TPFIn much the same way that “alcoholic” has spawned “workaholic”, “chocoholic”, “sexaholic”, and “pizzaholic” (okay, I made that one up), “cation” has fumbled into a shotgun marriage with a couple of other ideas that center around the general meaning of that suffix: “an experience centered upon”. “Staycation” we all know: taking a vacation during which you just stay home and chill out. Just within the past two weeks, I’ve seen the term “Vinocation” – a pleasure trip centered on wineries – which frankly seems like a reach.

“Beercation” has been around for a while, now. “A vacation predicated upon visiting breweries”…something that used to only be done, before the advent of craft brewing, by “Eraserhead”-type weirdoes who bliss out while touring factories. Since the Craft Beer Boom, though, planning a vacation around drop-ins to your favorite beermakers has taken on a certain chic aura and given some genuinely odd chunks of geography a much-needed shot of tourism $$$. Ever heard of Roseland, Virginia? Oddly, as a Virginia native, I have. Been there, in fact. There’s nothing there but a few farms…and a dynamic new brewery called Devil’s Backbone. Tillamook, Oregon? DeGarde Brewing, one of the most creative and accomplished new breweries of the past five years. Greensboro Bend, Vermont? Hill Farmstead Brewing,one of the most celebrated new breweries, well, ever. All these small-town success stories are easily folded into a larger and more ambitious trip that involves lots of driving, beautiful scenery, delicious food, and tons of variety.

Paul Arney readies spruce tips at Bend's amazing The Ale Apothecary

Paul Arney readies spruce tips at Bend’s amazing The Ale Apothecary

With the fantastic proliferation of craft breweries all over the map, this sort of adventure is available, usually, without even the need for an airline ticket. Google, a dependable car, and the right companion is the basic recipe…but, let’s be honest: you cannot live by bread alone and it’s no different for that flourless bread-analog, beer. Where can we find a nearby beach on which to unwind after the tasting rooms? Where can we ski? Watch sports? Take in a concert? EAT?!?

Limited edition from Denver's  uber-fine Renegade Brewing

Limited edition from Denver’s uber-fine Renegade Brewing

The criteria for this are very simple: where can you find great scenery, great lodgings, great dining, a logical route, maybe some other beverages made and offered, and a LOT of genuinely great beer. And I have to define “great scenery” as many things: mountains (my favorite), beaches, desert, rolling hills, rivers, lakes, interesting cities, and ease of access to all of this. If you have to leave the beer region and drive a day out of your way to see that great vista, that region is out. Logical, accessible, beer-soaked, interesting, driveable, and can be done in seven days. That’s the recipe.

And, yes, I am going to get that chorus of “West Coast Bias!!” And I admit it: I have a West Coast bias…for a very good and basic reason:  craft brewing on the Left Coast had a full twenty year head start on craft everywhere else. (Yeah, yeah, Sam Adams.) That allowed breweries here to get very good, as twenty years of practice does with most human endeavors. Also, this is a list about vacations, remember, and not even the most hard-core East Coast homie is going to try to argue that, for sheer jaw-dropping scenery, dining, recreation, beaches, mountains, and culture, that  seven day jaunt through Vermont or Ohio or Virginia is going to be anywhere near as inspiring – except maybe in beer terms – as any of these excursions. This is about Ultimate Beer Getaways…and these nine cannot be beat.

Part Two of this will post in just about a week. For now, here are the Top Four Beercations in the US…




Photo of Great Divide Brewery by brewingsomefun.com

Photo of Great Divide Brewery by brewingsomefun.com

The top five of this list are virtually interchangeable but I took so much static for recently writing a list of best breweries that had a three-way tie for First that I decided to grow a pair. Colorado, for my money, has the best mix of brewing, dining, nature, recreation, culture, breath-taking scenery, hospitality, genuinely friendly people, and that leavening of oddness that is what makes any place memorable. You know most of it: The Rockies and Rocky Mountain National Park, with the highest elevation roadway in the US, driving literally in the clouds, through tunnels of carved our snow, right across the Continental Divide and some of the wildest scenery in the country.

