Breweries Worth the Trip According to 15 Travel & Beer Writers
There are so many breweries in the US these days. As of 2016 there were over 5,000 craft breweries in this country alone. With that many breweries and brewery tours to choose from it can hard to figure out which ones are actually worth making a trip for. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to visit every brewery in the United States (I'm definitely trying) so I called on some my fellow travel & booze writers to help me come up with a list. I'm sure there are more that we missed so add them in the comments below!
United States Breweries Worth the Trip
Emily, Em's on the Road
Sierra Nevada Brewing - Chico, California
With a love of beer, American hops, and a lot of passion, Ken Grossman created Sierra Nevada in 1979 and is the 3rd largest independent brewery in the United States. You might think visiting one of the biggest breweries in the country wouldn't be as exciting as some of the up and comers but I can promise you Sierra Nevada will not disappoint.
Producing just over 1 million barrels per year, the sheer size of the place is incredible. Even more amazing is that the brewery is still family owned and operated which seems almost unheard of for a company of their size. There are several different tour options but the basic brewhouse tours are offered daily and are free but reservations are required. The tour guides are so friendly and passionately answer questions about the company as they guide you through the massive campus. Sustainability is a cornerstone of the company and on the tour you can see all of the solar panels that help operate the facility and learn about their zero-waste program (they were certified as zero-waste in 2013). If you want to dive deeper into Sierra Nevada's sustainability program you can take a Sustainability Tour and explore their different sustainability initiatives and end with a walk through their eight acre hop farm and garden.
If you love hops, a tour at Sierra is a must. They are one of the few breweries that brew beer with whole cone hops (as opposed to pellets). On the tour you get to peruse the huge hop cooler with all the different varieties they use. You end the tour with a free and guided tasting of a couple of flagships and specialty brews. Learn more about all of the different tours available at the Sierra Nevada in Chico. If you find yourself in Asheville, North Carolina I'd highly recommend checking out their beautiful brewery and restaurant in Mills River too.
Lia, Practical Wanderlust
Silva Brewing, Paso RoBles, California
Paso Robles, California is a beautiful little town situated in the heart of wine country on California's Central Coast. It's the Central Coast's answer to Napa. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that wine tasting in Paso Robles is the only option for booze loving tourists. Even my know-it-all husband, who was born and raised nearby, was shocked to discover that there’s so much more than just wineries in Paso Robles! There’s also a plethora of Paso Robles distilleries, serving up spirits related to wine such as grappa, vodka and brandy, all made from wine grapes. And once you’ve had your fill of wine and wine accessories (cue King of the Hill accent), you can hop over to one of the many craft breweries in Paso Robles for a flight of sours, west coast IPAs, or barrel-aged porters. Simply put, Paso Robles is a booze traveler’s dream destination.
We’ve visited quite a few breweries, but none of them exhibited passion quite like Silva Brewing in Paso Robles, California. Tucked away in a room not much larger than a garage, the entire team of only four employees (yes, only four!) toils away to craft the dozen beers on tap AND release new flavors weekly! Silva Brewing opened in December 2016, but the combined force of love and the head brewer's vast knowledge and reputation from 19 years in the beer industry have already made Silva Brewing a powerhouse in the Paso Robles brewery scene. If you’re a fan of Green Flash - where Silva's co-founder was Brewmaster for 11 years - you’ll love Silva Brewing’s flagship brew, the Paso Pale, which is a perfect example of a West Coast IPA. Also worth checking out are the “Nut Farm” Walnut Nitro Milk Stout, “Mind on my Orange” Belgian Style Saison, and “S-Shot” Smoked Porter. You read that right. Smoked. Porter. It tastes like campfire and heaven.
Vanessa, Hops on the Road
Avery Brewing - Boulder, Colorado
Colorado is one of the top craft beer destinations in the country. With nearly 350 breweries, it’s established itself as a leader in the industry and solidified a distinct beer culture. With so many award-winning and innovative breweries in Colorado, it’s hard to pick just one to visit. In fact, I recommend making a stop at multiple if you have the time. However, if you can only manage one brewery visit while in Colorado, make it Avery Brewing Company.
Located in Boulder, Colorado, Avery was established back in September 1993. For over two decades, the brewery has been developing its own unique styles of lager and ale, branching into barrel-aged, seasonals and sours. For years, Avery ran its operations in a confined, disjointed location in east Boulder. If you had visited a few years ago, I wouldn’t have recommended a stop there (parking was tough and there was barely any outdoor drinking space). But in 2015, Avery opened its brand-new headquarters on a sprawling 5.6-acre site northeast of the city. And it’s certainly an impressive building.
