Standard brewery taprooms are great and all, but what if your favorite band was playing right there in the same place you enjoy your favorite beer? And nothing against traditional concert venues, but sometimes forking over $12 for a plastic cup of light beer is a real drag. That’s why we’re especially stoked on a new breed of brewery music venues that bring great music and great beer closer than ever. Here are five new or coming-soon ones to watch:
Oskar Blues Brewery, Austin
All of Oskar Blues’ taprooms host live music at least four nights a week, but it’s the months-old Austin taproom that turns it up to 11. Its 5,000 square foot taproom can host 700 people for a show across both indoor and outdoor spaces, and the in-house booking coordinator focuses mainly on Texas acts including past shows with Calliope Musicals and Jamestown Revival. As Austin’s music scene has grown via events like SXSW and Austin City Limits, it’s become a hub for national musicians. That’s why, according to Oskar Blues marketing director Chad Melis, the brewery wants to make sure local talent isn’t squeezed out. That commitment was on display in March when the taproom hosted Black Fret’s 2017 Nomination Celebration, a showcase that toasted the Austin acts nominated for Black Fret’s annual grant program.
The Vanguard, Hampton, Virginia
When Randy Thomas, a Virginia general contractor, saw a request for proposals to redevelop the 14,000-square-foot building that once housed the Virginia National Guard, he jumped at the chance to transform it. Now, construction is under way to turn the massive brick building into an 18,500-square-foot combination brewpub, distillery and music venue. He’s fairly sure The Vanguard will be the state’s first co-habitated distillery and brewery, and it’s definitely the only one with a permit for live music seven nights a week. He’s installing a professional-grade sound system and stage with capacity for 1,000 people per show and hopes to be hosting local and touring acts by Labor Day.
SLO Brew, San Luis Obispo, California
The team behind SLO Brew brewpub and brewery-hotel The Lofts has announced acoustic shows at its second location, The Rock. The concert space is still under construction at that spot (situated near San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport), but the 30-barrel brewhouse, tasting room, biergarten restaurant and patio are up and running, with acoustic sets taking place in the biergarten/patio area. SLO Brew’s downtown location will still continue to host most of the big-name acts that come through the area courtesy of a booking partnership with The Knitting Factory Presents.
KettleHouse Amphitheater, Bonner, Montana
When KettleHouse Brewing owner/founder Tim O’Leary found out that the soil stability on part of the land he’d just bought in Bonner to build a new production brewery wasn’t going to hold up the building, he didn’t despair. He half-thought, “Well, it could be a cool amphitheater.” A few months later, he’d run the idea by Nick Checota of Missoula-based Logjam Presents, an entertainment production company that also owns Missoula venues The Wilma and Top Hat Lounge. A partnership was formed, and now the two companies are on track to open the 4,000-capacity KettleHouse Amphipheater with a July 16 show headlined by Ween. The location adjacent to the (on-solid-ground) production brewery and the beautiful Blackfoot River will make for an unbeatable combination of great scenery and great beer, O’Leary says. “I try not to speak in hyperbole but within two years this will be known as a touring stop and a must-see venue,” he says.
Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Montana
Not to be one-upped by KettleHouse, fellow Missoula brewery Big Sky has announced major upgrades to its outdoor concert facilities, which have hosted shows on a portable stage on the brewery grounds since 2003. This summer, the lawn will welcome a new, dug-out amphitheater/bowl-style seating area with improved sightlines for up to 7,000 guests, as well as a new two-day Travelers’ Rest music festival headlined and organized by The Decemberists in August. Big Sky doesn’t actually sell beer at the summer concerts; two or three local non-profits selected annually sell Big Sky beer as a fundraiser for their organizations. “[Selling beer at our concerts] is one night’s work and hopefully you go home with $5,000 per night for your charity,” says brewery co-founder Neal Leathers. “That’s $20,000-30,00 per charity per year from this.”