1. Kettlehouse Brewing Company, Missoula, Montana
Known lovingly as the “K-hole” by Missoulians, this tiny brewery features an even smaller taproom where you’ll find locals of all stripes downing Cold Smoke Scotch Ale.
They don’t serve food, but the intensely hoppy Double Haul will usher in the perfect ending to a day of fly fishing the Clark Fork (a mere 200 feet from the front door) or exploring Glacier National Park.
2. Barrio Brewing, Tucson, Arizona
If you’re visiting Tucson to cure Seasonal Affective Disorder, consider this brewery for your therapy. Barrio is hard to find, but the beer and the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains makes it worth the effort.
Their porter is a GABF award winner and even in the heat of summer should not be passed over for the lighter beers in their lineup. Don’t be alarmed when the patrons shout that a train is coming. Beers go on special when the railroad gates come down over the road outside.
3. Full Sail Brewing Company, Hood River, Oregon
This tiny town in the Columbia River Gorge is the gateway to Mt. Hood and home to some of the world’s best windsurfing and kayaking. The drive through the gorge to get there is worth the trip itself, but the beers take it to the next level. Enjoy a cask-conditioned Imperial Stout while looking out over Hood River and the Columbia Valley.
4. Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Break away from the tourist strip and head to Second Street for late afternoon sun and fresh beer out on the patio. You can hear live music, mingle with locals, and drink a great Scotch Ale.
5. Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, Maryland
Every year, scores of tall ships sail into Baltimore’s historic ship-building Inner Harbor as mobile museums. After exploring some of the ships that altered the course of human exploration and transportation, grab a Loose Cannon IPA. Clipper City is known as much for their whimsical beer labels as for their small-production winter reserve ale.
6. Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence, Kansas
Kansas may be considered fly-over country, but as you look over the wheat fields, you’ll realize all those craft beers you’ve enjoyed your whole life were born right here. What better way to get in touch with the beer’s grainy lifeblood than a stop into Free State? Lemongrass Wheat is the perfect thirst-quencher for a summer afternoon on the prairie.
7. Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que Smokehouse & Brewery, Austin, Texas
While you’re in Austin checking out the music scene, get back to what Texas is really about by visiting Uncle Billy’s. Don’t expect to find a dark beer on tap, but the Back 40 Blonde is surprisingly hoppy. Also available are brews by the newly opened 512 Brewing.
When in Texas do as the Texans do and slather their signature habanero hot sauce on your food.
8. Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn Brewery‘s central location in the city makes it an easy stop-over between sites and events. Notable brews are The Pennant Ale ’55 and the Post Road Pumpkin, one of the best flavored ales around.
9. Sleeping Giant Brewery/Lewis and Clark Brewing Company, Helena, Montana
This small city is central to all locations in the Big Sky State but is best known for its deep roots in the boom-and-bust world of precious metals. Stop into Lewis and Clark (still known as Sleeping Giant to the locals) for a burger and a Tumbleweed IPA, one of the best IPAs in the country.
10. Deschutes Brewery & Public House, Bend, Oregon
Bend has become synonymous with rec-head culture. At Deschutes you’ll find friends recounting the day’s rides along McKenzie River Trail or how the world looked from atop one of the Three Sisters.
While the Deschutes brewery has a nice taproom, its Public House offers special brews — like cask-conditioned ales — that the brewery doesn’t.
11. Ale Asylum, Madison, Wisconsin
You expect something different from this funky Midwest college town and the Ale Asylum delivers. The cleverly named brews run the emotional gamut from Ambergeddon to Happy Ending, fitting perfectly with the underground culture of the city that gave us The Onion.
The brewers bring their eclectic tastes to the taproom. The Hopalicious APA, as the name suggests, tastes like it’s brewed on the other side of the Rockies.
12. Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham, Washington
A trip to the San Juans won’t be complete without a stop at Boundary Bay. Like most taphouses worth visiting, it’s often packed with locals. The IPA has the hoppiness associated with the Pacific Northwest, and the Amber is well balanced and smooth.
13. Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville Pizza does various takes on the traditional pie, and their Shiva IPA and Houdini ESP are both exceptional brews.
14. Moab Brewery, Moab, Utah
Moab is home to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and is unique in the world for its mountain biking scene. When visiting the Moab Brewery, check out the Dead Horse (named after the famous Canyonlands vista point) and Deraillieur Ales.
15. AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego, California
AleSmith shows you what craft brewing is all about. Both the brewmasters and their beers have won awards. They have a huge selection (by brewery standards) on tap, so expect to spend a full weekday afternoon sampling. Note: the taproom isn’t open weekends.
16. Long Trail Brewing Company, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont
The Green Mountains of Vermont are home to the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the U.S. It crosses the state’s highest peaks from the Massachusetts state line 270 miles north to the Canadian border. It’s also the namesake of Long Trail Brewing, one of New England’s premier micros.
Stop into their active brewery and see the action from a balcony above the floor on a self-guided tour, or just enjoy one of their signature ales on a balmy day in their riverside “beer garden.”
17. Twisp River Pub, Twisp, Washington
Northwest sport climbers and mountaineers alike will run across the small town of Twisp at some time in their lives, if only passing through to get to the exposed granite of the northern Cascades. The Twisp River Pub is excellent; Methow Brewing is a true microbrewery, keeping batches to 100 gallons or less for the highest quality. They also pull some beers by hand using a traditional beer engine.
18. Novare Res Bier Cafe, Portland, Maine
Old Port’s Novare Res has the best beer selection anywhere in New England. Whether you grab a seat inside at one of the wood-paneled bars or outdoors on the expansive patio, anything from Maine’s local Allagash Brewing is a good pick for a pint.
19. Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Expect something different from Dogfish Head beers — like the Raison d’Extra, a brown ale brewed with raisins. If you’re going to sample more than a couple, bring money for a cab. These beers not only have plenty of alcohol, but they seem to have been magically brewed to hit harder than most. Dogfish also handcrafts gin, vodka, and rum. Plan to sleep in.
20. New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado
New Belgium was one of the founders of the microbrew movement and has since grown to the point that it blurs the line between micro and macro. Their top-notch beers have a wide fan base, but they also put on a deep roster of community events focused on sustainability.
Don’t miss the summer Bike-In Cinema nights (think drive-in, but with bikes and beer). There’s nothing more pleasurable than lying back on the grass under glittering stars, sipping a Fat Tire Amber and enjoying a flick with 300 like-minded souls.
***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***
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Frequent Matador Contributor Eric Warren has lived in various Montana locales including Missoula, Big Sky, Bozeman, and Billings, for 25 years.