If you enjoy checking out the behind-the-scenes action, Avery’s facility offers prime viewing of its operations. There are tours available every day of the week at 4pm, two on Saturday at 2pm and 3:30pm, and one on Sunday at 2pm (check website for current times and availability). A guide will lead you through the various steps of the brewing process, giving you a glimpse into the realm of Avery Brewing’s craft beer magic.
Vanessa, Hops on the Road
Fiction Beer Company - Denver, Colorado
Are you a lover of literature and craft beer? Then this is the brewery for you. Fiction Beer Company is one of the newer breweries on the scene in Colorado. Opened back in 2014, it’s the first brewery on Colfax Avenue. Over the last three years, it has established itself as the local hangout for the East Denver neighborhoods. I’ve personally made it my go-to book club gathering spot.
The rotating taps feature beers named after the brewers’ favorite works of fiction. Each one tells a different story. There are the classics that you go back to time and again (A Beer of Very Little Brain, Tiger Lunch, and Old Bums and Beat Cowboys); the mysteries and adventures that catch your attention (Parallel Structure, and Fresh Hop Sly Boots); and the fantasy and science fiction stories that push the boundaries of your imagination (Logic is Relative, Troll in the Dungeon). The crew behind the bar is always super friendly, eager to offer suggestions or variations on your beer choices. I never would have thought to add lavender syrup to a Berliner Weisse.
The outdoor patio is the perfect spot to soak in the sun on a warm day, or play a round of cornhole. The brewery also has a shelf full of books you can borrow, and numerous board games to keep you entertained.
Fiction may not be as large as some of the other Colorado breweries, but it’s friendly atmosphere, delicious beer selection and literary enthusiasm make it a place I go back to over and over.
Kristin, Camels & Chocolate
Breweries in Lexington, Kentucky
When people think Lexington, Kentucky, they immediately think of bourbon. And sure, plenty of my favorite distilleries—Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace and Castle & Key, to name a few—are located on the outskirts or within an hour's drive of the bustling college town. But what those not in the know don't realize is that Lexington is also a bastion of beer talent. On our last visit to Lex, we spent more time soaking up the craft brewery culture than we did kicking it at the distilleries. It would be tough to name just one, so I'll give a round-up of my favorites: Ethereal is in the heart of the urban Distillery District, occupying a large, airy warehouse space; it mixes up some interesting flavors like a hibiscus saison and—bonus—it's located right next door to Crank & Boom, the best ice cream in town. Mirror Twin Brewing Company was brand new when we were there and has a very laid-back vibe with food trucks out front and communal-style seating. Country Boy is one of the brewery originals and very beloved by the locals; you'll find a few of its staple beers like Shotgun Wedding (how great is that name, though?) on tap at many of the bars and even Keeneland, though I gravitated toward the more inventive beers like a jalapeno smoked porter. Perhaps my favorite of all, though, was West Sixth Brewing Co. You can grab a bite in the adjoining restaurant, Smithtown Seafood, which is known for both po-boys and its burgers, then settle in for a flight. No matter where you wind up, though, I'll tell you this much: You won't be disappointed in Lexington's beer scene!
Lia, Practical Wanderlust
Great Flood Brewery in Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky is a city that’s famously known for a drink: bourbon. Sure, it’s technically Kentucky that invented Bourbon, but Louisville has embraced it, built upon it, and created a drinking scene honoring it. Whether you’re stopping in Louisville on your way to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or just visiting Louisville because it’s the best city ever (though I’m slightly biased, as a local who grew up there), you have to stop by and try a few Louisville specialties.
But there's more than just bourbon in Louisville: there's beer, too. And of course, plenty of it is finished in bourbon barrels! At Great Flood Brewery, you'll find plenty of bourbon barrel aged beers, as well as an impressive selection of other brews, like some excellent Saisons and rich dark stouts. In addition to their own brews, Great Flood serves up a few notable outside offerings, such as the delicious Beer X-Tacy. Get a flight and prepare to be surprised!
Maegan, The Wanderlust Dietician
Highland Brewing - Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville’s Ale trail consists of 20+ breweries with 13 located in the city of Asheville. One of our favorites is Highland Brewing Co. It is the first legal brewery in town since Prohibition, and is remains family-owned. Highland Brewing has a rooftop hangout that seats 300 people and the owners donate to over 100 charities a year! We love the laid back feel after a long day of hiking. Their Oatmeal Porter has found its way to Pensacola, FL, our home base.
