Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, historic Route 66 was one of the first interstate roads traveled by many Americans. Though it doesn’t even appear on maps anymore, Route 66 is still a hoot to travel. And if you’re a beer lover, you’ll find a number of notable watering holes along the way where you can grab a great brew from a local microbrewery or stellar bar/tap room. Meandering through eight states, beginning in Chicago and ending in California, Route 66 provides quite a few good craft breweries and restaurants worth making a stop to knock back a glass or two (but don’t drink and drive!).
So if you’re ready to get your kicks (and sips) on Route 66, here’s a list of a few must-do stops for craft beer lovers. Our list is focused on locations either right on Route 66 or very, very close to it (in case you wonder why we may have left out some very good breweries nearby).
Chicago’s First Liquor License
17 West Adams, Chicago, IL
Dating back to 1898, the iconic Berghoff restaurant also brews its own craft beer. Many Berghoff beers are gold medal winners, but this place is worth a stop for the history alone. The German-themed Berghoff started as a men’s saloon, selling Dortmunder-style beer for a nickel a glass or a dime for a stein. In 1933, when Prohibition ended, the first Chicago establishment to get a liquor license was The Berghoff (a tradition that lives on today when liquor licenses are renewed each year).
On tap, you’ll find a range of craft beer styles (most with a heavy European influence) ranging from light or dark lagers and hefeweizen to Oktoberfest brews. Be sure to try Berghoff’s World Beer Championships Gold Medal winners: DortWunder Lager, Germaniac Pale Ale, Reppin Red Ale, Solstice Wit, or Sir Dunkle Crispy Dark. The brewery itself is located at 1424 W Chicago Ave in Chicago.
The Beer Heart of Illinois
318 S. Towanda Ave., Normal, IL
Located smack dab in the middle of what used to be Illinois farmland along Route 66, Destihl is rapidly gaining popularity for its creative, funky take on craft beers, especially sour ales. Draft Magazine says “this brewery’s line of Saint Dekkera sour beers is out of this world.” Another brew recommended by Draft Mag is Sour Hawaii. Icing on the cake is the fact that the Destihl restaurant serves what has been called the best burger on Route 66 in Illinois.
Here are a few inventive beers you might find on tap when you stop in (and how could you possibly not stop in?): Ambassador Am-Belgo Double Pale Ale, Miner’s Ruin ‘California Common’ Warm Fermented Amber Lager, Strawberry Blonde Ale with Whole Strawberries Added, Cerise Wood-Aged Stout Imperiale with Sour Cherries Added, Lawnmower Ale with Lemongrass and Lemon Peel Added, and Nit Wit Belgian-Style White Ale with Chamomile, Lavender and Orange Peel.
Beer & Cigars
5213 Chippewa St., St. Louis, MO
You’ll find more than 40 beers at The Famous Bar, which has been serving customers since Prohibition ended in 1933. Once called “66 Inn,” The Famous Bar is now a historic landmark that harkens back the heyday of Route 66 travel (though most of Route 66 is paved over in St. Louis). You’ll find 12 single-malt scotches on the menu, as well as a cigar bar and live music. The refrigerated mahogany walk-in, originally cooled with ice, is a rare find – reputed to have been built by the Anheuser-Bush Brewery.
Brewed with Mother’s Love (and a Big Helping of Fun)
215 South Grant, Springfield, MO
On the Mother Road in Missouri be sure to stop in at Mother’s Brewing Co., brimming with good beer and fun characters. The beer names are a dead giveaway that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously (Need proof? Go take a look at the funny videos on their site.). The Brewer’s Association ranked Mother’s Brewing among the top ten fastest growing breweries in the country.
Apparently there’s even more history than Route 66 tied to Mother’s location. During the Civil War, a sloped area very near where the brewery is located provided just enough protection for Lincoln’s troops to turn back incoming Confederate soldiers.
Check out MILF Imperial Stout, Foggy Notion Barley Wine, Towhead Blonde Ale, Doozy Double IPA, Fancy Pants Belgian-Style IPA and Three Blind Mice Brown Beer. That should get you over the Kansas state line.
