Willimantic Brewing and Main Street Cafe
Long one of Connecticut's best kept secrets, Willimantic Brewing is now taking reservations for servings of its brewers bread bruschetta, beer-battered fish and chips and beer tap beef sandwich. They all rate a very distant second to Willimantic brews such as the heavily grapefruit-flavored V.E.G. IPA, mild 4.7% alcohol by volume Three Cents session ale and the extremely potent Dyvil Hopyard Double IPA. The brewery even makes its own Kombucha, which is great for tea lovers in need of a cleanse but may be the last weird straw for visitors freaked out by the town's boombox parade, local currency and bridges adorned with thread spools and frogs.
Dogfish Head Brewing and Eats
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
This isn't much of a contest for a small state with only a handful of brewpubs. Dogfish Head got its start at this brewpub in 1995 and makes house vodka, rum and gin in the state's only legal distillery in a room upstairs. Most visitors come to get their hands on Dogfish favorites such as the Burton Baton English strong ale, Namaste witbier and 120 Minute IPA or brewpub-only batches including the Palo Santo Ahumado London-style porter or Tahkoku nut brown ale. They come back because of surprisingly good menu items such as the onion-ring-topped Indulgence Burger, wood-oven pizzas topped with IPA-poached tomatoes or the pub's showcase appetizer, The Dogpile: a mound of pita wedges topped with spinach-and-artichoke dip, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and onions.
District of Columbia
District ChopHouse & Brewery
If you're looking to schmooze a senator or dine your way to a defense contract and your only go-to spots for great beer are the Brickskellar and the Dubliner Pub, your beer info could use a few decades' worth of updating. The District ChopHouse combines two business-dinner favorites -- huge cuts of meat and strong drink -- in a venue that's much more steakhouse than brewhouse. Still, if you're going to make a beer great enough to compete with scotch and whiskey, this is the place to do it. The ChopHouse wisely ages some of its best beers in bourbon barrels, which makes its Bourbon Stout, Bourbon Russian Imperial Stout and Bourbon Barley Wine nice complements to a Delmonico or porterhouse.
Some reasons for the greatness of Peg's Cantina: It has outdoor seating on porches and under trees out front that can be used for most of the year. No. 2, its Mexican/Gulf Coast hybrid menu featuring lump blue crab quesadillas, shrimp burritos and tuna tacos is one of the most fun and imaginative of any of its buttoned-up brewpub counterparts. No. 3, brewer Doug Dozark is also brew manager at Tampa's powerhouse Cigar City Brewing and keeps Peg's nine taps flowing with gems such as his rare, whiskey-barrel-aged Doug's Original Stout. With owners committed to using native plants, fair-trade ingredients and so little plastic that they shun credit cards and a brewer who was already making the best craft beer in Florida, Peg's Cantina would be a prize in any state. Georgia
The Wrecking Bar
Located in the historic Victor H. Kriegshaber House, the Wrecking Bar was a Victorian home, a Methodist Church, a dance school and antiques shop before Bob and Kristine Sandage turned its basement into arguably the best brewpub in the state. The pub grub such as hefeweizen-steamed mussels, beer-and-cheddar soup, chicken bratwurst with house apple cider kraut and hand-cut fries with dipping sauce are fine, but the beer holds up well on its own. After a quick brewery tour, take some time to sample the "Jemmy Dean" Breakfast Stout, Piper Down 70 Shilling Scottish Ale and the grotesquely named Stifler's Cream Ale.