Checking out a local brewery is clearly the biggest must-do when visiting a new city: museums are fine and all, but you can't drink a painting. However, unless you're going full-on beercation, figuring out which brewery to hit can be a challenge, especially with new ones popping up constantly.
Luckily, we determined the single must-visit brewery for a 35-pack of major American cities. While excellent beer was obviously a major consideration, we also weighed factors like how much fun it is to hang out in the tap room, what kind of tour situation they offer, and whether or not it's reasonably simple to get there -- meaning far-flung suburban breweries in industrial parks need not apply. The must-visit brewery in a city has to be IN that city, right? Right.
So keep this handy for the next time you're in Denver and have an afternoon to kill before your second-least-favorite cousin's wedding. Happy drinking!
Atlanta, GA: SweetWater
Southern hop-heads have been flocking to the A’s chillest brewing giant since the doors opened way back in 1997. These days, the craft powerhouse is repping an award-winning lineup and freewheelin’ philosophy (420 references abound) from inside a massive 25,000sqft production facility in Midtown Atlanta, offering $10 public tours (includes a souvenir pint glass, y'all), a full calendar of on- and off-site events, and more quality beer than the Chattahoochee has sunburnt tubers.
Beers of note: The Hop Hash series is brewed with an extra potent dose of hop resin, and includes the Hop Hash Double IPA, Hash Session IPA, and Hash Brown (hardy-har-har).
Austin, TX: Jester King
The taproom at one of Hill Country's finest breweries is only open Friday-Saturday... and if it were any other brewery, that might be enough for disqualification, considering our love of Tuesday drinking. But Jester King still dominates by virtue of being Austin's best brewery (and TX's second-best overall). We've told you about the fantastic Stanley's pizza from an on-site wood-fired oven, all of which pairs with live bluegrass and more beer options than you'll know what to do with. Sprawl out on the 58 acres of Jester King's property with beers like the Evil Twin collab Even More Jeppe, or park on a picnic bench and open up a brew from the bottle selection, which is packed with a worldwide selection of JK's favorites.
Beers of note: The oyster mushroom and smoked sea salt Snörkel and the elderflower sour Even More Jeppe are the beers of dreams.
Baltimore, MD: Union Craft
The first brewery to open within Baltimore’s city limits in three decades, Union Craft’s made a name for itself with standout suds like the generously hopped Duckpin, and also a welcoming playground of a taproom that marries frequent one-offs and special releases with an expansive outdoor area where you can play a few rounds of cornhole with some food trucks and live music. Free tours run on Saturdays, but also consider popping in on a Thursday, when they always tap a fresh cask-conditioned ale.
Beers of note: Double Duckpin’s the move for hopheads; Old Pro’s a tart, well-balanced Gose for the hop-averse.
Boston, MA: Samuel Adams
Now, hear us out because we can already anticipate the hand-wringing over not offering up a trendier selection, but making a trip to pay your respects to one of craft brewing’s OGs is just one of those things you do when visiting Boston, like walking the Freedom Trail for a while before deciding to bail before you even get to Paul Revere’s house, or waiting in line at Mike’s Pastry. Free tours (though, there is a suggested $2 donation for charity) of their Jamaica Plain home base run on the reg, and are some of the most well-run you’ll find at any brewery, anywhere, and include a tasting that’s impressively robust given that you paid so little (or nothing, if you hate charity).
Beers of note: C’mon, really?
Charlotte, NC: Olde Mecklenburg
Let's first give a shoutout to NoDa Brewing's new brewery -- it's triple the size of its previous space, meaning there's room for live music, a monthly craft market, and more. But Olde Mecklenburg is a beery (German) universe unto itself. Said universe includes an indoor Brauhaus with pork schnitzel and würste to accompany its Reinheitsgebot-friendly beers, and one of the best patios in Charlotte that can comfortably seat 1,000+. And with all that room in the outdoor biergarten (it sits on 8.5 acres!), the brewery can throw big parties like the annual Mecktoberfest in September.
Beers of note: The Fall-appropriate, medal-winning Mecktoberfest and the flagship Copper altbier are zee moves here.