Photo of Little Man Ice Cream by gokellygo on tripadvisor.com

Photo of Little Man Ice Cream by gokellygo on tripadvisor.com

A concert at the legendary Red Rocks, one of the world’s truly great music venues? It’s only an hour out of Denver and features the top bands in the world. Want something more refined? Denver has a national-class symphony, a major ballet, outstanding museums, and, of course, those sports teams – ALL the major sports (Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche) and the niche ones (Colorado Rapids MLS, and the Colorado Mammoth and Denver Outlaws pro lacrosse teams). Denver is a big time place for artisan ice cream, with Sweet Action, Little Man, Liks, High Point Creamery, Sweet Cow, and the oldest, Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, all cranking out insanely flavorful treats. My fave, Ice Cream Riot, specializes in a line of breakfast cereal ice creams(!) and wildly excessive ice cream sandwiches like Dirty Cookies ‘N’ Cream between two Cookies ‘N’ Cream Pop Tarts! (Hey, anybody seen my defibrilator?) Boulder boasts the Pearl Street Mall, a real slice of 60s-style Be-In-ism, where music and crafts collide with commerce and strolling. Colorado Springs has The Garden of The Gods, a massive natural collection of the state’s famed red rock towers, and the US Air Force Academy, as well as a great restaurant community. The ring of smaller cities surrounding Denver is a sweetly preserved slice of Old Colorado, with great atmosphere and fabulous breweries. The best ski resorts in the US are west of Denver: Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, and Telluride, among many others. Preserved history is everywhere and whole towns, like Fort Collins, are maintained in the style of their roots. And, a lesser known factoid, Colorado is also developing a vital, vibrant wine culture, growing their own grapes and making increasingly solid wines. IMO, they’re not there yet, as compared to California, Oregon, Washington, or even Virginia, but they’re benefiting from the lessons of those regions and their winemakers and climbing the learning curve like a scalded cat.

Photo from Spring 44 Distillery by catchcarri.com

Photo from Spring 44 Distillery by catchcarri.com

In brewing terms, Colorado is rapidly become the epicenter of American craft beer. The Brewers Association now calls Denver home, as does, of course, The Great American Beer Festival. Fort Collins, Loveland, Boulder, Longmont, and even remote, isolated Durango all boast national-class breweries. Distilling is huge in CO, too. When in Denver, do not miss Stranahan’s Whiskey’s handsome tasting room, just south of downtown. Breckenridge Distillery makes an absolutely decadent big Bourbon, Leopold Brothers make a lot of everything – from Whiskey to Cordials – and does all of it well.  Woody Creek , Jack Rabbit Hill, Peach Street, and Woods High Mountain Distillery take hooch to the small town scene. And the brilliant Spring 44 makes some of the best Vodkas, Gins, and infused spirits in the country.

Dining is maybe Colorado’s main attraction. If you can’t find what you want to eat in this state, it’s probably not anywhere, with the sole exception of great Asian food. That’s not say there’s none and what is there is wonderful but Hispanic influences, Fusion, American, and BBQ have far more presence, as does the bedrock, All-American steakhouse, which Denver does in a style matched only by the best Chicago and NYC beer emporiums. My faves are mostly in Denver: Illegal Pete’s, John Elway’s, Corafaye’s Soul Food, Yazoo BBQ, Marco’s Pizza, Biker Jim’s(!), and a dozen other spots I could mention, as well as a little gem in Golden, Bob’s Atomic Burgers. Cautionary note: several of my most disappointing and frustrating dining experiences have been ion D-town, too. ALWAYS ask friends and online forums for recommendations before you go on any beercation.

