Craft beer in America is more popular than ever. Today’s drinkers become more educated by the day and the breadth of choices available to them has never been so extensive. This is great for beer lovers and beneficial on the supply side as well, as a high-quality product created by friendly, local brewers’ means consumers will pay for good beer.
It’s no longer uncommon for enthusiasts to plan a brewery visit into their vacation. In fact, the opposite is trending: Plenty of people actually plan their vacations around a great beer destination.
Here are 10 recommended cities to visit on your beer-based travels.
1) San Diego, California
• AleSmith’s consistently excellent IPAs, stouts, porters, and barleywines impress critics year in and year out.
• Right down the road from AleSmith is one of SoCal’s better-known craft breweries: Ballast Point, with 27 taps and specialty drafts.
• Green Flash Brewing is also in the neighbourhood, and for your appetite: there’s often a food truck waiting outside.
• A short drive east down the I-8 leads to the Alpine Beer Company, home of some of the world’s best IPAs.
• 2008 saw San Francisco’s acclaimed Toronado open a sister location in San Diego. This craft beer bar has 56 draft lines and an impressive bottle list. Plus, they often create excellent limited brews for their special events.
2) Austin, Texas
• (512) Brewing sends kegs all over Austin and South Texas. Their Pecan Porter is delicious.
• Jester King began brewing farmhouse-style ales in 2009 and quickly developed a loyal following. Although state law prohibits them from selling beer directly to customers, the brewery tour is a fun way to spend an afternoon in the Texas Hill Country.
• Live Oak Brewing’s focus on a just handful of beer styles pays off: Their hefeweizen is among the best made anywhere.
• Drive about hour south on I-35 to Freetail Brewing in San Antonio. Here, you will find an enjoyable mix of traditional American ales with barrel-aged stouts and wild ales. This may be one of the best breweries in Texas.
3) Grand Rapids / Kalamazoo, Michigan
• Founders Brewing has mastered the art of producing exceptionally high-quality beer on a macro scale. Their Grand Rapids brewpub is a popular destination.
• In Kalamazoo, Bell’s Brewery bottles and kegs an impressively diverse range of beers for all tastes. Some of their best work is only found at the brewpub, however, so stop by to see for yourself.
• Dark Horse Brewing’s fanbase has grown rapidly. Stop in to find out why.
4) Fort Collins, Colorado
• New Belgium Brewing has a diverse selection of beers. You might not know they were one of the first sour programs in the US, though, so stop by for a tour and a sample or three.
• Oskar Blues led the charge to promote canning in the beer industry.
• Left Hand Brewing’s popular Milk Stout gained them notoriety, and a visit to their home base will prove they aren’t a one-trick pony.
5) Chicago, Illinois
• Goose Island continues to brew some of the very best beer in the Midwest. The north side of Chicago features two excellent Goose Island brewpubs where locals drown their baseball sorrows.
• The Half Acre Beer Company’s brewpub on Lincoln Ave is known for its IPAs, particularly the canned Daisy Cutter.
• Just across the border is Munster, IN, home to one of the country’s most celebrated breweries: Three Floyds Brewing. The 40-minute drive from Chicago is worth every minute, and you will soon discover why local retailers struggle to keep their beers on the shelves.
• Follow the CTA Red Line north to Hopleaf, a Belgian bar well-known to locals who love good beer. Come for the beer, stay for the beer and the food.
• The Map Room’s beer bar in Bucktown has fans from around the city. Although their venue may be small, their selection certainly isn’t.
6) Detroit / Ann Arbor, Michigan
• The Warren suburb of Detroit is home to Kuhnhenn Brewing, a unique brewpub and meadery. Ever had a bourbon barrel-aged Banana French Toast Mead? Here you can.
• Jolly Pumpkin’s brewpub in Ann Arbor brings this farmhouse brewery’s drinks to the city. If you are tired of hoppy beers, try their tart JP brew.
7) New York City, New York
• A short drive (or train ride) north to Peekskill Brewing will bring you to the new home of Jeff O’Neil, formerly of Ithaca Brewing. They deliver great beer better than anyone else in the region.
• Top Hops Beer Shop on the Lower East Side quickly became well-known by providing friendly, knowledgeable service at their hybrid bar and bottle shop. It’s the local beer geeks’ favourite place for highly coveted bottles, draft beer and growlers, and a laid-back environment.
• Tørst is a true destination bar in NYC. Founded by brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Tørst combines a plethora of fantastic draft beer with an impressive bottle list.
8) Tampa, Florida
• Cigar City Brewing has an excellent full-service brewpub.
• Peg’s Cantina / Cycle Brewing is a small Mexican food cantina near the beach in St. Petersburg. The stouts, Berliners, and IPAs served at this unassuming location are excellent.
• 7venth Sun Brewing in nearby Dunedin is a relative newcomer to the Tampa beer scene. Sip on one of their fruit-infused Berliners while gazing at the sea.
9) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• The Tired Hands brewpub in nearby Ardmore is highly acclaimed. Artisan beer and bread are made fresh on the premises.
• Drive two hours west to visit Pizza Boy Brewing (aka Al’s of Hampden) on the outskirts of Harrisburg. Former Bullfrog brewer Terry Hawbaker is regularly churning out stouts and sours of impressive quality.
• Monk’s Cafe is heralded for its incredible draft and bottle selection, and the Philly Beer Week events there are not to be missed.
• Capone’s Restaurant houses a highly respected beer bar in the suburbs. If you are looking for a special-release draft in Philly, chances are Capone’s has it.
10) Montpelier area, Vermont
• Drive 30 minutes off the highway, turn down a dirt road for a few more miles, and don’t be shocked to see that a line has already formed at Hill Farmstead, in nearby Greensboro Bend.
• Take a short drive to Waterbury and stop by The Alchemist, where you will discover the other beers they make are often just as impressive as their excellent Heady Topper.
• Head to the seasonal farmer’s market in Montpelier or nearby Warren to find imperial stouts and IPAs from Lawson’s Finest Liquids.