Chicago, IL: Half Acre
Visit Chicago and the first thing any resident worth a damn will implore you to do is drag yourself away from Michigan Ave and actually see some of the neighborhoods, and no local brewery’s more seamlessly integrated into its neighborhood than North Center’s Half Acre. You’ll find 14 standout taps (plus reliably interesting firkins on offer every Friday) at their wood-laden hideout, and a new-this-year food menu that’ll allow your beer of choice to pair with a brisket burrito. Chicagoans love this place so much that both the taproom and the tours (Saturday only) tend to fill up, so it makes sense that they had to expand production to a second facility nearby, expected to boast its own restaurant and beer garden in the months to come.
Beers of note: Beloved hoppy pale ale Daisy Cutter, also hop-forward wheat ale Akari Shogun.
Cincinnati, OH: Rhinegeist
Breweries can be dark, cave-like places to visit, and sometimes that’s a good thing. But sometimes you want a little sunshine, which Rhinegeist clearly factored into the 4,500sqft rooftop deck it added during last year’s brewery expansion, adding to the massive industrial-bier-hall vibe of the interior. There’s ping pong. There’s corn hole. There’s a DJ booth. There isn’t food on-site, but they’re cool with you bringing it in (and Findlay Market across the street has just about anything you could want), so you can sustain yourself for a long date with some of the finest beer in Cincy.
Beers of note: Truth, their flagship IPA, lives up to its name, while Peach Dodo is a delightfully crisp take on a gose.
Cleveland, OH: Great Lakes Brewing
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cleveland’s poised to start competing with the best beer cities in America. And Ohio City is the neighborhood to watch. It all revolves around the enormous Great Lakes Brewing, a Midwestern OG (1988 represent!) that takes up a couple square blocks that you can stroll for days, and includes an original 1860s mahogany bar, a former basement pub where former Prohibition poster-boy Eliot Ness (the namesake anti-prohibition cop of GLBC’s best beer) drank after repeal, multiple year-round beer gardens... oh, and the beer’s pretty effing great too. There are party buses to Indians games in the summer, the celebrated release of Christmas Ale in the winter... and even better, it’s a great starting point (literally and figuratively) for a walking tour of the nearly dozen breweries that now call Ohio City home. The Ohio beer revolution starts here. So should you.
Beers of note: The Eliot Ness amber lager and the spicy/sweet Christmas Ale are the most celebrated, but opt for pub-exclusives like the funky Abbey Ave Dubbel or the BBQ-ready Big Black Smoke porter, which has a little vanilla to balance the intensity.
Columbus, OH: Seventh Son
Columbus has never exactly stood out among Ohio’s best beer towns -- but that doesn’t mean it’s bereft of brewing greatness. Take Seventh Son. The award-winning three-year-old craft brewery is stationed in C-Bus’ historic Italian Village and housed in a boomerang-shaped 5,500sqft former auto shop with rustic, raw wood fixtures, retractable glass walls, and two shrub-lined patios that just beg for hours of blissful day drinking. Beer dinners and other suds-centric events are a regular occurrence, and hungry drinkers can fill up on a rotating array of local food truck offerings (including Sunday brunch). Even better? The 15-barrel brewhouse is the perfect pre-Buckeyes spot for the tailgating-averse.
Beers of note: Go with the supremely tropical Golden Ratio IPA or Seventh Son’s flagship American Strong Ale, a hearty blend of stone fruit, velvety red malt, and a tinge of grapefruit rind.
Dallas, TX: Community Beer
Sadly, this is not a brewery run by Troy and Abed. On the bright side, this Design District spot is one of the best new breweries in TX (it's already scored multiple GABF medals!) and has taproom events that will keep you coming back, especially on the "open house" they hold on Saturdays. That's when $10 gets you three beers, a tour, live music, and the ability to buy sustenance from food trucks. Or swing by select Saturday mornings to do yoga in the brewery -- it runs $15, but it also scores you a beer and a tour afterwards. And flexibility.
Beers of note: Bold, barrel-aged Russian imperial stout Legion and the balanced, crowd-pleasing Mosaic IPA are excellent starting points.