Only 13 miles of Route 66 run through Kansas and you won’t be stopping on this stretch of the Mother Road for any beer. Hold your breath and continue on to Oklahoma. (Kansas does have good craft beer to offer if you’re traveling off of Route 66 – try Free State Brewing in Lawrence or Tallgrass Brewing in Manhattan.)
Full-Strength Craft Beers (Yes, in OK it’s a Big Deal)
618 S. Wheeling, Tulsa, OK
Marshall Brewing is located a couple of blocks north of Route 66 and given the city’s limited native Oklahoman beers, you’re going to want to make this stop.
Some of Marshall’s must-try brews include Atlas IPA, which is considered a top Oklahoma craft beer as far west as Oregon; El Cucuy, an American Black Ale with a 90-point rating on Beer Advocate; Old Pavilion Pilsner, also a 90-pointer on Beer Advocate; and Big Jamoke Porter, named after the B-25 that Marshall’s grandfather flew in WWII.
Putting Oklahoma on the (Craft Beer) Map
1124 NW 51st Street, Oklahoma City, OK
Since 2009, COOP Ale Works has been pushing the limits, introducing cutting-edge craft beers and igniting a passion for local craft beers among native Oklahomans. The name COOP is a nod to the profession of making barrels and casks (that’s a “cooper”). COOP’s beers have developed a cult-like following, especially for their most popular beers F-5 IPA, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) – a 10% ABV Belgian dark ale, and Gran Sport Porter.
While there’s nothing historic about COOP Ale Works, other than its proximity to old Rte. 66 (one block or so to the south), stop in and toast the fact that this brewery is putting Oklahoma on the craft beer map with its non-traditional, Oklahoma-inspired brews.
Beer as Big as the State of Texas
7701 I-40 East, Amarillo, TX
While the historic Big Texan Steak Ranch is famous for its free 72 oz. steak (it’s free if you can eat it in an hour), it also was voted by Draft Magazine as one of the Top 10 Places to have a drink. And, they brew craft beers over at their in-house brewery.
The Big Texan Brewery started serving craft beers in 2011. Today, they boast 12 “Real Texas” beers. Quench your Texas-size thirst with Whoop Your Donkey, a double IPA with 9.1% ABV and 80 IBU. There’s also Jack Rabbit Red, Pecan Porter, Rattlesnake IPA and Whiskey Barrel Stout (which they say is a sipping beer “as big as the state of Texas”).
Wild West, Legends & Beer
955 S. Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM
Just outside of Albuquerque is a true Route 66 icon, Silva’s Saloon. Featured in Esquire and Huffington Post, the walls are covered in ancient newspapers and snapshots and you’ll find more than a few cowboys at the bar. Great live music, too! Though the beer selection isn’t as good as some along the route, you need to stop here just for the post-Prohibition ambience. (Seriously, this was the third bar in all of NM to receive a liquor license!) The town of Bernalillo itself is steeped in history – Route 66 in this part of the state was once a trade route used by Spanish explorers and colonies as far back as 1598.
Beer Steeped in New Mexico History
3233 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM
Kelly’s Brew Pub is located in the former Jones Motor Company, which had a rich history as a Route 66 gas station. Kelly’s brews around 20 craft beers guaranteed to cool you off on a hot day. Their craft beers haven’t won any awards that we know of, but Kelly’s is a great little Route 66 time capsule nonetheless. Check out the old gas pump while sipping a Schwarzbier, Apricot Ale, Scottish Ale, Dunkelweizen, Belgian Dubbel, or seasonal Altbier. If you have extra time on your hands, you can also dabble in brewing your own 15-gallon batch of beer in the back of the brewpub (they’ve got 20 recipes to choose from).
The Real Reason to Visit the Grand Canyon
233 W. Route 66, Williams, AZ
You’ll find a dozen or so speciality craft brews at Grand Canyon Brewing on Route 66 in the quaint town of Williams, Arizona, near the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. The guiding credo of this brewery? “When we set out to brew a beer good enough to be considered alongside one of the great wonders of the world, we did not take our jobs lightly.” If they’re not too busy, there’s a good chance the brewmasters will give you a personal tour of the brewery. You’ll want to go right next door to Cruisers Route 66 Café to drink their beers, though. Try some of the perennial favorites, including Hop Bomber IPA, Starry Night Stout, White Water Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Black Iron IPA, Horseshoe Bend Pale Ale, and Shaggy Bock.
