Craft Beer Beercations
Initially, local breweries were a side interest when we traveled. But gradually craft brewing became an essential part of each trip. Now we even plan an entire trip around craft brewing hotspots. We are not alone in this trend, “Beercations”are popping up everywhere.
Summer is road trip season for Americans. We flock to beer festivals, outdoor taprooms and pop-up beer gardens. After a day of hiking, mountain biking, kayaking or paddle-boarding everyone wants a cold beer.
Autumn also stands out as a beer destination season. Of course Oktoberfest,the iconic late September event in Munich, Germany leads the parade. American Oktoberfests pop up in every state and county in the months of September and October. Your travels could span from Boston, MA to Bend, OR. Here in the Heartland, I can find an Oktoberfest in every direction as a day trip or weekend escape. Cincinnati and Nashville host huge celebrations perfect for beercations.
Recently, Oct. 5-7 2017, GABF took over Denver. The Great American Beer Festival is a mecca-like event for beer geeks. Similar festivals happen all over the country through-out the year but GABF, with 800 breweries, 3800 beers over 3 days, dominates. Wouldn’t this be a fun beercation!
As we immerse ourselves in craft beer and beercations we discover hotspots across the country. Regions that serve as incubators or breeding grounds for craft brewing. These regions may revolve around hop farms, generations of beer brewing tradition, or areas known for their innovators.
For instance, the Pacific Northwest produces 70% of the hops grown in the US. The Williamette Valley in central Oregon provides a week’s worth of beercations with local hop farms dotting the countryside. In the midst sits Bend, Oregon, home to Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes, named for the local river, sets the stage for a craft brewing haven.
Yakima Valley in Washington state offers another great spot for beercations. This fertile valley is the top hop producer in the U.S. The region hosts the Fresh Hop Ale Festival in September. The festival was voted one of the top ten beer festivals in the country.
Boulder, Colorado falls into the category of “bending” the rules. The atmosphere of a free-spirited college community in a state full of clean fresh air encourages innovative brewers. In an earlier post I shared our multi-generational journey to beer-loving Colorado. With a craft brewery literally on every corner Denver, Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins kept us entertained. This region sets the bar high for what the craft beercations experience can be.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents generations of beer brewing tradition. The birthplace of Miller, Pabst and Schlitz holds a soft spot in beer geek’s hearts. Today we don’t consider these “craft beers” but they certainly played an historical role in the industry. Wisconsin boasts over 100 craft breweries in the state including big players like New Glarus, Point and Leinenkugel( owned by Miller/Coors now). Just in the southern part of the state, which includes Milwaukee and Madison the small breweries number over 50. Of course if you are interested in comparing craft brewing vs big brewing, you will find Miller in central Milwaukee.
Another spot for craft vs big is St. Louis, Missouri. Here craft breweries literally stand in the shadow of the megalith Anheuser-Busch. Again, generations of brewing created a long standing tradition in this city. Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands and Schlafly all make the list of favorites in the St. Louis area.
Planning your Beercations
Where do you go to plan these fun trips? Because this is a popular trend it is easy to find itineraries, lists of breweries and tour companies offering to drive for you. Many state and regional tourism boards now include brewery itineraries on their websites.
Another great resource is Brew Trails, this site provides an extensive list/map of breweries in each state. Perhaps you want to venture beyond the U.S., happily beer is a travel commodity across the globe.
As Belgian beers grow in popularity so do visits to the originating country. Belgium Beer Tourism
The home of Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany is a mecca of beercations; a map on SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers guides you through the UK; the Crafty Pint highlights craft breweries in Australia; Ontario, Canada is brimming with craft beer.
Sadly, we cannot drink beer 24/7. So these itineraries work best when other fun activities are available. We like to mix in outdoor adventures, creative food, urban street art, scuba diving.
Have you found your own favorite Beercations? Share them with other readers!