The Brewer's Art
This may be the only establishment on this list that could consider the brewpub moniker an insult. Located in a Mount Vernon townhouse, The Brewer's Art has beer in its name but uses it as just one element in its larger culinary experience. Bar bites including sausage platters, crab dip, garlic fries and burgers and chili dogs are kid's table fare compared with the restaurant's pork belly, kung pao sweetbread and ceviche appetizers and Korean-style shortrib, ratatouille polenta and steak frites entrees. That doesn't mean it's skimping on the beers, though. Despite competing with a menu of whiskies, ports and guest beers, brews such as its 7.25% ABV Ozzy Belgian strong ale, 7% Resurrection abbey brown ale and Wit Trash 4% ABV wheat beer are stronger Maryland mainstays than crab cakes and football.
Cape Ann Brewing
This state loves itself a pedantic argument, and a back-and-forth over the best brewpub would contain more sentences beginning with "Actually ..." than any esoteric discussion you'd hear in a Cambridge bar. Think the best brewpubs are the Cambridge Brewing or the Beer Works and John Harvard chains in the Boston area? Actually, the People's Pint in Central Massachusetts has far more local cultural cred with its Irish and Quebecois session music nights. Actually, the Offshore Brewing and Cisco Brewers bars and brewpubs on the islands are more aesthetically pleasant and brew closer to home. Actually ... Cape Ann Brewing beats them by offering a great view of the fishing boats coming in and out of Gloucester harbor from its back windows and deck, local bands and trivia nights and a slate of great brews such as the Fisherman's Ale Kolsch, Fisherman's Navigator Doppel-bock and Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout. Combined with the local flavor of fried haddock, clams, oysters, scallops, shrimp and calamari and a "bomb" sandwich of steak and Portuguese sausage, Cape Ann's beers and view score big points for Bay State authenticity.
In a notoriously tough beer state packed with favorites such as Founders, Dark Horse, Jolly Pumpkin, Bells and Kuhnhenn, the 20 taps at Shorts more than hold their own. All the way up near the top of the mitten in Bellaire, Shorts goes big on beers such as the puckeringly bitter Huma Lupa IPA and bourbon-barrel-aged Black Cherry Porter. In true Michigan fashion, Shorts pairs these crafted gems not with burgers and burritos from the grill, but with turkey, ham, bacon, roast beef or pastrami sandwiches from its deli. Catch all of that on a night when there's live music and it's as perfect a Michigan brewpub experience as you'll find.
Up on the north shore of Lake Superior, Fitger's has been pouring since 1995 and has held true to its north country roots. Its Elk burgers are made with elk meat from a ranch in nearby Moose Lake. Its Blueberry Manilow wheat ale is infused with 450 pounds of Bayfield blueberries. It still hosts local acts and a Monday open mic on its stage and sponsors its own curling, softball, bike and ski teams as well as a local triathlon. All of those elements have made it beloved in its home state, but they're just perks for visitors taken in by the Hatch chilies, ghost peppers and cherries in its Daughter of Wildfire pale ale or the smooth subtlety of its Witchtree ESB English pale ale on its nitrogen tap.
Keg and Barrel/Southern Prohibition Brewery
Back in 2010, the Brewers Association noted that Mississippi had just two breweries for its nearly 3 million residents. That was the largest capita per brewery in the United States, spurred on by strict Mississippi beer laws that prevented not only home brewing, but brewers such as Lazy Magnolia -- Mississippi's only full-scale brewery -- from brewing beers stronger than 6% ABV, producing too much of it or letting people taste it at the brewing site. Though home brewing is still illegal here, Mississippi tweaked its beer laws on July 1 and let its only brewpub, Keg and Barrel, open its taps to stronger brews. With more than 30 taps, all-day breakfast including chicken and waffles, screen time for international soccer matches and a nanobrewery in an adjacent facility that they're looking to expand into a full operation, Keg and Barrel makes a lot of effort despite a distinct lack of competition. The home brews such as the smooth, chocolate Oatmeal Stout and the spicy Chili Beer would be contenders even if there were more than a handful of beer producers in the state.