The Big Ten's Best Breweries

September 29, 2017

By Matt Osgood, September 29, 2017

At the conclusion of week four, the Big Ten had four teams in the top ten rankings of college football according to the coaches poll: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While all four of these schools get a chance to pound one another at various points in the season, the Big Ten’s powerful football history indicates that it’s just not the top of the conference that can disrupt the perfect season. Bad blood will almost always supersede rankings.

There was Nebraska upsetting Michigan State in 2015 to cost them a shot at the College Football Playoff and a National title, and Iowa doing the same to Penn State in 2008; There’s Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost from Illinois, running wild over Michigan, who hadn’t lost in two years, way back in 1924.

In other words, it’s not just parity in football that plays a role. It’s history and tradition and the unknown of any sporting event.

Then there are the rivalries: Minnesota and Wisconsin have played for Paul Bunyan’s Axe 126 times; Indiana and Purdue, separated by about 100 miles of pavement on Route 65, played their first game in 1891; Then there’s Michigan and Ohio State, which seem to play annually with a trip to the Rose Bowl at stake.

In a conference where the reward for winning a game results in trophies like The Land of Lincoln Trophy, the Little Brown Jug, and the Purdue Cannon, it’s also noteworthy that we can satisfy these old school rivalries over a beer.

The Big Ten Conference is home to great beer, too. All within either walking distance or a quick Uber ride of the stadium.

Triptych BrewingIt's not a Little Brown Jug, but it's pretty awesome anyway.

Illinois Fighting Illini, Triptych Brewing
Two miles down the road from Memorial Stadium is Triptych Brewing. Opened only in 2013, they brew hop-forward beers like Dank Meme and its big brother Really Dank Meme. Managing Partner Anthony Benjamin tells me it “feels great to host so many Illini fans on home game weekends,” but says they’ve hosted fans from the other sides as well – his beer, bringing fans together. The beers are all available to go, too, in case you need something tasty while you tailgate.

Indiana Hoosiers, Upland Brewing
It’s a little over a mile to Upland Brewing Company from campus, the best spot in Bloomington for craft beer, and the favorite beverage of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks & Recreation department. They always seemed to have Dragonfly IPA around. Hang outside and have some solid pub food, and know that the Lambics and Wild Ales are amongst the best in the country right now.

Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Grove Brewery & Restaurant
Just over the Iowa River from Kinnick Stadium is Big Grove Brewery & Restaurant. They host game day watch parties every Saturday, which include live music after the final whistle blows. Sure, they do their flagship beers well, but they don’t shy away from experimental styles like a red wine barrel-aged Barleywine fermented with Brettanomyces and Wild Ales.

Maryland Terrapins, Denizens Brewing Company
Denizens Brewing Company is Maryland’s only majority woman and minority owned and operated brewery. It’s a short Uber away from Capitol One Field. Terrapin fans should feel a kinship to the brewery, as they are partnered with UMD’s biology department on yeast propagation. There’s a 200-seat, dog-friendly beer garden and an ever-rotating lineup of wild and sour ales from their barrel-aging program.

Michigan State Spartans, Ellison Brewing  
According to Ellison Brewing owner Eric Elliot, Sparty fans “really enjoy celebrating a big win ... or drowning our sorrows over a cold Ellison Brew.” While Ellison, just two miles from Spartan Stadium, boasts a great beer list (try the Tiramisu Coffee Stout), they’re also a winery and distillery so there’s something for every palate.

Half a mile from Memorial Stadium, the best place to pop in for a beer after a Huskers game is Boiler Brewing.”

Michigan Wolverines, HOMES Brewery
The Wolverines have no shortage of history, but the best Ann Arbor brewery just opened its doors in the spring of 2017. HOMES Brewery owner Tommy Kennedy says that the focus at his spot is “balanced hoppy beers and sours” with a “sprinkle” of other styles as well. Kennedy suggest pairing the Same Same Different IPA with the Thai chicken and rice bowl off the brewery’s Asian-inspired food menu. It’s just two miles from Michigan Stadium.

