From Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon the United States has been undergoing a beer renaissance in the past decade. Once a humble brew of cereal grains, water, and yeast, a staple of the backyard barbecue and the corner bar, beer has become a star with chefs designing food pairing dinners around it and brew pubs rivaling wineries as weekend destinations.
But while many cities and towns are full of great breweries, there are many variables in making a city full of craft beer-lovers the ideal weekend- or even week-long destination. You need just the right number of craft brewers, and by that we mean independent breweries, and while wineries are often about the scenery, breweries have to be about the atmosphere. Some are cozy, some are laid back, some are glamorous, but all have a unique vibe. Here are 10 destinations for lovers of craft beer not to overlook.
Chicago was made to be a great beer city. Plenty of fresh water, a city full of foodies always waiting to try the latest thing, and lots of industrial space in which to brew have led dozens upon dozens of breweries to open within the past decade. You’ll find craft producers including Bell’s Dogfish Head and more in Chicago bars but you’ll also find plenty of local craft brews including La Guardia Rubia, made with local honey, DryHop Brewers, and Hopewell Brewing Company.
The Mile High City is to beer lovers what Napa Valley is to wine lovers. Here, the city’s many brewery taprooms serve as the equivalent to the local bar and drinking al fresco be it on a rooftop, deck, or patio. Go in September for the Great American Beer Festival, which has been celebrating American craft brews since 1980s.
Often overlooked as a tourist destination, Missoula, Montana should be on every craft beer lover’s must-visit. A variety of breweries offer plenty of options including a coffee brew, lightly hopped brews, and even gluten-free beers. Before sampling one or two, take advantage of the many other things Missoula has to offer, including outdoor adventures that include skiing in the colder months and water rafting in the warm ones, museums, art galleries, and restaurants that offer craft beer pairings.
Festivals, beer dinners, and 85 breweries make Portland the ultimate destination for craft beer lovers. With many breweries within a few square blocks of each other it’s easy to visit multiple breweries in a day by foot. Outside of the breweries you’ll find even more options in gastropubs, dive pubs, and even Safeway growler stations. Visit in July for the Oregon Brewers Festival or December for the Holiday Ale Festival.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Soak up the sun in Albuquerque, explore Old Town, and take your pick of breweries. New Mexico’s craft brewery scene is booming and the state’s largest city has been driving the growth with nearly 20 breweries in and surrounding Albuquerque. See the action at Boxing Bear Brewing Company where glass windows let you sneak a peek at the brewing process or head to Kelly’s Brew Pub and try to choose from the more than 20 in-house options.
Put beer and Boston in the same sentence and you’re likely thinking Sam Adams. The flagship brand of the Boston Beer Company has a more than 30-year-old history and a visit to the brewery should be on any list of things to do in Boston. In the past few years though, up and coming brewmasters have opened their own breweries in Beantown and many of the city’s bars showcase not only the local brews but ones from all over the country. Head to Sunset Grill and Tap and choose from more than 380 microbrews on tap or tour Cambridge Brewing Company and you’ll likely make a new friend as the locals are always willing to share their recommendations for the best brews.
San Diego, California
Spring, summer, fall, winter – there’s never a wrong time to visit San Diego. Grab a spot on the beach or on a patio and raise a glass. Here the beers du jour tend to be bright, fresh brews often with hints of citrus, but with nearly 100 different breweries throughout the city there are plenty of options. Those that favor darker selections will want to try one of Alesmith stouts while sour beer fans should check out Societe.
Plan a trip to Baltimore during baseball season. Camden Yards isn’t just home to the Orioles; it’s also home to several bars serving craft beers including Dempsey’s Brew Pub, a local favorite, which offers up some house-brews. After you’ve had your fill of sports explore the city’s other beer offerings which range from the swanky along the waterfront to dive bars, all of which are likely to be serving the city’s former craft beer National Bohemian which Pabst Brewing Company recently bought. Affectionately known as Natty Boh, the brew dates back to the 1800s and is still worth sampling even if it’s no longer a craft beer.
Don’t think for a moment Portland, Maine is the “other Portland,” when it comes to craft brews. The city is arguably the birthplace of the microbrewery trend – thank you, Shipyard and Allagash and with about 17 microbreweries for every 4,000 residents there’s something for every type of craft beer fan. Go old school with a Belgian style brew from Allagash Brewing Company, organic with Peak Brewing Company or inventive with Urban Farm Fermentory, where brews use local ingredients and include ciders and kombucha tea.
Try: Rising Tide Brewing
Kansas City, Missouri
The Midwest is full of great beer cities and with many in driving distance of each other you could almost plan an entire trip around them. If you can only visit one, though, pick Kansas City. The laid-back city is sometimes overlooked but Boulevard Brewery has quietly led the craft brew scene there for nearly 30 years paving the way for others to start up their own. Here you’ll find cozy taprooms, breweries with BBQ pits going outside, and a friendly atmosphere that will make you wish you could stay longer.
*Featured image courtesy of DryHop Brewers