If you're hops-crazed and you love to travel, a beer-cation may be the way to go. Whether you're into lagers, ales, stouts or pilsners, you can sample them all on your next vacation.
What should you look for when you're choosing breweries to visit?
"That depends on your knowledge of beer," says Charles Bamforth, professor of food science at UC Davis and author of Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing (FT Press 2010). "If you understand the brewing process and all of its complexities, head for the most technologically advanced places. But if beer is a mystery to you, other than delighting your palate, find a pretty brewery or a brewery in a pretty place."
There are incredible breweries in almost every state. Here are a few extraordinary destinations.
Portland, often referred to as "Beervana," has more breweries than any other city in the U.S. You can explore its 51 breweries on your own or let local experts guide you through the most notable: by bike with Pedal Bike Tours' Oregon Brewery Trail tour, or on foot and on Portland's public transit system with Pubs of Portland Tours.
Don't miss the 100-year-old McMenamin's Kennedy School, converted into a brewery and hotel. The property boasts five bars, a restaurant, a movie theater, live music, an outdoor heated soaking pool and more. All the beer is made on the property and the hotel is in proximity to other great beer destinations.
Take in the views on a rafting trip turned private taproom. The Northwest Rafting Company's "Brew with Views" trips are 4-day rafting trips on the Rogue River feature different breweries, with nightly microbrew and food pairings hosted by local microbrewery brew-masters.
Rogue Wilderness Adventures offers "Paddles & Pints," a 4-day, 3-night trip combining whitewater rafting along the Rogue River with beer tasting hosted by a local Oregon microbrewer.
Known as the "Napa Valley of Beer," Colorado is the largest beer-producing state in the U.S., with 140+ craft breweries.
Colorado Craft Beer Week is the premier event for beer lovers. Each spring, expert brewers and chefs pair the best beer in the state with cuisine from some of Denver's finest restaurant menus. In addition, Colorado Craft Beer Week also has a number of stand-alone events, including high-end beer dinners and educational brewery tours.
In Boulder, Boulder Beer is the state's original microbrewery. Asher Brewing Company is Colorado's first all-organic brewery, and Upslope Brewing Company is one of the country's few craft breweries putting beer in cans. The national Brewers Association is based in Boulder.
Fort Collins is home to numerous microbreweries and a Budweiser plant. The only thing this Front Range town takes more seriously than beer is bikes. Many breweries are an easy bike ride from each other, which makes for the ultimate beer-cation tasting tour via bike. No bike? No problem. Stop by the Fort Collins Bike Library in Old Town Square and check one out -- for free.
Legend has it that when William Penn settled Philadelphia in 1682, the brewery was the first structure he built on his estate.
"Philly has declared itself America's Best Beer-Drinking City because of its long beer tradition dating to William Penn plus its unmatched variety of beer bars -- there are more than 400," says Don Russell, aka Joe Sixpack, beer reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News and executive director of Philly Beer Week.
The highlight of Philadelphia's beer year is Philly Beer Week in June. The schedule typically includes a few big-scale events and hundreds of tastings in neighborhood taprooms, lectures, prix-fixe beer-pairing dinners and more. Details can be found at www.phillybeerweek.org.
The "Brew Ridge" Mountains
Voted BeerCity USA in an Examiner.com poll, Asheville, N.C. is home to 12 independent microbreweries and has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city.
A lively mountain town with stunning scenery, Ashville is becoming known as the craft-brewing center of the southeast. The city hosts five beer festivals annually. Tickets to the Brewgrass festival in September sell out in a day or two.
In addition to being the gateway to bourbon country, several Louisville breweries age their beer in used bourbon barrels, creating bourbon barrel stouts. Local breweries include:
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