Just some of the taps and Falling Rock Taphouse

Just some of the taps and Falling Rock Taphouse

Colorado is a Must See destination for all beer lovers, including that thing which I mention least in this blog: Alehouses. Falling Rock Taphouse is always in the argument for Top Beer Bar in America and it gets my vote every time. But what makes CO really shine is the freedom granted to its brewers to Do Their Own Thang. Colorado beer lovers, from the git-go, have let their breweries innovate. (Something that we do very poorly, here in my own back yard.) Every advancement – from Oskar Blues’ canned beer revolution to Crooked Stave’s game-changing sours – has been met with a “Hell, yeah! Let’s try it!“, which is a gift that just keeps on giving. Brewery start-ups in CO are happening at a rate around two per month and licenses are running about one a week! From Belgian-style experimentation to the nation’s best sours to mammoth, soul-deep Stouts and Dark Ales to beer brewed with bull testicles (Wynkoop’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout), again, if you can’t find it in Colorado…you won’t find it.

TOP TIER BREWERIES:  Avery, Oskar Blues, SKA, Grimm Brothers, New Belgium, Mountain Sun, Great Divide, Funkwerks, Crooked Stave, Renegade, River North, Trinity Brewing, Bristol Brewing, Odell, Dry Dock, Left Hand, Elevation, Strange Craft Beer Company, Steamworks, Tommyknocker, Boulder Beer Company

BUBBLING UNDER: Verboten, Black Bottle, Equinox, Horse & Dragon, Black Shirt, Four Noses, Amicas, CAUTION: Brewing,  Twisted Pine, Wit’s End, TRVE, Bull ‘N’ Bush, Breckenridge Brewing, Former Future Brewing, Wynkoop Brewing, Phantom Canyon Brewing (great pub!)


(S o u t h e r n)  C A L I F O R N I A


img4043729Cali presents a fundamental problem for the spirit of this list: It’s freakin’ BIG. The premise of the seven-day Beercation doesn’t work for CA as a whole because you’d need two weeks, a private jet, and Mark Cuban’s money to hit all the brewery clusters in a meaningful way, never mind the fact that you’d have about 20 minutes in each one if you want to visit any reasonable number of the state’s 500+ makers of brews. So, for purposes of this list and my own laziness, we’re going to ask two California pals of mine to stand, one in Monterey and one in Las Vegas, and hold a really, really long string. Everything south of that in California is included here. Arbitrary? You betcha! And, not coincidentally, it omits many of the country’s best breweries: 21 Amendment, Lagunitas, Russian River, North Coast, Speakeasy..see? Arbitrary. But as this list is about a vacation AND beer, my feeling is that the South end of Cali holds a hair’s-breadth edge over the North. Purely in population terms, Southern California contains the 400 Lb. Gorilla, Los Angeles, which has come very late to the craft beer party. Indeed, along with New York city, LA is the American megalopolis with the least craft beer activity…until very recently.

HPBMy own totally unsupported and admittedly fanciful scenario is that craft beer hasn’t blossomed in LA the way it has in San Francisco because a lot of people who now own breweries came to LA with dreams of making  it in the movie biz or the porn industry. Ill-equipped (literally) for either, these folks turn to brewing as a fall-back position. (Maybe the only place in human society in which craft brewing is seen as the stable alternative to any other profession. This is, of course, just my little fantasy but wouldn’t it be FUN if it were true?) One of the primary tasks for an emerging craft brewery, of course, is to Get Noticed and, in LA – where Visibility is Job One for aspiring actors, directors, grips, singers, televangelists, and writers – getting noticed for making beer is pretty far down the list of things which call attention to themselves. LA’s a city that’s all about Appearances and armies of folks are employed in engineering those, 24/7/365. Our societal fascination with the place is legendary but – quick! – name me ONE Los Angeles brewery. Can’t? I thought not. LA is a throbbing, pulsating paradox; impossible to ignore and terrifying to watch, like some incredibly beautiful woman in a negligee who’s posing provocatively while biting the heads off gerbils. Its vast mass of competing cultures has, until just recently, obscured their brewing community. There is definitely something for everyone in Los Angeles, whether your idea of a good time is watching basketball, brushing up against movie stars at the Farmer’s Market, or being urinated on by a deranged person. But there absolutely IS Beer Here…and some damned fine stuff, at that.