Minnesota Golden Gophers, Surly Brewing Co.
Exactly one mile from the TCF Bank Stadium is Surly Brewing Company, who have been slinging suds to Golden Gophers fans since early 2006. In short, they’re a mainstay in the Minneapolis brewing scene. Try Furious, their IPA, or our favorite, Bender, a Coffee Brown. Or, before the Gophers kick off against the Illini this season, try to get your hands on their hard-to-get stout Darkness. Even more, their annual Surlyfest is on a bye week.

Nebraska Cornhuskers, Boiler Brewing
Half a mile from Memorial Stadium, the best place to pop in for a beer after a Huskers game is Boiler Brewing, whose 24 taps are always rotating. In just 17 months, Boiler has brewed over 190 different beers, including U.S. Open medal-winning Milds, Gose, and Stouts. There will always be something different on tap. Don’t like something? “Challenge accepted,” said taproom manager Thad Aerts, “We are determined to continue perfecting our craft while finding a beer for everyone.”

Northwestern Wildcats, Sketchbook Brewing
The Wildcats have certainly made their contribution to sports broadcast journalism, as well as having some of the conferences greatest upsets and Cinderella seasons. After cheering on the Northwestern team on the gridion, head over to Sketchbook for their take on a New England IPA named Insufficient Clearance, which Draft Magazine called the 19th best IPA in the country. They even offer discounts if students use their Northwestern Wildcard.

Joebengo of Wiki CommonsTHE Ohio State University.

Ohio State Buckeyes, North High Brewing Co.
After (or before, if the game is later) taking in a Buckeyes game at the Horseshoe, head straight through campus to North High Brewing Company. Started by two Ohio State grads, this is one of Columbus’s biggest craft breweries. Try the Milk Stout or, if you have time, schedule a slot to brew your own beer at North High.

Penn State Nittany Lions, Happy Valley Brewing Co.
The Nittany Lions are fielding one of the best teams in the country and the best brewery in which to celebrate their many wins this season is, appropriately, Happy Valley Brewing Co., just a mile and a half walk from Beaver Stadium. It’s a cool, rustic place with good food. If you’re looking for a beer that pairs well with whatever’s on the grill as you party with 100,000 friends, can’t go wrong with the Tailgater Pale Ale, brewed with blood orange purée.   

Purdue Boilermakers, People’s Brewing
People’s Brewing co-founder Brett VanderPlaats is a proud Purdue alum and is quick to give a shout-out to Purdue students and staffers, “most notably the Food Science in the School of Agriculture.” Despite the series of one-off batches, VanderPlaats is still most proud of People’s flagship IPA, Moundbuilder. It is a quick ride across the Wabash River, but doable for a place you can grab a beer, a pretzel, and recount the days action.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Demented Brewing
The Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014, but Rutgers football has an incredible history. They played in football’s first ever game against Princeton in 1869. They’ve struggled to keep up in the Big Ten, but Scarlet Knight faithful can find their solace at the bottom of pints served at Demented Brewing, just a short Uber away from High Point Solutions Stadium. The Middlesex, NJ brewery’s flagship Red Ale is called Scarlet Night and their owner, Tom Zuber, is a season ticket holder.

Wisconsin Badgers, Ale Asylum
If you’re seeking sanctuary from 80,000 screaming fans at Camp Randall or wishing to scream along with them at a screen, the best place to do so is at Madison’s Ale Asylum. Hopalicious, an American Pale Ale, might be their most popular brew, but for something as biting and ferocious as their hometown Badgers, go for the Velveteen Habit, a 7.5% IPA.


Thanks to AndrewHorne of Wiki Commons for the header image.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
Related Articles

How to Make Beer Popsicles, Because Why Not?

Be the MVP of the backyard BBQ with a cooler full of boozy frozen treats.

These Former Armed Rebels Are Now Brewing Peace in Colombia

Ex-members of Colombian insurgent group FARC have swapped their weapons for brewing equipment, making a beer that helps fund local infrastructure projects.

The Best Beers to Rep Your Team for the Super Bowl

When the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, you'll need some local beer to celebrate a win or soak up a loss.