It’s been about a decade since craft beer reached escape velocity in the United States—the number of craft breweries has increased more than 300 percent in the last 10 years. They are everywhere, and summer is the best time to visit most of them. Because the warmer months are also an optimal time to embark on an outdoor adventure, there’s a new activity on the block that combines your love of al fresco exercise and cold craft brews: The kayak brewery tour. Part nature trip, part bar crawl, these excursions will let you glide down the river to take in both the beauty around you and some hops and barley.
The most extensive of the brew paddle trips is in Traverse City, Michigan (its creators were also smart enough to snag kayakbrewerytours.com). Traverse City is tucked between two bays off of Lake Michigan in the northern part of the state, and the Boardman River runs right through the center of town and past a number of the city’s multiple breweries. There are eight you can hit on the four mile kayak and bike tour. The paddling should be easy but still tough enough to leave you feeling like you earned your beer.
Other brew-heavy cities with waterways running through them have also hopped on the trend. Kansas City offers brewery visits by kayaking down the Missouri River with stops at Border Brewery, Big Rip Brewing Co. and Calibration Brewery. In Maryland, which is home to some of the best paddling in America, there are multiple options. If you’re new to kayaking, you can take an easy trip down the Monocacy River near Frederick with a stop at the Barley and Hops brewery for a tour from brewer Eric Gleason. For the somewhat more adventurous, there’s a beginner whitewater trip on the Potomac. Take in the river wildlife, including red tailed hawks and bald eagles, before finishing with a drop down class too at Knoxville Falls and a stop at Smoketown Brewery in Brunswick.
If you’re ready for a real adventure, you can head out to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State where you don’t go to the brewery; the brewery comes to you. The Outdoor Odysseys company turned a three-day sea kayak trip into a beer lover’s delight. Kayak between the islands of San Juan and Orcas (the two largest in the San Juans) and take in views of the 172 islands that make up the chain. Before turning in each night, sip some of Washington’s best beers alongside experts from the breweries as you watch the sunset over the archipelago.
BRB, we’re gonna go grab our paddle and life jacket.