5 Hidden Craft Beer Vacation Destinations

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When you make a habit of incorporating beer into vacations, you start to realize that breweries, brewpubs and craft brewers pop up just about everywhere you can imagine.

We've been writing about beer and vacations for three years now and have come to realize that no list we put together is comprehensive enough. Our first list of craft beer vacation destinations had some glaring omissions, most notably the entire states of Michigan and Colorado. Our follow-up only left folks thirsty for more and our list of the top beer vacation cities from last summer seemed pretty small at 10. Even when we boiled it down to brewpubs worth visiting, we eventually had to expand our scope to brewpubs in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

With more than 2,400 breweries and brewpubs in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group, just about any vacation destination in the U.S. is going to have one. So what should the 86% of Americans travel site TripAdvisor ( TRIP) says are taking vacation trips this summer do to find the best beer-soaked spots?

We advise getting creative. We've already pointed you toward all the low-hanging fruit and advised craft beer jaunts to Denver, Seattle, Boston and Portland, Ore., but there are cozy little corners of America where some of the best craft beer spots are still fairly well-hidden. They're not the places known for being beer towns and, in some cases, sit in the shadow of beer destinations content to hog the spotlight.

We've dug though our past picks and our extended travel itinerary and found five craft beer vacation destinations that aren't known primarily for their beer just yet. We're not going to plan your entire itinerary for you, but we can give you the beer specifics and let you figure out the rest. If you have any gems we're not covering here, feel free to share:


No, we didn't say "New York City," we said Brooklyn, and there's a reason for it. Brooklyn has a nice little brewing heritage dating back to the days of Rheingold, but the past 15 years or so have done as many wonders for the borough's beer as they've done for the borough itself. A decade or so ago, you were lucky if you could get your hands on a pizza, a deck of playing cards and a table in Brooklyn Brewery to sample some of brewmaster Garrett Oliver's wares.

Today, SixPoint Brewery floods the East Coast with tallboys of its experimental brews (though renovations have temporarily closed it to tours), Greenpoint's KelSo Brewery is keeping it more traditional and local and Brooklyn Brew Shop has been converting beer lovers at the Brooklyn Flea and elsewhere to home brewing one $40 beer-making kit at a time. It's not a bad place to knock a few back, either.

Brooklyn's put together an awe-inspiring collection of craft beer bars in a relatively short span. The beer garden, cask and scant six drafts at Williamsburg's Spuyten Duyvil have only been around since 2003, but it's the grand old haunt of Brooklyn's beer scene compared with what's opened since. Beer Table is not only moving its vintage beers and food pairings to a larger location, but doling out beers in 64-ounce growlers at its retail outpost across the river at Grand Central Station. Meanwhile, bottle shop/taproom/cheese shop/chocolatier/sandwich shops Bierkraft was not only the first in New York to fill growlers, but its 18 taps flow even more freely during its free beer and food tastings on Tuesdays.

New Glarus, Wis.

We've mentioned this one before, but we're just going to keep mentioning it until we find another place quite like it.

New Glarus Brewing itself was founded in 1993 with copper kettles bought from a German brewery and has since growing into a sprawling hilltop brewing facility crafted to look like an Alpine village. While that would seem just a bit odd in any other context, the brewery and its Spotted Cow ale, Raspberry Tart ale and wide assortment of fruit beers seem right at home in New Glarus.

The little town of 2,300 was founded in 1845 by immigrants from Glarus, Switzerland, and has been unmistakably Swiss ever since. The town's flag is a version of the Swiss flag and flies everywhere; Swiss chalet-style businesses and homes line the streets; a Swiss bakery is still in operation; Swiss meat and cheese shops abound; and dishes such as roschti, kalberwurst, spaetzle and cheese and meat fondue are still the fare of the day.

While brewery co-founder Deb Carey was invited to the White House last year to talk to President Barack Obama about her success and the future of the country's small businesses, New Glarus strikes us as a pretty difficult place to leave. The brewery tour and a few samples of Edel-Pils and Dancing Man Wheat sound lovely and all, but spending a weekend in a tiny patch of Wisconsin that functions as if it's an extension of Switzerland has an appeal all its own.

Brevard, N.C.

Author's note: Updated with a big hand from NCBeerGuys

Asheville gets all of the craft beer accolades and all of the credit for drawing bigger brewers such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium to North Carolina, but there's a whole lot to be said for nearby Brevard. If you don't believe us, just ask Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis, who opened his company's first East Coast brewery there late last year.

