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A Beer Drinker’s Guide to the US

Taste America’s most popular craft beer styles at the source—here are seven unmissable destinations for your next beery pilgrimage.

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Hi, I'm Claire!

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover's Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at GoodBeerHunting.com. Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.

There’s never been a better time to be a beer lover. The United States boasts more than 9,000 craft breweries from coast to coast, giving beer fans more chances than ever to taste, explore, and experiment. But even while most areas of the country are now well-served by local breweries, it’s worth making a special trip to discover some of the most popular beer styles right at the source. Whether you plan to sip West Coast IPAs in San Diego, try New England IPAs in Burlington, or head to Florida to sample the state’s very own sour style, here are seven ideas for your next beer discovery tour.

San Diego, California, for West Coast IPAs

Russian River Brewing Company beer flights in Santa Rosa in California.
You'll find Russian River Brewing Company beers in Santa Rosa.Photo Credit: Russian River Brewing Company / Tripadvisor

West is best—and for IPAs, San Diego is king.

Technically, the West Coast IPA—renowned for its clarity, potency, and big wallop of hop aroma and bitterness—first arose in Northern California, thanks to the influence of breweries like Anchor in San Francisco, Russian River in Santa Rosa, and Sierra Nevada in Chico. But no other city has adopted the style quite like San Diego, where longstanding breweries such as AleSmith, Alpine, and Pizza Port have perfected the style. Hop on a San Diego brewery tour to taste compare various IPAs, then refuel with some of the city’s signature fish tacos and carne asada fries.

Burlington, Vermont, for New England IPAs

Beers at Zero Gravity in Burlington in Vermont.
Zero Gravity is just one of the great breweries in Burlington.Photo Credit: Abyeong / Tripadvisor

For a small city, Burlington, Vermont, punches well above its weight as far as craft beer is concerned. In the 1980s and ’90s, local breweries like Magic Hat and Vermont Pub & Brewery put the city on the map. Later, The Alchemist—then located in nearby Waterbury—kickstarted a craze when it brewed Heady Topper: the first hazy, or New England-style, IPA in the country. Today, visitors flock to Burlington and its surroundings to check in on much-hyped favorites like Lawson’s Finest Liquids, as well as newer additions to the scene like Foam and Zero Gravity. You can make the pilgrimage to each brewery—or join a Burlington brewery tour to visit a number of stops in one day, and see (and taste) why the region’s juicy, opaque IPAs have inspired such devotion.

Denver, Colorado, for lagers

The exterior of Denver's Prost Brewery.
When in Denver, check out Prost.Photo Credit: Prost Brewery Co & Biergarten / Tripadvisor

A mile-high destination for beers brewed in German, Czech, and Mexican styles.

As the longstanding host city for the annual Great American Beer Festival—one of the world’s largest beer festivals—Denver has long been a beery pilgrimage point. And while you can find suds of every style in the Colorado capital, some of the city’s newer breweries have turned their attention towards lagers of all types and hues. At Bierstadt Lagerhaus, the famous Slow Pour Pils comes with an Instagram-worthy crown of foam, while its Czech-style lagers are made using Old World brewing methods. Prost focuses on traditional German lagers, while Cervecería Colorado makes a locally beloved, corn-based Mexican lager.

Tampa, Florida, for Florida weisses

A flight of ales at Tampa's Cigar City.
When in Tampa, a flight of beers from Denver is always an option.Photo Credit: Trinity1989 / Tripadvisor

Tropical beers for serious refreshment in the Sunshine State.

The Sunshine State is the birthplace of the Florida weisse: a local riff on the tart, lactic Berliner weisse, which originally hails from Germany. In Europe, the style is often sweetened with fruit syrups; in the Tampa area, it’s made with tropical fruits like guava, comes in a rainbow of hues, and is the perfect refreshment when dealing with Florida’s serious heat and humidity. While Cycle Brewing (since relocated to St. Petersburg) pioneered the style, breweries like Cigar City and Dunedin have also created their own vibrant versions.

Chicago, Illinois, for stouts

The red brick exterior of Goose Island brewery in Chicago.
If you enjoy stout, you'll enjoy Chicago.Photo Credit: juancT287BE / Tripadvisor

Strong, dark beer for long, cold nights.

Need to warm up during a Windy City winter? Time to reach for a boozy, barrel-aged stout. Fittingly, many of Chicago’s standout breweries are renowned for their strong, dark beers. Goose Island’s annual Bourbon County series of spirit-barrel-aged imperial stouts is a major event for beer lovers, while Three Floyds (technically located just across the border in Munster, Indiana) is famed for its Dark Lord Day, a festival that celebrates the release of its eponymous imperial stout. Then there’s Revolution, which operates a nationally renowned barrel-aging program. To do some serious stout sampling, hop aboard a beer tour on a Prohibition-style barrel bus.

Austin, Texas, for wild-fermentation beer

Jester King Brewery in Austin in Texas.
Jester King beers for the sampling in Austin in Texas.Photo Credit: Jackieosie / Tripadvisor

Take a walk on the wild side in Austin.

If you’re a fan of all things funk, make your way to Austin and the surrounding Texas Hill Country, where mixed-fermentation breweries make unusual and complex sour beers. Jester King is celebrated for its vast wood-aging program and Belgian lambic–inspired releases (not to mention its resident herd of goats), while Beerburg experiments with local wild yeasts and botanicals in its Wildcraft series. Vista, meanwhile, creates wine-barrel-aged ales with Brettanomyces, a yeast that provides a decidedly funky flavor. Explore Austin’s breweries via pedicab—or hop on a shuttle for a half-day Hill Country tasting tour.

Portland, Maine, for Belgian-inspired styles

Customers enjoy the outdoor seating area at Portland's Allagash Brewery.
Portland's Allagash Brewery is a perfect summertime spot.Photo Credit: E3707XZdavidd / Tripadvisor

Where Old World tastes meet New World savvy.

As the city with the most breweries per capita in the United States, Portland is an obvious destination for beer lovers—and that’s especially true for drinkers with international tastes. Ever since Allagash opened in this small city in 1995, its flagship White (a witbier), Tripel, and other Belgian-inspired styles have influenced local tastes. Today, breweries like Oxbow (which specializes in saisons and farmhouse ales) and bottle shops like Novare Res are carrying the Old World torch. Sample the city’s best on a roving bus tour of its top breweries.

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