October 2019 America’s Craft Beer Capitals: Where to Raise a Pint, from Waikiki to the Maine Coast

America’s Craft Beer Capitals: Where to Raise a Pint, from Waikiki to the Maine Coast

Pick your pleasure at San Diego’s Stone Brewing.
Pick your pleasure at San Diego’s Stone Brewing.
From sea to shining sea, America’s craft beer revolution continues to surge. We’ll raise a pint (or three) to that.
There’s never been a better time to drink beer in America. With thousands of breweries opening for business around the country since the start of the century, even the most passionate imbibers would need multiple lifetimes (and livers) to sample the cornucopia of craft beers now on tap. From the hazy, hoppy IPAs that have swept the nation in recent years to the crisp pilsners, fruity sours, and “wild” ales – brewed with wild yeast and other microflora – now leading the charge, America’s beer landscape offers endless variety and quality, especially in these four frothy cities and their trip-worthy breweries and bars.

Portland, Maine

Recent decades have seen a proliferation of craft breweries throughout the Pine Tree State, with nearly 100 opened since 2000. The vast majority ferment away in Portland, where the young, hip, and artsy never seem to sate their thirst for craft beer.
Lots of laughs at Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Company.
Lots of laughs at Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Company.

Allagash Brewing Company
Founded in 1995, this forefather of the craft beer revolution has influenced nearly every brewer that’s come after and continues to lead the way with its Belgian-inspired brews. Indeed, just this year, founder Rob Tod won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer.
Tap Into: Tripel golden ale, Nancy tart ale, Wild Rivulet

Bissell Brothers Brewing
Few craft breweries blip brighter on Maine beer-dars as this venture by Peter and Noah Bissell. In fact, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson reportedly flew an assistant there on a private jet to snag him a few cases of their super-hoppy pale ales. The industrial, graphic-art-splashed tasting room is as Instagrammable as they get.
Tap Into: The Substance Ale IPA, Lux pale rye ale, Baby Genius blonde ale

Liquid Riot Bottling Company
Sip seaside at this dockside brewer, particularly on the outdoor patio that gazes directly into the Atlantic. Inside, watch the brewing in action through glass panels just behind the bar. Bring an appetite, too, for beer- and booze-friendly (and infused) bites, starting with the house-cut fries with Liquid Riot beer cheese or spicy hop mustard.
Tap Into: Blushing Star American pilsner, Persuasion sour brown ale, A Beer Has No Name double IPA

Check Into: Eight miles south of Portland, Cape Elizabeth’s 61-room Inn by the Sea fulfills the most idyllic visions of the New England seacoast. Its two-night Maine Beer Getaway includes a 4.5-hour tour of local microbreweries on the Maine Brew Bus. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit. 

Raising the bar: Thompson Nashville’s rooftop lounge. 
Raising the bar: Thompson Nashville’s rooftop lounge. 

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville has become coolville for millennials, who’ve poured into the city in
the past ten years for the music, cuisine, lower cost of living, and all-around sass. They’ve also brought a taste for craft beer, igniting a blaze of breweries, including around 20 in the city limits, with more on the way.

Bearded Iris Brewing
This exceedingly popular hangout doesn’t bombard customers with a checklist of styles, but prefers to focus heavily on IPAs, double IPAs, and pales – as evidenced by its weekday “hoppy hour.” The industrial chic-meets-grandma’s parlor design – think steel pipes snaking around ornamental chandeliers – adds a creative twist that enhances both taste and experience.
Tap Into: Homestyle IPA, Awesome Blossom double IPA, Again & Again pale ale

Southern Grist Brewing Company
Infused with coconut, mango, vanilla, strawberries, and even watermelon, the beers here can be so fruity, they’re often called smoothies. Grist’s success has spawned two taprooms, west and east of downtown. Both embrace an austere industrial design and complement the beer with coal-fired, thin-crust pizza.
Tap Into: Always Something New England double IPA, Double Fruited Mango Mule Push-Up smoothie-style sour ale, Bean There, Brown That brown ale

Yazoo Brewing Company
Starting with a homebrewing kit ordered from the back pages of Rolling Stone magazine, Yazoo founder Linus Hall turned his hobby into one of Nashville’s first craft breweries since Prohibition. Ironically, the city’s second-oldest brewery is also its newest, after Yazoo cut the ribbon on an expanded brewery and taproom this July.
Tap Into: Hop Perfect IPA, Gerst amber ale, Abeille wild ale

Check Into: Chic design and a prime location in the trendy Gulch district make the 224-room Thompson Nashville the talk of the town, in part due to its rooftop lounge, which pours 20 regional beers. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
Bend your elbow here: San Diego’s Societe Brewing Company.
Bend your elbow here: San Diego’s Societe Brewing Company.

