These days, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your next vacation destination will be home to a brewery, or two, or ten. And then there are those vacations where beer is the raison d'etre, the light at the end of the tunnel. The adventurous spirit of traveling is piqued when you traipse through valleys, mountains, vineyards and beautiful terrain to end up at these breweries. Lexington, Kentucky, for example, is not only known for its distilleries, but also for its creative craft breweries, which are dotted along the paths of thoroughbred horse farms and historic Native American hunting grounds. From Virginia to California, here are nine of the best beer trails you can visit across the U.S.
Fingerlakes Region, New York
Upstate New York is home to over 100 breweries and bars that span the The Finger Lakes Beer Trail. Scenery fit for nature-lovers unfolds along the route—take Geneva on the Lake, a 1910 former estate and monastery with ten acres of formal gardens. Beer highlights include one of New York State’s first farm breweries, Climbing Bines Craft Ale Co., where beer enthusiasts can take in the picturesque views of the hops farm while sipping on fine craft ale; Brew & Brats at Arbor Hill in Naples, New York lets guests pair brats with beers, naturally, such as the Frog Hollow Pale Ale, Turtle Crawl Porter and the Gully Washer IPA; and the Farmhouse Brewery, a malthouse and farm brewery that sources all ingredients from New York State. Try its Just Bucket, a low ABV cream ale or the Hog Hollow, a Belgian pale ale with orange peel and coriander.
While Kentucky is hailed as the birthplace of bourbon, Lexington’s craft beer scene is quickly carving out a piece of the spotlight. Embark on a tour of Lexington’s Brewgrass Trail , which showcases the Bluegrass Region’s plethora microbreweries. At the city’s largest micro-brewer,West Sixth Brewing, there’s over a dozen beers on tap, including the Half-Bite session IPA and the Side Eye Maibock. Stop at Mirror Twin Brewing to experience its one-of-a-kind“twin drafts”, which are identical grain recipes with one small variation for two completely different tastes. Kentucky brewers are also taking advantage of their proximity to distillers and incorporating barrel-aged beers of all styles into their repertoires. For example, Country Boy Brewing is experimenting with barrel-aged IPAs and sours, and going so far as to getting its hands on a few Pappy Van Winkle barrels to age its flagship Shotgun Wedding vanilla brown ale.
Although not exclusive to beer, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail features over 40 breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Beer and agriculture go hand-in-hand when you visit several farm breweries along the trail, which are all within a short drive of one another. There are gorgeous fall views from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive across the rolling fields of the Valley. Stop at Backroom Brewery at Sunflower Cottage, which is also an herb farm and uses many of its herbs and other fresh, locally sourced ingredients in its beers as well as its own hops. Choices include a Cilantro Lime Wheat Beer and Lemon Basil Wheat. Other farm breweries along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail include Swover Creek Farm Brewery, Ridge Runner Farms and the Woodstock Brewhouse, which is located in a restored former denim factory and uses hops from nearby North Mountain Vineyards.
North Coast, Oregon
The 29-mile stretch of coastline from Astoria to Cannon Beach gives way to Oregon’s North Coast Craft Beer Trail. There are twelve breweries aolng the route, starting in the coastal city of Astoria, Oregon—a small historic town located in the northwest corner of the state. n Astoria you can grab a brew at Rogue, which features athletic named beers like the Combat Wombat and the Marionberry Sour. From there, take Highway 101 to Seaside, Oregon—a resort beach town known for its 19th century Tillamook Rock Lighthouse that’s perched on a rock in the middle of the Pacific. In Seaside, brewery options include McMenamins Sand Trap Pub and Seaside Brewing—its Sneaker Wave IPA inspired by the coastal location. After your time in Seaside, continue to Cannon Beach, one of Oregon’s most popular coastal locations. This beach draws tourists from all over the world to capture views of Haystack Rock, which stands 235 feet tall in the ocean. Here, have some beers at Public Coast Brewing Co. or Pelican Pub & Brewery, then enjoy a stroll on the 9 miles of sandy shores while taking in the view of the Pacific Ocean.
Known for its pivotal role in the Civil War, the Gettysburg region has come alive with beer offerings. There are currently three breweries, with a fourth opening this fall. The newest is Thirsty Farmer Brew Works, which is owned and operated by some of the region’s oldest farming families. It has done some unique things with its beer, including blending it with hard apple cider. Battlefield Brew Works is a small craft brewery housed in a former Civil War hospital, and several of its craft beer varieties are named after the Gettysburg battle including Fog of War and Peace Light Lager. In addition to its flagship brewery, Battlefield recently opened a tasting room in downtown Gettysburg. Center Square Brewing is in nearby Abbottstown, and features the region’s only female brewer. Coming this fall, Fore Score Brewing Co. is owned by town’s popular pizza restaurant, Tommy’s Pizza.
Catskills, New York
Made up of four breweries in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, the Catskills Beverage Trail includes the West Kill Brewing, where beers are made with locally grown and foraged ingredients such as maple sap boiled in a wood-fired evaporator, cherries picked from its orchard, creeping thyme plucked from a nearby field and honey harvested from its own hives—much like nearby Honey Hollow Brewing Company. At the former, try favorites such as the High Pasture APA, which is brewed with strawberry, hay and melon or the Dry Brook Grisette, which is aged in chardonnay barrels. Another popular brewery is Crossroads Brewing Company which has two tasting rooms in the Catskills, one in Athens and one in Catskill, offering ten rotating brews. The Athens brewpub is located in a renovated Opera House, and some of the brews available now include Outrage India Pale Ale and the Black Rock Stout.
Jackson County, North Carolina
Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Cullowhee, Glenville and Sapphire are the distinct locales that make up Western North Carolina's Jackson County. Each of these Blue Ridge Mountain towns is situated in the grandeur of the North Carolina mountains. Jackson County is also home to the nation’s first and only fly-fishing trail, the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. The majestic mountains harbor miles of hiking trails and waterfalls, and within this landscape you will find three new breweries: Balsam Falls Brewing Co., which opened in 2017 in downtown Sylva, features 16 to 20 beers on tap including a rotating selection of IPAs, pale ales and sours. Whiteside Brewing Co.’s master brewer Dieter Kuhn leads the region in brewing Bavarian-style beers, such as orange blossom IPA, hefeweizen, blonde and Black Forest stout. Innovation Station, which also opened in Dillsboro in June, includes a large wrap-around covered patio perfect for creekside drinking.
The number of craft breweries in Jacksonville has gone from one—Bold City—to 21 over the past 10 years. Much of that growth is recent. About a third of the area’s breweries were licensed in 2017. Jacksonville breweries include everything from Engine 15 Brewing Co., located near one of Jacksonville’s best beaches, to Intuition Ale Works, a brewery located in The Doro District. Intuition was the first craft brewery in Florida to can its beers, and has a gastropub located on the massive second floor deck that overlooks the St. Johns River. Some of Jacksonville’s other breweries include Aardwolf Brewing Company, with a taproom located in a renovated railroad ice house from the early to mid-1930's; Kickbacks Gastropub, which boasts over 200 taps including an impressive collection of Belgian libations; and Hyperion Brewing Co., Jacksonville’s first nanobrewery.