Part of enjoying craft beer these days is getting a hands-on (at least somewhat) experience on the process and efforts that go into brewing some of the country’s finest beer. These experiences come in the form of tours, tasting room conversations, and sipping a freshly poured specialty or flagship ale. And while the individual experiences may differ from taster to taster, one element remains constant: the location. For it’s partaking in these rituals at the brewery itself that makes all the difference.
The last time we checked the United States hosts over 4,000 breweries from coast to coast. That means three-quarters of our population over the age of 21 lives within ten miles of a local brewery. They’re accessible from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Texas/Mexico border to northern North Dakota. Even South Florida, a place where you’d assume Rum Punches out number their retirees, is succeeding in the scene. And with all this diversity in beer, America continues to live up to its “melting pot” reputation.
So, as craft beer fans, where do we all start? With so much to choose from and so much space to cover, how do we even attempt to get our hands on some of the best beers in the most unique environments? We all know the importance of atmosphere, just as we understand that drinking a well-crafted ale or lager is enjoyed more thoroughly in a beer garden than a shed. Which is why we searched the country over for that perfect marriage of atmosphere and taste, putting together this list of the 35 best breweries in the US. So get out the GPS, fill up the tank, and get out there.
Location: Monson, MA
Flagship Beer: Julius Ale
In the small state of Massachusetts lies one of the beer-drinking world’s best-kept secrets. Tree House brewing boasts an array of seasonal and year-round ales the vary based on the moody seasons that characterize the Northeast US and their intense curiosity of off-color ingredients. The brewery is draft only, meaning fresh and small, as to allow them to rotate their offerings, and get to know those who are enjoying their craft.
Location: Petaluma, CA
Flagship Beer: Lagunitas IPA
The Lagunitas brewery is the brainchild of four individuals from across the county who, in 1993, decided that it was time to give the people of Northern California what they wanted: a break from the balance. Lagunitas prides itself on the overly hop-driven character in their beer and since their inception more than 20 years ago have accrued a significant cross-country following, to say the least.
Location: Chicago, IL
Flagship Beer: Goose IPA
What started in 1995 in downtown Chicago has since doubled over the 20+ years Goose Island’s been in the business. They’re brewing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because as they know, the American thirst for beer never ceases. Goose Island offers a slew of quality staple and varietal small batch releases on a yearly basis and, given their unique location, is one of the few high-quality urban craft breweries around.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Flagship Beer: SweetWater 420 Extra Pale
Started by two former UC Boulder students, SweetWater Brewing Company offers a sizable array of options for hopheads and small batch fans who can appreciate double entendre names as well. SweetWater also hosts a slew of outdoor activities such as the Big Float and welcomes events at their Atlanta location. Definitely a prime example of southern hospitality.
Location: San Diego, CA
Flagship Beer: Stone IPA
Stone was founded 20 years ago with an unapologetic attitude in breaking away from the beer brewing norm. They’re as West Coast as they come, hopping out their beers for the California palate with no end in sight. They’ve been twice named the “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine and once you step inside their Beer Garden in the Escondido location, you’ll see for yourself why this brewery made our list of must sees.
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Flagship Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale
Since 1991 new Belgium has been a Colorado staple for American interpretations of Belgium-style ales. And if the quality of beer and the history isn’t enough to get you out to colorful Colorado, then the facility surely will. The brewery boasts a classic European aesthetic coupled with a quintessential Colorado backdrop. Winters are tough, though, so we suggest checking this spot out during the warmer months.
Location: Lyons, CO
Flagship Beer: Dales Pale Ale
Up until Oskar Blues came around beer drinkers and brewers had sort of an obsession with glass. And while everyone was out bottling their beers, Oskar Blues decided that the can was where the magic happened. As the first craft brewery to can their beer, Oskar Blues successfully unlocked the secret to keeping beer fresh for longer periods of time. It also doesn’t hurt that their beer is superbly delicious and their primary location is in the Rockies.
Location: Afton, VA
Flagship Beer: Full Nelson Pale Ale
Located in the picturesque Shenandoah mountains, Blue Mountain Brewery is a Virginia favorite not just for their beer but for the location as well. Cruise up the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, winding through the vibrant orange, yellow, and purple October hues that blanket the rolling hills surrounding the brewery. Enjoy a tour and then a couple quality ales on a fall afternoon. You can’t beat it.
Location: Portland, ME
Flagship Beer: Allagash White
Situated in the American Northeast, Allagash does a killer job of emulating traditional Belgian beer on a year-round basis. From Belgian IPAs to White Ales to Dubbels and Tripels they got it all. And because of their location, you’ll often find team members reminiscing about various outdoors excursions in the nearby mountains, or giving back to the community. Some of their beers also pair wonderfully with a cold Maine lobster tail as well. Enjoy.
Location: Greensboro Bend, VT
Flagship Beer: Edward American Pale Ale
Aside from premier East Coast winter resorts and where Bernie Sanders call home, Vermont offers plenty in the way of craft beer and small town pride. Hill Farmstead is a specific example of one such community staple. Literally outfitted within an old barn, this brewery holds on tightly to its roots, which shows heavily in their beer quality. They also have a small bottle shop that carries offerings from other breweries too. As if Vermont wasn’t already a beautiful place to visit, be sure to add this brewery to the list of “must see’s.”
