Urban Chestnut Brewing
St. Louis, Mo.  
Anheuser-Busch's sale to InBev a few years back was a big blow for St. Louis. How the city and its brewers responded helped make St. Louis a burgeoning craft beer powerhouse. Urban Chestnut brewmaster Florian Kuplent built his resume by apprenticing at Bavarian breweries, brewing throughout Germany, England and Belgium, hooking on with New England craft brewers and eventually creating a line of craft-style beers for A-B's Michelob brand. When he finished at A-B, he started Urban Chestnut to meld the traditional beers he'd studied with the envelope-pushing beers he'd helped craft. His brewpub's brats, pretzel rolls, sausages and cheeses are lovely and all, but 15 taps of "Revolution Series" beers such as Kuplent's hoppy STLIPA double IPA and "Reverence Series" beers such as his refreshing Snickelfritz Hefeweissen are what make this a standout brewpub in a strong beer town.  

Montana Brewing
Billings, Mont.  
With roughly a brewery for every 36,600 residents, Montana trails only Oregon and Vermont in capita per brewery. If only more of its fine breweries had brewpubs. Montana Brewing is perhaps the best example of how a Montana brewer can make a brewpub work for it. An eight-burger menu with available bison patties, a selection of five mac and cheese dishes and fried enchilada bite appetizers don't make a great brewery, but they can fund great brews if enough folks have some with their pints. The smooth, chocolate-layered Custer's Last Stout oatmeal stout won gold at the Great American Beer Festival, while its Hooligan's Red Ale took gold at the North American Brewers Association beer awards. Both are on tap at the brewpub today and both perform the same function their Montana-brewed ancestors did at saloons in Bozeman and Butte before them: Draw people for the beer and make them stay for business.  

Upstream Brewing
Omaha, Neb.  
Nebraska's a bit of a sleeper pick when it comes to beer. The Brewers association found that the roughly 122,000 Nebraskans per each brewery in the state is still a better ratio than you'll find in beer-laden locales such as California (152,000 per brewery) or Pennsylvania (165,000). Upstream holds up its end with its high-powered Belgian-style Grand Cru and whiskey barrel-aged Ebenezer, which each manage about 9% ABV. Hopheads flock to its Flagship IPA, which is slightly underpowered at 6.2% ABV but still bursting with Cascade hops and a citrusy undercurrent. The dining is still a bit more Applebee's casual than most brewpubs, but gems such as its gouda and beer soup, pork schnitzel, Omaha Steaks roast beef sandwich and root beer float made with house brewed root beer save it from onion blossom hell.  

Big Dog's Draft House
Las Vegas  
Think the best brewpub's in some casino on the strip? Try across the street from the Kmart on North Rancho.  

Its strip-mall-barn exterior and terrible dog pun beer names such as Leglifter Light, Red Hydrant Ale and Tailwagger Wheat don't inspire confidence, but strong brews such as the 7.1% Dirty Dog IPA and 9.5% Wonder Dog Double IPA mean business. Aimed squarely at beer-loving Midwesterners, Big Dog's menu full of Wisconsin cheese curds, Bavarian soft pretzels, bratwurst and 24-hour breakfast items is designed not only to complement its Black Lab Stout, but to satisfy local Green Bay fans rooting on the Packers in the beer garden.  

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