Thursday, December 3, 2015

America's 10 Best Airports for a Local Beer


“It’s the holiday season, and whoop-de-do and hickory dock”… sorry I get carried away since holiday music starts playing in October now. It’s the holiday season, which means millions, upon millions of folks will be hitting the friendly skies with presents and holiday cheer all over the world.
Here in the US well over 50 million people will be flying to see family, friends or Christmas markets from the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. As is tradition here, much of that time spent in our airports will focus on the negative (long lines, the TSA in general, oversized bags getting pulled from carry-on, etc…). Put that together with the “stress” of the holidays and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Amidst all of that stress, chaos and general disdain that my fellow countrymen have for airports (I love spending time in an airport personally), there has been a real shift in the drink offerings in many of the busier transit hubs in America. Yes, airports have always had bars where you could get a few whiskey and cokes before you boarded. But now – as local breweries continue to expand their foot print – breweries have made their way into airports.
Craft beer itself had made its way into terminal bars many years ago. The difference now is having an actual brewery (or branch of that brewery) next to your gate! So walk away from your delayed flight and let’s drink at the best airports for local beer options in the US.
MSP International Airport- Twin Cities, MN
MSP has all things Minnesota, including moose and Summit beer photo courtesy Wally Gobetz
The Twin Cities are home to one of the pioneers in craft brewing in America, Summit Brewing Company. This holiday season – or whenever you visit “The Cities” – you’ll be happy to know that even though your Delta flight – it’s a hub – may be late, you can have a Summit Pale Ale (or 5 other Summit taps) in Terminal 1 at Ike’s on Summit.
CLE International Airport- Cleveland, OH
A Midwest icon, in the airport photo courtesy Angelskiss31
"Moon over Parma bring my love to me tonight". Who doesn’t think Cleveland rocks? Cleveland Aiport isn’t as bustling as it was back in its Continental hub days, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter anymore. Whether you’re going to see your grandma for the holidays or LeBron, you’ll be glad you have some time to hit Terminal C for a stop at Great Lakes Brewing Company. There aren’t many porters as good as the Edmund Fitzgerald, especially while flight watching inside the airport.
TPA International Airport- Tampa, FL
I love flying to Tampa. It usually means I’m sneaking out of winter for a little while and hitting the beach. Tampa has become a hot bed for craft brewing, and Cigar City Brewing has planted their flag as king of the hill. As sad as it is to be back in Concourse C at Tampa (waiting for your flight back to some frozen reality) grabbing a pint at Cigar City’s location is a great send off. It may even encourage you to just move to a place without winter.
SAN International Airport- San Diego, CA
Great beer and planes, that's the life photo courtesy San Diego International Airport
Craft beer, sun and sand were probably on your San Diego list of things to do. Even though you’ll be leaving the sun and sand behind once you check in to the airport, San Diego International will keep your craft beer dreams alive. It won’t be just any beer either. Terminal 2 offers a Stone Brewing Company bistro and beer garden. There really is no reason folks should not be going to San Diego, as my good friend calls it the “Greatest City in America”. The nice thing is before you leave you can have one last taste of what helps make San Diego so great.
PDX International Airport- Portland, OR
There aren’t many places that do “weird” better than Portland. There also aren’t many places that do beer better than this area. So as is the case in many airports, “weird” is actually having a great brewing company operate a location inside a terminal. Well Portland is weird again because Rogue Ales – one of the best in the business – has a location in PDX. Concourse D is your destination when flying out of Portland to find one of the best stouts out on the market, so local, so weird.
MSN Regional Airport- Madison, WI
Mmmm...cheese and beer photo courtesy Dane County Regional Airport
You may never get the chance to fly through this regional airport, but you should consider it. I’ve put my love for Madison in words many times. The one thing the city has had going for it for a long time has been beer, and through my travels the Great Dane Brewing Company was the first brewpub I ever noticed in an airport. MSN is a 1 terminal airport which makes the fact that a brew pub as one of the few choices to eat at even more astonishing. Say goodbye to Madison the responsible way, with a toast to a local brewing institution before departing.
BOS International Airport- Boston, MA
Boston has been synonymous with bringing craft beer to the mainstream over the past few decades because of the Boston Beer Company. But this heavily traveled East Coast hub goes even more local than the Sam Adams giant and offers you a tap room for the Harpoon Brewing Company from Boston. There aren’t many places in America that hold as much history as Boston, and after a well spent vacation discovering that history you’ll be happy to enjoy a great Harpoon brew in Concourse A looking though all your photo memories.
MCI International Airport- Kansas City, MO
Oh what could have been for Kansas City. The airport was supposed to be the grand launching point to the world from the Midwest for TWA, but design flaws meant TWA would move. Then MCI was a hub for Midwest Express (oh those cookies) but then they ceased to be an airline. Despite that Kansas City international is still a great – and busy – airport servicing people from all over the Heartland. What makes this airport great? Boulevard Brewing Company, that’s what! Make the walk to Gate 56 and enjoy the beer that has redefined KC over the past few decades, at their brewpub.
STL International Airport- St. Louis, MO
Bud is a huge influence, but Schalfly wins on taste photo courtesy Matthew Hurst
St. Louis is the gateway to the west, or it at least has the cool arch to mark that point. The city has many great things to do that involve beer including the Budweiser brewery, but Lambert International Airport boasts a brewpub from local craft brewer Schalfly that will make your flight or connection in St. Louis a little tastier. Make yourself to Concourse E in Terminal 2 and enjoy a great beer in a town that has made beer for a long time.
DEN International Airport- Denver, CO
DIA your gateway to beer heaven photo courtesy David Jones
Beer heaven. That’s what Denver is, beer heaven. Because it’s heaven to me, I’m always sad when I’m waiting for a plane here. But even though I’m sad, I actually love this airport. The Rocky Mountain views are spectacular and – if you’re in the Jeppesen Terminal – you can hit a tap room from the wonderful Boulder Beer Company. As a hub for United, Southwest and Frontier Airlines, chances are you’ll be in this airport someday which means a Shake Chocolate Porter is destined to be in your future. Skip the chain restaurants and find this tap room and enjoy your beer the way the locals do, in the tap room.
As I said, I love airports and could spend a day wandering around them watching the departure board flip through flights. Hopefully more local brewing companies will be able to find space to give a flavor of their area to all who travel through. I know that would make my airport wandering even more fun than it already is.

Steven Grams is a seeker of new knowledge. He lives for travel, for adventure, for a new story. He absorbs everything and never forgets where he has been, who he has met, what he has seen, and how he got there.