Emily, Em's on the Road
Creature Comforts Brewing - Athens, Georgia
Although they've only been on the craft brewing scene for a few years, Creature Comforts has made quite a splash. They won a medal at GABF in their very first year and their flagship IPA, Tropicália is one of the most sought after IPAs in the US; so much so that sometimes you have to go straight to the source to get your hands on a six pack. Sip on their flagship styles like Tropicália IPA, Athena Berliner Weisse, and Bibo Pilsner as well as unique offerings like Fulcrum Dry Hopped Pilsner and Duende Double IPA. If you like Berliner Weisse, make sure to visit the Athena Bar where they add freshly squeezed juices or locally made syrups to their refreshingly tart beer.
Their building is a 1940s warehouse that had housed a Chevy dealership and the Snow Tire Company. The tasting room and brewhouse share the same space so they have a really cool beer garden vibe inside with long community tables and bare bulb lighting strung throughout the space. They did a beautiful job with the restoration of the building and refurbished some of the original wood to be used in their bar tops and tables.
For many years, the only way to actually drink beer in a Georgia brewery was to buy a tour that came with tasting tickets. You couldn't buy a pint directly from a brewery or carryout. Finally the law has changed! I can't wait to go back and buy a pint and some carry out.
Creature Comforts is definitely worth a visit because it is located in downtown Athens, Georgia, one of the coolest college towns in the country. There are a plethora of delicious restaurants around the brewery including one of my favorites, The National, brainchild of Hugh Acheson and Peter Dale. Catch a show at the Georgia Theater or keep your bar crawl going with drinks at local favorites Manhattan Cafe or The World Famous.
Gerard, Beer in Florida
Marker 48 - Brooksville, Florida
Traveling south down the west coast of Florida? You’ll inevitably pass near one of the friendliest and most unusual craft breweries in the state —Marker 48 Brewing — and it’s worth a visit.
Housed in a former auto-repair shop on State Road 50, aka Cortez Blvd., in Hernando County, the brewery burst onto the scene in November 2015, born from the desire of founders Maurice and Tina Ryman – homebrewers and high-school sweethearts – to have a place in their community to enjoy tasty brews similar to those they experienced across the country during long, summer RV trips.
The brewery boasts a large tasting room, an even larger outdoor beer garden with a stage, and something truly unique to a Florida brewery – a completely underground beer-barrel-aging cellar.
That’s right. The Rymans turned what was the “oil pit” of the shop into a beer cellar. The catwalks that mechanics used to access the undercarriages of customers’ cars now hold bourbon and wine barrels to age brew produced in Marker 48’s 7 bbl brewing system. The cellar also has a long table, chairs and other furniture for the comfort of customers who rent the space for private events.
In a historic homage, one of Marker 48’s core beers is named “Mermaid’s Milk,” a creamy, chocolatey milk stout served through a nitro tap. Other beers in their wide range of styles are named after local landmarks, such as Sand Hill Brown, Suncoast Trail Cream Ale, Pine Island IPA and “Half-Fin” Weizen, which bears the nickname of a dolphin who lingers in local waters and whose dorsal fin was damaged in an encounter with a boat propeller.
Megan, Olio in Iowa
Peace Tree Brewing Co - Knoxville, Iowa
In more ways than one, Peace Tree Brewing Co. is an Iowan as you can get. In addition to its founders’ home brewing passion, the Knoxville, Iowa brewery was founded to help bring a community together. Even the brewery’s name, comes from a nearby sycamore tree—considered the second largest in North America—where early settlers and Native Americans alike met to trade, set treaties, and share the news of the day.
The brewery opened in 2009 in a former Nash Rambler car dealership in the heart of Knoxville’s downtown. Since then it has provided a venue for the community to gather and a pastime for them to indulge in. Today Peace Tree offers a truly fantastic selection of craft beers and has continues to bring a sense of pride to the small Iowa community.
With staples like the Blonde Fatale or Red Rambler and an expanding selection of sours, Peace Tree Brewing has something for everyone. Not a big drinker? Peace Tree also makes homemade root beer. Visitors to the Knoxville location can even take a 40-minute tour of where it all began, complete with a pint from Peace Tree’s exclusive brewer’s tap.
Brewery Vivant - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brewery Vivant is based in an old funeral home. The main seating area is done like a beer hall, with the taps nestled in the old chapels stained glass. The beer is mostly Belgian, with flagships like Big Red Coq (Belgian Red), Farmhand (Saison), and Triomphe (Belgian IPA), buy Vivant also has created a sour program, including a regular house sour that changes each time they keg a batch. The food here is stellar, some of the best around.
