Balter Beerworks

Beer is as essential to the college experience as dorm rooms, tailgating, and crushing student loan debt. So it’s no surprise that breweries and brewpubs are often situated quite close to college campuses. With fall in full swing, and school back in session, we thought this would be a great time to take a look at ten quintessential American college town breweries from around the country.

All of the breweries we’ve selected are located within walking or biking distance from campus. The universities in this article must be damned proud to have such incredible beer meccas so close by! If you’re visiting these college towns, take note of the following fantastic breweries, too.

(One caveat: we left out college towns that are already specifically known for their beer scenes -- like Asheville, NC, and Boulder, CO -- in order to show love to the brew-friendly towns that have been overlooked for too long!)

Madison, WI

The school: University of Wisconsin-Madison
The brewery: Rockhound Brewing Co.
Distance from campus: .9 miles
I went to college to study business (and because I heard good things about my school’s mess hall food), but I’ve never used my degree. Nate Warnke -- brewer and owner of Rockhound Brewing -- however, use his bachelor’s degree in geology from UW-Madison as thematic inspiration for his brewpub. In addition to rock-motif-beers like the coffee porter Grinder, or Sandstone blonde ale, there’s also the popular Greenbush Pale Ale, an American Pale Ale that shouts out their Madison neighborhood’s name. Students smart enough to fuel up at Rockhound (it’s also a full-scale brewpub) love the cheese curds, the Bleustone Burger (with roasted garlic, bacon, and gorgonzola), and the reuben with beer-braised corned beef.
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Berkeley, CA

The school: University of California, Berkeley
The brewery: Triple Rock Brewing
Distance from campus: .7 miles
When you walk into certain buildings on Berkeley’s 150-year-old campus, you can feel the spirits of hundreds of thousands of former students who also fell asleep during their 8am Economics 201 course. Triple Rock is pretty much the old university of brewpubs as one of the first to open in 1986! For students, going to Triple Rock -- formerly Roaring Rock -- on Thursdays has become something of a rite of passage. It’s the one night each week that the brewery serves Monkey Head Arboreal Ale, an 8.5% ABV strong ale that turns the malt up to 11. On a Thursday night, order a Monkey Head and set your pint on a checkered table surrounded by dark wood paneling; you’ll feel the hundreds of thousands of customers who drank that beer before you.

Lawrence, KS

The school: The University of Kansas
The brewery: Free State Brewing Co.
Distance from campus: 2.6 miles
Okay, we had to go a little bit further out for this one -- but since plenty of Kansas students have a bike, a mere 2.6 miles ain’t no thang. And once they cycle to Free State, they’ll find it was well worth the trip. Open since ‘89, Free State was the first legal brewery in the entire state in over 100 years. Proprietor Chuck Magerl has a long family history with Kansas brewing -- his grandpa went to Leavenworth prison for making booze during Prohibition. Booze is legal nowadays (thank heavens!), and Free State is the resident brewpub of the main drag Massachusetts St (Mass St, if you’re nasty). It’s where Jayhawks go to eat and drink craft beer -- especially Ad Astra Ale, the flagship amber named after the Kansas State Motto, which is...Latin for...something.

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Bloomington, IN

The school: Indiana University Bloomington
The brewery: Lennie’s
Distance from campus: .6 miles from campus
Every college movie includes a part where an annoying Dean gets in the way of students having a good time. Except that actually happened when Lennie’s first started serving gourmet pizza and booze. Luckily for the folks of Southern Indiana, they eventually got their booze permit and began brewing their own beer (under the Bloomington Brewing Co. moniker) in ‘94. Today, it serves as Southern Indiana’s oldest brewery. Brews like the 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat and Kirkwood Cream Ale keep Hoosiers happy -- especially those pairing the beers with plates of spaghetti and meatballs, or Sicilian pies with capicola and fontina. Lennie’s is also across the street from a slew of IU dorms, which reminds us of that Field of Dreams quote: if you build a pizza and beer restaurant, the students will come.

Gainesville, FL

The school: University of Florida
The brewery: First Magnitude Brewing Co.
Distance from campus: 1.6 miles
Everyone knows that the best part of college is the stuff you do outside of class. And if First Magnitude were a university, it’d also be UF -- University of Fun. This brewery is a magnet for UF students and locals alike in part because they make sure you have a ton of fun beyond the beer drinking. There’s a huge outdoor area to hang out in, UF football games shown on a 14ft screen, giant Jenga, giant Scrabble, giant Monopoly (ok, that one isn’t true...but wouldn’t it be rad?!), cornhole, and brewery yoga. And, oh yeah, the beer’s pretty damned good too. For year-round offerings, there’s 72, a 5% ABV, dry-hopped pale ale, and new brews include a Pineapple Mango Sour, a smoked porter, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of the Big Shoals brown ale.

