In 2015, Travelocity conducted a survey which found that around 75% of respondents would enjoy exploring local beer scenes when they travel. Since then, the U.S. has added more than a thousand breweries, and the craft brewing industries of countries all around the globe have seen comparable growth. Along with that explosion in craft brewing, we have seen the emergence of thriving tourism scenes centered around brewing in towns in just about every state in America. And being that there is so much great beer (over 6,000 American breweries), it can be hard for one to decide which beer scene(s) to visit if one is planning a beercation.
Brew Studs wanted to offer out readers a guide for the coming year, to help you preview what’s to offer in some of the top destinations where vacationing and visiting beer spots cross over. But instead of offering our picks, we thought you might find it more helpful to get beercationing insight from the folks who know beer the best. So, here are nine beercation destinations chosen by some of your favorite craft brewers.
I’d choose Portland, Maine for a beercation. You’ve got two of the best farmhouse / mixed culture breweries in the country there in Oxbow and Allagash, and then you’ve got some of the best IPA producers with Bissell Bros. and Maine Beer Co. The food scene is also awesome, and it’s a place with a lot of natural beauty. When you get beer’ed out, head over to The Drifter’s Wife for their great selection of natural wines.
The feel of being out on a farm and relaxing the day away highlight my reasons for beercationing in Austin. Plus, I love Jester King! I’m also a fan of ABGB, Austin Beerworks, with their crisp, clean branding, and Oskar Blues, who now has an Austin brewery.
The weather is terrific in this area, for activities like paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake or brunching on the relaxing patio at Moonshine. The food truck lots are great, and the awesome Hops and Grain is in a part of Austin great for walking and finding local beer bars.
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If I was to plan out a Beercation right now, I would have to say going back to Asheville, North Carolina would be tops on the list. Taking a day and a half driving down from New Jersey, I’d hit up Richmond’s great beer scene along the way, drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway and spend a couple days in Asheville.
They’ve quickly become one of the top beer destination cities in the country, and it’s the kind of place you could easily go back to time and again and never tire of it. I was there for two days last fall, and it was gorgeous. But I feel like I barely scratched the service. Burial is putting out some of the best beers in the country, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada are worth the trip alone to see their immaculate facilities, and Twin Leaf, Catawaba, and Hi-Wire are all super fun spots to enjoy a beer or two. The White Labs tasting room in San Diego is a place every beer geek needs to hit, and I can only imagine their new one in Asheville expanded on that great experience with the inclusion of the kitchen and a larger taproom space than the one in San Diego.
Speaking of the food, I would plan a trip back to Asheville for their incredible biscuits alone! Biscuit Head have the hands down best biscuits I’ve ever had in all my travels, and really you could do all your eating for the day by breakfast hopping around the city. All of this, and it’s a beautiful two hour drive west to the Great Smokey Mountains! After eating and drinking your way through Asheville for a couple of days, head on over to Smokey Mountain National Park for a couple days of hiking off all those biscuits.
Any vacation I take is going to be supplemented by the local beer scene, for better or worse. As winter arrives in Minnesota, I immediately begin to daydream about trips to warmer climates. One of my favorite places to visit is Mexico – and I’d love to make it back down to the Yucatan for some R&R.
In addition to the beaches, there are amazing Mayan ruins to visit in the jungle and a great culinary culture for dining. In the past, a visit to Mexico meant a lot of bland, light lagers served with a lime. There is a time and place for that, but nowadays you have much better odds of finding a Mexican beer with rich, bold flavors like Stouts or American-style IPAs. Ten years ago, there were just a small handful of craft breweries, whereas now there are upward of 650. Personally, I’m not familiar with any of them, which is a great motivating factor to head down and do some research!
Portland, Oregon is a wonderful place to drink beer. Excellent public transportation, a high concentration of breweries, and a great mix of pubs and restaurants combine for an awesome trip. Grab a sour beer at Cascade Barrel House, visit Gigantic’s Tap Room and Champagne Lounge (say hi to Van and Ben!), and make sure to visit the legendary Horse Brass Pub.
Outside of beer, Portland has a great pinball scene. I highly recommend Ground Kontrol as they have an excellent selection of well-maintained pinball machines and classic arcade games. When you get hungry, head over to the Cartopia Food Cart Pod and grab some poutine from Potato Champion and wood-fired chicken from Chicken and Guns.
I’d probably say Denmark. I’ve never been and I’d love to see the whole country, both urban centers and the vast wilderness. I’d love to explore the beer scene, from the more obvious like Mikkeller, Tol, and Amager to all of the new, small breweries that make up what I understand to be a thriving beer scene.
