Midnight Sun Brewing
Alaska loves itself some craft beer and Anchorage is where it showcases some of the best brews the state has to offer. You could spend a weekend pub crawling from Glacier Brewhouse to Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria to Snowgoose Restaurant and Pub before taking in a stout and a show at Bear Tooth Theatrepub. If you only have time for one brewpub, though, you'd best hit Midnight Sun for some cheddar-ale soup, pretzel sticks, ancho beef dip sandwiches, posole Mexican stew and great brews such as Sockeye Red IPA, Mammoth Extra Stout and its fall-favorite Treat imperial chocolate pumpkin porter.
Four Peaks Brewery
Tempe and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Arizona's developing quite a brewing culture of its own behind joints such as Tuscon mega beer bar and nanobrewery 1702, but Four Peaks Brewery's Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale, Hop Knot IPA and 8th Street Pale Ale still lead the pack. While they're each great draws to the brewpub in Tempe and the grill and tap in Scottsdale, menu items such as the jalapeno-and-cream-cheese-laden Popper Burger; chicken, beef and portabella mushroom sandwiches served on house-made beer bread; and tiramisu made with oatmeal stout would make a formidable brewpub in any state.
Little Rock, Ark.
It's tough enough to pick a favorite brewpub in a state that has only four to its credit, but it's even tougher when two are in the same town. Tennesee-based Bosco's Restaurant and Brewing deserves credit for making brews specific to its Little Rock brewpub such as its Flaming Stone German-style steinbier, its hop-heavy Bombay IPA and the subtle Isle of Skye Scottish ale, but Vino's appeal is broader than just beer. While its Pinnacle IPA, Lazyboy Stout, Rainbow Wheat hefeweizen and Razor Bock are all strong selections, the pizza joint/indie rock club vibe helped make it a Little Rock staple.
Russian River Brewing
Santa Rosa, Calif.
There's almost no way to get the California brewpub call right, especially when Russian River, Stone, Alpine and Pizza Port are all within state lines. Russian River breaks this tie pretty easily by giving the beer geeks what they want: Some of the best, most sought-after beers on the planet. Its Pliny The Elder double IPA and Supplication and Consecration sour beers are hoarded by beer lovers and used as pawns in multistate trades. Pliny The Elder is regularly considered one of the best beers in the world. At Russian River, they're what's on tap as guest devour chicken wings, meatball sandwiches, pizza and calzones and watch local bands. It's like finding a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild at Buffalo Wild Wings: jarring, but welcome.
Longmont and Lyons, Colo.
There are too many great breweries and brewpubs in Colorado to list, but on visitor experience alone Oskar Blues has them all beat. Back in 2002, Oskar Blues became the first craft brewer to can its beers when it started sealing up its Dale's Pale Ale and Old Chub Scottish ale at its brewery in Lyons. Since then, the operations have expanded to include a 50-acre farm, a brewpub and music venue in Longmont called Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids (with a giant replica can out front and Tasty Weasel Tap Room with live music, skee ball, small-batch brews and brewery tours). Lyons hasn't been left out, as the Oskar Blues Grill & Brew brewpub and live music venue still calls it home and the Old Chubway quick-serve eatery adds some fast-food flavor to the slow-drinking enjoyment of its beers. Even without a can of Little Yellow Pils or plate full of cajun and Creole comfort food, the Oskar Blues brewery and brewpub tour is worth the trip. Tours in Lyons at the original restaurant start with about 30 vintage arcade games in the bottom floor, where the first brewery used to be, a blues bar on the second floor and a brewpub with a patio and a restaurant for tastings up top. The tour then loads onto a 1959 hippie blues bus and heads to the Longmont Brewery's 40,000-square-foot production facility for a look at the fermentation cellars, can line and other production elements before heading to Homemade Liquids and Solids for a final tasting.