It was not long ago that the US beer market was dominated by a handful of acrid, factory-produced brews that bore only a passing resemblance to what those in other climes called beer. Thankfully, the days of choking down foul-tasting swill are long gone, with an explosion of microbreweries in recent years – some 2,000 at last count. Here is a shortlist of some of our favourite producers.
Boulder‘s favorite brewery is a great spot for kicking back after a day of mountain biking, hiking or rock climbing in America’s most outdoorsy little town. Mountain Sun offers a fun, free-spirited vibe that draws in all types, and the menu features satisfying pub grub. Of course, beer is the star attraction: rich creamy porters, golden ales and unusual combinations like blackberry wheat. Catch live music – bluegrass, folk and the like – from 10 pm on Sunday or Monday nights.
Bridgeport Brewpub, Portland, Oregon
In a city famous for its microbreweries, Bridgeport looms above all others. It is the state’s oldest craft brewery – opened in 1984 in a century-old rope-making factory – and has garnered dozens of awards over the years. It sits on the edge of the Pearl District, a once gritty industrial area, with a growing assortment of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and other drinking dens. If you are around on the first Thursday of the month, you can go gallery-hopping before stopping in for a bite and a refreshing brew or two.
Pike Pub and Brewery, Seattle, Washington
Portland‘s bigger, wealthier rival to the north has its own share of microbreweries, including the historic Pike Pub and Brewery, set in the bountiful shopping extravaganza of Pike Place Market. Wood-aged stout goes nicely with the fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, crab chowder and other bites served here. Our favourite: the Scottish-style Pike Kilt lifter, with a malty taste and a smoky finish.
Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, Illinois
Goose Island produces an excellent variety of seasonal brews, with around 20 on draft each day. It has two locations: the original Clybourn location in Lincoln Park and the other in Wrigleyville – the latter a perfect spot for a pre- or post-game libation after watching the Cubs play valiantly. Try the famous stilton burger, a pepper-crusted burger with roasted garlic cloves and slathered with the deliciously fragrant cheese. Also worth a try is the Pere Jacques, a Belgian-style abbey ale with caramel notes, while hop-lovers should sample the Revolution Double Fist, a faintly pine-scented pale ale with a hefty 8% alcohol content.
Sierra Nevada Brewery, Chico, California
When road-tripping through Northern California, this little town is well worth a stop for a look at one of America’s most sustainable breweries.Sierra Nevada prides itself on its planet-friendly ethos (with solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells drastically diminishing its carbon footprint) and the brewery also produces first-rate quaffs. Following an eye-opening tour through the high-tech facilities, you can sample more than a half-dozen of the beers made here. The restaurant is also excellent, serving dishes that highlight the season’s best produce and choice-aged beef from locally raised cattle (fed a special diet that includes brewer’s yeast with beer and nutritious spent grains taken from the brewery). Nearby is a massive and much-loved municipal park that makes a great spot for hiking, swimming and biking, with trails that grow wilder as you head into the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Magic Hat Brewery, Burlington, Vermont
Vermonters have a soft spot for beer. How else to explain the frothy abundance – there are more craft breweries per capita here than in any other state. Whether you have come for leaf-peeping (watching the dramatic fall foliage flare up across the state), hiking the rugged Long Trail (which indeed runs the length of the state) or simply rambling in the lovely rural countryside, the city of Burlington makes a fine stop. Magic Hat is probably the state’s most famous brewery, with free tours (and free samples) showcasing the goods. Their most well-known beer is the #9, with its slight hint of apricot, though purists might prefer the Circus Boy, a refreshing unfiltered hefeweizen.
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