Free State Brewing
To give you some idea of just how difficult it's been to be a brewer in Kansas, Free State was the only legal brewery in the state when it opened in 1989 and still doesn't have the right to distribute its own beer. Even if it did, it would be reduced to "low-point" 4% ABV beer in supermarkets. Though great breweries such as Manhattan, Kan.-based canned beer kings Tallgrass followed, Free State is still the only brewer around that's run a brewpub successfully for any length of time. Specialties such as peach brie bruschetta, artichoke tomato tortellini and avocado chimichurri make it a pleasant lunch or dinner stop, but house brews such as the Castle Rock Rye and Konza Prairie Kolch and old favorites such as Oatmeal Stout and Wheat State Golden have made regulars out of University of Kansas parents, alumni and fans.
Louisville is becoming one-stop shopping for beer fans as greats such as Against The Grain Brewery and Cumberland Brews help make the town a bourbon-soaked brewpub crawl. Bluegrass Brewing's three locations take it a step further by procuring its barrels from the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg and serving four barrel-aged brews at a clip. BBC's Dark Star and Bourbon Barrel Rye porters are perhaps the best reasons for walking through the door and pair nicely with the brewpub's Bourbon Peach Pork Chop Taste Of Kentucky Platter of fried green tomatoes, Benedictine cucumber-and-cream-cheese dip and country ham.
Crescent City Brewhouse
Louisiana doesn't offer a whole lot of breweries beyond Abita, Dixie and Heiner Brau and can count its brewpubs on one hand and still have enough digits left over to pinch a beer bottle. Of the brewpubs it has, Crescent City is the only one that isn't part of a chain. Its founder and brewmaster, Wolfram Kohler, brews its altbier, pilsners, hefeweizen, Black Forest Munich Dunkel Lager and Voodoo Bock in strict accordance with the Reinheitsgebot German beer purity law that allows only water, malt, hops and yeast as ingredients. That's about as serious as this spot gets, though, as its Cajun meatpies, seafood andouille gumbo, shrimp po' boys, crawfish etouffee and jambalaya blend with live jazz into an atmosphere befitting its French Quarter location.
Marshall Wharf Brewing/Three Tides
There are a whole lot of breweries clustered around Portland's still-growing beer scene, but Marshall Wharf stands apart in distance and quality. A relatively small brewery that serves as the house brewery for the waterfront restaurant Three Tides, Marshall Wharf has 17 of its homegrown brews on tap at any time and mixes in high-potency experimental brews such as the 11.2% ABV T2-R9 Barleywine and 10% ABV Cant Dog Imperial IPA with sunset sippers such as the Pinchy 3% ABV session ale and 6.1% ABV Pemaquid Oyster Stout -- brewed with 10 dozen live oysters. Three Tides' Pemaquid Oysters, rope-grown mussels and Maine crabmeat quesadillas are serviceable enough, but Marshall Wharf's beers keep regulars coming back once the Vacationald tourists have gone.