A brewery might not be the most obvious place to bring your kids, but it can be really enjoyable for the entire family. Craft beer is taking over America. Every day more and more small breweries are opening up taprooms all over the place. When I first started visiting breweries, I was shocked when we would pull into an inconspicuous business park. I expected to find taprooms on main streets or busier areas.
However, the prime real estate of those spots is usually more than a nano-brewery can afford, and they need more space for their equipment. So, business parks seem to be the favorite option. In some ways, this is perfect for families with young children. They aren’t hip bar scenes or fancy restaurants where your kids feel out of place. Most local breweries are bare bones with a simple bar, picnic tables, and space to play lawn games. Since it’s not technically a bar, children are allowed to come with you, and there’s not much for your kids to break! Below are some tips that I have picked up while bringing my own daughter to breweries, as well as going with my older nephews and their parents.
Newborns are great for bringing places because they really like to sleep! (see my post on taking a newborn out to eat). Addie went to her first two breweries when she was just six weeks old. The most important thing to remember about taking your newborn to breweries is that they are usually in large spaces, meaning their heat and air conditioning is not necessarily as effective. In the winter, bring plenty of warm blankets or bunting to wrap your baby up in. I also recommend having them wear a hat. The beer might be warming you up, but the baby is just laying there so make sure they stay warm! In the summer, dress your baby in layers. You don’t want them to overheat, but newborns don’t have much fat to insulate them. They might need more clothes than you expect.
I would also recommend you bring in their car seat in a stroller. There probably won’t be a comfortable place to set them down or even hold them for very long. Picture yourself sitting at picnic tables or benches, your baby will be much more comfortable in their car seat.
Also, make sure to think about how you are going to feed your baby. If you are breastfeeding, make sure you don’t drink too much (the recommended guideline is to not exceed the legal limit for driving) or have some pumped milk ready to go. Chances are there will be many groups of people, not just families. So, if you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of others make sure you have a cover or space in your car to feed. There probably will not be any private space for you in the brewery. If you formula feed, don’t count on way to heat up your bottles at a brewery either.
My daughter is currently 16-months-old so I am just getting into the world of toddlers. However, I do understand that they’re no fun when they need a nap. The best thing you can do is planning your brewery trip around your child’s schedule. While newborns can sleep anywhere, toddlers can be very picky about where and when they sleep. The last thing you want is to try and keep a sleep-deprived toddler happy at a brewery.
Once they are well-rested make sure they are also well-fed. We will go into brewery food later, but the food that toddlers love the most is snack food! My daughter could eat all of her meals as snacks if we would let her. When we go out to a brewery we bring special snacks that Addie might not get every day. I like to make a special “trail mix” that is toddler-friendly. I include Cheerios, raisins, freeze-dried fruits, and other finger snacks. The best thing about this mix is that the variety keeps her occupied and interested. We also like to bring cut-up apples or grapes, or other non-perishable foods.
Entertaining your toddler could be as simple as putting food in front of them, but sometimes you need a little bit more to keep them happy. I really like going to breweries with outdoor spaces because I can lay out a blanket and put toys on it. One of my favorites in the East Bay is Calicraft, you can see my review of it here. If you don’t have an outdoor area to hang out in, try to find the most open area of the sitting area and put some blocks out on the ground. We like these because they are light-weight and have their own carrying case.
One last thing about babies and toddlers at breweries. While more and more breweries are catering to families, many will not be set-up with a changing table in the bathroom. Unless you know there is one, I wouldn’t count on it. Make sure you have space in your car to change a diaper if you need to.
As your child gets older, you have a better idea of what their interests are and what will entertain them. Some might be OK with just a good book to read. But, going to a brewery with your kids should be a family outing, so it’s important to encourage interaction with your kids. Many breweries have board games and lawn games that anyone can play. My sister-in-law also loves to bring card games, including a matching game with animal facts. Her boys love to guess which animal she is describing from the cards. If visiting breweries is something you want to do on a regular basis with your family, then make sure you make it an entertaining and fun time for your kids, so they will want to go back!
Another fun thing to do at many breweries is eating! Some taprooms have a kitchen and cook and a whole menu of items to chose from. Others have food trucks parked out front. If your kids aren’t picky, this could be a really fun activity of trying new foods or having a special treat. If you do have some picky-eaters, packing a lunch for your kids is a good option. Try bringing special foods like trail mix with chocolate chips and dried cherries.
Visiting breweries is a pastime that my whole extended family totally enjoys. We have visited breweries in many states, and even plan a lot of our vacations around the beer! Now that I have a family of my own, I want to continue this tradition, but I also want to make sure my daughter enjoys it too. With a little practice and planning, I am sure that you and your family will enjoy it as well. Do you have any favorite breweries or tips for bringing your family along with you? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!