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 is a sampling of extraordinary destinations for beer lovers.
Portland, often referred to as "Beervana," has more breweries than any other city in the U.S. You can explore Portland's 36 breweries on your own or let local experts guide you through some of Portland's most notable breweries: by bike with Pedalbike Tours' Oregon Brewery Trail tour, on foot and on Portland's public transit system with Pubs of Portland Tours, or in an interactive tasting class led by a brewer for the "beer curious" with Oregon Beer Odyssey. Their themed classes, such as "Great Beers of the Northwest" and "Wild, Sour and Funky" beers, are fun and educational.
Don't miss the 100-year-old McMenamin's Kennedy School, converted into a brewery and hotel. It has five bars on the property, a restaurant, movie theater, live music, 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.
Enjoy a brew and 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. The rafting party sets up nightly riverside camps and accommodates up to 20 people.
- Deschutes Brewery trip -- July 28-31, 2011, $895 per person
- Double Mountain trip -- Aug. 11-15, $995 per person
- Sierra Nevada trip -- Aug. 18-21, $895 per person
Meanwhile, Rogue Wilderness Adventures offers "Paddles and Pints," a 4-day, 3-night trip combining whitewater rafting along the Rogue River with beer tasting hosted by a local Oregon microbrewer. The trip includes all meals, beer, equipment, guides and transportation. Sept. 8, 2011, $1,050 per person plus $36 tax
Known as the "Napa Valley of Beer," Colorado is the largest producing beer state in the U.S. with 100+ craft breweries.
Colorado Beer Week is the premier destination event for beer lovers across the country. From April 8 through April 16, 2011, expert brewers and chefs will pair the best beer in the state with cuisine from some of Denver's finest restaurant menus. In addition, Colorado Beer Week will have a number of stand-alone events, from a Beer and Golf Tournament at Pradera Golf Club to high-end beer dinners and educational brewery tours.
Durango is the "self-proclaimed City of Brewerly Love," says publicist Anne Klein Barney. "Because of our readily available, first-source water, Durango is home to four microbreweries." In Boulder, Boulder Beer is the state's original microbrewery. Asher Brewing Company is the newest brewery in town and 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 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. June 3-12, 2011, will be the fourth year of this huge annual celebration of the city's beer culture. The schedule includes a few big-scale events and hundreds of tastings in neighborhood taprooms, lectures, prix-fixe beer-pairing dinners and more. The 2011 schedule will be posted at www.phillybeerweek.org.
The "Brew Ridge" Mountains
Voted BeerCity U.S.A. in an Examiner.com poll, Asheville, N.C. is home to 10 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 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
More beer-cation websites: