These days, it seems harder to find a U.S. city without a thriving beer scene. With well over 5,000 breweries in the country and more opening every day, almost any vacation can turn into a beercation if you want it to. Still, if you desire some seriously next-level hops with your R & R, it pays to seek out the locales with the best and hottest options. Luckily, we’ve done the seeking out for you. These are the best places in the U.S. for a beercation in 2018. Bottoms up.
While you were pining for a trip to San Diego or Portland, the capital of Virginia quietly became one of the best beer destinations in the country—maybe the best. How? Well, for us, it starts with The Answer Brewpub, a brewery founded by An Bui, who cut his teeth at his family’s joint, the legendary Mekong restaurant and bar. The Answer serves stouts boosted in flavor by coconut, coffee, and the like; juicy IPAs; and sours that are more like fruit smoothies than they are beers. We’d argue they are the hottest brewery in the country right now. But this isn’t a trip about one brewery (though it could be); The Answer is just one of over thirty breweries in and around the city. You’ll also find buzzed-about spots like The Veil, Triple Crossing, and Hardywood. Stop into any of those and you’re guaranteed to taste top tier beer. All this new brewery activity is fitting for the first city to sell beer in a can, which Richmond did in 1935, approximately 75 years before anyone stood in line for a couple 4-packs. For easy planning, Visit Richmond has a Beer Trail for guidance.
Must Visit Breweries: The Answer Brewpub, The Veil Brewing Co., Triple Crossing Brewing Company
The other Portland. Yes, Portland, Oregon, is one of this country’s great beer destinations, and we highly recommend you go there at some point in your beer drinking career. That said, there’s something beautiful about sipping a great beer with some crisp Maine air tantalizing your nostrils. In terms of legendary American breweries respected by damn near everyone, you have Allagash, which needs to absolutely be on your list. Few “big” breweries do it better, and tasting an Allagash White at the source is almost a religious experience. But, of course, you’ll need an IPA outpost to satisfy your thirst for citrusy hops. To that we say, take a ride to Bissell Brothers, where you can enjoy Swish, The Substance, and many other hop-forward gems that rival the hoppy beers at any other spot in the country. Other stops we recommend include Austin Street Brewery, Maine Beer Company, and Oxbow (if you don’t mind a little drive). No trip is complete without a stop at one of the finest beer bars in the country, Novare Res Bier Café, where you can sample from over 30 taps or dig through a list of over 200 bottles.
Must Visit Breweries: Bissell Brothers, Allagash, Maine Beer Company, Austin Street Brewery
Yes, we know. Denver being a great beer city isn’t exactly breaking news. The capital of Colorado has long been home to many great breweries and great beer bars. But if it’s been a few years since you were there, you don’t know what you’re missing. Outstanding new breweries coupled with older names only now hitting their stride makes the Mile High City a must in the near future. You know about Great Divide and you know about Epic. Go to them, obviously. But make sure you to hit Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, TRVE, and Crooked Stave. Black Project was one of the breweries that blew us away at The Great American Beer Festival, and we can’t recommend a trip enough. When you’re ready to travel outside the city limits, you can hit a few other spots we recommend. FATE Brewing can be found in Boulder and WeldWerks in Greeley. This is all really just scratching the surface, as there are also tons of other up-and-coming breweries (Comrade Brewing, for example), great beer bars (Falling Rock, for example), and bottle shops for drinkable souvenirs.
Must Visit Breweries: Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, TRVE, Crooked Stave Artisans
Hudson Valley, New York
You know that whole thing we said earlier about The Answer being the hottest brewery right now? Yeah, well, there is one other name in the mix for that title, one having built a reputation on the soon-to-be-trendy sour IPA. That’s Hudson Valley Brewery, one of many standouts in the stretch of land north of The Big Apple. For many of their stellar brews, Hudson Valley Brewery starts with a base sour IPA made with raw wheat, malted oat, and milk sugar. Then they add oddities like green tea, chamomile, lavender, and white chocolate. What emerges is a completely unique beer that introduces a tartness to something akin to a milkshake IPA. This is far from your only stop, though, and the original beers are just getting started. After Hudson Valley Brewery, make sure you hit Suarez Family Brewery for stellar pilsners, Plan Bee Brewery for top-notch brews made from ingredients found on their farm and around New York, and Sloop for great IPAs. If you’re up for a bit of a drive, you can also hit the uber-hot Equilibrium in a few hours.
Must Visit Breweries: Hudson Valley Brewery, Suarez Family Brewery, Plan Bee Brewery
The Steel City has quietly become a hotbed for some of the best new breweries in the country, making a trip to Western Pennsylvania worth planning in 2018. What hot breweries are we talking about? Well, to start, you have Brew Gentlemen, who makes some of the softest, most approachable IPAs we’ve had. Then there’s Dancing Gnome, a brewery equally adept at crafting citrus-forward hoppy numbers. Voodoo Brewery is a short drive and they make the highest rated beer in Pennsylvania, according to BeerAdvocate. And that’s just scratching the surface of all the great options in the 63rd largest city in America by population. Draai Laag and East End are other solid stops, and Pittsburgh is also home to some great beer bars, so, if you’d prefer variety, you can pop in a watering hole after your Primanti Bros. sandwich.
Must Vist Breweries: Brew Gentlemen, Dancing Gnome Brewery, Voodoo Brewery
Los Angeles, California
For a while there is seemed like L.A. wanted nothing to do with craft beer. The City of Angels was content with well-made cocktails as its drink of choice. Then something changed. Today, if you want to take in Beverly Hills and Hollywood, you can do so while sipping on some of the best beers in the U.S. of A. Leading that charge is Monkish, one of the hottest names in the beer game right now. Though the Torrance-based brewery shied away from IPAs at first, they have now embraced trends and produce some of the most sought-after hoppy numbers around. Fans will line up before a release has even been announced, hoping they get lucky with timing. And while the IPAs are top-notch, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Belgian style beers that all too often get overlooked. They are fire as well. Monkish isn’t the only game in town, however. We highly recommend Mumford Brewing for their great offerings and slick packaging, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing for the food and the brews, and, hell, there’s even a Mikkeller Bar in town. A less buzzed-about brewery we strongly encourage you to check out is Phantom Carriage, so work that in after you hit the Chinese Theater.
Must Visit Breweries: Monkish Brewing, Mumford Brewing, Phantom Carriage, Highland Park Brewery
The Jersey Shore
Get your gym, tanning, and laundry in; it’s time to hit the Jersey Shore. While this entry is a bit looser than others on this list, as it’s not one specific city, it’s worth mentioning how many great breweries currently exist within an hour or two of certain beaches in New Jersey. It will take a little planning on where you want to stay (this will help), but here are some of the next-level spots you can check out. Kane Brewing, makers of some of the best stouts in the country, including Sunday Brunch, Mexican Brunch, and A Night to End All Dawns, is located in Ocean, New Jersey, which is close to Asbury Park and Belmar. Not far from Kane is Carton Brewing, who offers some of the most unique beers in the country, including favorites in the Cool Material office like Regular Coffee and Boat. Travel an hour and change west and you’ll run into another pocket of great breweries, including up-and-comers like Troon, The Referend Bier Blendery, and Conclave (a little north of the two others). You can also hit Cypress if you head north toward the Edison/Metuchen area. Then pack a cooler with your haul and hit the sand.
Must Visit Breweries: Kane Brewing, Carton Brewing, Troon Brewing, The Referend Bier Blendery