Kelly, The Dining Duster
New Glarus Brewing - New Glarus, Wisconsin
New Glarus Brewing is one of the largest breweries in the United States and is unique because you can only purchase their beer in their home state of Wisconsin. So why not make a trip to their brewery? They have two different tour options available, self guided and the Hard Hat Tour. We'd recommend the Hard Hat Tour because you can get a behind-the-scenes look at everything at the brewery. The facility is nothing if not pristine. Everything is shiny and sparkling and on display! There’s also a gift shop and tasting room. The tasting room leads out to a beautiful patio with lovely scenery of the New Glarus hillside.
After the tour, we were treated to a guided beer and cheese tasting with a view of the New Glarus hillside. Hard Hat Tours are incredibly popular so make your reservation in advance. They are $30 but worth it if you want to have a guide and sample beer and cheese!
Jess, Unearth the Voyage
2nd Shift Brewing - St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is a city known for its’ beer. Everything from the mega brewery of Anheuser Busch brewing up America's number one selling Light Lager, to the dozens of craft breweries that have been opening their doors and producing some of the Midwest’s tastiest beer. One microbrewery that really stands out in St. Louis is 2nd Shift Brewing. Besides having phenomenal beer, 2nd shift has great service, a unique drinking atmosphere and suburb food.
Your first thought as you come around the corner looking for 2nd Shift Brewing might be that someone is trying to pull and prank on you by giving you the wrong address. 2nd Shift is located in a predominantly industrial area, although this totally adds to the uniqueness of all things 2nd Shift.
2nd Shift is in a large warehouse that is half brewing area and half drinking area. You will really feel like part of the in crowd when having a beer with your buddies after a long day of brewing. It’s also hard to argue that the beer’s not fresh when there’s only a row of barrels full of beer separating you from the fermentation tanks.
Not to mention that 2nd Shift has also partnered with Guerilla Street Food; a Filipino vendor selling delicious Filipino dishes that you can’t find anywhere else in the city. Bearing a wall full of board games and plenty of table space to enjoy an afternoon of drinking great beer, 2nd shift is a perfect stop for some lazy afternoon fun. Don’t let the location throw you off, 2nd Shift Brewing is a popular spot.
Julianne, It's Five O'Clock Here
Taxman Brewing - Bargersville, Indiana
There is one brewery in the U.S. that I’d make a special trip just to visit: Taxman Brewing Co. in Bargersville, Indiana.
This Midwestern brewery’s stellar reputation preceded it. When I consulted various beer bloggers about what breweries to visit in Indiana last summer, nearly all mentioned Taxman Brewing. It’s on high on craft beer aficionados’ radar, which meant that I had to check it out.
Turns out that three of the brewery’s founders are, in fact, tax professionals. Their tax consulting work took them to Belgium, where it is mandated by law that you must drink beer and eat frites at all times and by no means continue crunching numbers, and thus Taxman was born.
With the industrial feel of its interior and its extensive selection of brews, Taxman — which opened in 2014 — would be right at home next to any Seattle or Portland craft brewery. Families sipped on brews next to neon orange- and yellow-clad bicyclists from the Central Indiana Bicycle Association inside, while young couples laughed with beers and their pups on the outdoor patio.
For me, the standout beer here is Evasion, a 14.5% ABV barrel-aged Belgian-style stout. With its flavors of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla, this killer stout was my favorite beer I’ve had in a long time — and this was after recently visiting Belgium! There’s a host of other mouthwatering options here too, like Hop Collector, their Belgian IPA, or Deduction, their Abbey Dubbel.
As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes… and, of course, delicious beer at Taxman.
Emily, Em's on the Road
Upland Brewing Company - Bloomington, Indiana
I have to include my home base brewery! If you love sour beers hit the road for Upland Brewing Company. Upland has been brewing barrel aged sour beers since 2006 but they have expanded sour production by 2,000 barrels a year and opened a state of the art sours facility and tasting room called the Wood Shop. Tours are a great way to learn about the sour brewing process because it is quite different than ales and lagers, you can even try beer along the way with samples from the foudres and barrels to compare the taste at different stages in the aging process.
After the tour, head to the bar to taste. They have 10 sour taps and then 10 specialty ales and lagers so you can sample a huge variety. If you find something you like, you can purchase bottles here as well. After you've had your fill of sours, walk next door and grab a bite and pint at their original brewpub. They make one of the best burgers in town!
Greta, Pickles Travel
Schell's Brewery - New Ulm, Minnesota
Schell's Brewery is the second largest family-owned brewery in the USA. They make their original flavors, craft beers, and seasonal varieties and even a root beer, plus they have extensive gardens which include peacocks roaming free! Bock Fest in early March is a freezing experience and adventure worth having while drinking great beer with your friends.
