Beer Lovers — Book One of These 'Beercations' for Your Next Getaway
Fans of wine have vineyards, harvests, winery tasting rooms, tours, and destinations around the globe to indulge their love of the grape. Cruises, travel groups, and weekend getaways centered on wine have long been popular, taking travelers afar to explore their favorite beverage. Chatting with winemakers and tasting room staff is often as enjoyable as sipping the wine.
Beer also has plenty of fans, and craft breweries likewise have the appeal of small, independent producers anxious to talk about their brews. Craft beer sales are increasing, and the number of small breweries in the United States is growing. According to the Brewers Association, the majority of Americans live within ten miles of a craft brewer. The Association recently celebrated the 33rd Great American Beer Festival and competition, with entries from 2,295 breweries representing all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
A survey conducted this year on behalf of Visit Anaheim indicated that tasting tourism is increasing as “seven in ten Americans have traveled to a destination specifically to sample the alcohol in the region.” The same survey tells us that 72% of beer drinkers have spent vacation time going to a tasting at a local brewery. Vacations based on visiting breweries and doing beer-related activities even have a name: "beercations."
If this puts you in the mood to visit a brewery or two, we have some ideas for destinations with plenty of craft breweries and other features that make for a worthy beercation. Several of these cities are known for their beer production, but there are a few up-and-coming beer cities on this list. With this bit of inspiration and a little planning, you’ll find your own favorite beercation destination.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
It seems only right to start with Grand Rapids, known as “Beer City” in recognition of its more than 80 breweries within an hour of downtown and its “Beer City Ale Trail.” There’s even a “Beer Month” from mid-February to mid-March with a festival and special events. But Grand Rapids, set on the Grand River about thirty miles from Lake Michigan, has more to offer than beer. The Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, and the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives should all be on a visitor’s itinerary. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, also in Grand Rapids, displays memorabilia from the president's time in office and offers a holographic tour of the White House as it was during his presidency.The Grand Rapids Downtown Market houses more than twenty indoor food vendors, restaurants, a rooftop greenhouse, and an incubator kitchen for food startups and entrepreneurs. Founders Brewery, modeled after a German beer hall and set in a former truck depot, offers a wide selection of seasonal and year-round beers. City Built creates a wide range of brews and serves food with a Puerto Rican flavor. If you need a change from beer tasting, try some hard cider made from apples grown in the local area, another Grand Rapids specialty.
The Mile High City, rich in history and diversity, is home to world-class museums, sporting events, and an extensive array of hotels from luxurious to historic to haunted. With the majestic Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, national park adventures are just a day trip away. Denver’s approximately 150 breweries make it a major player in the craft brewing scene. Enjoy the extensive variety of breweries on your own, or choose from the many beer and brewery tours. Brews and Views offers breathtaking scenery along with a history lesson, and The Lower Downtown Denver Craft Beer Tour includes a historical walking tour. The Denver Food and Craft Beer Tour explores Denver’s culinary scene paired with local craft beers, and Rino Beer and Graffiti offers a glimpse of Denver’s street art scene. With so many options to choose from, the biggest problem for beer enthusiasts will be deciding which to select. The Grateful Gnome is a casual brewery and sandwich shop featuring live music some nights (and the occasional Grateful Dead cover band). Odell Brewing Company in RiNo is family and employee-owned, and all tips are donated to local charities. Briar Common, a popular destination near Mile High Stadium, is as much about the food as the beer. Liberati Osteria serves a unique assortment of beer-wine hybrids called oenobeers—beer made from grapes.
Charleston, South Carolina
Renowned for its southern charm and hospitality, the city of Charleston is rich in history, but it also offers incredible contemporary restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Chosen for its architecture, theaters, churches, and gardens, Charleston is home to the Spoleto Festival USA, one of America’s most significant performing arts festivals. Visitors to this lovely city may enjoy a historic Charleston harbor cruise, horse-drawn carriage tour, or perhaps a spooky walking tour of the city's most haunted spots. Tucked into the landscape of cobblestone streets and centuries-old mansions is evidence of Charleston’s expanding brewery industry. Commonhouse Aleworks serves a full menu to accompany a selection of craft beers. Rusty Bull Brewing Co. is family friendly with food trucks, live music, and craft beers ranging from pale ales to hearty stouts. For organic seasonal brews, visit the Freehouse Brewery located on the scenic banks of the Ashley River. Dog-friendly Munkle Brewing Company specializes in Belgian and German brews. Pool tables, TV’s, outdoor tables, and cornhole add to the atmosphere. With a cool taproom and pub grub including coal-fired pizzas worthy of a fine Zagat review, Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company is a must-visit brewery in Charleston. Pub and Brewery Tours offers intimate walking tours and a bus tour complete with tales of Charleston’s colorful past and stops at three historic pubs. Charleston Brews Cruise is another bus tour option and includes samples of the unique brews at each stop.