Today’s LA has a fair number of emerging craft breweries, if none that has yet really made a national name for itself, and a solid day’s tasting can be had by touring about seven or eight of the top producers. Those are listed below.

The happy clan at San Diego's stellar new Societe Brewing

The happy clan at San Diego’s stellar new Societe Brewing

But the real centerpiece of SoCal brewing is LA’s little sister to the South, San Diego. There is a lot of debate as to which American city is the best brewing community and I’ve heard arguments ranging from the rampant homerism of my own ‘hood and our firm conviction that Seattle is the best, to borderline-plausible claims for Tampa, Grand Rapids, Austin, Albuquerque, Denver, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, and San Francisco. For me, there is no real contest. In the number of breweries of national stature and earth-shaking accomplishment, San Diego simply is without equal. In terms of this list, it also has a completely legit rep as almost the Anti-LA: genuinely laid-back, clean, civil, glorious beaches, a food truck culture rivaled only by Portland, great brick ‘n’ mortar restaurants by the dozens, the San Diego Zoo, the Embarcadero, Torrey Pines State Park, the Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum, The MLB Padres, the NFL Chargers, San Diego State’s nationally-prominent football and basketball teams, Belmont Park, the best Hispanic food culture in the United States. Add in, also, the potential for day trips to Palm Springs and Palm Desert or across the border into Mexico. San Diego is one of the most uniquely agreeable cities on the West Coast and, as a place to start and end a SoCal Beercation, it’s the ideal spot.

Firestone Walker Brewery/Photo by californiathroughmylens.com

Firestone Walker Brewery/Photo by californiathroughmylens.com

The northern pole of this vacation axis is one of the more sparse brewing clusters in all of the inhabitable areas of Cali but contains one gigantic and undeniable beer icon. Firestone Walker’s Paso Robles headquarters has become a virtual mecca for craft beer lovers and their astronomical quality has vaulted them into that rarefied stratum of breweries that includes only the certified giants like Stone and Dogfish and Deschutes and Boulevard and Russian River and Cigar City. As the main – and, for quite a while, virtually the only – beer presence among the dozens of Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo wineries, FW has become one of America’s leading brewers, and used to be one of its legendary contract producers, too. They used to brew the beers of Humboldt Brewing and much of what’s privately labeled for Trader Joe’s, but the boom in sales of the parent brand have now forced them out of contracting. Paso is a gorgeous little city and one of the best food environments in SoCal. From Paso, the smart bet is staying along the coastline and stopping in at several of the lovely, Spanish-influenced smaller cities along Route 101: San Lusi Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Santa Maria, Los Olivos, and the unmissable Santa Barbara, one of the most beautiful cities in the US. Needless to say, if you’re also a wine geek, this whole route bristles with stunning places to taste and stunning wines poured there. Other than FW, the only “Must Not Miss” producer in the area is Kern River Brewing of Kernville, a foothill town about 160 miles northeast of Paso Robles. If you’re up for a beautiful, leisurely drive, I urge you to visit Kern River, where brewmaster Kyle Smith is crafting wonders like his IPA Troika, “Just Outstanding”, “Deep River” Double IPA, and Triple IPA. It’s well worth the trip up.

Death Valley

Death Valley

East of this coastal route is largely the California Desert. If you’re into such things, you’re really in Wonderland. Death Valley, the Mohave National Preserve, Joshua Tree…magnificent scenery and all the heat you can handle…what better preparation for an evening of caressing sweaty mugs of cold, crisp craft beers?

SoCal’s sheer diversity of experiences is really matched only by Washington – which you’ll see later on – and offers something for literally everybody.


