Move over food travel, craft beer travel is the next big thing. With the brewery count in the United States reaching an all-time high, craft beer isn’t only reminding us what beer ought to taste like, it’s also improving local economies. One of the ways craft beer centric cities are seeing an economic bump is through tourism as craft beer fans make pilgrimages to their favorite breweries.
Here’s a list of five must-visit destinations for craft beer.
San Diego, California
With legendary breweries like Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing, AleSmith Brewing, Coronado Brewing—and the list goes on—no craft beer destination list is complete without San Diego. While beer tourists are sure to find almost every style of beer between the 116 breweries in San Diego County, the city has made its mark with hoppy ales, giving birth to the San Diego Pale Ale and Double IPA.
The only drawback of the San Diego beer scene is that the breweries are relatively spread out, making it difficult to visit many breweries in a single day without a rushed tour to account for drive times. But who’s in a hurry? Catch the Southern California vibe and learn to relax in a beer garden while savoring a San Diego Pale Ale and the city’s idyllic climate.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville boasts one of the largest breweries per capita in the United States, earning the mountain town the honor of Beer City, USA by the Examiner for four years in a row.
The city isn’t only attracting beer tourists from all over the world with local craft beer powerhouses like Wicked Weed Brewing and the up-and-coming Burial Beer, it’s also catching the attention of national craft breweries. Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues Brewery both opened their East Coast operations in the region with New Belgium’s latest production facility under construction. There’s a rumor floating around that more—like Cigar City Brewing and Deschutes Brewery – are close behind.
Denver has an interesting beer history that doesn’t necessarily revolve around macro-heavyweight Coors Brewing. Wynkoop Brewing Company opened doors in 1988 as an early leader in the craft beer industry. One of its co-founders, John Hickenlooper, went on to be both city mayor and the current governor of Colorado. One can say that he helped make the city and state business friendly for craft beer.
It’s Great Divide Brewery, however, that most tourists travel to Denver to visit. The brewery opened up in the popular ballpark neighborhood before the ballpark even existed. From Great Divide, beer pilgrims can walk to almost 20 breweries and craft beer bars in downtown Denver. Since the city boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, the walk is almost always pleasant. Oh, and Denver is also host to the annual Great American Beer Festival.
Yes, you can have your beach and craft beer, too. The popular beach destination of Tampa is home to over 45 breweries. At the helm is Cigar City. Each year, craft beer faithfuls clamor to be one of the lucky 2,000 to purchase tickets to the brewery’s Hunahpu Day. The beer festival normally sells out within minutes.
If you can’t score a ticket, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of beer related reasons to visit Tampa and surrounding communities St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Area breweries are known for pushing the limits of beer with innovative flavor combinations utilizing local tropical fruits.
The town of 83,000, which once attracted tourists for outdoor activities like skiing and biking, is now adding craft beer tourism to their focus with over 17 breweries and brewpubs. While Deschutes Brewery helped put the city on the map, Visit Bend’s Bend Ale Trail helps tourists explore other area breweries with its user-friendly app.
If you prefer a more organized tour, join up with the Pub Cycle and pedal your way around town on the movable pub. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the intense and unusual beers Bend is notorious for like Cucumber Crush from 10 Barrel Brewing.