While Arizona may conjure up thoughts of a hot, dry desert, the town of Flagstaff, located in the northern mountains of the state, boasts four distinct seasons. With summer temperatures in the low 80’s, breathtaking panoramic foliage in autumn, plentiful snow in winter, and a gorgeous assortment of spring blooms, adventures await all year long. The Historic Downtown and Railroad District is home to vintage buildings now transformed into shops, restaurants, galleries, and breweries. Located on Historic Route 66, the Mother Road and Dark Sky Breweries both partner with neighbor, Pizzacletta, to serve excellent beer and Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. Historic Barrel and Bottle House offers upscale bar fare and a wide selection of craft beer on tap. Lumberyard Taproom and Grille is located in a former lumber yard with a taproom, eatery, and patio with a fire pit. These and others are all within walking distance of one another, and most are dog friendly. A short drive south will take you to Verde Brewing Company, That Brewing Company, and others. Perhaps you’ll want to plan your next "beercation" around one of Flagstaff’s festivals. Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival will celebrate its 28th year next June, and Flagstaff Blues and Brews, an outdoor beer and music festival, is also held every June. Flagstaff Brew HaHa, held in January, is a beer tasting event representing more than 60 local, regional, and national brewers. And lastly, Arizona Beer Week, held in February, has special events in various Flagstaff breweries, including beer and pizza pairings, beer and whiskey pairings, and beer and chocolate pairings.
A stroll through this delightful peninsula city offers historic mansions, quaint shops, restaurants, and ocean views. The lobster is delectable, and there’s that iconic lighthouse (the most-photographed lighthouse in the U.S.), dating back to the 1700’s. In recent years, Portland has become popular for its large number of excellent breweries packed into a not-so-large area. In fact, the city tops the list with the most craft breweries per capita with 18 breweries per 50,000 people. One of the many notable stops is Foulmouthed Brewing, with its family-friendly atmosphere, delicious beer, and impressive menu. The dog-friendly Rising Tide Brewing Company has a cool layout to go along with excellent beer, a fun ambiance, and a selection of food trucks. For an informative tour with great samplings, try the Allagash, known for superb Belgian-inspired beers, games for the kids, and tasty food truck offerings. The close proximity of many of the brew bars allows visitors to pub crawl on their own, but there are tours guaranteed to heighten the experience. Maine Brew Bus Tours offers a variety of unique experiences including Bike and Brews, Walk, Talk, and Taste, Port City Running Brew Tour, and the Brews Cruise in addition to an assortment of bus tour options.
San Diego, California
The Golden State receives credit for starting the craft brewing movement in 1965 when a young man named Fritz Maytag took over the failing Anchor Steam Brewery and introduced new beers based on lost styles. With around 1,000 craft breweries today, the state is a top location for beer tourism. That made it a bit difficult to settle on one California city, but year-round, San Diego has much to offer visitors in addition to craft beer—nearly perfect weather, beaches, mountains, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, a vibrant downtown, wineries, and great food. With more than 140 breweries, it’s easy to find one wherever you may be in the area. San Diego Beer Week, a 10-day beer festival, is currently in its eleventh year. Its closing event at the Lodge at Torrey Pines will feature 28 breweries and 14 chefs for a beer and food pairing. Take a tour in a vintage Swiss safari vehicle for a unique brewery experience downtown or in the north county area with Scavengers. Book a unique experience with the San Diego Beer Train Trolley Tour. At Mission Brewery in the East Village, you’re welcome to bring your own food and book an hour-long tour that includes tastings. Little Italy’s Ballast Point offers casual dining indoors or outside. Border X Brewing features Mexican-inspired beers including Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout and Horchata Golden Stout, both rich with spicy aromas. So many breweries, so little time.