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Belt’s Beer Garden Special Edition: Ranking the MAC by Craft Breweries

What MAC school is the best for breweries...and which is the worst?

With school starting next week (in most places), I thought it best to let all those new, and returning students, exactly how all 12 MAC school rank when it comes to craft beer and breweries (note: while you may still be able to find good craft beer at every school, this is merely a ranking of getting it from the source).

I had two main criteria for how the rankings played out:

First: the number of craft breweries within a 15-mile radius of the school.

Secondly, but just as important (if not more so): quality of the beer. I used the rankings from users on Untappd (UT) and BeerAdvocate (BA) to get an average score for each brewery.

All beer/brewery rankings are out of 5 (and as of 8/10/2016). The “best beer” category uses the beer with the highest rating and needs multiple check ins.

So, without further ado, here’s how the MAC breaks down when it comes to craft breweries:

11: Central Michigan University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 1
Closest: Mountain Town Brewing Co. (1.9 miles)
Best: Mountain Town Brewing Co. (3.48 ave; 3.49 UT, 3.47 BA)

Coming in last is CMU as they are one of two schools that only have one brewery withing 15 miles. Mountain Town’s ranking of 3.48 is solid but not great. Their highest rated year-round beer is their Iron Horse IPA (3.47 UT, 3.9 BA).

10: Miami University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 1
Closest: Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub (.01 miles)
Best: Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub (3.74 ave; 3.74 UT, N/A BA) (.01 miles)

The other MAC school with just one brewery is Miami. However, the Oxford brewery Quarter Barrel has a higher ranking, at 3.74, allowing RedHawk fans to take comfort that they aren’t last. Check out their Black Friday Imperial Stout (3.95 UT, 4.32 BA).

9: Northern Illinois University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 2
Closest: Forge Brewhouse (9.4 miles)
Best: Cademon Brewing (3.725 ave; 3.51 UT, 3.94 BA)

Huskie fans don’t have many choices when it comes to breweries near DeKalb, as they have just two. Cademon Brewing’s ranking of 3.725 was enough to trump Forge’s ranking of 3.47. Their Marshmallow Demonic Stout ranks highest (3.99 UT, 4.28 BA).

8: Ball State University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 2
Closest: The Guardian Brewing Co (.9 miles)
Best: The Guardian Brewing Co (3.73 ave; 3.73 UT, N/A BA)

Ball State edged out NIU for the eight spot by a ranking of just .05. The Guardian Brewing Co is pretty new (starting just last year) and hasn’t even been added on BeerAdvocate yet. However, on Untappd, their top beer is their Coconut Ogre stout, with a rating of 4.07.

7: Bowling Green State University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 2
Closest: BG Beer Works (.8 miles)
Best: BG Beer Works (3.9 ave; 3.9 UT, N/A BA)

Like Ball State and NIU, BGSU just has two breweries near it. Sugar Ridge Brewery couldn’t beat Bowling Green Beer Works (another brewery that hasn’t been added to BeerAdvocate yet). BG Beer Works comes in with a really good ranking on Untappd - a 3.9 - with their Sim-mo IPA topping the charts (4.27).

6: University of Toledo

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 3
Closest: Black Cloister (3.6 miles)
Best: Black Cloister (3.825 ave; 3.76 UT, 3.89 BA)

Toledo’s best brewery is also the closest to the school. Black Cloister’s average rating of 3.825 was enough to beat out Maumee Bay and Great Black Swamp. Their Marty, a Belgian Pale Ale, leads the way with rankings of 3.65 (UT) and 4.37 (BA).

5: Ohio University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 3
Closest: Jackie O’s (1.0 mile)
Best: Jackie O’s (3.965 ave; 3.94 UT, 3.99 BA)*

Ohio cracks the top-5 with three breweries (Devil’s Kettle, Jackie O’s, and Little Fish) But Bobcat fans know that have a really solid brewery in Jackie O’s. Bourbon Barrel Champion Ground takes home the gold for Jackie O’s, with ratings of 4.54 (UT) and 4.57 (BA).

*= highest rated brewery in any MAC city

4: Eastern Michigan University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 5
Closest: Arbor Brewing (1.5 miles)
Best: Wolverine State Brewing (3.715 ave; 3.62 UT, 3.81 BA)

EMU comes in at number four on this list even though Wolverine State’s only has a 3.715. The fact that there are five breweries plus a Jolly Pumpkin facility near Ypsilanti bumps them ahead of Ohio. Barista, a brown ale, leads the way for Wolverine State with scores of 3.9 (UT) and 4.13 (BA).

3 (Tied): University of Akron and Kent State University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 5
Closest: Akron - Thirsty Dog and Aqueduct (.7 miles); Kent State - R. Shea Brewing (12.4 miles)
Best: Hoppin’ Frog Brewing (3.925 ave; 3.96 UT, 3.89 BA)

Akron and Kent State are really close to each other. So much so that the same five breweries happen to be within 15 miles of both schools. Hoppin’ Frog takes home the gold for best brewery and their Infusion A (4.7 UT, 4.31 BA), a peanut butter coffee porter, leads all beers.

2: SUNY at Buffalo

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 8
Closest: 12 Gates (6.5 miles)
Best: Community Beer Works (3.87 ave; 3.78 UT, 3.96 BA)

The city of Buffalo doesn’t have one stand out brewery like Ohio or Akron/Kent State. Instead, the city boasts eight different breweries and that number will continue to rise. Of those eight breweries, Community Beer Works has the best ratings and is just 13.2 miles from the school. That IPA is one you need to try, bring home scores of 3.87 (UT) and 4.13 (BA).

Well, I think we all knew this was coming. The number one MAC school for craft beer is...

1: Western Michigan University

Number of breweries in 15 miles: 13
Closest: Rupert’s Brew House (.3 miles)
Best: Bell’s Brewery (3.88 ave; 3.85 UT, 3.91 BA)

Kalamazoo blows the rest of the MAC out of the water with 13 breweries (that’s more than the bottom 6 schools combined!!). Not only do they have a huge variety but they also have a national powerhouse in Bell’s Brewery. Bell’s has a ton of good beer (their Two Hearted Ale was one of the beers that got me into craft beer) but it’s their Black Note double stout that carries the highest ratings - 4.52 (UT) and 4.5 (BA).

There you have it. If you love going to breweries, avoid CMU and hit up WMU instead. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts below.