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If you’re a beer lover, have you ever thought about making good brew the focus, or at least part of the focus, of your next vacation? In these cities, you’ll find an excellent craft beer scene, great breweries and more. You can even create an itinerary for the ultimate craft beer road trip.
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This beautiful seaside city on the southern coast of Maine offers a lot when it comes to things to do, with an abundance of restaurants, museums, art galleries and picturesque rugged beaches. It also has a long history of microbrewing as well as outstanding local institutions like Shipyard Brewing Company and Allagash, which were are consistently rated as top breweries in the area. Bissell Brothers Brewing is another top contender, as well as Lone Pine, Oxbow Blending & Bottling and Rising Tide Brewing. After visiting Allagash, hop over to Austin Street Brewery right across the street.
The other Portland, found on the west coast in Oregon, is home to more breweries than any other city in the world. Often referred to as “Beervana,” the City of Roses is practically a mecca for beer lovers with a long list of breweries calling it home, including the world-famous Widmer Brothers Brewing, Pyramid and Bridgeport Brewing companies. Of course, its new crop of eco-breweries is also on the rise, like Hopworks Urban Brewery and Bar, whose bar is powered by customers on stationary bikes. You’ll also find near-cult status brewery Hair of the Dog, and popular craft breweries Deschutes and Rogue Ales operate brewpubs practically around the corner from one another.
Bend, just east of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range, has been called “Beer City, USA.” Not only is it a gorgeous city, but its home to a long list of enticing breweries. Visitors who are traveling with their four-legged friends are sure to appreciate Boneyard Beer, where they can sample the first organic, non-alcoholic brew made specifically for dogs: Dawg Grog. The city also hosts a number of annual beer celebrations like Bend BrewFest and Bend Oktoberfest. While you’re here, Bend is also known for its wealth of outdoor recreational activities, including kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, golfing and more.
Boston is a city that consumes more beer per capita than any other in the U.S., and, fueling those drinking habits are some world-famous breweries and micro-breweries, including the historic Samuel Adams. In fact, the first brewery here emerged not long after the Pilgrims arrived, since during that time beer was safer to drink than water. Boston Beer Co. is the producer of Samuel Adams and you’ll find several outstanding historic pubs such as The Warren Tavern, the oldest in Boston dating back to 1780, Green Dragon and Sunset Grill & Tap. Boston also hosts the east coast’s largest celebration of domestic microbrews at the American Craft Beer Fest which features more than 640 different varieties from over 140 American brewers.
Colorado ranks high when it comes to the number of breweries per capita, and some of the best craft beers can be sampled in Denver at Denver Beer Co. and Great Divide Brewing. Though most of the actual breweries are outside the city, like Coors in Golden, you will find the Art District and Platte Street area peppered with breweries. Denver’s first craft brewery, Wynkoop, was opened in 1988 by John Hickenlooper, who went on to become mayor, then governor. Wynkoop and Great Divide are both just around the corner from Coors Field. By visiting in the fall, you can catch the Mile High City’s Great American Beer Festival, one of the biggest brewfests in the entire country, drawing beer enthusiasts from across the globe to taste more than 2,200 different types.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins has long been considered part of Denver when it comes to beer, but it really deserves its own mention. An hour’s drive north of Denver, this cool college town offers a wide range of well-known craft breweries where visitors can enjoy a brewery tour and samples. In fact, in a ranking by USA Today readers, it fell in at No. 5 in the nation, beating out the likes of Denver as well as famed beer cities – including both Portlands. Sip experimental beers at Odell Brewing Company from its pro-style tasting tray – the Odell IPA is a must-try. Then, just steps away, check out New Belgium, the third-largest craft brewer in America. Local favorite Funkwerks is known for its unique saisons.
San Francisco, California
With tons of brewers and dozens of craft beer bars in 49-square-miles, you’re never far from a world-class beer in the City by the Bay. San Francisco is filled with micro and nano-breweries that have been experimenting with food-inspired beers like nowhere else in the country, including Moonlight Brewing Company which picks cedar bark and redwood twigs from its brewer Brian Hunt’s own backyard. The San Francisco area has been stoking the flame of America’s craft beer movement since at least the 1970s, while Anchor Steam’s roots can be traced all the way back to 1849 and the California gold rush. You’ll have practically an endless list of beer bars to choose from, including The Toronado Pub, which hosts America’s preeminent barleywine festival, as well as Mikkeller Bar, featuring loads of rare offerings, and The Monk’s Kettle.
Philadelphia may not be the top beer city in America, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to visit for beer lovers. McGillin’s Olde Ale House has been a beloved brewery since 1860, while places like Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery has been a leader in local brewing since Philly’s barley rush in the 1990s. It also hosts Philly Beer Week and the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Beer Festival. A number of its bars also enjoy an excellent reputation, including Grey Lodge Pub and Memphis Taproom, which have both made it into Draft magazine’s Top 100 around the nation.
Seattle may best be known for its coffee, but it’s also home to a long list of small beer-makers like Pyramid Brewing Co., Maritime Pacific Brewing and Fremont Brewing, with its beer garden offering unlimited free pretzels and apples. Ballard, a neighborhood just north of downtown Seattle, is home to multiple breweries, including Reuben’s Brews which showcases a rotating selection of beers. In the tiny tasting room, imbibers are surrounded by brewing equipment while sampling beers and sipping on pints. Within walking distance, you can hit several others, including Stoup Brewing and Populux Brewing.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids has become increasingly popular for its craft brewing, despite the fact that the region is arguably much better known for college football and cars. You’ll find New Holland Brewing, Hopcat, Founders Brewing Co, Dark Horse Brewing Company and Brewery Vivant just to name a few. Perfect for beer lovers, it offers the opportunity to sample lots of great breweries in a relatively small geographic area.
