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Taprooms Divided: Kids In Breweries

Wielert's, one of Over-the-Rhine's most popular beer gardens, in 1875

Wielert’s, one of Over-the-Rhine’s most popular beer gardens, in 1875 – note the children present

With the resurgence of neighborhood breweries comes an issue beer drinkers haven’t faced since pre-Prohibition days: families, specifically young children, in the brewery. The brewery was once the central communal gathering place in Over-The-Rhine’s German neighborhoods. A beer garden was the perfect place to let the children roam after church had finished and everyone was ready for a cold one.

As the local brewery has once again become a popular place to gather, it has sometimes created a very polarizing effect on the brewery patrons. In some cases it seems the childless are staunchly at odds with with the child-toting parents. While there are always extreme examples on both sides of the spectrum it may be helpful to understand where folks are coming from to get us all to a better place of beer harmony. It also means both sides being well prepared to encounter the other.

Guest poster, Jana Surace, mother – and WAY better half of beer clown @fourleafbrew – shares her experience as a parent who is willing to take her kids to a brewery taproom. She offers insight into the parent’s experience, offers some practical advice to other parents that may be contemplating a trip to a brewery with little ones, and makes some suggestions for breweries to educate their potential guests with kids in tow.


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e were hot… and very thirsty. The plan was to get a flight of our favorite styles. We stepped into the brewery and it was like every pair of eyes was on us. At least that is how it felt; a weird slow-mo kind of thing you see in movies with mouths gaping open in shock. Do we smell from our hike? Are we dressed too causally? Oh no, that’s right, our three kids are with us.

If you love beer, proudly support local brewers, AND have kids, this too may have been your experience recently. For us in the above story, we did our research and felt like it was OK to bring the kids. It was a Sunday afternoon at a brewery in a very pedestrian area. They served snacks and root beer, and even had a wall of games to play. Yet, when we walked in, we were the only ones with kids in tow. And it felt uncomfortable. Instead of staying inside were the A/C felt awesome, I made everyone in our group step out to the back patio because it was nearly empty and therefore fewer people to bother.

Turns out our kids behaved PERFECTLY. We had a flight and were gone relatively quickly. As we were leaving the brewery, we noticed a table FULL of kids playing board games. I thought to myself how differently we might have felt if we had arrived after them. It wasn’t that this brewery wasn’t kid friendly, we just happened to be the only ones with kids there. The stares and glances might have all been in our head because we were self-conscious about having the kids with us.

This was only our secnd experience with kids in a brewery’s taproom. The other was when we went exploring on vacation and found a place in a coastal area that boasted “kids welcome” on their website. They let us bring in a lunch and they had fresh popcorn and cold root beer. There, we didn’t feel insecure, and brewery staff was extremely friendly to the kids.

This brings me to the crux of this discussion: How does one decide if it is appropriate to take the kids to a brewery’s taproom?

In our limited experience, this is what has worked, a kind of litmus test as to whether we think it is suitable to have the kids join us:

  • Does the brewery’s website or social media mention kids? Kid friendly snacks? Kid activities? Pictures of toys or kids on their page? YES!
  • Want to go to town on a new style at your favorite brewery? Get your buzz on? Hmmmm….maybe get a sitter (which we have done)….and a DD.
  • Do you plan on going during a typical family orientated time? Weekend afternoon? YES!
  • Weekend night after dinner? – This one is interesting and a divisive issue. Our personal policy is if you are going at a time that might constitute as a date night for other couples, we would personally decide to leave the kids at home.
  • In addition to that last one – BEHAVIOR! Pick a time that you know the kids will behave! Are they well fed or did you bring a snack? Is there something there to entertain them? Are they rested? 10pm on a Friday night is not the ideal for our kids to display their best behavior.
  • Last but not least, the most frequently frustrating situation for us has been when traveling. You can’t exactly get a sitter when on the road! We LOVE trying new beers. It is one of our favorite things to do as a couple. The above mentioned anecdote worked out wonderfully on our family trip because we had the flexibility to go midday during the week. But on our way home we went through a town that had a few breweries. Of course, we wanted to go! But the kids had been in a car for 10 hours, were exhausted and grouchy, and it was already after 7pm. So we put aside our wishes and brought a couple growlers back to the hotel to try. Not ideal, but we felt it wasn’t a great idea to take the kids out. Maybe when they get older?

Having said all this, it is always up to each individual family to decide what works. We are no experts! Our kids are still pretty young and many things we just have to try and see if it works.

I didn’t share my thoughts to bash parents who might choose differently or complain how kids can be a drag. This is simply to get a conversation started about what goes into the decision to take the kids or not.

Last tidbit I wanted to add is for the folks who run the breweries: Don’t be afraid to let us know where you stand on your kid policy!!!! The last thing we want is to put a damper on your atmosphere and come where we aren’t 100% welcome. Most parents don’t want to be the oddballs in the crowd, but we still want to support our local brewers! So tell us what you prefer, because we prefer………BEER!

Editor’s Note: I want to put in a quick plug for the Cincinnati-area Beer Geeks With Kids Facebook group where beer loving parents gives advice on family-friendly brewery options and has organized some kid-friendly events at breweries. Consider joining if you are a parent!

Mike Stuart

Craft beer enthusiast and hombrew dabbler. Part-time writer, sometimes funny.

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