Brewery taprooms are now pretty common, and most of us live near one. This week, I’m focusing on fun activities inside the taprooms that have helped this current brewery model and culture become so popular.

Taprooms are fun. They are gathering places to hang with friends, watch a game, attend a dinner or event, read a book, have a meeting or just sit and relax. Big or small, they hold the promise of great beer, friendly service and a refreshing community culture. This fairly simple model makes these meeting places attractive in many ways.

My focus this week is really about games — board games, card games, strategy games, active games. As a lifelong lover of board games, the popularity of classics and brand new games makes me very happy. It’s a chance to unplug from your phone or social media and talk with friends and family live and in person. The taproom and games are a match made in heaven.

There are so many options to explore. Many taprooms host or sponsor game nights, inviting people to stop by and play with groups. Usually, these games are somewhat advanced — think Risk times 20. Experienced players can dive right in while the newbies will often have a separate group to learn the ropes. I love to play cribbage, and many spots offer a weekly tournament with prizes to the winner. I spotted a “Board Game Olympics” recently, a day-long tourney including Monopoly, Battleship, Life, Risk, Chess, Sorry and Stratego with the grand prize of a weekend in Las Vegas awarded. Taprooms are also a great spot to get together with friends for your own weekly game night. Active games are also common. Pool, ping-pong, darts, bags (or cornhole, as some call it), shuffleboard and bocce ball are some standards.

The appeal is strong. For myself, growing up pre-internet, I played games all the time. Family game night and holiday tournaments are some of my favorite memories. Summer days at the cabin were spent playing hour upon hour of card games. Taprooms have a relaxed vibe. There isn’t a rush to leave and turn the table over to new customers. This makes taprooms a game cave unto themselves. They’re a place for casual off-time with people we enjoy — mildly or hardcore competing as we laugh, poke fun, sip beers and talk about every topic under the sun.

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Group games like Bingo, trivia and Mastermind — a blast from the past — are easy to find. A simple internet search will highlight plenty of options.

Really, it’s a new culture that seems to be going old-school. Mix in the opportunity to bring in food of your choice, and you can pretty much have in indoor picnic and get-together in the middle of winter, or any time of year.

Many taprooms are family-friendly. Children’s snacks and drinks are often offered, and a spirited game of Chutes and Ladders or Candyland is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the family.

Playing games is relaxing. It’s a chance to escape the day-to-day, hour-to-hour stresses we all face. Playing is good for the brain and the imagination, as well as good old-fashioned human interaction. There’s very little generation gap in playing games. One of my favorite cribbage opponents, Geno, age 94, rarely loses, and those of you who think cribbage is all luck should play against someone with 80 years of experience!

Everyone has their favorite game of course, and here are some of mine:


Cribbage, Hearts, Gin Rummy, Uno

Board games

Backgammon, Chess, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Battleship, Clue (I like those classics!)


Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Space Base, Root


Yahtzee, Codenames, Connect Four, Jenga, Mancala, Dominos


Please share some gaming stories with me and also your favorite games so I can continue to learn about new games and expand the library.

Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at