Inside the warm, wine-color walls of Madison, Wisconsin’s Vintage Brewing Company, servers sate anticipation with pints and plates. Visitors slide into black-leather booths to sip on an oaky-hoppy Woodshed India Pale Ale or a coppery, smooth McLovin Irish Red Ale before ordering a bacon-wrapped meat loaf sandwich.
Throughout the Midwest, having a cold one increasingly means reaching for a drink brewed by a neighbor. More than 530 craft breweries call the Midwest home, and Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Minnesota rank among the nation’s top 20 craft-beer producers, according to Michael Bergman, publisher of Midwestmicrobrews.com. “Much as you see in gastronomy, where the ‘eat local’ ethos has taken hold, we’re now seeing a concerted effort among many to also ‘drink local,’ ” Michael says. Some of the most influential brands in craft beer hail from the Heartland, including Bell’s Brewing in Michigan, Indiana’s 3 Floyds Brewing and Minnesota’s Surly Brewing. And our region, he says, leads the way in sour and other Belgian-style beers.
Though this may feel like a modern trend, brewpubs reflect a bygone era. Before Prohibition, community breweries were the norm. To us, the lesson is clear: Great meals and carefully crafted brews have timeless appeal. Click ahead for some of the ones we love.