Alright, we get it.
The Kingpin breweries are naughty, and small, locally owned craft breweries are the modern day Robin Hood; robbing the wealth of Budweiser’s market share to fuel the increasing demand for good, strong, dark, or stinky beer.
It makes sense.
Why swallow down a dozen, high-calorie beverages that lack any flavor profile or alcohol content when an individual can more swiftly accomplish their goal and enjoy the process getting there?
The goal (by the way) is a buzz.
The goal is a world where really long, borderline embarrassing beards are socially acceptable.
The goal is being seen in your most expensive flannel at craft breweries and having people think: How did he hear about this place? My friend works here and he said that it wasn’t open to the public yet? Where did he get those limited edition Air Force 1’s?
The goal is being able to stand around in a room that smells like catpiss with your girlfriend, who claimed that she didn’t like beer, but suddenly she’s become an aficionado of Small batch cask beers that leave you both squinting and slurring a lot; culminating in impromptu make out sessions after only two or three…
So, how can one parlay this intoxicating trend into a drunk/romantic getaway?
Guy’s weekend bachelor party?
Impromptu blackout vacation?
The question becomes not how, but where?
Little craft breweries are spontaneously coming into existence in nearly every major metropolitan area. Society is beginning to realize that good beer is fresh beer, and that if you care at all about how a brew tastes, one should buy something that is made close by.
If, however, you’ve really taken a liking to this whole pleasantly delightful craft beer scene, and you want to see where people are doing it, crushing it and loving it, consider traveling to one of these cities or festivals in 2015!
7. International Great Beer Expo
The title says it all. Three locations. Three separate weekends in 2015-2016. 150 breweries from all over the world make an appearance. Mostly heavy hitters from the likes of Stella Artois, Pilsner Urquell, or Leinenkugel’s. However, up-and-coming greats like Deschutes, and Rogue will be in attendance as well. This festival has a long, successful history and the infrastructure to accommodate travelers who are skeptical about heading out of town, just to drink.
Even though, why else does anyone travel?
6. Atlantic City Beer Festival
While the ACBF only plays host to New Jersey beers, what it lacks in beer diversity, it makes up for in being an actual entertainment event.
You’ll be in Atlantic City.
You’ll be around over 150 breweries (seems to be the benchmark amount of breweries these festivals want to hit.)
You’ll be drunk over two full days of craft beer sampling.
(↓↓↓↓↓↓BEST PART, BEST PART, BEST PART↓↓↓↓↓↓↓)
They’ve also made an effort to keep you near the sessions after intoxication in the presence of 90’s Alt-Rock champions Taking Back Sunday, Lucero and Everclear.
That’s right. Everclear. Who didn’t love “So Much for the Afterglow?”
5. Asheville, NC
In 2010, Asheville, NC was named “Beer City USA” by a bunch of people that you have never met. So, take their word for it and travel there.
As the years went by like sands through the hour glass, the scene exploded nationwide and the title held up over the past five years. Asheville remained atop of several beer tourism sites, ‘Top Beer City’ lists and became a commonly accepted destination for beer lovers.
The city is built for travelers who want to check out good beer, good food, good weather, good hiking, good bluegrass…
(Yuck. I mean, unless you’re into that sort of thing, of course…)
Well, the beer is good. And, the whole hiking thing is no joke. Asheville is actually situated in some of the most climbable, picturesque mountains in the nation.
Smoky mountains? Totally a real thing.
If you enjoy exercise with your beer and being outside, make an effort to spend an Autumn weekend in Asheville.
4. Portland, OR
Photo by Aleheads.com
If you haven’t watched Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Browstein’s (Sleater Kinney) show that is in it’s fifth, marvelous season: stop reading this and watch.
Then, if the ironic and satirical commentary on the open-minded, free-range-chicken-eating, world-traveled, community that most U.S. metropolitan areas have become, entices you to venture to Portland specifically… be sure to check out the beer.
Just over 50 breweries in the city proper, makes Portland one of the most densely saturated brewery towns in America.
Much like Asheville, Portland has embraced with open arms its reputation of being a go-to beer lover’s hotspot. Unlike most destination cities, visitors are actually able to attend the local beer events that take place. Most other beer cities and states have limited availability for the festivals that anyone would actually want to attend. With the abundance of beer festivals and same day ticket sales, Portland has one of the most accessible Beerfest scenes in the country.
Wedged an hour from Mount Hood and the Ocean, Portland tends to have mild, temperate temperatures all year ‘round. Of course, January is going to be the toughest considering the whole -Northern Hemisphere- bit, but comparatively to the Midwest or NYC, Portland is a breath of warm, fresh air.