These days, with delicious beer readily available in so many places, you don’t really even have to base your vacation around a beer scene. Chances are there will be some cool little brewpubs near wherever you are, or the selection at the local store will probably include some great beers that might not be available in your home market. Let me tell you about a trip I took nearly twelve years ago that is, quite possibly, my all-time favorite vacation.
We flew into San Francisco (the wife and I), and spent a few days taking in the city. The first beer-thing we did was take a bus trip across town to visit America’s first and oldest craft brewery, Anchor – only to find that they didn’t actually have a pub and tours were by appointment only. Not a great start, but it got a lot cooler with a trip to the famous Haight Street, featuring dinner and beers at Magnolia Pub and Brewery. I clearly remember enjoying Speakeasy beers all over town. I vaguely remember getting hammered at the Rogue Public House one night. Either way, great town with lots of great sights and fun to be had.
From there we rented a Mustang convertible and began a trip down scenic Highway 1, enjoying the amazing views, stopping for beer whenever we could, and seriously taking our time. We spent a night in San Jose for a concert, enjoyed our anniversary in the romantic Carmel-by-the-Sea, camped a night in a tent cabin at Fernwood Campground, hiked and swam in the Big Sur River Gorge, and we even slept in a yurt one night. All the while drinking California beers that I’d never seen before back in Michigan. A few days later we hit Hearst Castle (awesome) and started heading northeast inland, on our way to Yosemite. Turned out there was a brewery right on the way – some place I hadn’t heard of called Firestone Walker. Also turned out that the beer was absolutely fantastic, and we stocked up the Mustang with enough deliciousness to last a few days in Yosemite (which is also an amazing place).
A straight five hour drive west got us back to San Fran, where we had some more fun. Highlight was a trip north across the Golden Gate Bridge for some great hiking in Mount Tamalpais State Park and dinner at an adorable little Mexican restaurant where we took a break from beer and drank margaritas. That was pretty much the end of our trip, but if you’re feeling more adventurous (and thirsty), you could continue north just a bit to visit Lagunitas in Petaluma, or stay on the scenic highway for another five hours north and visit North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg.
My ultimate beer vacation would be the in UK. That is where I first discovered beer could be something more than the mainstream mega lagers I had grown up with. The experience was transformative for me back in the 1980s.
To this day there remains something exciting to me about the search for the perfect pint of British ale — the fact that it is a living thing and that you don’t know exactly what you are going to get when its served to you. Will it be at its peak? Not quite hitting its stride? Past its prime? When it is “perfect” it is downright memorable almost transcendental (but hey, it’s only beer after all). When not, you retain a feeling of optimism that next time you will catch it “in fine shape.” As a US based brewer I envy the consumer tolerance for inconsistency one finds in the UK. If a particular ale is “off” the publican is obliged to replace it with another. It is understood that a great pint of cask ale is a moving target.
But enjoying a great pint of beer is only part of the equation. Equally important is where you drink it. I love British pubs, especially old ones. A good pub is like a communal living room — as if the whole village invites you into their parlor. The warmth of the fire on a clammy winter afternoon, the snugs, the now unattainable craftsmanship, the hand pumps. Many an old pub has been ruined by well-meaning but misguided publicans convinced that “modern” is better. But the few gems that survived the sledgehammer remain windows to the past. Seated in a classic old pub with a large glass of sublimely balanced ale on a chilly British afternoon… I’ll be damned if that isn’t heaven.
For me, a trip to the Pacific Northwest is the perfect “beercation” for any outdoor enthusiast and craft beer lover! I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit this area of the country once a year during the late summer/early fall for our hop selection process. The region as a whole is responsible for over 90% of all US Hop production due to its climate (whether it’s the cool wet conditions in Oregon or in Washington’s high desert) and abundant sources of irrigation water. As a result there is no shortage of outdoor activities and great beer! Where better to have a fresh IPA than a few miles away from where the hops were grown? The area is FULL of awesome brewpubs and craft breweries (both small and large). Washington, Oregon, and Idaho craft breweries are putting out some of the tastiest beers the industry!
The Pacific Northwest is a lush, green place with stunning mountain views, an abundance of hiking and mountain biking trails, great whitewater activities, and world-class fishing. Our brewery crew usually takes some time to get in a day of fly fishing (and beer drinking) on the rivers. The summer months are a perfect time to visit but if you’re into skiing (which I am) there are some of the best resorts in the country in the Pacific Northwest. All of this can all be reached in a day’s drive from the area’s larger cities. Seattle and Portland both have an amazing restaurant and craft beer scene! You could spend your entire trip exploring the cities, eating delicious meals, and drinking great microbrews. Some of the best live music I’ve seen have been indie-rock shows in those cities. If that’s not enough… the area has really, really good coffee!