We’re not supposed to drink beer in the morning—and as social stigma go, this one’s pretty reasonable. Five or six days out of seven, most of us have deadlines to meet, kids to chaffeur, machinery to operate, shit to do—but therein lies the naughty joy of an occasional splash of alcohol with your breakfast. Because we know we shouldn’t.
This chance typically arrives, or is otherwise contrived, on a weekend. Imagine: You’re well rested and ideally free of hangover (bothersome things that interfere with the enjoyment of tomorrow’s responsible drinking). You have no serious obligations for the rest of the day, no taxes to file, no vehicles to steer. Maybe it’s a holiday. Maybe it’s a reunion with old friends. Or maybe—propitiously or by design—your firmest commitment is an afternoon nap, or a ballgame.
Then there is the food. In that sense, breakfast is an ideal meal for drinking, and it seems a shame to keep the two apart. Hearty breakfast foods pair well with beer, in theory—eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, hash browns, rustic breads—but how often do we get to test these theories? Slightly more scientifically: Protein and carbohydrates interfere with alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream. Along with water and coffee (yes I drink coffee first, I have my addictions prioritized), these things slow it down and dilute it. You get less intoxicated than you might expect. (But don’t drive, OK? And you still may want that nap later.)
This is all by way of an excuse to name several great places to eat breakfast and drink beer, should you get the chance. This is nothing like a comprehensive list—just five of my favorites, plus a bunch of suggestions which are probably even better than mine and which I received after tapping some shoulders online. Your city is probably missing. That’s OK. See that comment section below? Please feel free to use it. I may just keep compiling and write a sequel.
There are some rules here. We are talking about breakfast, not early lunch. Call it brunch if you want, but an 11 a.m. opening time is grounds for disqualification. That’s just lunch with eggs, and there is nothing especially naughty about drinking then. We want earlier. We want mischief.
Five for which I can vouch:
Café Abseits, Bamberg
When staying in the unofficial capital of beer paradise (Oberfranken), I’ve lately chosen a hotel with poor breakfast. On purpose. The rooms are cheap, and it’s a handy excuse to visit Abseits for frühstück. Abseits is removed from the Old Town and lacks the atmosphere of the city’s brewery pubs—it looks and feels more like a wine bar—but it opens at 9 a.m. and offers a lengthy breakfast card. The typical Bauernfrühstück—farmer’s breakfast—is a pile of fried potatoes layered with ham, onions and an egg. Taps always feature great Franconian country lagers like Mönchsambacher, Metzerbräu and Gänstaller, as well Bamberg’s own sublime Keesmann Herren Pils.
Other Bamberg options: Friends rave about the breakfast at the Schlenkerla (9:30 a.m.) and Spezial (9 a.m.) breweries. I suspect this is the real true purpose of Rauchweizen.
Augustiner am Platzl, Munich
So Bavaria gets two entries, since beer with the morning meal is enshrined in tradition. The classic Bavarian breakfast is weisswurst with sweet mustard, pretzels and a weissbier—and all those items must be present to qualify. This Augustiner hall near Marienplatz is well-touristed but better liked by locals than, say, Hofbräuhaus (which opens at 9 a.m.). Augustiner opens at 10 and I promise you won’t be the only one drinking a beer, munching on a pretzel, and working out how to peel one of those lovely pale veal sausages with fork and knife. Wheat beer is traditional, but I can’t resist the soft, roundly bittersweet Hell poured via gravity from the barrels.
This tops my list of favorites in Brussels, and I have at least 80 of them. Just off the tourist track, the Marolles is the soulful heart of old working-class Brussels. The Brocante is named for the famed flea market on the square opposite, which gets going early in the morning. Browsing there is thirsty work. This café’s 90-odd beers feature a long list of authentic bottled lambics from all the serious producers. Ideal for washing down some sharp, salty ettekeis (Brussels cheese) or bloempanch (thick slices of local blood sausage). Loads of old bric-a-brac on the walls, a popular sidewalk terrace, and live jazz on Sundays. You might even hear some dialect.
Tune Inn, Washington, D.C.
Capitol Hill is full of people who ain’t from around here, and the Tune Inn—with its hearty breakfasts and all that taxidermy on the walls—offers them a home away from home. Fully recovered from a 2011 fire and visits from Guy Fieri, the Tune is cleaner that it once was, back when I was a cub reporter coming here with other young journalists and congressional staffers. I brought my kids here 15 years later and was fine with the update. The upholstery is fixed, the smoke gone, the food better. So is the beer, though the utter lack of pretension now extends to things like Yuengling and Sierra Nevada—those would have been fancy, back in the day. A deep-fried burger counts as breakfast if you eat it before 11, but who needs that when you have scrapple? The bar turns 70 next year. It opens at 8 a.m. daily.