"I've been traveling there and mountain biking for over 20 years and it's a place that I go to frequently because it's some of the most pristine mountain biking in the country ... my mom has even moved out to Brevard. She fell in love with it. It's just one of those places."

Incredible mountain biking, long stretches for road biking, waterfalls all over the joint, live music and festivals and white squirrels all make strong arguments for a few days in Brevard, but what about the beer?

Well, about that. The Oskar Blues Brewery Brevard is open, hosting tours and pouring pints, but until it expands into a brewpub, smokehouse, concert venue or arcade like Oskar Blues facilities in Colorado, there are still plenty of options in the area to keep beer lovers occupied. Brevard Brewing Company in downtown Brevard has been open for little more than a year and lets visitors shop Main Street and finish up with a Munich Dunkel, Bohemian Pilsner or Red Ale. Meanwhile, just up the road in Hendersonville, Southern Appalachian Brewery, hosts bands in the tap room, beers from local brewers on its taps, and its own citrusy Belgian Blonde and potently bitter (95 IBU) IPA in its kegs.

If that's not enough, there's always Asheville. The city's lengthy brewery and pub crawl includes stops at at Highland Brewery's tasting room, Hi-Wire Brewing, Wedge Brewing, Oyster House Brewing, French Broad Brewing, Green Man Brewery, The Lexington Avenue Brewery, The Thirsty Monk, Altamont Brewing Co. and Asheville Brewing to keep beer lovers occupied. The city's only adding to that list, with Burial Beer Co. set to join the ranks soon.

If you can extend your vacation a few days, the NCBeerGuys recommend taking Route 276 right out of Brevard and enjoying the winding road and incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While that trek sounds like its own reward, a stop in Waynesville at the end for visits to Frog Level Brewing, Tipping Point Tavern and Brewery and BearWaters Brewing is some nice incentive.

Greensboro, Vt.

OK, we acknowledge that you're going to want to stop in Burlington if you're up this way. That's understandable.

Burlington keeps Magic Hat, Switchback Brewing, Three Needs Taproom and the Vermont Pub and Brewery all within close proximity. It also wrangles the state's more far-flung brewers, including Morrisville's Rock Art Brewery, Lyndonville's Trout River Brewing and Bennington's Madison and Northshire breweries in July for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival.

But if you want to taste some of the hands-down best beers in the country and see why Vanity Fair readers know who a brewer like Shaun Hill is, head out to Greensboro Bend to Hill Farmstead. Hill views his brewing as an extension of the brewing heritage his family began on that very farm 220 years ago. Beers such as Everett Porter, Abner Double IPA and Ephraim Imperial Pale Ale are all named after founder Shaun Hill's ancestors and all sit in BeerAdvocate's Top 50. The European-trained brewer and philosophy student also named product after great philosophical works. We can't promise you'll be able to hold your own in a conversation with Hill, but we can promise that his Double Citra IPA will be one of the best beers you'll ever be fortunate enough to experience.

If the Farmstead visit gets too intense, head just a bit down Interstate 89 to Waterbury and pop into The Alchemist for a few cans of its brutally bitter Heady Topper Double IPA. It's produced in limited quantities after Hurricane Irene wrecked the brewer's facilities a few years back, but it's arguably the best IPA produced in America. That you can tell beer geeks they can find such a thing on a trip to Vermont and not get laughed out of the room is perhaps the clearest indication of how far Vermont brewers have come in the past few years.

Anchorage, Alaska

Just because you folks in the lower 48 have to make the long haul to get there doesn't mean Anchorage is a place beer lovers should skip. Between Glacier BrewHouse or Midnight Sun, Anchorage Brewing, Broken Tooth Brewing and Theatrepub, Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, King Street Brewing and Snowgoose Restaurant and Sleeping Lady Brewing, beer lovers can piece together a better brewery crawl here than in any location we've named so far.

Its also one of the best pure vacations as well, as the summer months are a great time to check out the glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, orcas and eagles of Prince William Sound or grab a beer at Glacier Brewhouse during the beautiful summer months. Anchorage's ports are just loaded with cruise ships full of folks like yourself who'll be booking horseback trips through the mountains, trying to catch a peek at caribou, lynx and grizzlies during various trail hikes and packing the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum.

So what can you do to keep from missing out on the last table at the WildRide Sled Dog Rodeo dinner theater or the kite flying at Delaney Park Strip? Grab an Alaska Tour Saver coupon booklet, book early and get half-price deals on Mount McKinley sightseeing, glacier cruises, remote wilderness lodges, Denali National Park train rides and glacier/wildlife/sightseeing packages.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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