Should you visit a brewery with kids? As a beer enthusiast and dad, I answer that question with an emphatic, “Yes!” At the same time, I understand why children in breweries could annoy some patrons. But I believe we can all get along and enjoy a pint (or sippy cup) together. This is why I offer the following 10 tips for visiting a brewery with kids.
Make Visiting a Brewery with Kids Fun for Everyone
1. Make sure the brewery is family-friendly.
Not all breweries are family-friendly, nor do they want to be. In some states, it’s illegal for children to be in breweries. Call ahead or check out the brewery’s website to be sure your kid will be welcomed. While you have the brewery on the line, you might want to ask if they have any activities for children. You’ll be surprised at how many breweries offer goodies like coloring books, games, puzzles or old school arcade games. A gem like Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, makes sure that your children are having as much fun as you.
2. Visit breweries with food and non-alcoholic drink options.
One of the easiest ways to keep my 15-month-old son, Deacon, occupied is with food. As a growing toddler, he is always eating. Thus, my wife and I either visit breweries with kitchens or on-site food trucks. (Call ahead as food trucks can be unpredictable). If the brewery doesn't offer food, be sure to pack a snack to help fight the hunger monster.
As kids get older, throwing food their way may not always work when visiting a brewery with kids. Allowing them to have their own drink to sip may make them feel grown up like mom and dad. Free Range Brewing in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina makes homemade sodas for kids, and Highland Brewing in Asheville sells juice boxes at the bar.
3. Avoid breweries that are overly dog-friendly.
The flip side to the “should you visit a brewery with kids” debate is the “should you visit a brewery with dogs” debate. Wherever you fall on that great divide, you will most likely encounter dogs in a brewery. When we’re planning our family brewing outings, we never go to the breweries that are overly dog-friendly. It’s not that we don’t like dogs. In fact, we have two of our own. But we know that a lot of children running around combined with nervous dogs in a confined space makes an unpredictable and dangerous situation.
4. Remember that brewery staff and other customers aren’t there to watch your kids for you.
Wedge Brewing Company in Asheville has a sign out front that says children must be within 10 feet of their parents. I think this is a great rule! Just last week, I embarrassingly watched my friends’ daughters run rampant throughout a brewery taproom, annoying customers, dogs, and other children alike. On several occasions, the kids startled a sleeping dog and bumped into customers carrying beers. My friends assumed that the rest of us were watching their children for them. Sorry, but I was busy being a responsible parent to my own child.
5. Look for breweries with lots of space.
At the same time, I understand that children have energy to burn and running is the best way for them to get it out. When visiting a brewery with kids, choose one with an ample beer garden. As breweries once again become communal and family-friendly gathering spaces, more and more are opening outdoor beer gardens, which are great places for children to run. Just keep an eye on your kids. I once saw a child climb a fence at a brewery and take off running down the road.
6. Perhaps avoid the brewery tour.
Unless your child is interested in learning about the magic of beer making, or is well-behaved in situations where they might be bored, skip the tour. Remember, other customers are on the tour to learn something and rowdy children can be distracting. As a beer writer, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Once you’ve been on one brewery tour, they’re pretty much all the same. Wait to go on one when you’re brewery hopping sans children.
7. Know when to say when (for your kid, that is).
I admit to having broken this rule on multiple occasions. I’m out having a good time catching up with friends and a few hours pass. While Deacon is still being chill, I know the witching hour is coming for us – like any second now. Still, I push the limits and order one more beer. As I sit down with my frothy beverage in hand, my wife gives me the look. Our son has gone nuclear and it’s time to leave. Don’t be me. Know and honor your children’s limits.
8. Take the temper tantrum outside.
If you find yourself in the situation described above, please take your child outside to calm down. Remember, this isn’t Chuck E. Cheese and not everyone is accepting of screaming children. Put yourselves in childfree customers’ shoes for a moment. They’re out for a relaxing afternoon, and wails and whines aren’t relaxing to hear. Remember, you don’t want your child to be the subject of a nasty Twitter debate on why children shouldn’t be allowed in breweries.
9. Teach your child about responsible drinking.
I grew up in a family of home winemakers and was around alcohol since before I could remember. Thus, when I arrived at college, drinking wasn’t a big deal to me. It was part of life. While I enjoyed my college parties, I was never one to get blackout drunk. I witnessed responsible drinking my entire life and knew how to act around alcohol.
10. Always, always, always make sure there is a designated driver.
Yes, I am going to get preachy for a moment, but we’re talking about alcohol and kids, so I feel that I must. Please make sure there’s a designated driver in your group. Of course, you should do this whenever you plan to imbibe, whether the kids are in tow or not. I recommend deciding who this person will be before you even depart for the brewery. You don’t want to have this conversation as you’re getting ready to head home and realize that both of you thought the other was driving. My wife and I like to take turns driving. One weekend, she’ll be the DD, and the next, I’ll be DD.
With these tips in mind, head out to that new brewery down the street and get ready for a fun family afternoon together. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how many other families are also there. Remember, craft beer’s key consumers are 21 to 36-years old and those are prime childbearing years.
What questions or advice do you have for visiting a brewery with kids? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from Travel Mamas: This story includes affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help to keep TravelMamas.com a free resource for readers like you.