San Diego, California
Some may argue that San Diego should be considered the top brewing city, and there is little doubt that the area has a ton of brewing brilliance per square mile. The city that’s especially famous for its variety of IPAs and pale ales, boasts a long list of popular breweries, including the likes of Green Flash, AleSmith, Alpine Beer Company, Ballast Point, Port Brewing Company and Coronado Brewing Company as well as Iron Fist, Mike Hess Brewing, the extraordinary Karl Strauss Brewing. You’ll also want to add Rip Current and Automatic Brewing Co to your itinerary. That’s a lot of breweries in one place – plus, the city is well known as a vacation paradise with its ever-present sunshine and magnificent beaches.
Kansas City, Missouri
The Kansas City beer scene once relied mostly on just a few brewing establishments, including Boulevard Brewing Co. Local favorite Boulevard Brewing has become one of the largest craft brewers in the country, and in recent years there has also been a sharp increase in businesses that cater to malt maniacs, helping to put the city on the national beer map. Just north of downtown, you’ll find Cinder Block Brewery and The Big Rip Brewing Company, while Screenland Theatre has become an entertainment destination for beer geeks with its enviable craft beer selection as well as having started the annual Arts & Crafts festival which celebrates movies and music along with beer. Kansas City is also renowned for its barbecue, which just happens to pair extremely well with a good brew.
Vermont lays claim to the most breweries per capita, with over two dozen serving its relatively small population. There’s roughly one brewery for every 3,800 people here, making for quite a high concentration of outstanding beer and any of them can be found in Burlington and South Burlington, like Magic Hat Brewing Company, Switchback Brewing Company, Infinity Brewing, Three Needs and Vermont Pub & Brewery. It also boasts a slate of bars and pubs as well as an annual Vermont Brewers Festival in the summer.
Wisconsin is a state that’s synonymous with brewing beer, although most think of Milwaukee, its most famous brewing town. Karben4 Brewing offers one of the best Midwest Indian Pales, while Ale Asylum is well-known for its incredible line-up of great beers, particularly its Belgian-style IPA, Bedlam. MobCraft brewing might just offer the single best brew of any kind with its Oak-Aged Sour Bat Sh*t Crazy” Brown Ale. No matter how you look at it, Mad Town is simply an amazing beer city, overflowing with great brews.
Phoenix offers year-round warm weather and plenty of exciting outdoor attractions, but it’s also a good spot for a beer lover. Some of the more established include Four Peaks Brewing, Fate Brewing, Papago Brewing and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., which offers outstanding ales that frequently appear on lists of great beers, like The New Brood, a peach Porter. Fate is known for two of the best sweet stouts, while Four Peaks does all sorts of beers that are all done quite well, including Belgian, German and American-style brews. The Harry Potter-inspired Sirius Black Imperial Stout is especially good.
Texas is full of great breweries, and Austin is known for giving birth to a unique style of breweries. Some, such as the community-owned Black Star Co-Op, take a different approach in order to attract Austin’s intellectual crowd, designating their fine brews as Infinite, Irrational or Rational. Others, like Hops & Grain brewing, have an impressive eco-focus, using recycled grains to make dog biscuits as well as selling its beer in eco-conscious cans. But when it comes to Texas brewing circles, it’s hard to find better than the suburban giant, Jester King Brewery, a virtual temple of Belgian/American free-thinking experimentation with an especially outstanding Bier de Miel Honey Saison. This Hill Country brewery is the only farmhouse brewery in Texas that allows natural yeast to ferment their beers, which results in sour notes, low carbonation and bold flavors. Plus, a visit to this brewery in the spring is like entering paradise with its wide-open field of brilliant wildflowers especially appealing to gaze at while sipping a fine brew.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina is a picturesque city with a growing beer scene. One of the best spots to sample what the city has to offer is at The Thirsty Monk, offering some 50 local beers and considered an absolute must-stop for brew loving visitors. As a fairly small town, it offers a lot of charm and renowned breweries within close proximity, like Green Man Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewing Pub and Wedge Brewing Co. It also hosts a number of major beer events, including Beer Week and Winter Warmer, Beer City, Oktoberfest and Brewgrass Festivals.
Anchorage offers a great base for excursions into the state’s spectacular wilderness, though beer enthusiasts will find plenty to do without living the city limits. Anchorage Brewing Company is home to Alaska’s first coolship, a shallow vat used for open fermentation beers. While there aren’t a ton of breweries here, quality certainly trumps quantity. Anchorage Brewing offers absolutely stunning beers that are rooted in Belgium but provides his own unique, imaginative twists such as outstanding creations like the Time Waits For No One Imperial Stout, the Bitter Monk Belgian IPA and The Tide and Its Takers Belgian-style Tripel. Just across town, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. produces amazing ales like Sockeye Red IPA and Arctic Devil Barleywine that stand out among the best of their styles across the continent. Other breweries include Broken Tooth Brewing, King Street Brewing and Glacier Brewhouse.