We have a son who’s the biggest beer geek we know. Every time we head to his house for dinner, we learn about another artisan or craft beer. Whenever we go out to eat together, he likes to choose an eatery with an impressive collection of brews. His grandfather scoffs at his grandson’s taste in beer, preferring a cold bottle of Bud to our son’s much more exotic collections. But Grandpa’s missing out!
Since we at LetsPour love beer, too, we wanted to share four of our favorite travel spots for hoisting craft brews. There are other things to do in these cities as well, but with all the breweries available, why would you want to do anything else?
Great U.S. Beer Destinations
Portland is, without a doubt, the best spot in the U.S. to indulge in some beer tasting. As a matter of fact, there are more breweries per capita in Portland than in any other American city. The city, which is mid-sized, has somewhere around 50 microbreweries, an astounding number for a town of only about 600,000 inhabitants. You’ll want to sample them all, including selections from Alameda Brewing, Hop Works Brewery, Laurelwood Brewing, and many more.
Recognizing its role as one of the top craft beer destinations in the world, Portland has certainly risen to the occasion with lots of festivals and other special events. There’s something beer-related happening nearly every month of the year! Try to plan accordingly so you can arrive for Portland Beer Week in June, the Portland International Beer Festival or Oregon Brewers Festival in July, the quirky Night of the Living Ales at Burnside Brew Co. in October (I love that name!), and the 5-day Holiday Ale Festival in November.
Don’t miss the areas around Portland as well, like Bend and Hood River, which each offer a bunch of additional microbreweries to explore. As a bonus, the areas are wonderful to explore, especially the Columbia River Valley and its amazing waterfalls and Hood River, Mount Hood, and the little mountain towns like Government Camp. (Be sure to stop at the Huckleberry Inn for huckleberry pie!).
Another great location for enjoying a wealth of artisan and craft beers. This beautiful city with the Rocky Mountain views knocks my socks off every time I’m there. Like every city, it has its downside, but it’s recently become both a food and beer destination to be reckoned with. You can take advantage of a handful of beer-related tours, like the microbrewery walking tour, which visits several breweries in the downtown area and includes a guide who not only knows plenty about beer but also about the history of the city.
Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, held annually in October, is the largest domestic beer festival in the U.S. Many of these brewers have limited distribution out of their state, so it’s a great place for you to try excellent craft beers that you might not otherwise encounter if you’re not from the area. Take time to explore the city too, because it has plenty of hidden gems, like the Denver Botanic Garden, the Molly Brown House (think Victorian heaven!), and – for car lovers – the Forney Transportation Museum.
International Beer Destinations
This country is clearly the number one European city for craft beer. Friends who’ve been there tell me that Brussels now ranks among their favorite cities in the world. Initially, they went for the beer, which is phenomenal, but they left with a real love for the city and its people.
While you’ll find new microbreweries in the United States, Brussels has a beer bar – called an estaminet – that dates back to the late 17th century! Incredible! You’ll also want to be sure to taste the beer that aficionados say is unlike any other – the Lambic – which is produced at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels and in the Pajottenland region, southwest of the city. Check out www.brusselsbeertours.com for info on a great introductory tour.
The United Kingdom
The UK is also a wonderful place to experience craft and artisan beers. Beer is great throughout the entire U.K., but if you want to limit yourself geographically so it doesn’t get too overwhelming, stick with England. Scads of independent breweries started cropping up in England as early as the 1970s and the industry keeps growing.
For a good look at microbrewing in England, you can probably skip London and go right to the countryside, where you’ll be awed not only by the breweries but also by the scenery! The English countryside is the quintessential definition of the world “bucolic” – so peaceful and green, full of friendly folks with their sheep and their dogs. Find a guest house or B&B near the breweries so that you can really immerse yourself in the culture. Consider locations like the Yorkshires, Northampton, Sussex, and Essex.
If you do, however, find yourself in Scotland, you’re in for a treat. There you’ll find crazy good microbreweries like Brew Dog Beer, which offers intensely interesting beers with funky names – like Trashy Blonde and 5 A.M. Saint.
About Patricia Guth: Patricia is a long-time travel writer with a home base in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her love of travel is rivaled only by her love of music, a subject in which she holds a degree. When she’s not writing about exotic locales or great food and drink, she plays the piano, waves her arms in front of several choral groups, takes care of her husband and teenage daughter, and enjoys spending time with her girlfriends.
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