I recently read a book that included a rant about airports based on uncomfortable seats at the gates …. what? Who waits at the gate? Airports are all about the bars and the passengers who hang out at them. I’d probably hate airports too if all I did was sit at the gate. But instead I pad my arrival time, and especially my connection time if I’m going through a place that has beer not available in Massachusetts, to make sure I have a chance to check out the beer options. Over the years my quests have become increasingly rewarding, and some of them are even worth sharing.
This post is a work in progress that I will update as I travel. Airports are listed alphabetically by city name.
But first, a nod to impromptu romance:
Flirting in the Sky – Boston to San Francisco
Check out what some clever person decided to offer on cross-country Virgin America flights in the photo above. Of course it’s terrific to find 21st Amendment on an airplane list- but even better is the option to send one to another seat.
Boston’s Logan International Airport, Massachusetts, USA (BOS)
Terminal E, upstairs and before security
I usually prefer to drink after security, but on this particular day I was at the airport for my Global Entry interview, which takes place in an office next to Dunkin Donuts near baggage claim. I was an hour early and found this internal pub called Dine Boston Restaurant at the dead end of a hall on the departure floor. Not only did the Green Monsta hit the spot, the hummus plate was the best one I’ve ever had in the states, with fresh artichoke and house-made pita. Apparently the menu is a collection of different New England chefs’ best dishes. What they’re doing at the dead end of the airport is beyond me.
Keep in mind that the terminals in Boston are not connected, which means once you’re past security you are stuck with the beer in that terminal. Logan does have more beer options than this, but as I tend to fly out in the early mornings I rarely get to explore them. (Not because I am opposed to breakfast beer, but because they’re not open yet.)
Chicago O’Hare, Illinois, USA (ORD)
Terminal 2 self-serve Connect to Chicago; Terminal 3 Publican
At O’Hare you can walk to any terminal after going through security. This is particularly helpful if you are flying out of Terminal 1, since it doesn’t have any worthy beer options yet.
As you walk to terminal 3- which is your destination since the opening of Publican- you get to try a gimmicky self-serve craft beer station on your way through Terminal 2.
It’s a bit tricky, because it’s not actually self-serve. You have to buy a card from the bar tender at the horse-shoe shaped bar sitting off to the side that corresponds to how much you want to taste. The tastes are pre-measured, so you can help yourself to all four options or a full glass of just one. You’re not supposed to keep the card, but apparently my crestfallen look was convincing.
The downtown Chicago Publican is a true “homage to oysters, pork, and beer” yet my expectations were not high for the airport branch. But as you can see by the menu, this stop is worth adding hours to your Chicago layover.
Gatwick, England (LGW)
30 June 2017 update: sadly the sushi place no longer carries craft beer, but the bar next to it, Jamie Oliver’s Italian, does.
Gatwick was recently called out for being one of the worst airports in the world for delayed flights, and my experience is consistent with that reputation. But it’s nice to be stuck here. Judging from a three hour delay to Amsterdam in the summer of 2015, I can tell you they have worked on making it a great place to wait. You can access everything once you are beyond security.
It has, among other places, this conveyer belt sushi restaurant. The turnover is high (because everyone’s flight is delayed so they’re stuck eating) which means the sushi is made constantly. I didn’t see any fish sit for more than a few minutes, and you can order individual fresh pieces of whatever you want. They serve a delightful Belgian-made saison called Kagua (that says “authentic Japanese craft beer” on the label). It’s just right with sushi.
Reykjavik Airport, Iceland (KEF)
This small airport is undergoing a renovation of it’s dining areas and promises lots of Icelandic options in the near future. For now, you have two options. Sit at one of the dozen or so seats at the bar if you can snag it or buy your bottled beer at the mini grocery just beyond the bar. Both places serve two good brands of beer: Borg Brugghus (love the IPA!) and Einstok. You are free to carry your beer around the airport.
San Francisco International Airport, California, USA (SFO)
In the public space between International A and Terminal 1 is the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. The stacks, filled with aviation history and a few maps, are on the second floor. You can access them by appointment so plan ahead. The rest of the area is filled with exhibits open to all, including these showing what people used to drink on planes.
Dig the cocktail glass with its practical wide base and stem to make it more likely your drink will stay in the glass instead of on your lap during turbulence.
Tampa, Florida (TPA)
An actual brewery making beer at the airport. Cigar City has a wee 1.5 barrel brewhouse to make a beer only available to passengers. They have other Cigar City offerings as well, and oddly some macro options. You know which one to get.
Above, Cigar City Pilot Brewer Hans Groberg gives me a peek of the brewery
Narita Airport (NRT)
I do not often fly first class, but when my connecting United flight from Mongolia through Tokyo’s Narita was cancelled, they booked me in first class on the replacement flight. In the airport, that meant I got to use the United Lounge, which has this:
Okay so it’s not craft. And let’s face, it- this machine probably has displaced at least one worker. But- look at that head! Perfect every time. I know- because I poured eight of them. I only had 20 minutes to revel in this technology, so I didn’t let anyone else use it. I handed the beers to people passing by. This is probably why they don’t let me fly first class very often.
Also in Narita (different trip) is a conveyer belt sushi joint. I could not resist. (See Gatwick)
Yebisu also makes a stout, which I preferred- although I had to get it from a bar where they allowed smoking inside. Blech.
Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Chinggis Khan International Airport (ULN)
When a storm in Tokyo prevents your flight from leaving Mongolia, and the entire airport is smaller than most high school cafeterias, what are you going to do? Look closely! The tiny cafe has cold beer in the fridge behind the counter. I was disappointed to see American Budweiser. But then, on closer inspection, and right beside it, was – could it be? – yes! Authentic Budvar. I do not remember how long the delay was, nor did I care.