Cruisin’ for some brews? Hit the road to get a behind-the-scenes look—and plenty of frothy samples—at the country’s best breweries.
Philip McCluskey 1 / 11
As the popularity of craft beers has grown, so has the desire to see where the barley-and-hops magic happens. Breweries large and small now offer visitors a behind-the-scenes look at their brewing process, as well as a chance to sample their thirst-quenching wares. If you’re looking to dodge the heat this summer head to one of the <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/leisure/americas-top-brewery-tours?page=2">co... best brewery tours</a> and get ready to crack open a cold one (or two, or three…).
One of the oldest-working breweries in the United States (it was founded in 1867), Leinenkugel’s is still a family-run operation as it was in those early days. Learn the history of this Wisconsin institution (as well as the story of the close-knit Leinenkugel family) and sample some of their award-winning beers—including their popular Summer Shandy—before stopping at the brewery’s “Leinie Lodge” to pick up a souvenir. (May we suggest the awesomely kitsch Leinie’s <a href="http://shop.leinie.com/browse.cfm/4,4356.html">beer-bottle lamp?</a>)
On a tour of Stone—one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country—the company’s wise-cracking “indoctrination specialists” will introduce you to their brewing process and offer their thoughts on craft beer culture. In addition to sampling ales like the pleasingly potent Arrogant Bastard and Sublimely Self-Righteous, visitors to this Southern California brewery can stroll through the on-site boulder garden—home to more than 250 boulders—and then enjoy creative cuisine like barbecue duck tacos or almond-crusted tilapia at their gourmet bistro.
New York’s most populous borough was once home to no fewer than 48 breweries but, sadly, all had disappeared by the 1970s. Luckily, Brooklyn Brewery has sparked a brewing renaissance since its mid-1990s launch (two other breweries have subsequently emerged in the borough, as well as several beer halls and beer tours). Housed in a former matzo ball factory that straddles the trendsetting neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the brewery welcomes visitors for a range of tours including weekday reservation-only “Small Batch” tours, free hourly tours on Saturdays, and the Sunday SmorgasBrewery event featuring a mini-foodfest.
Nestled amid the snow-capped peaks and wildflower meadows of the Columbia River Gorge, one of the best parts of touring this employee-owned brewery by far is its spectacular setting. If you can pull yourself away from the view and step inside you’ll get to meet the team behind Full Sail’s popular beers and explore the ingredients sourced from local farms. Discounted, award-winning beers and food are available at the pub afterward, where you can look out on the unfurled sails (the inspiration for the brand name) of the windsurfers out on the water—Hood River has been called the Windsurfing Capital of the World and it’s a windsport mecca.
Welcome to the country’s oldest brewery. Established in 1829, this Pennsylvania institution has survived wars, a fire, the Great Depression, and even Prohibition. Get schooled in the history of five generations of the Yuengling family—who, in an age of massive beer conglomerates, still own and operate the business—and take a trip through time when beer delivery took place by horse-drawn wagon. But the coolest draw of this historic landmark has to be the hand-dug fermentation caves that were used for storage before the advent of refrigeration. You’ll go down underground for a cool, and slightly creepy, firsthand look.
New Belgium promises “story-telling, beer-sampling, and art-gazing fun” on your free 90-minute tour. In addition to seeing this Colorado brewery’s inner workings and sampling some of their creative concoctions, you’ll learn about their comprehensive efforts in sustainability—most notably, that they’re the world’s largest single user of wind power. And if the workers seem to walk around like they own the place, it’s because they do: New Belgium is entirely owned by all of its employees.
Can’t make it to Colorado? Check out their <a href="http://www.newbelgium.com/events/tour-de-fat.aspx">Tour de Fat </a> in a city near you. New Belgium organizes these annual festivals of “Beer, Bikes & Bemusement” to raise money for bicycle nonprofits.
Renowned beer writer Michael Jackson once called Dogfish Head “America’s most interesting and adventurous small brewery,” and this Delaware facility certainly lives up to the billing—starting with the Steampunk Treehouse, the giant Bunyan’s Lunchbox, and the outdoor fermenters that greet you out front. Founder Sam Calagione and his self-proclaimed “off-center” brewery even caught the eye of the Discovery Channel, which featured them on Brew Masters a few years back. Free tours include four beer samples plus a glimpse into what makes Dogfish Head different: like possibly getting the chance to meet members of the brewery’s “beer-geek hip-hop ensemble.”
Justifiably renowned for such attractions as the Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville offers thirsty travelers another reason to visit: For four years in a row, it was voted “Beer City USA” by the readers of Examiner.com (it came in third in 2013). On these guided van, bus, and walking tours, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at this hub of craft beer culture, visiting several of Asheville’s finest breweries like Pisgah Brewing Co. (one of the only ones in the area to use whole-leaf hops in the brewing process), Highland Brewing Company (Asheville’s oldest and largest brewery), and Thirsty Monk (the city’s first and only Belgian beer bar).
While most people come to Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, plenty of them end up staying for the Ommegang goodness. This farmstead brewery makes award-winning, Belgian-style beers on 135 acres previously used for hops farming. You can tour their facility, hear about their incredibly particular brewing process, and, afterward, wash down some items from their menu of Belgian treats (moules frites, anyone?) with a sampling of six craft brews ($3, including a complimentary tasting glass). For the ultimate culinary home run, finish things off with their Three Philosophers beer-infused ice cream.
It’s easy to be impressed by Yards’ estimable efforts in sustainability: They purchase all of their power off the grid, send their spent grain to local farms, and place a premium on using reclaimed equipment (case in point: The Tasting Room bar top was made from old bowling alley lanes). Luckily, they also brew some damn good beer. Every Saturday and Sunday, tour guides educate visitors on their array of beers while leading them past the tuns, tanks and kettles of their 26,000-square-foot brewery in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. Free samples are also provided.