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Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
For my part, I agree with this idea of a benevolent barkeep upstairs. I drink a lot of beer. I tend to savor the first taste and sigh contentedly afterwards. I usually have one more beer than I should. When I see a neon beer sign in a bar window, I occasionally get a childlike twinge of excitement, little hops-and-barley butterflies. To me, beer is like candy for adults. Cold, sweet, effervescent, glorious buzz-inducing candy.
So, going to the place where this magic is created makes good sense. To hear the experts elucidate the importance of water temperature and brewing times. To breathe in a redolent waft of fermented grains. And to top it all off, most breweries let you sample several of their beers. It’s like going to visit Santa’s workshop, and afterwards Santa lets you play with all the toys (and also the toys get you drunk).To go to where they make the beer…. well, it strikes a chord somewhere in a beer lover. And so we flock there, like thirsty salmon to the natal stream.
Some breweries offer scheduled tours, or you can call ahead to schedule one (it’s recommended that you call ahead anyway-there’s no telling when schedules change). If they don’t offer a tour, they most likely have a tap room where you can sit, sip and be happy.
Here are some East Coast, West Coast, and Global options for your consideration:
East Coast Breweries
No matter where you are on the East Coast, there is likely a good brewery just short drive away. Pennsylvania has a number of options: Stoudt Brewing in Adamstown, offers tours on Saturdays at 1 and Sundays at 3pm, and offers some outstanding craft beers including their Fat Dog Stout. Victory Brewing lets people take a look around on Fridays and Saturdays at 4pm, or you can take virtual tour via podcast on their website. In New York, stop by the Brooklyn Brewery (tours every Saturday from 12-5 on the hour, and a happy hour on Fridays from 6-11), the Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River, or check out Butternuts distinctive Porkslap Ale at their Garrattsville location. A little further north, you can check out Harpoon Brewing-known for their IPA-in Boston or Windsor, Vermont (tastings are offered in Beantown, and in-depth tours at Windsor).
West Coast Breweries
If beer has an epicenter in the US, it would likely be found somewhere in the eight hundred-mile stretch between San Francisco and Seattle. Not only is the Northwest replete with breweries, it also just seems to be the touchstone for American brewing-the next big thing in fermentation is likely fomenting right here.
Though it’s known for its coffee culture, Seattle is also a beer-lover’s haven. Reputable brewers like Red Hook Brewery (now in nearby Woodinville) have multiple tours daily. And the city is full of on-site brewpubs like the ones at Hale’s Ales, Pike Street Brewing, Pyramid and Elysian. Northern California also boasts a bevy of world-class breweries, ranging from Anderson Valley(not too far from wine country and amazing Mendocino) to Lagunitas and the granddaddy of brewing on the West Coast, Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco.
Though it is known as the Rose City, Portland Oregon may as well be known as the Beer City. This town is overrun with breweries–it is a veritable cornucopia of craft brewing. Days can be spent lazily lopping up a wide range of beers, whether it be at Brideport Brewery, Widmer Brothers. If you’re out there, be sure to venture outside of city limits; nearby Deschutes and Full Sail breweries offer some of the best beers in the country.
Beers Around the Globe
If you’re looking to go all out, there is no better way to commune with your inner imbiber than to head to the recognized Shangri-La of beer lovers-Belgium. Tours take you to some of the best breweries that Belgium has to offer, including Chimay, De Konick, and Cantillon. Visit the Belgian Tourist Board’s beer page or check out some of these other resources to plan your beercation.
This article was first published on DebonairMag.com on March 03, 2008 and was reproduced with permission.
Philip McCluskey is a freelance writer living in New York City. He can be reached at Philip (at) phreelancewriter.com
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