Denver, CO: Great Divide
Great Divide's original taproom and patio was such a tiny space that if you drank a beer there shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone, you were just grateful it wasn't nose-to-nose. Nowadays, GD's new digs are more spacious, a place where you can enjoy a complimentary tour and see huge pallets of beautiful Yeti cans while you drink one on the house. Cross your fingers that the canning line is operating when you walk around on the super-high catwalks -- it's just plain fun to watch. And oh yeah, 16 taps are pouring from the brewery's Barrel Bar, where you're sure to find a rare beer or two. When the weather's nice, sit on the patio, sip on the hibiscus saison Nadia Kali, and soak up that strong Denver sun.
Beers of note: Summery saison Colette, and anything from the stalwart Yeti series are great partners for that Nadia Kali.
Detroit, MI: Motor City Brewing Works
Detroit’s reinventing itself as a food and drink innovator, with breweries and bars popping up nearly as quickly as buildings have gone down (well, maybe not that quickly). One epicenter of that revival has been the Cass Corridor, where Motor City has been doing its thing since 1994, surviving everything fate could throw at the city. It's the home of Detroit’s favorite session beer, Ghettoblaster, which pairs great with the non-Detroit-style pizza, but even better with big-ass flights. Go dealer’s choice and hope for the thick Corktown Stout and incendiary Belgian Tripel. Drink those on the roof. Then grab a 15-pack (DETROIT!) and head out to see all the ways the Cass Corridor has risen from the ashes to become a picture of the D's renewal, all while MCBW has remained in tact.
Beers of note: Ghettoblaster has the flavor of a big beer with a mild 4/2% impact, but that Belgian Tripel has a gentle flavor that belies a brutal kick of 9.2%.
Houston, TX: Karbach
Like so many fast-growing breweries, Karbach completed a huge renovation in 2015. Unlike some breweries, they REALLY went for it when it comes to the food -- think wagyu steaks fed with the brewery's spent grain and shrimp and heirloom grits with lager-spiked chili broth. If that all sounds too highfalutin for you, you can just roll with a pretzel and house-made sausage with some beer cheese sauce, or hang out in the more laid-back biergarten, which is also where they staging point for the brewery tours that run throughout the week.
Beers of note: Weisse Versa Wheat is a must for hefeweizen fans, and Hellfighter imperial porter gets even better in its barrel-aged form.
Indianapolis, IN: St. Joseph
St. Joseph isn’t exactly Indy’s most well-known brewing outfit -- that award undoubtedly goes to local legend/Hot Pocket hot spot Sun King -- but it’s definitely the most unique. The northeast Indianapolis brewery and bar has only been in operation since 2015, but the space -- a palatial Catholic church dating back to 1873 -- has pretty much seen it all. St. Joseph transformed the building into a beer-geek sanctuary, complete with a wide deck, a tap-lined bar, and a high balcony overlooking the shiny brewhouse altar. Parishioners will also find a huge array of limited edition, seasonal, and core brews, including a stellar lineup of UK-inspired ales, as well as a full bar and a huge menu of elevated pub food. Tuck in your shirts and ready thy livers: mass is now in session.
Beers of note: The Golden Maris summer ale is a loving, smooth-drinking tribute to British brewing traditions, and the clean, crisp Cornerstone Kolsch is the saving grace of a humid Midwestern night.
Kansas City, MO: Boulevard
A visit to Boulevard is frequently on the to-do list for Kansas City visitors and locals alike, to the point that people are often turned away from tours or the tap room. Ahem, WERE often turned away, as Boulevard unveiled a huge expansion in July 2016 that includes a full-on museum-esque visitors’ center and, above it, 10,000sqft beer hall equipped with an outdoor deck overlooking the city. The 24 taps include both classics like Tank 7 and experimental selections, and beyond beer you’ll find Irish bangers and other beer-friendly foods, foosball, and a photo booth tucked inside an old trailer so you can commemorate all those beer you enjoyed.
Beers of note: Don't leave without trying the aforementioned singularly funky farmhouse ale Tank 7, or anything from the Smokestack Series.
