Well we have fallen behind in writing about breweries, but we have been visiting more than ever since we entered Colorado. This week we hit the milestone of visiting 50 different breweries in the past 9 months on this trip. Here are our picks for the top 3 in several categories. We’d love to hear your opinion and recommendations for the best breweries to visit in the United States and Canada. We are headed to Arizona and California next, so we are particularly interested in breweries in those states.
Best Brewpub (good food and good beer)
- Mad Fox Brewery, Falls Church, VA – Order a bacon cheeseburger or duck pizza, they make their own mustard, bake their own bread, and cure their own meats
- Fort Collins, Fort Collins, CO – The bacon wrapped pretzel is an amazing starter! Fort Collins hosts beer and food pairing dinners which are worth the splurge.
- Trinity Brewing, Colorado Springs, CO – This is the only sampler I’ve ever had that comes with cheese to eat in between each brew. They are serious about their food here and even grow their own herbs to flavor with.
- Barrio Brewery, Tucson, AZ – $3 pints with at least 10 beers on tap and great affordable food, how can you ask for more?
- Left Hand, Longmont, CO – Left Hand is clearly a locals hangout and they are always hosting an event for the community, everything from art openings to concerts to political information nights.
- Yazoo Brewery, Nashville, TN – Unfortunately the taproom is only open on weekends, they are packed on Saturdays and deservedly so with great specials and a fun vibe.
- Odell, Fort Collins, CO – Odell is special because of its pilot system. While you may be familiar with the 90 Shilling or Cutthroat Porter I can guarantee you have not heard of half of the brew line up available at the tasting room. They are always experimenting with new styles and you can design your own flight to suit your interests. Be aware, they close early so get there for happy hour!
- Great Divide, Denver, CO – Best advice for this tasting room is to get a cab or come on your bike. Great Divide specializes in high gravity beers that are seriously drinkable and a basic sampler will put you down for the count (especially if you come in from sea level and are new to mile high elevation).
- Starr Hill, Charlottesville, VA – Dress for the weather – this tasting room is right next to their bottling line and it is not insulated. However, the beer and good company will keep you warm. This is a really fun place to hang out with a great staff.
- Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant, Afton, VA – Blue Mountain has just expanded an opened up an event space that is available for weddings. It is that pretty. Come in the fall for beautiful color, tasty pizza and delicious beers like the Dark and Evil.
- Jasper Brewery, Jasper, Alberta – Jasper and Banff Ave Breweries are owned by the same guy and are really unique that they are actually within National Parks. As such, they can not distribute their beer, so you will have to stop in during a vacation to the Canadian Rockies. I know you needed another excuse to go see one of the most beautiful places in North America. Highly recommend the porter.
- Wild Mountain Brewery and Smokehouse, Nederland, CO – Located along the famous Peak to Peak highway in Colorado (south of Rocky Mountain National Park), this is a perfect lunch stop. The smoked meats are excellent and the beer is great too. I also particularly love their logo.
Best Spot for a Growler Fill
- Kettlehouse Brewery, Missoula, MT – Kettlehouse has a lane at the bar designated for growler fills. They also are the only brewery we’ve been to that sold Nalgene growlers made to withstand a river trip. In addition to growlers they fill party pigs and kegs.
- Fort Collins Brewery, Fort Collins, CO – Fort Collins is a small young brewery, but they have a nifty piece of equipment that makes them stand out for brewery fills. This automated filling machine is supposed to keep the beer fresher.
- Mad Fox, Falls Church, VA – Mad Fox is a fun place to bring your growler because they take a picture and often tweet those pictures on their twitter account, @MadFoxBrewing
Top 3 Brewery Tours
- New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO – New Belgium is the ultimate in brewery tours. They have a 90 minutes tour that requires reservations and includes 5 tasting samples. The entire brewery route is designed for tours with art and restrooms along the way!
- Yeungling Brewery, Pottsville, PA – Anyone that is interested in American craft beer needs to take a trip to Pottsville. Yeungling is oldest brewery in the United States and the tour takes you through history, seeing how Yeungling survived prohibition and how they have remained a family business and an institution in Pennsylvania.
- Franconia Brewery, McKinney, TX – If you’ve got questions about the science behind brewing, I encourage you to take a trip to McKinney and meet Dennis Wehrmann. He is the most knowledgeable brewmaster that we have met and he gives the tours himself on Saturdays.
Top 3 Towns for Breweries
- Fort Collins, Colorado – With 7 breweries in a town of 144,000, this is a city that requires more than one day to explore. Luckily, Fort Collins is also very bikeable, they even have a bicycle library that allows you to check out a bike and return it with a basic deposit.
- Flagstaff, Arizona – Flag (as locals refer to it) is really just a large town and it is home to 5 breweries. The newest addition, Mother Road is home to the Alpine Pedaler, a human powered bicycle tram that is available for rent for brewery crawls (particularly easy in Flag since all of the breweries are downtown near each other).
- Durango, Colorado – Durango has fewer breweries, only 4, but they have a longer history of brewing. Durango is also small enough that you can get around to all of the breweries without too much trouble.