the U.S. Terrapin Beer Company has wowed the college town and beer community with its beers from the very start: its Rye Pale Ale won gold at GABF when the brewery was just six months old in 2002, and it was the brewery's only offering at the time. Since then, Terrapin has put out some very interesting beers, including the Terrapin Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout (frequently referred to as Wake-n-Bake Coffee Imperial Stout), the Hopsecutioner, and Beer Gone Good. Terrapin has recently announced that it sold a 25% ownership to Tenth and Blake, a craft group from MillerCoors, which has understandably ruffled a few feathers, but we're thinking that the college kids in Athens can only be excited about the growth and expansion that will come from it.
Western Michigan University has four campuses in Kalamazoo, and the town is home to Kalamazoo College as well. The most well known and celebrated brewery in Kalamazoo is Bell's Brewery, established way back in 1985, before most of today's college students were even born. But that doesn't stop them from enjoying the great beer that Bell's has to offer at the brewery's pub, Eccentric Cafe. Bell's has earned both awards (nine of them, to be exact), and the love of beer geeks and critics everywhere, particularly with its legendary Two-Hearted Ale, Hopslam, and Expedition Stout. Also close to campus is the very popular Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Dark Horse in Marshall, and Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek, which is particularly well known for its Cereal Killer Barley Wine.
Another great college town in Michigan, Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan. A much-loved brewery, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, is located less than 20 minutes away in Dexter, but fortunately for Michigan students, they've got an Ann Arbor brewpub as well. Jolly Pumpkin is best known for their celebrated Belgian- and French-style beers, which also happen to be their most awarded: Oro De Calabaza has earned GABF gold, as well as Belipago. The brewery's style is typically described as farmhouse, or rustic country, due to the brewery's unfiltered and unpasteurized treatment. Michigan students and regular beer lovers alike are treated to the unique beers that Jolly Pumpkin puts out, including Bam Biere, La Roja, Luciernaga, and Calabaza Blanca.
Ninkasi Brewing Company
Eugene, Ore., also known as the "Emerald City," is known for its natural beauty, arts, and outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as the University of Oregon. And college students in the know also recognize Eugene as the home of Ninkasi Brewing Company. Named for Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, the brewery is certainly educational for University of Oregon students. Ninkasi's Radiant IPA earned bronze in the latest GABF awards, and other popular beers include Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops, Believer Double Red, and Oatis Oatmeal Stout. The brewery opened a tasting room in 2009, welcoming college students and visitors to try both their flagship beers and seasonals. Other notable breweries in the state, primarily located in Portland, include Deschutes, Bend Brewing Company, BridgePort, Full Sail, and Rogue Ales.