Las Vegas, NV: Chicago Brewing
It's a little weird to name a brewery "Chicago" in Las Vegas, but Sin City prides itself on concocting fake versions of famous places, so it kind of makes sense. More importantly, this is the only brewery in this rundown that's open 24 hours a day. The brewery sits inside of the legendary Four Queens Casino, a setup that enables you to easily gamble after you've ordered its multi-tiered stein sampler tray. And if you're a little short on cash during your Vegas vacation, stop by for Taco Tuesday, or on a Kick the Keg party day, when a beer won't be more than $2, and it's accompanied by beer pong and cornhole.
Beers of note: And the craps-themed Hardway IPA, but there's just something appropriate about the aptly named blonde ale All Nighter.
Los Angeles, CA: Golden Road
Look, we sometimes chide LA as behind the times when it comes to craft beer... especially when it’s the somewhat-dry meat in a sandwich between Sans Diego and Francisco. Truth is, there’s great stuff. It’s just... with all that driving, it’s hard to hit more than one in a day. But if it’s one you hit, make it Golden Road, a place that pairs impeccable beer offerings: tropical Heal the Bay IPA and light 329 Lager for hot day, seasonals like the devastating Wolf Mother Triple IPA (11.3%!) and Key Lime Saison for... hot days when you want to drink like a champ (it’s LA, come on!). There are also one-offs. And one of the best patios in Glendale. And Jenga. And deep-fried avocados. God. Maybe we were wrong about LA all along. We’ll ponder it on our 90-minute/3-mile Uber ride back home.
Beers of note: Along with the above, check out Get Up Offa That Brown, a darker and nuttier offering among the hops-heavy lineup.
Memphis, TN: High Cotton
While many Memphians might point to universally beloved Wiseacre as the obvious tourist choice, we’re inclined to direct visitors over to High Cotton’s more intimate and laid-back brewery and taproom downtown. For one, it’s way more accessible to the average ambler, and for two, it freakin’ rules. Think Mississippi Delta juke joint meets country garage, with loads of reclaimed wood and bare-bones fixtures lit by a dim glow. And the beer? Lovingly crafted and perfectly drinkable, including masterful saisons and a smooth ESB. Free tours happen Saturdays at 3pm. The patio, well, that happens whenever you want it to.
Beers of note: Make like a Belgian farmhand in the Tennessee sun and cool off with a citrusy, peppery saison, or pair your BBQ with the balanced ESB.
Miami, FL: Concrete Beach
Put the baby oil down, dust off your trunks, and head over to Wynwood, Miami’s most ‘Gram-worthy neighborhood to check out Concrete Beach Brewery. A passion project for Magic Hat founder and longtime craft veteran Alan Newman, it's evolved in two years to become Miami's go-to craft destination. Tourists and locals rub elbows on the dog-friendly patio, which wraps around a circular, indoor-outdoor bar for ultimate 360-degree pint access. Concrete’s taproom also provides ample views of the immaculate 20-barrel brewhouse, as well as a stage set for performances of all kinds. Free public tours run seven days a week, and the beers, which range from fruity lagers to kettle sours and smooth IPAs, are as surprisingly diverse as they are delicious. Seriously, a kumquat Berliner Weisse? Bienvenido indeed.
Beers of note: Start with a biscuity, lemony Stiltsville Pils, then take it up a notch with a soft and tropical Rica Wheat IPA.
Milwaukee, WI: Lakefront
So you might quibble with the fact that the water view from Lakefront’s laid-back patio is actually a river (if you’re, you know, the worst), but you will probably calm down once you have one of their excellent IPAs in hand. Further pacifying you will be the food, which is more than just cheese curds and sausages (though also, both of those things!), with options like a beer-braised pork flatbread with chimichurri on naan. Tours ($10) run on the hour at-minimum throughout the week and include a take-home glass, but if you want a singularly Wisconsin experience, settle into their beer hall on a Friday night for a fish fry paired with live polka music.
Beers of note: The IPA made them famous, but the mellower Riverwest Stein is a balanced amber lager that’ll go better with your encased meats.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN: Surly
Calling Surly's sprawling beer palace a "taproom" understates it a bit -- it houses a gift shop twice the size of most American taprooms, for crying out loud. Whatever you call it, the main beer hall is easily the best new brewpub in the Twin Cities. Trust us on this: order the chopped brisket sandwich and a Furious. If you're a fancypants beer lover, you might gravitate towards the upscale Brewer's Table restaurant upstairs. The tour's actually worth the $5 -- it includes four samples and a tasting glass. And if you're lucky enough to be visiting when it's not negative 40 degrees and snowing outside, a huge patio out back offers cornhole, picnic tables, green grass to lounge on, and fire pits to lounge near with Todd the Axe Man. The beer, not the guy.
