5 Breweries to Brag About to Your Friends.

This past year I’ve had the opportunity to check out some pretty solid breweries. Each of these places are unique in their own way. Some have recreational activities to accompany your drinking. Some offer great food options for once you’re good and drunk. One thing they all have in common is really good beer.

1. Half Full Brewery — Stamford, CT. This brewery exudes the attitude of “beer-inspired optimism.” Hence the name Half Full Brewery. Located in an old factory, Half Full has a very unique layout in that you immediately walk downstairs to the “basement” level. It feels like there’s almost more space with this setup. They do have TVs if you’re looking to catch a game while drinking one of their delicious brews. I started with Pursuit, their 7% IPA (which basically put me on my ass after eating nothing all day.) Then I went with their seasonal Within Reach.

My Untappd check-in for Within Reach.

It’s a 5% peach wheat ale, and it’s a flat out glorious refreshment. “Food Truck Friday” is also in full effect this summer. Every Friday through August 18th enjoy local food trucks at the brewery serving burgers, hot dogs, tacos, and more. If that’s not enough, Half Full Brewery currently offers a free podcast entitled The Half Full Story, as told by founder Connor Horrigan. Check this place out. It’s got positive vibes, great beer, and an awesome space.

2. ICONYC Brewing Company — Long Island City, NY. According to their website “ICONYC Brewing Company brings farmhouse brewing to the urban landscape.” ICONYC had already been distributing locally in stores by the time their taproom opened. As far as taprooms go, it’s fairly simple. Its a room with a bar, as well as a counter-top facing the street. That’s that, and it’s amazing. The beer speaks for itself.

ICONYC taproom and delightful treats.

I enjoyed the 8% Hib-Hop brewed with hibiscus and lemongrass. Throw in some rose hip and sorachi ace hops, this beer is fruity, hoppy, and delicious. My girlfriend went the stout route, and got the Vexed. At a whopping 12.8%, this brew is a combination of a Saison and an Imperial Stout. Needless to say it’ll get you plenty drunk. The taproom is conveniently located about 6 blocks away from our apartment, and The Beatles’ playlist just adds to the environment. If you’re ever in NYC look this place up, or just grab a bottle at your local C-Town.

3. Butler Brew Works — Butler, PA. About an hour north of Pittsburgh sits a town. That town is Butler, and it’s basically my second home. My Dad retired from the Butler County Prison a few years ago after working there all his life. It’s hard to believe that a place known for its smoke-filled dive bars, now holds 3 breweries within a few miles of each other. On South Main Street you’ll find Butler Brew Works. I went there in the dead of winter with a group of friends. We got drunk, watched some hockey, and reminisced about Christmases past (It was the holiday season, and I’m cheesy like that.) Let’s talk about the beer. The theme here is “Adventurous Ales.” So I started with the 5.5% Bantam, An American Amber Ale and it hit the spot. If the season is right please, please, please try the Tokoloshe.

The joy of drinking a Tokoloshe. (Credit: Untappd)

This Porter is brewed with cocoa, molasses, and oh yeah…habanero pepper. It packs a wallop of heat (Yep, I used the word wallop.) At 7% it’ll put some hair on your chest. Throw in the brewery’s massive projection screen for watching any Pittsburgh sporting event, and Butler Brew Works is a solid place to brag about. Trust me, my friends do it any time they visit, and my jealousy runs deep.

4. Broken Bow Brewery — Tuckahoe, NY. Any brewery with outdoor space and cornhole boards (baggo/beanbags for you neanderthals out there) is worth checking out. Located about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan, Broken Bow Brewery has been family owned and operated since it was established in 2013. The beer is phenomenal and the taproom is spacious enough in itself that the beer garden is just an added bonus.

Marbledale American Pale Ale (Front) & Broken Auger Lager (Back)

My girlfriend and I tried four different beers altogether, and I have to say I wish we weren’t broke-ass humans when we went or we would’ve stayed all night. If you’re into malty brews, I’d suggest either the 5% Broken Auger Lager (love that name) or the sweeter 5.5% Red Ale. I’ve recently jumped on the IPA bandwagon, and Broken Bow doesn’t disappoint. The “Specialty” Blood Orange IPA, is

the freshest beer this side of the Bronx River. Get this 7% bad boy on draft at the taproom, it’s totally worth it. Last but not least, I devoured the Marbledale American Pale Ale. As a beer drinker I’m still new to the APA game, but the 6% Marbledale was pure heaven. Did I mention that while we enjoyed our beer, we also killed some Super Mario Bros? On NES? On a big screen television?! My inner-child was in euphoria.

Nintendo Entertainment System. If you know what this is, I salute you.

5. LIC Beer Project — Long Island City, NY. If I were opening a brewery I’d want to model it after LIC Beer Project. From can release events, to food truck vendors, to live music, to cornhole in the warehouse, these guys welcome it all. They offer a variety of beers, but one of my favorites was by far the Visceral Emotion. It’s a 6% farmhouse ale and it was funky, and fresh.

Their layout is just as cool as the beer itself. You walk into what used to be an old garage/warehouse. The bar is on a raised platform which makes it feel like you’re drinking on someone’s back porch. The main level is lined with tables perfect for drinking and mingling, and of course the cornhole boards lay rest in the far back. You know, so the athletes don’t disrupt the more casual of drinkers.

The next time you’re in need of a change of scenery, really good beer, or just want to brag about a bad-ass brewery that only you know about in your circle of friends…maybe this list will help. Cheers yinz guys.

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Writer, actor, redheaded step-child.

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Zach Nading

Zach Nading

Writer, actor, redheaded step-child.

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