Location: Austin, TX
Flagship Beer: Noble King Farmhouse Ale
You’d be hard-pressed to find anything that pairs better with Texas BBQ than a cold beer. So considering that Jester King is located in the state’s “weirdest city,” it’s no coincidence they offer an array of beer that’s slightly off in style but totally on the money in taste. The facility itself is an authentic farmhouse brewery that uses water from their own well, locally grown grains, and native yeast. A true testament in self-sufficiency and one you need to see to believe.
Location: Milton, DE
Flagship Beer: 60 Minute IPA
First establishing their roots in Rehoboth Beach in 1995, it was initially the smallest commercial brewery in America. As their popularity grew, however, so did their brewery, culminating today in their current 100,000 square foot facility. Their slogan, “off-centered ales for off-centered people” couldn’t do a better job of speaking to both their beers and their fans. This is a definite must for any beer and brewery lover.
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Flagship Beer: Pliny The Elder
With a commitment to brewing fresh and aggressively-hopped California style, Belgian-inspired ales, Russian River is one of the best in the country. They offer a complete lineup of specialty brews both regionally and at their location in Santa Rosa. The brewery and pub itself function as a tourism destination, yes the beers are that good, as well as a community gathering place for music and other events. Small town, independent brewery, great beer. What more do you need?
Location: Athens, GA
Flagship Beer: Hopsecutioner
Yet another Southeast staple, Terrapin Beer Co. began when two beer nerds working at a local microbrewery in Atlanta entered their Rye Ale in the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. After winning gold in the American Pale Ale category, they knew something special was bound to happen. Terrapin now hosts a fantastic southern style brewery offering tours, outdoor patios, live events and an indoor tasting room where patrons can try some of the freshest beer, including their famed Hopsecutioner -an American IPA, as well.
Location: Tampa, FL
Flagship Beer: Jai Alai India Pale Ale
Cigar City is one of the newer kids on the block, taking into consideration the rich Latin American culture that makes up America’s southernmost state. Their beer catches the attention of both beer nerds and novices across the industry and they’re the one brewery that actually sells cigars on site. Can’t beat that, especially when you’re sipping on one of their many refreshing ales on a hot Florida afternoon. Just don’t forget your Panama Jack hat.
Location: Newport, OR
Flagship Beer: Dead Guy Ale
If there’s a revolution to be had in the craft beer world Rogue will certainly lead the way. Pioneering some of the weird and strange variants we happily consume today, Rogue continues to push the envelope in style. And their location? How about the small coastal fishing village of Newport, Oregon located along the famed 101 highway. This is one of more beautiful parts of the country serving up some of the best beer around. It’d be a shame if you missed out.
Location: Cooperstown, NY
Flagship Beer: Abbey Ale
Any fan of both Belgian beer and baseball should head to Cooperstown, NY. Not only will you find the Hall of Fame Museum but you’ll immerse yourself into one of the most beautiful breweries in the region. Nestled into the hillside is Ommegang, a proper Belgian brewery specializing in both standard Belgian ales and specialty brews. Perfect for a post or pre-museum visit.
Location: Asheville, NC
Flagship Beer: Pernicious IPA
Leave it up to the weird hippies of Asheville, North Carolina to really push the envelope in their beer brewing prowess. They just expanded their brewery as of July 2015 and have just now started offering tours and a tasting room for patrons. They’re young yes, but if you take a closer look at what they offer you’ll see the future of beer is weird and bright, much like the people calling this mountain and music-infused town their home.
Location: Chico, CA
Flagship Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada has been around for some time now, taking part in pioneering the West Coast IPA for the rest of us to enjoy. They’re inspired by the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains and brew their beer with one goal in mind: to respect the tradition of the bold and wild mountain peaks to their east.
Location: San Diego, CA
Flagship Beer: Sculpin India Pale Ale
In case you needed another excuse to visit “America’s Finest City” Ballast Point Brewery is a showboat for success in craft beer. Their beers cater well to both the lifestyle and weather San Diego residents have come to enjoy and their brewery location is no different. In fact, they have six, but the one in Little Italy is where you go to enjoy their fresh small batch beer under a cabana by the San Diego waterfront. Not bad right?
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Flagship Beer: All Day IPA
Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers started Founder’s Brewing Company with one goal in mind: to not brew beer for the masses. Instead, they decided to brew beers aimed at the smaller, stranger beer drinking demographic who enjoyed having the limits pushed on how a beer should taste. They offer tours of the brewery and host live music and events in their taproom which offers a slew of fresh batches and rotating taps. Probably the coolest thing Grand Rapids has to offer.
Location: Seattle, WA
Flagship Beer: Space Dust IPA
First opening in 1996, Elysian started out as a 220 seat beer hall and brewery in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood. Since then they’ve expanded their reach across the West Coast and now own and operate three additional brewpubs in the Seattle area. However, Capital Hill is where you want to see how it all goes down. Hit a tour, sample some fresh beer out of the fermenter, and sit down for a burger after all is said and done. Welcome to Seattle.
