In the early 2000s the craft brewery industry took the US by storm. Years later, there is more than 7,000 breweries operating across the nation—each of which turns out unique and wildly varying versions of their own brews. Specialties range anywhere from the classic American Pale Ale to rich stouts and porters and everything in between.
Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Detroit and St. Louis have each played their role in helping pioneer the American craft brewery revolution. With a rich beer culture and world-renowned breweries in states across the country, the only feasible way to get a true sampling of the country’s boozy offerings is to tour them the true American way—via a craft brewery road trip. With that in mind, here’s how to go about planning your beer-centered adventure.
With new breweries springing up each month it’s impossible to try all of the country’s top-rated establishments. For this reason, you’ll need to tailor your craft brewery road trip to meet your tastes.
When it comes to beer, tastes vary. While a grapefruit IPA might be the gold standard for one enthusiast, it likely won’t do the trick for you. Craft beers are complex in flavor and far from one-size-fits-all. In the same spirit, your ideal brewery road trip route should be tailored to your tastes.
Those who are partial to IPAs will especially find luck in the eastern half of the country. Washington, for example, is one of the nation’s top producers of hops, making it a hotspot for the production of the classic American IPA.
The craft beers of the Bay Area will also likely cater to the tastes of those who love a bit of hops in their beverages, though California’s booming brewery scene is sure to offer a little something for everyone.
Meanwhile, if your love for a good craft beer contends only with your passion for a nice glass of whiskey, you might want to consider heading to Kentucky to sample the state’s many whiskey-barrel-aged beers.
Once you’ve picked a region, it’s time to zero in on the area’s best breweries. Thanks to the internet and growing social networks centered around the love for craft beer, there’s plenty of review and rating sites that will help you pinpoint an area’s best breweries.
TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook and Yelp will all provide a mix of reviews on a range of criteria. For more focused and specialized reviews that speak directly to an establishment’s beer quality and brewery features, check out RateBeer, the community beer and brewery review site for craft enthusiasts. Resources such as RateBeer’s annual Top 100 Brewers in the World List serves as excellent tools for helping beer enthusiasts select and locate an area’s top spots.
While you’ll likely want your brewery road trip to largely focus on established and well-reviewed breweries you know will knock your socks off, don’t hesitate to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
The brewery scene is still new in many cities across the US, and as many young and exceptional establishments are just getting their wings. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new and less-reviewed could be your chance to discover the hidden gems of an exceptional up-and-coming brewery.
After zeroing-in on a region and pinpointing your desired establishments, it’s time to solidify your road trip plans. The first consideration is transportation. Given that beer and driving don’t always mix well, you’ll want to be strategic about planning your itinerary in regard to driving time and brew-tasting time.
Unless you own a vehicle, you’ll need to make arrangements for a rental. Thankfully, many American car rental companies allow customers to do multi-city rentals, allowing customers to pick up a vehicle in one location and conveniently return it in another, eliminating the need to double-back or waste time.
International visitors should also be warned that although the drinking age in the US is 21, many car rental companies refuse to rent vehicles to individuals younger than 25. If you’re between 21 and 24 and you intend on renting a vehicle for your adventure, call auto rental companies in advance to confirm you meet all rental requirements.