With wine lovers on the hunt for esoteric vineyards to visit and spirits geeks hunting down distilleries far and wide, those who favor suds needn’t feel left out. In fact, beer lovers have even more reason to travel these days, with breweries popping up in the most unexpected of places.
Notable craft beer is being made in every major city from San Diego to Boston, and chances are beer enthusiasts have a bucket list that includes stops from Miami and Maine to Belgium and Germany. Already been to all the usual suspects? Consider this list of alternatives. These are five domestic (and wintery) unlikely destinations that are home to some of the best suds in the States.
Crafting beer in Alberta makes sense—the Western Canadian province is one of the biggest producers of barley worldwide. But up until a few years, most of it was exported. In 2013, Alberta repealed a law surrounding a brewery’s minimum production, making it possible only recently for a small-production operation to take off. So now things have changed, and Alberta’s craft boom has arrived.
Don't miss: There are a handful of National Fine Food Beer & Spirits locations in Calgary, and many have more than 40 taps of all-Canadian craft beer, much of which is local to Alberta. At Tool Shed Brewing Co., toast with one of its unique ales to co-owner and operator Graham Sherman, who was one of the petitioners of Alberta’s minimum-production brewery law. Other ideas? Check out McAllister’s barley farm in Central Alberta to see the origins of a brew (and the supplier of barley to much of North America), or head north to Edmonton for further craft beer exploration.
After exploring the nearby wine trails and Portland’s craft beer scene (still booming after 30-plus years, consider Bend, Ore., as a fitting next stop. While it’s primarily a ski destination with some of the best powder and ski conditions around, Bend is also home to more than 25 breweries and has more breweries per capita than any other city in any state.
Don't miss: Ten-year-old 10 Barrel Brewing serves the notable and aptly named Pray for Snow, a herbaceous, piney winter ale that’s the theme of the brewery. Its policy is if it snows 10 inches in a day, the brewery closes so the staff can hit the slopes. Also look for more than a dozen additional taps of seasonal and one-off brews. And over at Bend Brewing Co., the second-oldest brew pub in the area, the beer is made in the upstairs area above the pub, where fewer than 1,000 barrels are made per year. The small-batch approach has paid off—Bend Brewing Co. has picked up a handful of awards for its brews, notably the Ching Ching and Wicked Medicine.
While Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens continue to get nods for their brews, farther north in suburban Westchester County and Hudson Valley is a growing amount of breweries, all under an hour from the city.
Don't miss: In just five years, Yonkers Brewing Co., set along the Hudson River in a historic barn, has made a name for itself with its Yonkers Lager, Honey Blonde (made with Hudson Valley honey) and IPA. More brews, including its Vanilla Stout and Pear Wi, are available for tastes at the brewery, which is open daily and conveniently located across from the Metro-North train station. Nearby, Peekskill Brewery, set in a four-story riverfront brewery, offers a seasonally changing roster of beers, ranging from sours and IPAs to complex stouts served in flights, along with pints and growlers. In the early days of New York’s history, the state was well-known for its cider production, now making a comeback. Brothers Alex, Ben and Kevin Covino are producing handcrafted hard ciders at Hardscrabble Cider, and the entire farm-to-bottle operation can be seen at a tour and tasting.
Denver might be home to the Great American Beer Festival, but Telluride has been hosting the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival for 24 years now, and it shouldn't be overlooked as a stop for craft beer tasting. And Telluride Distilling Company has been crafting the first legal spirit ever to be available in Telluride.
Don't miss: The award-winning Smuggler’s Brew Pub has been serving Telluride for more than 20 years. Brewer Thomas Daly is at the helm here, and visitors should expect classically styled lagers and a good amount of seasonal and experimental creations at the brewery. Established in 2011, Telluride Brewing Company brews its beer with Rocky Mountain snow melt, making for noteworthy hops and malts. In the five years since pouring its first beer, it has won medals for its Face Down Brown and Whacked Out Wheat, all while nearly doubling its production every year since opening and expanding its distribution throughout Colorado.
While the nearby brew spots in Philadelphia and Delaware keep East Coasters happy, Baltimore’s craft beer scene is growing, with no signs of slowing down. While Baltimore once played a role in the country's beer production, many breweries closed or were shut down by the end of the last century. But in the past decade, new pubs, taprooms and breweries have emerged, making this a must-visit.
Don't miss: One of the first on Baltimore’s craft brew scene, award-winning local favorite Union Craft Brewing serves up flights of porters, ales and stouts plus seasonal and even a gluten-reduced Belgian Pale Ale called Reducktion. At Heavy Seas Alehouse, take a (free) tour and explore the pirate-themed beers (like Cross Bones). And over near Camden Yards, don’t miss Oliver Brewing Co., serving its cleverly named beers (see: Modern Life Is Rubbish) since 1993.
Mixing your cocktail