Pelican Brewery, Pacific City, Oregon
There must be a few, but I can’t think of any other American brewpubs that open at 8 a.m. The Pelican’s beers have won an absurd number of awards at the Great American Beer Festival and elsewhere, and the breakfast menu is extensive—Pelicans in a Blanket are sausages dipped in pancake batter and deep fried, served with a syrup made from the stout. You can stay across the street and charge everything to your room. Such a nice rock out there, too. It’s hard to imagine any brewpub in the country having a more attractive location.
More Suggestions from Trusted Folks with Strong Opinions (add yours below):
Johnny’s Grill, Chicago
We all say we love food, we all call ourselves foodies, and then we meet Theo Hahn and suddenly our love looks like, well, like. Theo’s blog the83k.com is worth a gander, especially if you’re in Chicago. Theo sent me three really excellent suggestions, and I pick this one because for $4 you can get a can of Milwaukee’s Best and a shot of Evan Williams. OR you can go for any number of local brews from smaller outfits, like Moody Tongue’s Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter, maybe with that breakfast pie made from eggs, fish, leeks and cheese. On weekends, it opens at 8 a.m.
Our Philly tip was from @conor_mans, even though he appears to be in Belfast. This was not his Philly tip, which was Johnny Brenda’s, a cool looking indie rock club that does brunch. It also doesn’t open until 11 a.m. People, that’s just lunch with eggs. Anyway, I really wanted to have something from Philly. CBC is coming up, you know. So some rooting around turned up Hawthornes, which looks like exactly the sort of place I imagined when I half-baked the idea for this piece: proud of their breakfast and their beers. It opens at 9 a.m. daily (shut Monday), and there is a Weyerbacher beer called Sunday Morning Stout on draft, for Pete’s sake. I feel drawn to the Hot Potato Mess, a pile of home fries with cheddar and garlic hot sauce.
Pig and a Jelly Jar, Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah
Nice tip from twitterer @MontanaGael. Two locations of this daylight-oriented restaurant do chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy or ham hash with, say, a Wasatch Ghost Rider White IPA. Or a can of PBR for $2. They also make beer cocktails with that PBR, so, you know, that’s fine too.
Brite Eyes, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Tip from our own Kate Bernot. Hey: It’s a brewery, and it’s a coffeehouse. Beer and coffee. My only regret here is not having two separate mouths, so I can enjoy both simultaneously. Second-best option must be the Merry Traveler coffee porter, surely, to wash down one of those breakfast burritos.
Mawson Arms, Chiswick, London
Maybe I should disqualify this since it was nominated by someone who works at the pub. But it’s worth mentioning that London is chock-a-block with very fine Fullers pubs with very fine ales, many open early for breakfast. This one happens to be located at the brewery. It’s closed weekends, but if you’re a Yank on holiday then 9 a.m. on a Tuesday is a fine time for a pint of London Porter with smoked salmon. Right?
Three different people mentioned them, so I must. British ale enthusiasts have an ambivalent relationship with the J.D. Wetherspoons chain. On the one hand, its 1,000 or so pubs serve a massive volume of properly dispensed cask ale. That’s good. On the other hand, they sometimes lack atmosphere and provide tough competition for more locally rooted mom-and-pops. But they are soooo practical. And the prices are low. And they serve breakfast. One of the more famous locations is the Crosse Keys north of Monument Station in central London, a massive pub built into a high-ceilinged, thick-columned former bank building. It opens 8 a.m. weekdays, 9 on Saturday, 9:30 on Sunday, for bacon butty or full English with your pint of fruity pale Purity Mad Goose, or whatever they’re pulling from those pumps lined like sentinels around that large circular bar. Grandeur at very low prices, for London.
Thanks to blogger/sometimes pub owner Jeff Bell, who also suggested Schlenkerla (above). And to author/sometimes singer Des de Moor, whose book London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars is indispensible if you go, and who also suggested the following.
Bridge House, Belfast
OK, this is another Wetherspoons pub. See, I told you they were practical. This one is in the capital of Northern Ireland, and the regional version of the full breakfast there is the Ulster fry. It features potato scones and something called soda farls (eh, it looks like a biscuit). Opens at 8 a.m. daily, not too early on certain occasions for a bottle of McGrath’s Irish Black, a dry stout from Northern Irish brewery Clanconnel.
This sprawling traditional pub is a tip from Irish craft beer tweeter @craftbeersofIre. The full Irish includes pork sausages, bacon, black and white pudding (i.e., blood and oat sausage), mushrooms, potato cake, egg, grilled tomato and baked beans. And toast and ham. Features 40 beers on tap, including new Irish independents like Metalman. Oh, and Guinness.
We are missing New York. I want New York. I want L.A., I want Austin, I want them all. Add your tips for beer and breakfast below. If we do this again, I’ll include everything that qualifies.