Tempe, AZ

The school: Arizona State University
The brewery: Four Peaks Brewing Co.
Distance from campus: 1 mile
We’ve got nothing but respect for local spots like Blasted Barley Beer Co. and Pedal Haus Brewery, but we’d invite you to go to the Four Peaks pub on any Saturday in the fall, and we’ll let the frequent “ASU!” chants give you all the evidence you need that this is a serious college town brewery. It’s not just for ASU students, though -- at Four Peaks you’ll find plenty of locals who congregate here to drink Kilt Lifter, a Scottish-style ale that’s won plenty of Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medals for its malty, toasty liquid goodness. Pair it with southwestern fare like carne adovada (cherrywood smoked red chile pork) or green chile chicken mac and cheese, and you’ll be as happy as a bar full of ASU fans after a win over USC.

credits:"Four Peaks Brewing Co."

Knoxville, TN

The school: The University of Tennessee
The brewery: Balter Beerworks
Distance from campus: .7 miles
Brunch is a critical meal for any college student. One cannot live on Hot Pockets alone! The Tennessee Vols are lucky to have Balter -- the brewpub took over an old BP gas station and made it hella nice. Most importantly, it offers brews and breakfast foods until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s the fried green tomato dish that’s been transformed from a southern staple into a benedict with poached egg and a buttermilk biscuit. Avocado toast, chicken biscuits, or breakfast tacos will cure what ails anyone who partied on Friday or Saturday night. And, of course, you gotta pair this stuff with beer -- whether a Baltering Mary (that’s a Bloody Mary topped with porter), the 60 IBU’d IPA Firebelly, or the Bear Blend coffee porter made with local roaster Three Bears Coffee Co.’s java.

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Ann Arbor, MI

The school: University of Michigan
The brewery: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Distance from campus: .7 miles
U-M is known as the “Harvard of the West,” and Jolly Pumpkin’s Ann Arbor brewpub is the sort of place a Dean’s List student can enjoy him- or herself. This is no brewery for anyone looking to chug light beer and play beer pong. Jolly Pumpkin has been hawking some of the best sour beers in the country since 2004 (it got its start in Dexter, about 20 minutes outside of Ann Arbor), before sour beer was popular. Around five years later, it opened this brewpub, which has been a go-to spot for students and Ann Arborites who enjoy the finer things in life. The 8% ABV oak-barrel aged Oro de Calabaza Belgian golden strong ale is something you’d drink to celebrate defending your dissertation. The unimpeachable La Roja sour amber? To drink following a Michigan football win (or loss), paired with a JP Burger made with grass-fed beef, cambozola cheese, and crimini mushrooms.

Fayetteville, AR

credits:"[columbus_house_brewery / Instagram](" width:400 align:right The school: University of Arkansas
The brewery: Columbus House Brewery and Tap
Distance from campus: .9 miles
The Hogs football team is, umm, not having the greatest of seasons. But luckily Fayetteville has a place to congregate and watch the game while drowning sorrows in local beer. And it’s not just the fact that the brewery shows Razorback games that makes it a perfect college town brewery -- it’s also run by three University of Arkansas grads who give students tons of reasons to blow off studying, including Harry Potter Trivia Night, Halloween dog costume parties, taproom yoga, and plenty of benefits to help local causes (like donating a portion of red ale sales to help a non-profit). The events draw ‘em in, but the beer keeps them coming back. Notable are the rich, bold, 7.2% ABV Spottie Ottie Oatmeal Stout, the roasty, nut brown ale Nutty Runner, and a 10.3% ABV grad-school level beer: the Belgian-style Toi Moi et la Tripel.

Athens, GA

The school: University of Georgia
The brewery: Copper Creek Brewing Co.
Distance from campus: .8 miles
Yep, the excellent Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is also in Athens, but any UGA student on a budget needs a place like Copper Creek in their lives. C’mon, how the heck can you beat $2 for any of their four beers on tap (from a gose to a milk stout) on Tuesdays? You cannot: that is the deal of the century, and we’re not afraid to say it. Meanwhile, Thursday is wing night, with 60 cent chicken wings. This downtown Athens brewery gives its academic community exactly what it needs: a place to drink locally brewed beer until 2AM six nights a week. There’s also Dawgs games on TVs, Wednesday trivia nights (yup, with more drink specials), and hearty southern fare like shrimp and grits, in case students need to fuel up for a long study session. ….Or to drink more $2 pints. Did we mention their pints are two dollars on Tuesday?!

Note: Four Peaks Brewing is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.