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Flagship Beer: Two Hearted Ale
Since 1985 Bell’s Brewing has been 100 percent family-owned and independent, releasing a slew of tasty beers both year-round and seasonal for a nation of beer drinkers. They pride themselves on continuing a flavorful and unfiltered brewing process and their brewery isn’t anything to shy away from either.
Location: Stowe, VT
Flagship Beer: Heady Topper
Deep in the mountains of Northern Vermont, magic is made on a daily basis. Say what you will about turning metal into gold, up in Stowe, Vermont The Alchemist routinely churns out gold for a lucky few to enjoy. That’s because their beer is so sought after that they barely distribute. And even if you visit the brewery, which you should, buyers are limited to two 4-packs per visit. Yes, it’s that good.
Location: Kansas City, MO
Flagship Beer: Original Pale Ale
Throwing it way back to 1988, Boulevard Brewing originated in an early century brick building along the city’s historic Southwest Boulevard. Years later, Boulevard boasts one of the largest craft breweries in the country, a sustainable three-story 70,000 square foot building hosting a 150-barrel brewhouse. A tour is definitely in order at this location if only to see the beauty this place has to offer.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Flagship Beer: Bender
For most of the year in the Northern Plains region of the US, it’s brutally cold. So with all that time spent inside it’s no doubt the local population of Minneapolis heads to Surly on a daily basis. They boast a serious operation, crafting quality brews for craft beer enthusiasts across the plains region. And with a state-of-the-art brewing facility and beer hall, this is a no-brainer when visiting the ice-box of America.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Flagship Beer: Tesla Lager
Brooklyn isn’t just for artists and punks anymore. There’s now room for craft beer in the up-and-coming borough of New York. They’ve been around since 2004 and since then have brewed hundreds of beers for the American palate. Be sure to check out their tasting room for an inside look at upcoming seasonal releases. Leave Time’s Square for the Bud Light fans.
Location: Eureka, CA
Flagship Beer: Downtown Brown Ale
Aptly named, the Lost Coast Brewery is located in California’s true northern region. Surrounded by dense redwood forests and mountains, the town of Eureka boasts serious outdoor and beer devotees. It’s one of the more photogenic regions of the country, making Lost Coast the perfect place to stop for a libation along a coastal beer tour.
Location: Munster, IN
Flagship Beer: Zombie Dust
Strictly adhering to the German Beer Purity Law, 3 Floyds Brewing prides itself on their rigid formula of brewing a wide variety of craft ales and lagers. They work to set themselves apart in both branding and taste, so if you’re looking to try some of the best and freshest beer around, 3 Floyds Brewing is a much-needed stop on your list.
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Flagship Beer: Union Jack IPA
Started by two brothers who share a passion for craft beer, Firestone Walker offers quite the variety of seasonal, year-round, and barrel-aged beers for beer lovers across the country. And while their distribution may be large, their brewery is still something to behold. They just approved plans for a brewery expansion as well and now hosts a satellite tasting room in Venice Beach.
Location: Bend, OR
Flagship Beer: River Ale
Born in Bend, Oregon, Deschutes gets its name from the river on which it resides and overlooks. They offer an award-winning lineup of beers at their brewery and their tasting rooms in addition to brewery tours where you can witness how the magic is made for yourself. They’re beer nerds by craft, never ceasing in their pursuit of developing the next big style. You’ll just have to come see for yourself.
Location: Kihei, HI
Flagship Beer: Big Swell IPA
What’s better than enjoying a cold craft beer on vacation? How about a cold beer on the island of Maui? Yeah, we’d be excited as well. Their brewery and tasting room boasts views of both Haleakala and Molokini and features a draft system of more than thirty-two taps. Check it out after one of their brewery tours that ends with a tasting of their flagship beers and a souvenir glass. Mahalo.
Location: Downingtown, PA
Flagship Beer: HopDevil IPA
Characterized as a marriage of European ingredients and unmatched American creativity, Victory distributes their well-respected beer nationwide for the enjoyment of beer nerds everywhere. They first opened their doors in 1996 in a former Pepperidge Farm factory and converted it over to a 144 seat restaurant with a 70-foot long bar and full-scale brewery. Today they continue to expand, producing over 125,000 barrels of beer in 2014 alone.
Location: Boulder, CO
Flagship Beer: Avery IPA
Based out of Boulder, CO, Avery knows how to craft a wild and strange variety of beer that’s more than likely over-the-top in flavor and ABV. It is Boulder after all. And while drinking may not be the primary reason for visiting one of Colorado’s coolest towns, it certainly should be included as an evening or mid-afternoon stop. After all, you’re going to need the carbs for the next hike.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Flagship Beer: Anchor Steam Beer
Self-proclaimed to be America’s First Craft Brewery, Anchor has been around since 1896 when German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law bought an old brewery near the port of San Francisco. Since then Anchor has remained a staple of the Bay Area, brewed with an all-malt mash in their traditional copper brewhouse you need to see for yourself to believe.
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