Board games & beer

Tabletop board games and craft beer go hand in hand.

Brew Crafters in action: Mark and Jordan consider which recipe to brew next. Joe Wiebe photo

When I get together with my board gaming buddies, we always share interesting beers with the group. Similarly, it’s not unusual to walk into a craft brewery taproom and find tables filled with folks playing board games while sipping beers. Indeed, some breweries stock their taprooms with games or even stage special games nights.

What about beer-themed board games? Is that even a thing? Yes, in fact it is! Ever since my brother gave me a game called Brew Crafters for my birthday, I have searched for other games with a beer theme or that at least involve beer in a meaningful way—in terms of game mechanics, not drinking beer while you play (i.e. beer pong is out!). Here is a selection of what I have discovered so far.

Brew Crafters

2 to 5 players | Playing time: 90+ minutes

In this fun and challenging game, players run their own craft brewery: collecting ingredients, managing their workforce, and expanding buildings and equipment to specialize in different beer styles. The goal is to brew a variety of beer styles, earning reputation points for being the first to brew advanced recipes. You can operate as a production brewery or a brewpub, add a farm or a barrel room, or focus on hoppy beers if that’s your jam.

Gamers who know the classic “Eurogame” Agricola will immediately recognize the Market Action board where players place meeples to collect base ingredients (barley, hops, and yeast), along with fruit, coffee or spices for special recipes. Alternatively, you can acquire specialists, form local partnerships or hire a new shift of brewery workers. Then, you can process beer (brew, bottle or sell it), conduct lab research or add new buildings or equipment to your brewery.

Beer geeks who are also tabletop gamers will really enjoy the dynamic of this game. It is definitely replayable since there are so many different approaches to take.

My rating: 🍺🍺🍺🍺(4/5)

Beer & Bread is an attractive and fun tabletop board game. Joe Wiebe photo

Beer & Bread

2 players | Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes

Two neighbouring villages enjoy a playful rivalry brewing beer and baking bread over the course of six years, alternating between fruitful and dry conditions. Beer & Bread employs a card-building mechanism with options to harvest ingredients (wheat, rye, barley, hops and water), upgrade your bakery or brewery, and bake bread or brew beer.

Like many others, the pandemic got me interested in sourdough baking so when I spotted this at my local board game café I was instantly excited. The fact that it is a two-player game was also a positive since I am always looking for games that my teenage son and I can play. It’s relatively easy to learn and fast to play so it is the ideal brewery tasting room game. I like it, but I have noticed that the end of the game can be boring if you run out of things to do with a couple turns left.

My rating: 🍺🍺🍺(3/5)

Beer barrel pieces in Brass: Birmingham. Roxley Games photo

Brass: Birmingham

2 to 4 players | Playing time: 1 to 2 hours

Brass focuses on the industrial revolution in England, and a big component of the game is brewing. However, there is not much to it beyond building breweries and then using the barrels they produce to do other things so it’s difficult to call this a beer-themed game. The little wooden barrels are really cool, though, so that’s a big plus. This is a seriously complex game so I wouldn’t crack it open at the end of a long session of gaming and sampling…

My rating: 🍺🍺🍺(3/5)

Clans of Caledonia is an economic game set in 19th century Scotland.

Clans of Caledonia

1-4 players | 1 to 2 hours

Prepare to speak in a terrible Scottish accent for a couple hours. Clans of Caledonia is an economic game set in 19th century Scotland. Players pick from several different clans that each have certain specialties, including Clan McEwen, who are famous for brewing beer. That said, making whisky is a much bigger component of this game than brewing beer, since every clan can make whisky while only Clan McEwen can make beer.

My rating: 🍺🍺🍺(3/5)

Hallertau is designed by Uwe Rosenberg, one of the world’s most respecting game designers.


1 to 4 players | Playing time: 1 to 2 minutes

This game, designed by the famed Uwe Rosenberg who created Agricola, is not actually about brewing beer, but I decided to include it because it focuses on the Bavarian village of Hallertau, the centre of Germany’s hop-growing region. Indeed, any home brewer or beer geek should recognize Hallertauer hops as a core ingredient in many traditional beer recipes. I haven’t played it yet, but it looks like a lot of fun, and Rosenberg is one of the gaming world’s most respected designers so it’s probably pretty good.

My rating: N/A

Honourable Mentions

A few more games that have a beer component.

Agricola features a few beer-related cards that I love playing when I get the chance, and really, Agricola is just such a great game that everyone should try it at some point!

7 Wonders Duel is an excellent two-player variant on the popular 7 Wonders theme. My son and I really enjoy it, and I especially like playing the Brewery and Tavern cards.

Viticulture: this is about wine-making, not brewing, but it’s pretty good too!

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