TOP TIER BREWERIES:  (San Diego)   AleSmith, Karl Strauss, Societe, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Alpine, Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing, Rip Current, Mike Hess Brewing, Monkey Paw, Acoustic Ales    (Paso Robles)   Firestone Walker, Barrelhouse Brewing    (Los Angeles)   The Bruery, The Hermosillo/Highland Park, Beechwood BBQ, Smog City, El Segundo Brewing, McLeod Ales, Monkish, Ladyface, Golden Road, Kinetic  (Kernville) Kern River Brewing  OTHER: Black Market Brewing, Left Coast

BUBBLING UNDER:  Telegraph Brewing, Hollister Brewing, Institution Ale Co., Enegren Brewing, Pacific Plate Brewing, Sanctum, Progress Brewing, Three Weavers, Hangar 24, Coachella Valley, Four Sons Brewing, The Good Beer Company, Barley Forge, Iron Fire, Aftershock, Garage Brewing Co., Bagby Beer Co., Mother Earth, Belching Beaver, Iron Fist, Mission Brewing, Border X, Lengthwise Brewing,




Just for one example…Start a week-long Oregon vacation in Portland and spend one of your seven weeknights in each of  the starred destinations on the map below. From PDX, drive out Oregon Route 30, merge with US 101, go east at Newport on Oregon 20, up Oregon Route 97 to Interstate 84 down the Columbia Gorge and – without going more than five miles out of the way, you’ll find the tiny, quirky Captured by Porches Brewing, the rising star Fort George Brewing of Astoria, Seaside Brewing, the world-class Pelican Brewing, the Rogue empire of Newport, with one of America’s truly great pubs. On to Corvallis and Block 15, Sky High Brewing, and Two Towns Ciderhouse. Swing south on Oregon 99W and hit Eugene, with Ninkasi Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Falling Sky, Plank Town, and a real oddity – Viking Braggot Brewery, making the ales of Chaucer’s day, an inspired combination of mead and beer. Go back up I-5 to Albany and take in Calapooia Brewing and Deluxe Brewing, followed by a a leisurely drive through gorgeous forests to Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters, and then on to an overnighter (or two!) in Bend and its 20+ (and counting!) breweries, including Deschutes, Worthy, The Ale Apothecary, Oblivion, Crux Fermentation Project, Boneyard Brewing, Goodlife Brewing, Silver Moon Brewing, Solstice, Shade Tree, Smith Rock, Rat Hole, Bridge 99, Platypus, River Bend, the new Monkless Brewing, the venerable Bend Brewing, Cascade Lakes, Phat Matt’s, and Below Grade. Up 97 to the gorge and you find Hood River, with the hallowed Full Sail, pFriem Family Brewers, Double Mountain, and Logsdon Brewing. Slip over into Washington for Everybody’s Brewing, then back down the Gorge to Thunder Island Brewing and cross again to the great Walking Man Brewing, in picture-postcard Stephenson, WA. From there, it’s an hour’s drive to Portland and Laurelwood, Hopworks, Cascade Barrelhouse, Gigantic, Upright, Hair of The Dog(!), The Commons, Breakside, Burnside, Buckman, Bridgeport, Widmer, Stormbreaker, Ecliptic, Baerlic, Base Camp, Harvester, and many MORE!…Well, how’s that for a beer-intensive seven days?

Oregon is a treasure trove of cool scenery and within the loop below or with a short side-trip, you’ll find ALL of what you see here:


Oregon offers some of the West Coast’s best dining experiences, ranging from the uptown sophistication of the great Higgins, Langbaan, Ataula, and Maurice, in downtown Portland, to a wealth of wine country dining rooms and B&B tables, to one of my favorite places on earth…a converted river trawler or “bowpicker”, a fishing boat that, to this day, works the mouth of the Columbia and out into the Pacific. Bowpickers, in Astoria, deep fries ultra-fresh yellowfin tuna, usually caught within the past two days, in thick, meaty chunks, and serves it with steaming potato wedges, all this done while you wait. It’s set in the old boat, up on a platform just off the main drag of lovely old Astoria and is guaranteed to be the best fish ‘n’ chips you ever ate. That story has reiterations all over Oregon: tiny, out-of-the-way cafes and pubs that make such dazzling food that it takes your breath away. Add to that all the boating, hiking, mountain and rock-climbing, kayaking, canoeing, hunting, fishing – my God, the fishing! – and cultural opportunities too numerous to count, and you have one of the great vacation lands in the US. then add in the yearly beer, wine, and food fests, and you have the perfect Beercation option if you want your downtime a tad more back-to-nature that Colorado and SoCal.