3. New York City– And Not Just Manhattan.
We have to give Brooklyn the nod. They’re doing it, and doing, and doing it well.
Brooklyn Brewery will tell you that they started it all back in ‘96, and even if some argue otherwise, their beer speaks for itself. Distributed worldwide, Brooklyn Brewery benefits from a hyper talented staff, and the built-in marketing of sticking the region they are based out on the label. That, in itself, makes tight-pant-wearing, cynical bastards perk up everywhere.
Fortunately for beer travelers, this isn’t the only borough that has something to taste.
With Queens’ advantage in geographic size, you’re likely to find a slightly less hipster-y vibe if you head East to drink. Head to Transmitter Brewing to check out their small-batch Belgium brews, then when you’re down to your last $2, head over to Finback Brewing for a cheap, inventive and unique pint.
NYC’s brewery scene has proven to be a unique way for hop ‘n malt tourists to experience another side of the city on a budget. Don’t be surprised if while walking, your GPS leads you to dark parts that possesses a gnarly view of the greatest city in the world.
Beyond the beer, you’re in New York City, so you can rest assured that the hotels all have the best free cable in the world.
Because that’s what NYC is known for.
Free cable when you visit. People swearing. Black clothing… right? Spike Lee. Jay-Z. Lena Dunham?
(Editor’s note– I wish we had free cable. Damn you, Time Warner)
2. The Great American Beer Festival
This is an event like none other, that completely dwarfs every other beer festival in the country. It has been described as one of 1,000 things you must do before you die, in the book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”
Playing host to this massive event, Denver is a city worth visiting in itself if you’re looking for beer brewed with the Rocky Mountain water that helped brew your Dad’s banquet beer…
…and his Dad’s banquet beer,
…and his Dad’s banquet beer,
…and before that, people made their own beer. There was no banquet beer before that. But, my god- do middle-aged Dad’s love their banquet beer.
The GABF is a legitimizing benchmark for up-and-coming breweries and the monsters alike. It celebrates the nationwide skill in brewing by unpacking the minutia of beer types and styles. Awarding over 200 different categories and subcategories of beer, this event is the Oscars of beer.
If you really want to try the nation’s best, there is no other option. The GABF is the only destination for those looking for quantity. The festival boasts the largest assortment of American suds ever served, in or at a public/private festival or competition.
I will now insert large numbers to entice and impress you, the reader:
3 Sessions open to the public.
Random Guinness Book of World Record.
The 2015 festival falls on the second to last weekend in September. Off season for ski-bunnies, but the city has the tourism backbone to allow for plenty of lodging and drunken shuttles, metro and bus options.
Don’t drive. You’ll be drunk.
1. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth – Minnesota
Look, water is 90% of what beer is made out of. Why wouldn’t the state of over 10,000 freshwater lakes, adjacent to the great Lake Superior have a fantastic supply? Yeah, it’s like that.
With over 50 locally owned and operated craft breweries in the Twin-Cities metro area, Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to an incredible craft beer scene. From warehouses that specialize in dark and robust stouts, to trendy, architecturally stylish, modern facilities where you and the lady can grab a 7% ABV cider. Take a Nice-Ride bicycle (public bikes provided by the city) on a mini-tour to one of seven breweries within a 10 block radius in Northeast Minneapolis. Unlike other cities, these aren’t just breweries, most of these facilities have open tap rooms with complimentary table games, and warm areas to burn heat and talk loud.
That’s right. No cover, Indie music blaring, Free foosball/shuffleboard, $5 Pints.
With a bit of planning, you can even take a Pedal Pub, (a cart, powered by the pedaling of you and 10 fellow beer enthusiasts) around to local craft breweries and bars, while drinking keg beer on city streets. Just plan the trip outside of the winter months. It gets painfully cold in Minnesota between December and March, or October through April, depending on the year. Outside of those months however, the weather is surprisingly temperate, and during the summer it gets downright sweltering. Hop on a Segway tour downtown to check out a show at Prince’s house (1st Avenue Mainroom and 7th Street Entry. The home of Purple Rain). Then catch a baseball game at one of the top 10 ballparks in America (Target Field) where the great Surly and Summit brews are featured on draft at several vendor locations.
If you really get a wild-hair, head two hours north to the shores of Lake Superior where the port city of Duluth maintains a rival splendor of breweries that draw from the Lake Superior water table. Turn that faucet on in the Holiday Inn downtown the day after you drink yourself silly, and try to look me in the eyes and tell me that the ice cold water filling your dirty low-ball glass in your temporary digs isn’t the cleanest, freshest water you’ve tasted out of a tap in your life.