Beers of note: The 100 IBU Furious and the caffeinated Coffee Bender are standouts on a roster of truly exceptional beer, which speaks volumes.
Nashville, TN: Jackalope
Yazoo might have the hype, but Nashville's Jackalope has the heart. The cozy brewery and taproom on the border of The Gulch and Pie Town has been quietly cranking out some of the South’s tastiest beers for the last five years, charming local palates and growing an impressive national following despite limited distribution. Drop by on a Friday or Saturday for a tour of the 6,700sqft space, then head to the sun-drenched patio or collapse on one of the tap room’s many couches. The bar is beautifully outfitted... think hipster coffee shop meets hunting lodge but, you know, with lots and lots of beer, from fruity wheat beers to fruity pales (did we mention they like fruit?). Trivia nights, board games, and weekly live music keep folks entertained and hey, Jackalope’s also one of the only breweries in the country run by two badass ladies, so that’s pretty cool.
Beers of note: Don’t skip out on the Lovebird, a wheat beer spiked with raspberries and strawberries, or the Thunder Ann, a citrusy, juicy pale brewed with apricot and mango.
New York, NY: Other Half
Other Half isn’t the kind of brewery you stumble upon by mistake -- it’s a true beer-geek destination, the kind of brewery you seek out like a hunter tracking a prized buck. Tucked under a smoggy stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and across the street from a particularly weathered-looking McDonald’s, the modest production facility has been cranking out some of country’s finest hop-forward brews since 2014. The boys finished construction on their small but beautifully designed taproom not long after their national buzz began, and it’s been wall-to-wall packed ever since. Tours are offered by appointment, and you also get a nice view of the bustling brewhouse while sampling the fleet at the bar. And if you get hungry after, hey, a Big Mac is only a filthy stone’s throw away.
Beers of note: Anything even remotely hoppy is pure gold, especially the tangerine-hued, pleasantly resinous Hop Showers IPA and the All Green Everything, a 10.5% Imperial IPA that smells like that sticky icky and drinks like a beautiful, boozy dream.
Philadelphia, PA: Yards
A lot of breweries these days have kid-friendly playrooms that make it seem like a bar mated with a daycare. This is not one of those bars... in fact, there's an active "no children" policy on weekends due to "large crowds and festive atmosphere." Translation: it's a good, rowdy time. Stop by between 12-4pm on the weekend for a tour, and score two 4oz samples -- not surprisingly, it's one of the top places for free booze in the city. The Philly Pale Ale flows like water, you can play pool or shuffleboard, and the Yards crew who made and packed your beer (including the owner Tom) is often hanging out in the taproom. Crowds also congregate outside on "Yards Beach," the tiny garden and patio out front. It's typically full of childlike laughter... but void of children.
Beers of note: The top-selling Philadelphia Pale Ale and the GABF medal-winning English mild Brawler are the moves here, though if the formidable Olde Bartholomew barleywine is around, don't pass it up.
Phoenix, AZ: Mother Bunch
You'd be stupid to pass up on the two-for-one deal of Phoenix Ale and Sonoran, a duo of great breweries that currently share a taproom (and 10+ taps). Also, because it's only 10 minutes from the airport, if you need a place to calm your nerves before or after a flight. But Mother Bunch gets the nod not only because it's a place to drink top-notch beer (Cherry Porter, Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout on nitro) -- it's also an important Phoenix restaurant. So don't pass up on pairing its beers with a green chili-enhanced 3 Alarm Burger, the PBBLT with pork belly and bacon, or a corned beef sandwich slow-cooked in the brewery's own McBride's Irish Red Ale.
Beers of note: If it's hot, go with the tropical Grapefruit Wit, and the crushable Summer Session IPA. If it's not, look around, because you're probably not in Phoenix anymore.
