Summer is the perfect time for a classic American road trip. And while some may center their trips on the myriad amusement parks, beach towns, or roadside monuments that dot the United States, for beer lovers, a road trip is the perfect opportunity to try beers from breweries they’d never get to try otherwise. For that, there’s no better destination that one of the country’s great beer cities.
There’s no shortage of places to choose from, and with nearly 10,000 breweries in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you’ll find solid local beer just about everywhere you go. But some cities offer a beer vacation unlike any other.
When it comes to summer destinations, it’s tough to beat Denver (and, frankly, Colorado as a whole). The city and surrounding area is home to more than 70 breweries and a long list of brew pubs. Some of the more notable include Our Mutual Friend, Cerebral, Call to Arms, Crooked Stave, TRVE, and Wynkoop. If you’d rather try beer from multiple breweries in one sitting, you’ll probably want to opt for one of the area’s many brewpubs, beer bars, and beer gardens, including Tap Fourteen, First Draft Taproom and Kitchen, RiNo Beer Garden, and Recess Beer Garden. Don’t forget Goed Zuur if you’re looking for wild, sour, Belgian, and Belgian-style beers.
If you’re already planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you might as well stop into the idyllic beer town of Asheville. Named “Beer City USA” multiple times, the area is home to more than 50 breweries. Some of the standout breweries include Zillicoah, Highland, DSSOLVR, Burial, Hi-Wire, and Wedge. Even though the city only touts a population of under 100,000 people, it’s home to myriad beer bars and brewpubs including The Bier Garden, Foggy Mountain Brew Pub, Asheville Retrocade, Funkatorium, and Thirsty Monk. The area also touts East Coast bases for big-name breweries like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium.
If you only know about the Seattle from movies and television, you might assume it’s a bleak, rain-filled nightmare. But, while there’s a possibility it will at least be overcast at some point during your visit, the weather isn’t as bad as you think. Either way, you can duck into one of the many breweries in the city including Halcyon, Pike, Cloudburst, Fremont, Reuben’s Brews, Rooftop, and more. After you visit the iconic Pike Place Fish Market you’ll be happy to find that city is loaded with beer bars and brewpubs including Uptown Hop House, The Noble Fir, Pine Box, and countless more.
When it comes to beer hierarchy (especially IPA prowess), it’s difficult to beat San Diego. Even without any beer to speak of, this Southern California destination with its endless beaches, nightlife, and outdoor activities is the perfect summer getaway. Luckily there is beer though. A lot of it. From names like Societe, Eppig, Burgeon, Pure Brewing Project, Resident, Fall, and too many more to list here, San Diego is a beer lover’s haven. Add bars like Knotty Barrel, Second Chance Beer Lounge, Ale Tales, and big outfits like Stone, Ballast Point, and Alesmith and you’ll have to take a second road trip to the city later in the summer.
New York City
When it comes to American tourist destinations, it’s difficult to beat the appeal of New York City. Whether you’re there to visit the top of the Empire State Building or any of the other well-known tourist hot spots, there’s a good chance there’s a brewery within walking distance or a short subway ride. Some of the best of the bunch include Bronx Brewery, Big aLICe, Evil Twin, Interboro. AleWife, Finback, Other Half, and more. Add to that, the area is home to more beer bars, brewpubs, and beer gardens you could possibly visit. Can’t-miss beer bars include Pony Bar, Milk & Hops, Harlem Hops, and Valhalla NYC.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you’re only thinking of large cities for your beer road trip, you’re definitely going to miss out on the beer-drenched smaller cities. Especially Grand Rapids. This Michigan city of less than 200,000 people is home to more than forty breweries. This includes Brewery Vivant with its European-inspired ales, food, and massive beer hall built in a former funeral home. Other breweries to visit are Arvon, Greyline, Jolly Pumpkin, City Built, and Brass Ring. Obviously, the city is also home to some great beer bars including 7 Monks Taproom, Hopcat, and Brick and Porter. Add to that, the city is also home to the wildly popular Founders Brewing Company.
Depending on where you live it might be a toss-up between which Portland you’ll want to visit for a beer-cation. We prefer the one on the East Coast. Portland, Maine is not only a great place to get a lobster roll, fried clams, and a bowl of clam chowder, it’s also a great place for breweries. This includes Allagash, Austin Street, Bissell Brothers, Lone Pine, and Oxbow. After you’re done visiting the many bookstores and shops in the city, you’re going to get thirsty. You’ll likely want to stop into one of the many beer bars, including Novare Res Bier Café, The Thirsty Pig, The King’s Head, and Portland Mash TUN.
The Second City is a popular vacation destination in the summer. It’s a massive city filled with museums, restaurants, and events that draw travelers from the Midwest and all over the world. But after seeing all the sites and stopping by every place Ferris Bueller went to, you’ll want to drink some frosty brews. Great breweries in the ‘Windy City’ include Revolution, Half Acre, Dovetail, Forbidden Root, Off Color, and Pilot Project. The city is home to myriad beer bars including Hopleaf, Monk’s Pub, Time Out Market Bar, The Beer Temple, and Beermiscuous.