Great Craft Breweries from Coast to Coast
Craft Breweries: Behind the Scenes
Craft breweries around the country have opened their doors to the public, inviting beer lovers to tour the breweries and learn what it takes to make a great brewski. Whether you are a beer geek or a novice, these craft breweries will certainly school you in the production of a solid pint.
Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery
Atlanta: Red Brick Brewing
Laughing Skull and Divine Bovine are just a couple of the unique craft beers you may sample on the Red Brick Brewing tour. This spot is the oldest operational brewery not only in Atlanta but in all of Georgia. Since releasing their (now retired) Red Brick Ale in 1993, they’ve enjoyed experimenting with hibiscus, matcha, chai and barley wine — beer aged in liquor barrels for several months, changing the flavor profile. Tours run Wednesdays through Sundays at $12 per person, which includes a souvenir glass and six 6-ounce pours. After tasting, play a round of cornhole or twirl a hula hoop.
Photo by Jay Gleaton
Brevard, NC (and Longmont, Colo.): Oskar Blues Brewery
Thirty-five miles from thriving Asheville, at the foot of the Pisgah National Forest, Oskar Blues cranks out America’s first hand-canned craft brew. The beers' funky names — Mama’s Little Yella Pils, for one — reflect this brewery’s creative and indie spirit. Tours are offered each weekday (starting at 4 p.m.) and on weekends (beginning at 2 p.m.). There you can touch, smell and taste the malted grains and hops, and sample specialty beers only available onsite. Coming with the kids? Food trucks and homemade root beer will keep them satisfied. You big kids can take a spin on the adult-sized Drift tricycles.
Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery
Brooklyn: Threes Brewing
There’s been lots of buzz about this Brooklyn newcomer that focuses on farmhouse ales. Part of the lure is likely the communal vibe extending from the welcoming space to the food. Their beers on tap feature their own label as well as what co-founder Andrew Unterberg calls beers of “friends and heroes.” The residency program brings in a rotation of restaurants for two to three weeks at a time. You can expect fare from borough darlings: Franny’s, Dover, Roberta’s and Battersby. For now, tours are of a casual nature (just ask for a look-see), but they are soon to run on a more formal schedule.
Photo courtesy of Pamela Masters Photography
Chicago: Goose Island Beer Company
Goose Island has been pouring their craft beers for Chicagoans since 1988. Their roster grows by roughly 100 to 150 unique brewskis per year, ranging from malty to hoppy to sours, stouts, cask-conditioned, nitro spouts, steam ales and IPAs. Unfamiliar with those styles? Take the tour (Saturdays and Sundays) at Clybourn, where it all began, and for 10 bucks you’ll get a keepsake pint glass and six samples of suds. Don’t miss their Stout Fest celebration on a Saturday near St. Patrick’s Day, when they feature brands from around the country that compete for the title of best brew.
Photo courtesy of Goose Island Brewpubs
Cooperstown, NY: Ommegang
The Baseball Hall of Fame may be what put the hamlet of Cooperstown, N.Y., on the map, but it’s Brewery Ommegang that keeps folks coming back. Located on a 136-acre hop farm, Ommegang was founded in 1997 by a husband-and-wife team and was the first farmstead brewery built in over a century. Now owned by Belgian beer giant Duvel, the scenic brewery hosts more than 85,000 people annually for concerts, festivals, tastings and tours. On a visit you’ll learn the history of the brewery and the entire production process, and leave knowing the difference between a lager and an ale.
Photo courtesy of Brewery Ommegang
More About: Brewery Ommegang
Everett, Mass.: Night Shift Brewing
Bordering Cambridge, Charlestown and Somerville, and 4 miles north of Boston proper, you’ll find Night Shift Brewing. This 25,000-square-foot craft brewery serves culinary-driven suds like Viva Habanera — rye ale sweetened with agave nectar and spiked with habanero chiles — and offers tours daily. Participants learn every step of the process, from brewing to fermenting, barrel aging to packaging. Tours are free; they ask only that you donate a canned good for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Should your stomach start rumbling, food trucks are onsite on a rotating basis. They include Munchmobile Kitchen, Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers and Stoked Pizza.
Photo courtesy of Night Shift Brewing
Kansas City, Mo.: Boulevard Brewing Co.
Each year more than 50,000 people take the Boulevard Brewing Co. tour, and for good reason. The brewery, which was founded by John McDonald, a former woodworker who had an affinity for home brewing, is the 12th largest brewer in the U.S. The downtown brewery’s 45-minute tours are free, with complimentary samples, and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Or opt for an in-depth 90-minute tour ($20), which includes both a guided food-and-beer pairing and a souvenir glass. If you just want to hang out, the gorgeous patio offers full pours and flights — $5 will get you four 4-ounce pours. It's a steal.
Photo courtesy of Boulevard Brewing Co.
Longmont, Colo.: Left Hand Brewing
Just outside Denver sits Left Hand Brewing, ranked as one of the top five breweries in the state by the Brewers Association. Founded by two former Air Force officers, Dick Doore and Eric Wallace, for years the brewery was synonymous with English ales and German lagers. Today, Left Hand offers a variety of traditional and world-class styles. In 2011 Left Hand blazed a trail, becoming the first American craft brewery to bottle a nitrogenated beer — 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent carbon dioxide — resulting in a lusciously thick, foamy head. Curious? Don’t miss the Milk Stout Nitro after getting a proper education on the tour.
Photo courtesy of Left Hand Brewing
Portland, Maine: Allagash Brewing Company
Twenty years ago, Rob Tod, a kid from New England with zero experience in brewing, decided to open Allagash, focusing on a less-than-popular style, Belgian ale. He stuck to it and created his Allagash White, a nod to the Northern Maine region about which author Henry David Thoreau waxed poetic. Today, tours and tastings at Allagash are free of charge, and each visit offers a behind-the-scenes look from grain to glass. An elevated walkway gives a bird’s-eye view of the bottling line and leads to the original brew house, where guests taste small-batch, rare beers.
Photo by Mat Trogner, Allagash Brewing Company
San Leandro, Calif.: 21st Amendment Brewery
Appropriately named after the repeal of Prohibition, 21st Amendment started out as a tiny pub near what became the site of San Francisco's AT&T Park. As the neighborhood grew, so grew the brewery. In 2008, they started canning their craft beers, and in June 2015 they opened the doors to their new production house across the Bay, in the former Kellogg’s factory (where Eggo waffles and Pop-Tarts were once baked). Visiting the massive facility, guests witness the canning line shoot out a whopping 500 beers per minute. The free 30-minute tours run on weekends, Friday through Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m.
Photo courtesy of 21st Amendment Brewery
Washington, D.C.: Atlas Brew Works
At Atlas Brew Works you can fill your growler, do a flight or sip a pint in the tasting room just 10 feet away from the tanks where the magic happens. There the brewmaster develops hop-forward rye ales, sours, wild yeast brews like their La Saison de Bret, and pumpernickel stout aged in old bourbon barrels. Free tours led by the tasting room staff run Fridays and Saturdays, and last about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how geeked out guests want to get. Don’t miss their anniversary party, October 3, where the revelry includes live music, games and plenty of brews.
Photo courtesy of Atlas Brew Works