Pittsburgh, PA: East End
Let's get the "bad" news out of the way -- East End's tour costs $25! Before you start booing, listen to what's included in it: four samples, a guided tour (duh), and a free growler filled up with its delicious beer (or $15 of merch). And once you've done the tour, you're free to drink a Big Hop IPA from one of the Steel City's top breweries and hang out in one of the busiest taprooms known to man -- in August alone, there's a woodworking class, ping-pong action, two pub quizzes, a vintage pop-up market, and a poetry night. Roses are red, violets are blue, East End is great... something something brew.
Beers of note: The roasty Black Strap Stout and the flagship Big Hop IPA should be your first and second rounds.
Portland, OR: Cascade Barrel House
With nearly 80 breweries in the city limits, there is no right answer here for Portland. But there’s a right way to do things, and it’s to start your journey off at Cascade, one of the nation's finest purveyors of barrel-aged sours -- from the legendary Kriek to endless (and ever-changing) Belgian-inspired wonders aged in everything form locally sourced wine barrels to oaky tequila vessels (oh, and they have IPAs and stuff for the rest of you) The day to go? Tap It Tuesday, when they straight hammer-tap a keg, likely of something rare you’ll never have again. It’s a singular experience for people who love rare beer. More importantly, it’s within walking distance of Upright, Burnside, Green Dragon, Base Camp, Hair of the Dog, and other Portland mainstays. Consider this the go-to starting point for a perfect Portland brewery experience.
Beers of note: Taps change constantly, but treat yourself to house-only bottles like the 2013 take on the famous Kriek, or the mind-blowing sour/blond blend Figaro... bottles of which have been aging in the brewery since 2012.
Sacramento, CA: Oak Park
Sacramento is kind of the opposite of what you see when you close your eyes and think “California,” what with the non-palm trees and non-tanned physiques. But there is a burgeoning beer scene hiding out… and the best of the bunch is Oak Park. The big-ass Neck Thumper Russian Stout and Joyland Imperial Red -- both meaty and clocking in at 9% and 8.5%, respectively -- are reason enough to visit this brick-laden, rustic spot, which also rocks one of the city’s best patios. But smaller beers like the delicately balanced and funky Steamphunk saison and other Belgian-inspired ales show the brewery’s true promise. For one of California’s most overlooked metro areas, Sacramento’s pulling out some beers that would give the bigger cities pause.
Beers of note: In addition to the above, seek out the Brimstone, a strong Belgian golden carbonated to the consistency of champagne.
San Antonio, TX: Alamo Beer Co.
Fun fact: Alamo Beer was founded by a dude from Santa Ana, CA, but has no relation to General López De Santa Anna, who we learned of from history/Pee-wee Herman has something of a connection to San Antonio. But whatever. This is about beer, which floweth from a gigantic facility with a gorgeously manicured beer garden that would look just fine outside a museum, but looks even better when it’s a place where you can gaze on the skyline -- and the wondrous, monolithic brewery lighting up that skyline -- while subsisting on the joint’s lager, pilsner, and pale. Really, that’s all you need, and that’s what they do. This isn’t some place that barrel-ages a bunch of stuff. You need a basement for that shit anyway.
Beers of note: What you see above is what you get. And you should get them all.
San Diego, CA: Green Flash
If we’re talking San Diego city limits here -- which disqualifies the monstrously epic Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens -- Green Flash definitely takes the must-visit brewery cake. The SoCal IPA champs not only run a couple different tasting rooms around the city, they also offer a free shuttle bus between all San Diego locations. Start at the production brewery on Mira Mesa, where you can hop on a 60 minute public tour and tasting (Tuesday-Sunday... book ahead of time) then scope out a sunny corner of the lush, 4,000sqft tap room and beer garden and chill on one of GF’s 30 incredibly fresh, house-brewed draft. Grab a bite from Green Flash Gastro truck, and if you’ve got the time, don’t sleep on GF’s event calendar, a lively mix of happenings including trivia, seminars, film screenings, yoga, and plenty of beer fests.
Beers of note: The West Coast IPA is a dank, citric Cali classic, but for something a tiny bit lighter, go with a juicy Soul Style IPA and ride the mango, tangerine, and peach waves.