San Diego, California

America’s Finest City” is also fond of calling itself the “Capital of Craft,” and for good reason: San Diego County claims more than 150 breweries, with many found along Route 78, aka Hops Highway. Craft, micro, nano – they’re all here, as are the ingredients themselves, adding a dose of freshness to every pint.

Stone Brewing
One of the granddaddies of the craft beer movement, this brewery is also one
of the largest in the U.S. Locally, that translates into three taprooms and two “world bistros and gardens,” including at Liberty Station, a former U.S. Navy mess hall just west of San Diego International Airport, tricked out with a restaurant, bocce ball court, and outdoor cinema.
Tap Into: Stone Delicious IPA, Stone Ripper San Diego pale ale, Stone Tropic of Thunder lager

Modern Times Beer
This employee-owned brewery – the first in California – draws inspiration from a “beautifully crazy” nineteenth-century utopian community and pursues the dream in beer form, with stouts, goses, and IPAs. The real fun comes from its Fortress of Raditude, a warehouse dedicated to barrel aging and self-described “Island of Doctor Moreau-style mash- ups.”
Tap Into: Fortunate Islands pale ale, Orderville IPA, Fruitlands sour

Societe Brewing Company
Believing beer to be the planet’s greatest social uniter, two friends launched this small-batch brewery that’s more meticulous than most about the production of its hoppy ales and wine-barrel-aged sours. Dedicated custom- ers followed, consistently filling the 3,000-square-foot tasting room – and joining regular sessions of bluegrass and metal yoga.
Tap Into: The Pupil IPA, The Heiress pilsner, The Butcher imperial stout

Check Into: In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the 317-room Pendry San Diego makes a perfect base for exploring San Diego’s craft-brewing scene. Start on-site at the hotel’s new Nason’s Beer Hall, featuring 24 local beers on tap alongside inspired comfort food and vintage bar games. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.
Hang loose at Honolulu Beerworks. 
Hang loose at Honolulu Beerworks. 

Honolulu, Hawaii

Rum-soaked mai tais may still top most tourists’ tables in Hawaii’s capital city, but beer lovers are finding excellent frothy alternatives, due to its rapidly growing craft brewery scene that’s seen nine spring up in and around downtown. Belly up for tropical flavors and a carefree, hang-loose attitude.

Honolulu Beerworks
Honolulu’s coolest neighborhood, Kaka’ako, inspires both the beer and the ambience at this brew pub. Recycled wooden walls, local artwork, and communal seating make for a bright, beachy atmosphere with a sharp urban edge. Expect exotic takes on ales and saisons, further enhanced by on-site barrel aging.
Tap Into: Kewalos Cream Ale, Cocoweizen German-style ale, Hi-Pa/Hop Island IPA

Beer Lab Hawaii
This brewery was founded by a trio of Pearl Harbor-based nuclear engineers. As its name implies, they embrace experimentation, creating dense IPAs, rum-barrel-aged stouts, and guava-infused sours. Tables fashioned from old doors and a mural by a local DC Comics artist have injected frivolity into the science.
Tap Into: Ko’olauloa IPA, The Truth Brett ale, Manana Falls sour ale

Waikiki Brewing Company
Just steps from several Waikiki hotels, this may be Honolulu’s most convenient craft brewery. It’s also exceptionally popular, thanks in part to its bacon and brie burgers, fried pickles, and Cuban sandwiches, which pair wonderfully with the IPAs, porters, ambers, and hefeweizens on tap.
Tap Into: Black Strap Molasses porter, Hana Hou hefe, Skinny Jeans IPA

Check Into: “House Befitting Heaven,” as the name Halekulani translates, is
an apt description of this historic five-acre, 453-room property on Waikiki Beach, featuring rooms with deep soaking tubs and large lanais. Just three blocks away, find Waikiki’s favorite restaurants, including Waikiki Brewing Company. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 (per room) or $200 (per suite) hotel credit.

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