TOP TIER BREWERIES: Deschutes Brewery, Hair of The Dog, Upright Brewing, Cascade Barrelhouse, Breakside Brewing, Rogue Brewing, Full Sail Brewing, Ninkasi, Oakshire, De Garde, Heater Allen, Pelican Brewing,Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, pFriem family Brewers, The Ale Apothecary, Crux Fermentation Project, Boneyard Brewing, Block 15, Bend Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Laurelwood Brewing, Burnside Brewing, The Commons, Gigantic Brewing, Fort George Brewing, Ecliptic Brewing, Terminal Gravity Brewing, Widmer

BUBBLING UNDER:  Base Camp, Ground Breaker, Buckman Botanical Brewery, New Old Lompoc, Seaside, Bouy Brewing, Worthy Brewing, Goodlife Brewing, Monkless, Silver Moon, Oblivion, Double Mountain Brewing, Ex Novo, Occidental Brewing, Baerlic, Agrarian Ales, Beer Valley, Brewers Union Local 180, Bridgeport





Josh Pfriem (Now of pFriem Family Brewers) with the master, Wil Kemper

Josh Pfriem (Now of pFriem Family Brewers) with the master, Wil Kemper

I know I’m going to catch static for naming us fourth, here, both from neighbors who say “Only FOURTH!?!” and from those outside our region who scoff at everything, anyway. Were it not for a certain bedrock Truth about our fair state, I would have ranked it even higher – possibly as high as second – which would then have touched off a chorus of “West Coast Bias!!” or its running mate, “Homer!!“…which I’m going to get, anyway. And here is that bedrock Truth: Our brewing community is far – as in miles far – more narrow-focus than any other region named above or below or in Part Two. In Washington, we make the ales of the British tradition. A solid 95% of everything you find on tap at breweries here is that PaleIPAStoutAmberPorterESB continuum and it’s not because of the brewers. It’s US, the Washington beer drinkers, who want IPA after IPA after Pale after Amber after Stout. We demand this…and we get it.  We do it superbly; arguably the best ales of that tradition made anywhere in the country. But we simply have no history of pushing the brewing envelope. There is NO Washington brewery like Crooked Stave, Lost Abbey, Jester King, St. Somewhere, Funkwerks, Cascade Barrelhouse, Upright, Jolly Pumpkin, or Logsdon. If those types of beers are your thing, you’ll find only a smattering here; maybe .05% of all the state’s output. There are three breweries in the state that specialize in experimental beers. Propolis, in Port Townshend, Slippery Pig, in Poulsbo, and one in Seattle that just isn’t there yet. Many others try them, with very mixed results. This is changing, Thank God, rather quickly, but we’re still years behind most other great beer regions in climbing out of our communal rut.

Orcas buzz Seattle/Photo by Chris Huss

Orcas buzz Seattle/Photo by Chris Huss

With all that as a preface, Washington is easily the most diverse landscape of any mentioned in this list. This is a wild and breath-taking place that offers, in one state, deserts and majestic mountains and beaches and lakes and pastoral hills and vertiginous canyons and islands galore and one of the world’s greatest agricultural bounties and a wine culture second only to California’s and scenic roadways everywhere you turn and a booming distilling community…well, everything, really, that I’ve mentioned in those other destinations but usually on a larger scale and far more accessible. A trip across Puget Sound on the Seattle to Bainbridge Ferry, almost exactly mid-voyage, delivers a panorama you’ll find nowhere else in the country: Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier rearing up like some haunting CGI creation out of Lucas Labs to the south, the Olympic Mountains to the west, Mt. Baker’s year-round snow-capped magnificence to the north, and the Cascades to the east, all graced by all that clean, splendid water, and the most lush, profligate forests in the country. Not infrequently, there are also Orca sightings to be had on the ferries and at Orcas Island, north of Seattle, and in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The entire state, even many of the small villages, is bursting with arts and crafts, music, dance, fine art and performance art, and a booming culture of artisan makers of cheeses, meats, beverages, candy, chocolate, prepared foods, breads, and our signature smoked seafoods. Dining in Seattle is a mixed bag, some startling and creative and some good ol’ meat ‘n’ potatoes fare.

