By Dan Blacharski
We travel to see museums, mountains, and mystical wonders, but there’s one thing that always makes for a good vacation, and that’s beer. The craft beer movement has created some astounding local and regional tastes that are a world apart from the lawnmower lager you enjoy on a Sunday afternoon at home, and some microbreweries have become destinations in and of themselves.
Want to see mummies? Feh. What’s more interesting is the fact that beer was one of the most important parts of life in ancient Egypt, and was considered to be a gift from the gods. Accordingly, one should always have a beer prior to viewing any museum’s Egyptian exhibit. Now that’s good history!
A vacation to destinations with great pubs, microbreweries and beer festivals may just be one of the best trips you’ve ever taken. Here are a few great destinations where beer can play a big part in your itinerary:
There’s More Beer in Denver
You may have checked hiking the Appalachian Trail off your list, but you haven’t seen anything yet until you’ve hiked the Denver Beer Trail. Showcasing 27 of Denver’s local craft breweries, get started by downloading the trail map or picking one up at the Denver Tourist Information Center at 1575 California Street. The guide tells you what makes each brewery unique, suggests a signature beer from each brewery, and includes room for your own tasting notes and a “been there” box to check off.
If you have a hard time choosing which of the 27 breweries on the trail map to visit, your challenge will be even greater when you realize that there are many more not on the guide, and Denver has more than 60 breweries, more than 100 breweries in the metro area, and more than 300 throughout the state. You thought Milwaukee was beer city? Not even close. Denver brews more beer than any other American city! Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and USA Today have all selected Denver as the number one Microbrew Beer City in the country.
Like beer festivals? One of the biggest festivals in the country – the Great American Beer Festival – is held every fall in Denver. Known as the “Super Bowl” of craft beer, the GABF is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest beer celebration on the planet. If you had a hard time deciding which beers to sample from the 27 breweries on the Trail Map, then you’re in for a surprise at GABF, where there are about 6,700 different beers available for tasting.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia: Beautiful scenery, and beer, too!
The Blue Ridge Mountains is a perfect summertime getaway, with some of the most spectacular scenery and expansive parks in the country. It’s almost as beautiful as a nice IPA in a frosted beer mug.
Fortunately, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail is part of the experience. The Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail isn’t like the other big-city beer trails. The views are spectacular, and the trail pairs the craft beer experience with outdoor recreation, music festivals, and very cool small towns. Thirteen breweries are on the trail, all within an easy drive of one another. It’s a great way to enjoy your vacation, after taking in the scenery, hiking, paddling, or cycling through what is one of the most celebrated natural locations in the country.
You’ll find plenty of summertime beer-themed festivals in the area as well, including the Shenandoah Valley Blues & Brews Festival. And of course, with great beer comes great food, and the locavore culture makes for some great farm-to-table dining destinations.
Drinking beer in California’s wine country
Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, may be best known for its excellent wineries, but if you’re looking for great microbreweries, you’ve hit the jackpot. It’s not just wine country. It’s the home of the award-winning Pliny the Elder double India pale ale from Russian River Brewing Company in downtown Santa Rosa, which is brewed in limited batches. Russian River’s brews are considered to be some of the best in California. Sonoma County is fast becoming known for its artisan beverages, with over 30 craft breweries, brew pubs and tap rooms throughout the county, visitors have plenty of alternatives to the traditional wine destinations. Naturally, there is a map available for planning your itinerary.
You bet, there’s good beer in Reno, Nevada
Northern Nevada has a lot more going for it than its casinos, and the region boasts a thriving craft beer scene. Nevada’s oldest brewery, Great Basin Brewing Co., was featured in Forbes recently for its “Icky” beer, not named because of the taste of course, but because of the brewery’s role in transporting a large ichthyosaur fossil from a remote Nevada location to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County.
Reno/Tahoe offers nearly two dozen craft breweries. In addition to Great Basin, you can also find award-winning brewers Brasserie St. James, which was named “Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year” at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.
Sometimes the place you drink your beer is just as great an experience as the beer itself, and the Depot Craft Brewery & Distillery, housed in an historic 1910 railway headquarters, is the first combined brewery and distillery in Nevada – and they have a great weekend brunch!
Surf to California’s central coast for some cold suds
California’s central coast offers some of the most spectacular coastlines in the West, and the region remains the California dream of every Midwestern teenager in the country. Along those beautiful hillsides in San Luis Obispo, you may come across Libertine Brewing Company, one of the few breweries which incorporates local and wild yeast strains in their brews. It’s definitely worth stopping in before you head out to the beach with your surfboard, just to experience the wild ales, and see what it’s really like to enjoy a beer which incorporates local ingredients. Libertine also uses heated lava rocks to cook the wort, uses open top coolships, and ages its beer in oak vessels along with local fruits. The brewery’s beer and wine bar includes a full restaurant with vinyl records played on a turntable and electic art on the walls.
About the author
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of Content Marketing Digest. A world traveler, food writer and beer lover, he favors a good traditional lager, and an occasional martini.