Last season, we tackled the Big Ten, traditionally one of the best conferences in college football, to showcase the best places to grab a beer before, during or after a game. This year, we turn to the West Coast, where it’s the Pac-12’s turn.
The Pac-12 includes a number of football teams that could make a splash in the college football world in the 2018-19 season. The University of Washington should be ranked in the top ten of every major preseason poll; top 25 stalwarts Stanford and USC perpetually fit within the top programs in the county; Arizona and Washington State will likely find themselves within that top tier or just outside. All in all, these games will see some major star power and fierce fan loyalty.
The same could be said for the beer scene on the West Coast. Many of the beers brewed within walking distance or a quick drive from the stadium don’t see national distribution. The relative rarity of these beers generates a local pride that verges on territoriality, not unlike the Duel in the Desert between Arizona and Arizona State, the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State, or the Battle for L.A., when UCLA plays USC.
Here’s our guide to the best breweries near every stadium in the Pac-12. Use it to celebrate a win or mourn a defeat.
The Arizona Wildcat offense is about as potent as any in the conference, and there’s no better way to cool off from the action and the Tucson heat than a visit to Iron John’s Brewing Company, located in downtown Tucson, just a mile from Arizona Stadium. The brewery offers a wide variety of tap and bottle options, from standard IPAs and porters to the stylistically underrated English barleywine and grätzer.
Arizona State Sun Devils
A little over 100 miles northwest of Tucson is Tempe, home of the Sun Devils. Arizona State will welcome Herm Edwards, former NFL player and coach, to the Grand Canyon State. For the best brewery to celebrate a Sun Devil win, the Sleepy Dog Brewing Company is a quick, two-mile walk from Sun Devil Stadium and offers dog-themed, canned beers in the form of an IPA, a Mexican lager, a pale ale and a peanut butter stout.
California Golden Bears
While Triple Rock Brewing has been serving the Berkeley community since 1986, it’s also worth checking out Fieldwork Brewing Company, which some consider the best in the Bay Area. Located a mere three miles from Cal, Fieldwork scores big with its American IPAs like Pulp and Hazy Train, but don’t sleep on Bean Machine, an imperial brown ale brewed with coffee and cacao nibs.
Boulder might be the best place in the Pac-12 to grab a craft beer. Cellar West Artisan Ales features a 500-square foot tasting room to pack in “dozens of excited beer enthusiasts rooting on the Buffs,” says Zach Nichols, proprietor of the farmhouse ale producer. If Brettanomyces and funk aren’t your thing, hit up Upslope Brewing Company for a beautiful view of the Flatirons. Head brewer (and CU alum) Sam Scruby says, “I love seeing students and alumni come in for a pint decked out in black and gold.”
The relative rarity of these beers generates a local pride that verges on territoriality.”
It’s a quick walk for Ducks from Autzen Stadium over the Willamette River to ColdFire Brewing Company. Brothers Dan and Stephen Hughes are inspired by Old World brewing methods, to which they add a Northwest flair. Dan says it’s “not really possible to live in Eugene (or operate a business for that matter) without being impacted by the sheer love of Duck football this community has,” and that impacts pre- and post-game activities at the brewery, too. ColdFire won a Great American Beer Festival medal for its imperial red ale, and the brothers brew everything from a kölsch to a New England-style IPA in its Eugene digs.
Oregon State Beavers
Under an hours’ drive away in Corvallis is the home of the Oregon State Beavers. When they play the Ducks, records go out the window. Anything can happen. Whether taking in the Civil War rivalry game or another Pac-12 contest, the can’t-miss stop on Beavers game day is Block 15 Brewing Co. For our money, Sticky Hands double IPA is the star of the show.
Unfortunately, Palo Alto itself has little to offer beer-loving Cardinal fans. Your best bet is to head north to Alpha Acid Brewing Co., less than ten miles away from the campus. The Belmont establishment leans hop-forward, so if you’re a hop head and a football fan, this is the place to go.
USC Trojans & UCLA Bruins
At USC, the Trojans play football games on campus. From there, it’s a short ride over to Angel City Brewery in the Arts District. The core lineup features Angel IPA, an American IPA, a pilsner, a fruit beer and a grapefruit lager, but peep the specialties: The imperial red ale is aged in Jameson barrels and the Baltic porter comes in 16-ounce cans, because there’s no such thing as a wrong time to drink a big, delicious dark beer.
When it comes to UCLA, there’s not too much in Westwood, but they play football across town at The Rose Bowl. Dry River Brewing, located about ten minutes from the stadium, is owned by a Bruin and crafts what it calls “slow beers” (mostly barrel-aged, farmhouse beers). You can bet the scene will be fast-paced come game day.
Squatters Craft Beer is just over a two-mile walk from Rice-Eccles and has been pouring beer since 1989. Much has been said about Utah’s antiquated beer laws, but don’t stress. You’ll be able to get your high-ABV fix with one of many Squatters beers like the 9% double IPA and the 10.5% Russian imperial stout. You might need them to cope with the Utes’ lackluster performance.
This year, high hopes surround Union Bay in Seattle at Husky Stadium, where Chris Peterson has his team poised for what could be a national title run. If increased demand means you can’t score a ticket, head over to Floating Bridge Brewing Co., just a mile and a half from the stadium, to catch the game on the 100-inch screen. “It's exciting to see how fresh craft beer pulls diverse people together in our West University neighborhood,” says Dawn Perry, co-founder of the family-run brewery. “All the Huskies—faculty and staff, students and alumni—bring out the best in the neighborhood.”
Washington State Cougars
Eastern Washington is probably more well-known for its high octane wine and Mike Leach-led, pass-first offense, but Paradise Creek Brewery has a taproom and a restaurant right in downtown Pullman. Cougar faithfuls swear by the Huckleberry Pucker, a slightly-tart 4.6% Berliner Weiss, perfect for those high-scoring, triple OT shootouts.