Sue, The Food Travelist
Dovetail Brewery - Chicago, Illinois
You have to love a brewery that brings the same high standards of the “German Purity Law” to their operations on the North Side of Chicago. It’s no surprise that the owners of Dovetail Brewery Hagan Dost and Bill Wesselink met and bonded at the Doemens Institute in Munich while working toward their Master Brewer Certifications. They learned that brewing beer the traditional way with four natural ingredients – hops, wheat, barley, and water would produce a balanced and delicious beer. Their attention to each brewing step comes out in every sip. They have painstakingly “created” water that is very similar to the water in Bavaria. By adding and removing minerals they are able to create a beer very similar to beer brewed in Germany.
We simply haven’t tasted a craft beer that tastes this good. Don’t believe us? Dovetail Brewery was voted into the Top 5 of 861 breweries in USA Today’s 10 Best 2017 Reader’s Choice Award. The brewery produces an ever-changing range of great beers like their signature German-inspired wheat beer Hefeweizen, Rauchbier, and Lambic-style sour beers. Dovetail also produces many tasty specialty seasonal beers to enjoy.
The Dovetail taproom located in the heart of the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago has a great vibe and is super welcoming. It’s dog-friendly and BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). Don’t worry if you forget to bring some food along you can get a fresh-baked pretzel from local bakery fave Dinkel’s and sausages from Paulina Market.
Alicia of Prairie Style File and
North Dakota Beer: A Heady History
Drekker Brewing Company - Fargo, North Dakota
Drekker Brewing Company, located in the heart of historic downtown Fargo, North Dakota, celebrated its third birthday this fall. But it already feels like a neighborhood fixture.
Its name is a play on three Old Norse words – drakkar (a Viking ship), drykkr (a draft drink) and drekka (to drink) and Viking images pop up in the brewery’s logo, taproom décor and merchandise. (The region’s Norwegian heritage makes this an especially easy sell.)
The taproom offers a range a beers, from flagships like Pillager Porter, the brewery’s best-selling Broken Rudder Irish Red and Techno Viking, a kettle soured Berliner Weisse. They also feature more esoteric offerings like the Coconut Killer IPA and People Eater, a vividly colored (and yeah, purple) blueberry basil sour ale that shows off the brewery’s mastery of crowd-pleasing sours pretty nicely. On Thursday -- or THORS-day, as it’s known on the Drekker calendar -- the brewers reveal cask conditioned versions of fan favorites.
Tours are technically free, but a free-will donation benefits a local non-profit organization. Drekker Brewing Company also hosts a gleefully random assortment of public events, including burlesque shows, Viking yoga and late night craft sales. Be sure buy a few cans to take home. The vaguely psychedelic, slightly macabre, skeleton-adorned artwork on the labels is from the delightfully twisted mind of Punchgut, a prolific Fargo artist.
Diana of Mojo Traveler
Mad Bomber Brewery - Hayden, Idaho
Tom Applegate is an Army veteran who was assigned to the bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan. Yep, he was one of those fearless soldiers who dons those well-padded suits that look like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man and walks into a building or along a roadside and, if everything goes right, disables things that go boom, making it safe for everyone else to go on about their business.
It doesn’t take much critical thinking to deduce where Tom came up with the name of his business – Mad Bomber Brewery in Hayden Idaho. If you’re not already nuts to take on an assignment like that, the stress would certainly drive one mad. His beers have such fun names as Booby Trap Blonde, Powder Keg Dark and Lonely Walk Brown Ale.
It’s fair to say that the decor of Mad Bomber Brewery is authentic. Among the items: a remote-controlled robot device that bomb diffusers send in first to check things out. Check things out yourself, say hi to Tom and thank him for his service and enjoy a good beer.
Amy and Nathan of Two Drifters
Bonus: Citizen Cider - Burlington, Vermont
I know, I know. Cider isn't beer but I'm starting to love ciders too so here we go.
Citizen Cider is relatively new addition to the city of Burlington, Vermont. In a state saturated with traditional beer breweries, I can't help but love Citizen Cider. Hard cider is getting really popular these days, because it's straight up delicious! Citizen Cider makes wonderful ciders that are crisp and appley. They are never cloyingly sweet, and they have a range of flavors. My personal fave is the Dirty Mayor, with ginger hints. The Burlington brewery location serves yummy snacks, cider by the glass or in flights (so you can sample a bunch) or cider-based cocktails. It's a laid back environment with a gentle breeze flowing through the open doors. A must visit when chilling in Burlington.
Breweries on my must visit list
- Dogfish Head
- Russsian River
- 3 Floyds Brewing
- Allagash Brewing
- Stone Brewing
- Founders Brewing
- Blackberry Farm
What breweries do you love to visit?