Brewmaster Adam Robbings, of WA's best brewery, Reuben's Brews/Photo by Ballard News Tribune

Brewmaster Adam Robbings, of WA’s best brewery, Reuben’s Brews/Photo by Ballard News Tribune

The only problem with your seven days is that Washington has great breweries tucked away everywhere, so the logical move, a coastal tour from Bellingham, at the Canadian border, to Seattle misses the terrific Bale Breaker Brewing in Yakima, Old Schoolhouse, a rising star in tiny, mountain-shadowed Winthrop, stalwart Iron Horse Brewing, in the charming cowboy town of Ellensburg, and the whole of Spokane, where NoLi Brewhouse and Iron Goat and Perry Street Brewing are the main attractions and a swing across into Idaho to check out Post Fall’s tremendous Selkirk Abbey Brewing is a Must Do sidetrip. Bellingham is notable mainly as the hometown of two giants of NW brewing: Chuckanut Brewery, where the man who is arguably America’s best producer of German-style lagers and ales, Wil Kemper, holds court, and the venerable Boundary Bay Brewing, whose IPAs are the stuff of Northwest legend.

Washingtonians are notoriously Seattle-centric, which leads to such embarrassments as a recent list on thrillist.com (which I unwittingly participated in) that listed Washington’s best breweries as all in Seattle, save the one irrefutable vote for Chuckanut. A couple of those named were just plain bad and I had to disavow the list, so please, take the listings below as the actual breweries that you want to find up here in my ‘hood.

Washington is an absolutely spectacular state to visit; almost every area of it. If you’re fortunate enough to come during football season, a Seahawks game is truly one of the most (literally!) earth-shaking experiences to be had in sports; the virtual Yang to the lovely, pastoral Yin of a Seattle Mariners game at SafeCo Field. If you love fishing, this is Heaven. Ditto for the still-dynamic music scene, as in the world-class Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and for just exploring the gorgeous towns and pubs and all those tucked-away breweries and the 100 wineries scattered all around Seattle and the 200+ in Walla Walla. Here are a few pictures, just to entice you. If you’re a fan of the quintessential IPA or British-style Stout, this may just be your ultimate adventure beercation.



TOP TIER BREWERIES: Reuben’s Brews (SEA), Sound Brewery (Poulsbo), Fremont Brewing (SEA), Black Raven (Redmond), Holy Mountain Brewing (SEA), Old Schoolhouse (Winthrop), Bale Breaker (Yakima), NoLi Brewhouse (Spokane), Walking Man, (Stevenson), Boundary Bay (Bellingham), Engine House 9 (Tacoma), Chuckanut (Bellingham), Geaux Brewing (Bellevue), Big Block Brewing (Sammamish), Snoqualmie Brewing, Valholl Brewing (Poulsbo), Silver City Brewing (Bremerton), Iron Horse (Ellensburg), Amnesia Brewing (Washougal), 7 Seas (Gig Harbor)

BUBBLING UNDER:  Two Beers (SEA), Tripelhorn (Woodinville), 12 String (Spokane), Snipes Mountain (Sunnyside), Seapine (SEA), Standard Brewing (SEA), Skookum Brewing (Arlington), Tin Dog (SEA), Populuxe (SEA), Propolis (Port Townshend), Slippery Pig (Poulsbo), Rainy Daze (Poulsbo), Elk Head (Buckley), Dick’s Brewing (Centralia), Heathen Brewing (Vancouver), Doomsday Brewing (Vancouver)


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2 thoughts on “America’s Top Beer Regions: The “Heres” with the Beers!/Part One

Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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