Photo: Cultura RM Exclusive/Jeremy Wilson [Getty Images]
It’s Labor Day, which means that fall–like the proverbial bull crashing though a high-end china shop–is heading our way fast. There’s no stopping this freight train of pumpkin spice everything, crunchy leaves below our feet, and thick wool sweaters. But, there’s still time (only a few weeks) to take that epic summer vacation. Obviously, a road trip to your nearest amusement park, beach town, or National Park is a guaranteed win. But, if you really want to get the most out of these last summer days, you’ll take a beer-cation.
It might seem pretty self-explanatory, but a beer-cation, to the un-initiated, is a vacation to a destination that is well-known for its beer-related bars, breweries, and anything else a beer fan would enjoy. But, with the explosion of the craft brewing industry in the last decade, it’s hard to figure out just where to visit as it seems like every major city in the country is home to at least a handful of award-winning breweries. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite beer-cation cities. And, trust us, bartenders know where to go to get a great pint. Check out all of their answers below.
“Charleston is having a huge beer moment right now with a burgeoning brewery district popping up in the northern peninsula. Not only are there over 15 small production craft breweries in town, local brewers are doing some really interesting stuff by infusing beer with the Lowcountry’s best seasonal ingredients and flavors. One of our sister properties, the historic Andrew Pinckney Inn is actually giving beer-lovers a first look at this new neighborhood with their Charleston on Tap experience. Travelers can enjoy tours of local microbreweries, tastes of Charleston’s famed craft beers and one-on-one talks with brewmasters about the history of beer in the South.” – Lauren Kritt, head bartender at HarbourView Inn in Charleston
“Chicago truly is the best city in America to take a beer-cation. The amount of microbreweries that exist and thrive in this city is remarkable. Better than that, many of these breweries have really cool and laid-back tap rooms that allow for an imbibing experience with their craft selection. I could spend entire evenings at the Mouse Trap [Off Color Brewery’s tap room] and just sip through their exciting selection of beers.” – David Mor, beverage director at Cindy’s in Chicago
“My favorite city for a beer-cation would be Denver. There are tons of breweries, it’s close to Boulder, which has even more, and also has a great cocktail bar scene if you need to switch from beer to spirits.” – Ben Potts, owner/bar manager at Beaker & Gray in Miami
“Austin, Texas. Because there is one of the best bars in America called Nickel City and you can drink nice, cold Lone Star for $3 (preferably with bar owner Travis Tober.).” – Masahiro Urushido, bartender at Katana Kitten in New York City
“Grand Rapids is a great beer city. With over thirty breweries, it’s no wonder it’s considered ‘Beer City USA.’ Visitors and locals get to enjoy a variety of different styles of beer. In addition to the many breweries, the city offers guided brewed tours, pedal bus tours, and even an undertaking known as the “Beer City Trail.” My personal favorite is Brewery Vivant. Built around an old monastery theme, they offer many great Belgium style beers. Some of the more well-known breweries include Founders, Hop Cat and Grand Rapids Brewery. Although a small city, the downtown area is packed with breweries, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues so it’s all very accessible without even much need for driving. Michigan brewers/winemakers have the benefit of sourcing local raw materials for the production of beer and wine. Being situated along the 45th parallel, Michigan is suited to growing some of the finest grain, hops and grapes of that of the pacific northwest states and the beer making countries of Europe.” – Jeremy Williams, lead mixologist at Lumber Baron Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan
“With so many great beer breweries exploding all around the country, there is no need to travel far for a great pint. The best city to take a beer-cation in my opinion is Portland, Maine. This charming New England city is just a short flight away from New York City. There are plenty to do around this historical city, along with the endless supply of lobster rolls, rocky beaches and blooming beer breweries. Nothing epitomizes summer than sitting on a beach with a lobster roll in one hand and cold beer in the other.” – Shawn Chen, bartender at RedFarm in New York City
“I don’t get a lot of time off, so whenever I do I try to get the most out of my destinations. So while Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington are pretty commonly ranked as the best brewery cities, the San Francisco Bay area’s beer scene has really stepped up its game, with wineries also in the area it is a pretty beverage focused community over there.” – Piers Smyth, director of food & beverage at About Last Knife in Chicago
“An ideal city in America to take a beer-cation would be Portland, Oregon. I hear there is a brewery on just about every block and it’s a very scenic city. It’s also a close drive to other cities and to the coast that are also known for having good craft beer. Some good beers I’ve had in the past from Oregon are Rogue Ales Brewing and Cascade Brewing. I’ve never traveled to Oregon but have heard lots of good things. If I went at the right time, I could probably even get some snowboarding in which is a plus.” – Gerry Contreras, lead bartender at L Bar at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida
“South Florida. It is mostly sunny with a few passing rain storms in the summer so it’s the perfect climate to visit indoor/outdoor breweries here year-round. Two of the most popular breweries are Funky Buddha Brewery and Wynwood Brewery. The local beer market is rapidly growing here and the breweries have options for all type of beer palates.” – JP Belloni, head bartender at Burlock Coast in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say Asheville is the best city in America to take a beer-cation – it is Beer City USA! Boasted one of the highest brewery-to-resident ratios in the country, this eclectic mountain city we like to call home offers an array of small production, local brews crafted meticulously with local bounty and seasonal Blue Ridge flavors. Travelers who book a stay at The Foundry Hotel, the city’s newest boutique hotel housed within the city’s old steel foundry, can take their beer-cation to the next level by hand-blowing their own beer glass before embarking on a city-wide brewery tour.” – Jeremy Martin, beverage director at The Foundry Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina