Thanksgiving is just a few days away and if you want to survive it, you should probably start drinking now. Thankfully, the nation’s airports are happy to help. While impersonal airport bars have been a staple for years, now travelers can get their drink on with way better options than ever before. Wine bars are proliferating and top shelf liquors are available everywhere, but the newest trend at our nation’s flypads is craft beer. It goes along nicely with the move to include more local flavors into the airport experience. While you dine at a place like Cross Grains at OKC or The Bardenay in Boise, you can also tap into local beer culture with breweries from the surrounding area. Think of it like tasting a hoppy sampling before you get an aerial view of the terroir.
To highlight the trend, Bon Appetit Magazine has developed a list of six of their favorite airports to stock up on craft beer. Here’s what BA writer Alice Oglethorpe had to say in her excellent story:
Portland is synonymous with craft beer, so it should come as no surprise that its airport is full of places to buy it. The Made in Oregon stores (Concourses C and D) offer local wine and beer, from Rogue Ale’s PDX Carpet IPA (because the airport carpet has its own beer) to limited-release Yellow Snow IPA (use your imagination). Local brewery Laurelwood Brewing Company (Concourses A and E) sells both beer and growlers of favorites including their best-selling Mother Lode Golden Ale. Over in Concourse C, House Spirits Distillery sells Westward’s Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey, a single barrel whiskey made from Pacific Northwest-grown barley. You’ll definitely impress your beer-nerd friends if you pick up a Dead Guy Ale growler or the harder-to-find Wasted Sea Star Purple Pale Ale at the Rogue Pub in Concourse D.
Cigar City Brewing has some of the tastiest beer out there, but it’s only distributed in six states. That’s why you should grab as many varieties here as you can fit in your carry-on. The Cigar City shop, located in Airside C, even brews its own beer right there—it’s the first (and only) on-site airport brewery in the country. We recommend six-packs of Jai Alai (a deliciously citrusy IPA), Maduro Brown Ale, and Tony Jannus Pale Ale, which is, appropriately enough, named after an aviation pioneer.
Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Company (Concourse C), a brewery and store, only sells Alaskan-made beer and spirits—including Alaska Distillery’s Smoked Salmon vodka (a real thing!). After your long flight, you’re going to want a growler of one of a dozen Silver Gulch draft beers, or other local breweries like Alaskan Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Anchorage Brewing Company, Denali Brewing Company, and King Street Brewing Company. If you need the hard stuff, try one of the many Alaskan craft distilleries, like Anchorage Distillery, Ursa Major Distilling, Port Chilkoot Distillery, and High Mark Distillery.
St. Louis (STL)
Think of St. Louis beer and you might think of Anheuser-Busch. But you should be thinking of Schlafly, Missouri’s largest independently owned brewery. But you can only find it in a handful of states, so stock up in Concourse C and Terminal 2. Try classics like the pale ale, IPA, or oatmeal stout, and look out for special seasonal releases like their ESB, an Extra Special Bitter that’s easy to drink (available November through February) and Coffee Stout (available October through March).
The candy and magazine-filled entrance to the Greenbelt Magazine Shop may not scream “craft beer,” but that’s exactly what you’ll find at this spot in the Boise airport food court near the Einstein Bros. Bagels and Smashburger. Make your way to the shelves stocked with Idaho beers like Crooked Fence Brewing Company, Sawtooth Brewery (an only-in-Idaho company—you have to taste the Rye IPA), Edge Brewing Company, Woodland Empire Ale Craft, and Payette Brewing Company.
San Diego (SAN)
San Diego’s Stone Brewing Company is the ninth largest craft brewery in the country. At its restaurant/bar/shop in Terminal 2, you can peruse a huge variety of offerings. A recent lineup included the Delicious IPA, Southern Charred Double Bastard (aged in bourbon barrels), and Your Father Smelt of Elderberries (a medieval English-style ale with berry tones and a nod to Monty Python). There are also harder-to-find varieties like Matt’s Burning Rosids (an imperial, cherry wood-smoked Saison) and Quingenti Milliliter Xocoveza Extra Anejo (a hard-to-pronounce mocha stout). Rather try something from a smaller brewery you’ve never heard of? Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant in Terminal 1 sells bottles from Mother Earth Brew Company (exclusive to California) and Modern Times Beer (which is only in California and Hawaii).
Are these the best airports in the US for craft beer? I can’t say for certain because I haven’t been to all of them, but I will say that PDX is probably the leader of the pack and that’s mostly because Portland is Beer Heaven for hop heads. San Diego is up there, too. No matter which airport has the best beer, let’s all be thankful that we’ve gone beyond the Budweiser this holiday season.