Opportunities abound when checking out a new city. The sights and sounds assault your senses – so much to see and do, but where to start? There are only so many tourist attractions you can take in before they all begin to look the same and the lustre wears off. After you hit up all the usual attractions, museums, and architectural marvels, there’s only one thing left to do – check out the local breweries, of course!
But unless your vacation was planned around hops and ale, where do you start? Planning a microbrewery tour on your next vacation begins with one question: what cities have the best breweries? If your trip is a bit spontaneous, it can be a bit challenging to decide which brewery to visit first, since new ones pop up every day. In fact, according to the Brewers Association, around 100 new microbreweries opened in the United States in 2010 – and that number skyrocketed to nearly 800 new microbreweries by 2017. The number of breweries overall was just shy of 4,000 in 2014 and is now hovering near 7,500.
So, how do you decide if a brewery is a must-visit? Well, there are a few prerequisites:
- Excellent beer, of course!
- How much fun is the tap room?
- Do they offer tours?
- Is it centrally located?
The following list of must-visit breweries includes two not-to-miss cities in the US, and one in a country whose name conjures images of tall frosty mugs upon mention – see if you agree…
3. Denver, Colorado
It’s no secret that Colorado is a beer state. Coors, Odell, and Oskar Blues call the state home. Just outside Denver, Fort Collins is a Colorado city obsessed with the frothy stuff. But Denver has become not just a local Coloradan’s beer destination, but one that people from around the country visit. The Great American Beer Festival has been held here since 1984. This festival is all about celebrating a great American pastime – beer drinking – and the people who make craft brewing possible. While the festival is officially held in the Colorado Convention Center, the whole city joins in the celebration with beer-themed events taking place throughout the city. And while most think of snow when they think of Colorado, Denver enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine every year, promising sunny weather for the festival and allowing many of the local breweries to sport outdoor taprooms.
Some of the best breweries to come out of Colorado include Blue Moon and Wynkoop, the latter of which was the first microbrewery in Denver. In fact, the man who started Wynkoop became the Mayor of Denver and went on the be the Governor of Colorado – bit of a weird path to take, but such are Denver’s deep roots of beerdom.
2. Seattle, Washington
If you’ve ever considered a good old-fashioned beer pilgrimage, one of your stops has to be in Seattle. This Pacific Northwest city was one of the first in the nation to begin crafting brews, probably before some self-proclaimed marketing guru ever even coined the term “craft brewed”.
Pike Brewing Company is definitely one of the first spots in the city you have to hit as soon as you arrive. In putting together your brewery itinerary, next stops will include Fremont and Georgetown. Afterwards, Holy Brewing. If you’re up for it, after that head to Optimism or Urban Family. And the list goes on. There aren’t any bad breweries in Seattle, so if you have the time, check out Perihelion, too.
Aside from breweries, Seattle is chock-full of fantastic, no-name dive bars and gastropubs. Burgers and fries take on a whole new meaning when paired with some of Seattle’s best microbrews.
And our no. 1 brewery city?
1. Bamberg, Germany
It’s definitely no secret that Germany is a country built on beer. In fact, if you know brewers or journalists with a beer section in the local paper, your conversations have most likely included Bamberg at some point. The Kellerwald is located in a Franconian forest – the setting is likened to legendary myths, but it does exist. Think moss-covered hills, chestnut and large oak trees surrounding you, complete with the best lagers in the world. When breweries in Germany look to make a dent in the craft brewing scene, their inspiration comes from Bamberg and Kellerwald.
Munich’s Oktoberfest can only hope to be what Kellerwald’s Annafest has become. These festival grounds tout beer gardens, carnival rides, and food trucks spattered throughout the Kellerwald – a true paradise of craft brewing. On a whirlwind, worldwide beer-scapade, Annafest in the Kellerwald in the pinnacle – the mark all other craft brewing regions hope to be.
In downtown Bamberg, check out breweries Greifenklau, Torchuster, Knoblach, and Holzlein. One of the only smoked beers in the world, Schlenkerla, should not be missed.
So whether you pair your beer with a pair of skis in Denver, some oysters at Pike Place Market in Seattle, or in an enchanted forest in Germany, you’re sure to make some lasting friendships – with the brewery owners, of course!