No Weapons, Pardner
1960 E. Andy Devine Ave, Kingman, AZ
You’ll know you’ve found the Dambar when you see the dam steer on the dam roof of a rustic looking building in Kingman. From the life-size John Wayne cutout when you enter to the sawdust on the floor and loads of memorabilia, Dambar is as nostalgic as it gets. This is pretty much the only dam place in town to get a microbrew and it’s brewed in-house, to boot. Try the DamRed Lager and Brew 66. If you’re a real beer geek, you’ll probably like the steak better than the beer, so be sure to order one of their Mesquite Grilled Steaks or the Dam Red Ribeye, which is marinated in DamRed Lager.
A Beer for the Road
7 South Mikes Pike, Flagstaff, AZ
Named for the moniker bestowed on Route 66 by American author John Steinbeck, Mother Road Brewing has a tap room that’s open daily from 3 to 8 pm. There are usually 3 to 5 beers on tap, including an experimental brew every now and then. You’re even welcome to “set a spell,” read a book or play a board game with old or new friends.
With beer names like Lost Highway (a black IPA), Roadside American Ale (Gold Medal winner at the US Open Beer Championships), and Gold Road (a Kolsch-style ale), it’s clear that this breweryand it’s beers are a quintessential Route 66 experience. It’s especially fitting that the brewery owners say the idea for Mother Road Brewing was hatched on a road trip. Tours of the brewery, which is located in what used to be a commercial laundry during the 1920s, can be arranged by appointment.
Trusted Road Stop Since the 1950s
690 Old Hwy 58, Barstow, CA
The Mother Road has been decommissioned through Barstow, but remnants of its past linger. Since 1951 travelers along the former Route 66 have stopped at the Idle Spurs Steakhouse for a bite and drink. Their selection of craft beers isn’t at bad for a town with no breweries – the closest one is nearly 40 miles away – and their steaks are a big attraction (they even drew the attention of the TV show Man vs. Food Nation). The beer menu includes brews like Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale, Bootlegger’s Palomino Pale Ale, Blue Moon Belgian White Ale, Sierra Nevada Kellerwies Hefeweizen, Bootlegger’s Black Pheonix Stout, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Kona Big Wave Golden Ale and Redd’s Apple Ale.
Inland Empire Craft Beer
2120 Porterfield Way, Upland, CA
Between San Bernadino and Los Angeles along Route 66, you’ll find Dale Bros. Brewery (actually tucked in Cable Airport just off the Mother Road). Stopping here will give you a good flavor of the California Inland Empire craft beer scene, with a particular emphasis on session beers. Select from any of their year-round brews or half-dozen seasonals, many of which have won awards. Brothers Curt and Andy have been brewing since the 80s.
Tending to be lower in alcohol than many craft beers, interesting ones to sample include their flagship Pomona Queen California Lager, Sour Cran-Cherry Queen, Sour Pomegranate Black Beer, California Black Beer, Mango IPA, Badlands Porter and Winter Haze.
Beer from Local Ingredients
1420 North Claremont Boulevard #204c, Claremont, CA
Head further west on Route 66, just hop and a skip from Dale Bros. Brewery, to beautiful Claremont for a stop at Claremont Craft Ales. Locals flock here for beers brewed with local ingredients, and the Rye IPA and Jacaranda are local favorites. A Yelp review put it best: “I almost hate to publicize this hidden gem, but they deserve fame, fortune, and success, so here goes. Great beer. Period. Try the Jacaranda. Nobody doesn’t like it. Better yet, try it as one of a bunch of tasters. There are always different types showing up on the rotating list….Also great people. Great atmosphere. And on Friday night, great food trucks.”
120 Beers on Tap … and in the Fondue
10351 Santa Monica Blvd, LA, CA
Once you’re in Los Angeles, the former Route 66 pretty much follows Santa Monica Blvd. out to the Pacific Ocean. End your Route 66 trek at SmithHouse Tap & Grill, a true mecca for beer geeks. Not only are there 120 beers to choose from, but the beers are stored in six different cooling zones! We can’t begin to list all the beers, but take our word for it – this is a must-visit tap house.