Ten Top American Breweries Worth A Visit
Though most restaurants might not have cicerones (read: sommeliers for beer) working the dining room floor quite yet, American craft breweries are creating an exciting collection of artisanal, local and limited edition brews that could elevate humble beer from a drink to swill to something to savor. Get out of the bar and behind the scenes with Forbes Travel Guide’s list of 10 top American microbreweries worth a visit—and a taste.
1. Samuel Adams, Boston
The granddaddy of craft breweries, Samuel Adams was founded in 1984 and has grown to national prominence while staying true to its independent roots. Take an hour-long tour of the brewery, which are hard to miss—they take place every 45 minutes from Monday to Saturday. The popular tour covers not only the brewing process, but also the storied history of patriot and beer aficionado Sam Adams. After the thirst for knowledge is quenched, guests can sample some of the company’s 30 styles of beer.
2. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, Milton, Del.
This small brewery is revered by beer enthusiasts—its limited release batches (such as the autumnal Punkin Ale) sell out quickly. Dogfish Head forgoes the usual hops/water/barley mix for ingredients like chicory, maple syrup and licorice root. And by working with a molecular archeologist, the team recreates ancient recipes, like the one used for their Midas Touch (the ingredients were found inside drinking vessels in King Midas’s tomb), which is made with honey, grapes and saffron. Reservations are recommended for tours of the Milton microbrewery, where you’ll learn about the ins-and-outs of fermentation and enjoy tastings.
3. Brooklyn Brewery, New York City
The brewery—a former matzo ball factory—creates its beers, such as Pennant Ale and Black Chocolate Stout, in the hip Williamsburg neighborhood. Small reservation-only tours are hosted on weeknights (including a guided tasting of four beers), but you can also kick back at the popular Tasting Room hangout on weekends. Enjoy the brews, order pizza and join free no-reservations tours on Saturdays.
4. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
With a signature brew named Arrogant Bastard Ale, it’s clear Stone Brewing Co. doesn’t take itself too seriously. The brand does take its brews seriously—they’ve gone from producing 400 barrels of beer in 1996 to more than 148,000 last year. Free daily tours of the ever-expanding brewery are conducted by a staff of “Indoctrination Specialists,” and include explanations of the brewing process and craft beer culture, a guided tasting and good-natured wise cracks. Visit the bistro afterward for fare made with local organic produce or take a stroll in the gardens.
5. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
Oregon is a mecca for craft brew enthusiasts, so it’s no surprise to find Deschutes Brewery nestled in the picturesque mountain town of Bend. The brewery makes bold, experimental batches like The Abyss dark stout, as well as some of the industry’s most beloved brews, like the Black Butte Porter. Open-to-all-ages tours are offered daily, where all the details of brewing are revealed. Afterward, guests can pick up bottles at the gift shop or try the brews on tap at the nearby pub.
6. Rogue Ales Brewery, Newport, Ore.
On the craft brew scene since 1988, Rogue is constantly expanding its roster of ales (which all have helpful food pairing ideas on the labels). The company has over a dozen unique “meeting halls” in Oregon, California and Washington, but to see where it all happens, visit the Brewer’s On the Bay pub inside the Rogue Ales Brewery on weekday afternoons. Just tell the bartender you are there for a tour and enjoy a pint from one of the 40 taps while you wait for it to start.
7. New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
Starting off as a basement-brewing project for a husband and wife team, this brewery now hosts events such as bike-in movies and a traveling short film series. At the Fort Collins “Liquid Center” headquarters, 90-minute tours school visitors on beer—including the popular Fat Tire and seasonal releases such as Old Cherry Ale—as well as the company’s environmental efforts (they were the first wind-powered brewery in the United States).
8. Road Dog’s Brewery Tour, Seattle
Instead of picking just one brewery to visit in the Emerald City—Seattle has over 150 craft and microbreweries in and around the city—sign up for one of Road Dog’s Brewery Tours. Popular with tourists and locals alike, the daily tours stop at three breweries—including notables such as Elysian Brewery, Pyramid Brewery and Elliot Bay Brewery—where you’ll sample brews, see behind the scenes and pick up souvenirs.
9. Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
Inspired by the then under-appreciated Belgium style of beer, Allagash Brewing Company began as a one-man, 15-barrel operation and now has a steady rotation of yearly brews, as well as specialty and limited lines. The brewery’s popular tours are open to all ages with samples for those over 21—bring ID, they card everyone—and will give you a chance to ask about Allagash’s unreleased experimental Coolship collection, which uses a traditional process culled from pre-refrigeration era brewing.
10. Live Oak Brewing Company, Austin, Texas
For anyone interested in the Old World method (and results) of Central European brewing, Live Oak Brewing Company is a must-visit. Located in East Austin, the brewery pumps out its Big Bark Amber Lager and Liberation Ale and hosts twice-monthly tours. Take note: the tours require pre-booking and the brewery is not temperature-controlled, so dress accordingly for Texas weather.