San Francisco, CA: Anchor
If you find yourself wandering around the Bay desperately searching for a decent brewery, you’re a damn fool. They’re literally everywhere -- the real issue is narrowing it down to one. Why not begin with the place that started it all: Anchor Brewing, the legend behind Anchor Steam, among many other top notch brands. When a young Fritz Maytag (yes, heir to the washing machine fortune) purchased the struggling brewery in 1965, he had no idea his particular small-business model would spark a revolution. And yet over 50 years and some 4,000 craft breweries later, here we are. Daily in-depth tours of Anchor’s gorgeous Potrero Hill facility span a full hour and a half, cost $20, and can be booked online up to three months in advance (they no longer allow walk-ins). And of course, the whole thing concludes with a guided tasting, so be sure to come thirsty. Got an extra hour on your hands? Grab a $35 tour and tasting at Anchor’s sister company, Anchor Distilling and keep the good booze flowing.
Beers of note: Sampling a Steam from the source is a must here. If it ain’t broke, right? And Anchor’s more recent additions -- the beach-ready California Lager and clean, piney Go West IPA -- are also well worth a taste.
Seattle, WA: Pike Brewing
Seattleites will tell you to stay away from Pike Place Market, and instead go to myriad other great breweries that call this bastion of craft home. They’re half right. Seattle’s breweries are great. We’re partial to Fremont and Populuxe. But if you’re visiting, you’re gonna go watch the fish get tossed. And if you love beer, you’re secretly using that as an excuse to get a pint of Kilt Lifter or the beastly fruity Monk’s Uncle tripel or coffee-spiked XXXXX Stout at Pike. You’re gonna sit in the crowded brewpub after nearly getting stampeded on the stairs. And you’re gonna love it, because you’re in one of Seattle’s original craft breweries. Plus, those fish are really exciting after you’ve had a few, and beer makes climbing the hills to the hipper breweries more fun.
Beers of note: That legendary, smoky Scotch Kilt Lifter gets even more complex (and Scotchy) in its barrel-aged version, and the Alba IPA, at 4.2%, is a formidable session on the rare sunny day.
St. Louis, MO: Schlafly
Those with geekier proclivities might cry out for Perennial (and to be sure that’s a fine choice), but centrally located Schlafly gets the nod here, having been a fixture downtown since opening as the OG of St. Louis’ craft beer scene in 1991. Tear into some pale ale bread with blue cream cheese or nab one of their five kinds of moules frites while you make your way through a beer flight, then wind down with some pool, some darts, or some live music (Thursdays through Sundays). Tours (free) are first-come first-serve on Sundays, and you want to be in the first-come category, because they give a good one.
Beers of note: They make a peerless Pumpkin Ale if you’re there in autumn, and a bold triple-hopped American IPA if you’re not.
Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, FL: Cigar City
Granted, Cigar City’s become so thoroughly identified with Tampa in beer circles that you can now enjoy some at their airport location, but you’d be remiss not to make a pilgrimage to the original brewery. Why? Aside from the pleasure of consuming a fresh Jai Alai right from the source, the roomy, refreshingly laid-back taproom has plenty of specialty offerings like a Watermelon Habanero IPA on cask and -- well this could go on a while, they experiment a ton. Tours ($8) run fairly regularly Wednesday-Sunday and come with plenty of samples and a take-home glass, though you should also make sure to take home a cigar, hand-rolled on-site.
Beers of note: Jai Alai is an incredible IPA, Big Sound is a rich, malty Scotch ale... all of them, really.
Washington, DC: 3 Stars
For a while now, DC residents have been flocking to 3 Stars to get their hands on innovative brews like their much-celebrated peppercorn saison, but the tasting facilities unfortunately left some things to be desired... like A/C, which you very much need in DC. Luckily, in late 2015 they rolled out their Urban Farmhouse, a pine-laden hangout for up to 100 beer drinkers to get their local beer on in temperature-controlled bliss. You can also explore vending machines loaded up with DC-made snacks, and on Saturdays they’ll have a food truck in the mix (that’s also the day they offer free tours). You've gotta admire a place for thinking of the beer first. But now that 3 Stars has a great place to drink it, well, it's a destination.
Beers of note: Aside from that saison, reach for Ghost, an easy-drinking Belgian IPA.