Our Favorite American Towns to Drink Craft Beer In.
We’ve teamed up with Flights.com to bring you our favorite beer towns in America, and what to drink when you get there. There’s a good chance we probably missed your favorite, if so, let us know about the town or brewery in the comments following the story.
Having beers with friends used to mean drinking 12 ounces of a watery malted mess like Coors, MGD (do they still even make that?), Mickey’s, or local favorites: Rolling Rock, Iron City or Stoney’s Beer—the trifecta of western Pennsylvania working class beers. On a really good day, someone may have ponied up for a sixer of Killian’s Red or New Castle or, for a very brief period of time, Zima, you know a good beer.
Then, the beer scene shifted. It was 1998, and I was living in San Diego. In less than six months I’d turn 21, so until then, I was drinking on a military I.D. My first real craft beer was a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the wooded dirt parking lot around the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. I was there to see Phish, and unwittingly got turned on to the West Coast hop thing. The beer tasted so fresh, it’s what I imagined spring was like in the, well, Sierra Nevada…okay, that’s lame. Let me try again, this time stealing a line from New York Times reporter Erick Asimov who had this to say about America’s hoptastic pale ales: “It was like redesigning a proper English sedan with tail fins and chrome.” Thanks Eric. That was spot on.
Nearly two decades after my first American-style pale ale, craft beer has exploded in the United States. From Alaska to the Keys, it’s a good time to be a beer enthusiast. In fact, the biggest problems we face, at least for me anyways, is not having enough money to try all those 22s aging on the package store shelf. The thing I really dig about America’s love affair with craft beer is that it is giving new life, as well second chances, to towns, people, and aluminum cans unlike any other time I can remember. So, with an IPA from Newbury Port Brewing in hand, we raise our cool can to what we believe our the best American towns for craft beer.
3. Southern Oregon
Obviously, southern Oregon is not one town, but bear with me here for a second. Within 20 minutes from one another are three towns—Medford, Ashland, and Klamath Falls—that are brewing some of the best beer you’ve never tasted. We spent a few days last spring exploring the region, including its most famous draw Crater Lake National Park, and walked away seriously impressed with the quality of beer, coming out of the south. When it comes to Oregon breweries, Bend and Portland, which also has a fabulous food truck scene, tend to get the majority of press, and for good reason: they’re both home to a lot of great beer. But I’m here to tell you that when it comes to craft beer, the state is more balanced than that. In fact, there has been good beer coming out of southern Oregon for more than 20 years. Rogue was at the forefront of the movement, and now there are 20 plus breweries in the region, most being small with a distribution limited to Oregon and California, whose northern border is less than 30 miles away.
Portal Brewing Company
100 East 6th St, Medford; 541-499-0804; Hours: Monday – Saturday, 4 pm to 10 pm; portalbrewingco.com
Caldera Brewing Company
590 Clover Lane, Ashland; 541-482-4677; Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am to 11 pm; www.calderabrewing.com
Klamath Basin Brewing
1320 Main Street, Klamath Falls; 541-273-5226; Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am to 9 pm; kbbrewing.com
2. Boston (+South Shore), Massachusetts
If you didn’t already know, Boston is an incredible beer town. In reality, New England is a phenomenal place to be a beer drinker, as some of the nation’s best breweries are located in the region. To me, Boston is the epicenter of the New England craft beer scene. Jim Koch put the city, and craft beer, for that matter, on the map back in 1985 when he started the Boston Beer Company makers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Not long after, Harpoon Brewery moved into the Boston waterfront, further sealing the city’s fate as an independent beer town. These days there are 16 microbreweries in Boston with dozens of beer-centric bars and brew pubs serving up beers from near and afar.
Samuel Adams Brewery (Like the original Boston Garden, it’s legendary)
30 Germania Street, Boston; 617-368-5080; Hours: Monday – Thursday & Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm; Friday, 10 am to 5:30 pm; Closed Sundays; www.samueladams.com
306 Northern Avenue, Boston; 617-456-2322; Beer Hall Hours: Sunday – Wednesday, 11 am to 7 pm; Thursday – Saturday, 11 am to 11 pm; www.harpoonbrewery.com
Trillium Brewing Company
369 Congress St, Boston; 617-453-8745; Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 4 pm to 7:30 pm; Thursday – Friday, Noon to 7:30 pm; Saturday, Noon – 6 pm; Closed Sundays; www.trilliumbrewing.com
Mayflower Brewing Company (Yes, it’s in Plymouth, but it’s one of my local favorites.)
12 Resnik Road, Plymouth; 508-746-2674; Tasting Hours: Wednesday – Friday, 4 pm to 7 pm; Saturday – Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm; Closed Monday, Tuesday; www.mayflowerbrewing.com
1. San Diego, California
For anyone who reads our blog, it should be no surprise that San Diego is our absolute favorite beer town. Honestly, I can’t think of a better place to have a few pints than in one of the county’s awesome costal towns like Ocean Beach or Solana Beach. Right now, San Diego is to brewing what Seattle was to grunge music in the 1990s; the brewers are pumping out hit after hit to locals and visitors alike. With nearly 80 craft breweries and a handful of award winning brewers, San Diego has earned the distinction as being one of the nation’s best beer towns. And it just keeps getting better. As we mentioned in our story, Exploring San Diego’s Craft Breweries: 2 Newcomers and 2 Classics, the new brewers are taking things to a new level by coming out strong with not only beers, but by also having stylish tasting rooms. But that’s not to say the county’s O.G. brewers are resting on their laurels either. The quality of beer being poured on any given day, be it from veteran brewers or new upstarts, is simply off the hook.
1956 Bacon Street, San Diego; Hours: Monday – Thursday & Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm; Friday – Saturday, 11 am to Midnight; www.pizzaport.com
5401 Linda Vista Road, Suite 406 San Diego; Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 am to 10 pm; Friday – Saturday, 9 am to 10 pm; Sunday, 9 am to 8 pm; www.ballastpoint.com
Modern Times Brewing
3725 Greenwood Street, San Diego; 619-546-9694 Hours: Sunday – Thursday, Noon to 10 pm; Friday – Saturday, 12 pm – Midnight; Tours: Saturday, 1 pm and Wednesday, 3:30 pm; moderntimesbeer.com
Culture Brewing Company
4845 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach; 619-255-3811; Hours: Monday – Friday, Noon to Midnight; Saturday – Sunday, 10 am to Midnight; www.culturebrewingco.com
O.K., now it’s your turn! We’re thirsty for more good beer, and want to know your favorite American beer towns. Tell us in the comments below!