NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When the first big microbrewing boom began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the first items many brewers found themselves learning to make wasn't a brown ale or IPA, but a hamburger.
At the time, it was tough to get folks to simply try your beer. There weren't a whole lot of small brewers around, and shelf and tap space that's at a premium now was basically nonexistent then. Your best bets were to pound the pavement and hope some bars and shops would be kind enough to pick up some kegs and cases or to get the people to come to you. That meant food and entertainment, which meant you had to open brewpubs. As of June, the beer industry has ballooned to nearly 2,538 breweries, according to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group. That growing community also includes 1,165 brewpubs nationwide, which is up from 1,020 in 2009 and includes 33 brewpubs added within the past year alone.
The brewpub's looking fairly robust for an establishment that came into vogue little more than 30 years ago. Prohibition knocked out American brewpubs and brewing taverns that dated back to the Colonial era, but early craft brewers saw them as a means of getting their beer to the drinker without going through middlemen such as distributors, bars and liquor stores. In 1992, Scottish import Bert Grant opened Grant's Brewery Pub in a train depot in Yakima, Wash., to brew and promote his pale ale, IPA and Scottish Ale. Though it closed in 2005, Grant's brewpub showed other small brewers the way and is as much a part of the American small brewing legacy as growler fills and heaping helping of hops.
With competition increasing, brewers trying to reel in business and American cities pointing tourists directly to those pubs to show off their local flavor, tracking down a great brewpub is tougher than it appears. The editors and readers at beer rating site RateBeer have weighed in on all America's brewpub and ranked them by beer selection, food, service, value and ambience. We looked at its list, which even editors there are having a hard time keeping up with, considering the appearances of the now-defunct Bitter End Bistro in Austin, Texas, and Alchemist brewpub in Waterbury, Vt., that's still canning Heady Topper IPA but doesn't have a pub to speak of since the original was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011. That being said, we plucked out some of the dead entries and came up with the Top 10 brewpubs America has to offer.We'll admit freely that some of the entries surprise even us. But RateBeer and its readers were as thorough as possible. If there are glaring omissions, feel free to drop a comment; we're not overlooking your favorite purposely, just running with this list as presented: