6 Underrated Beer Towns That Deserve to Be on Your Radar
When it comes to the specialty beer movement, there’s no denying that there are certain domestic destinations that get all the glory—you know, places like Portland, Oregon, and Denver, Colorado. But there are plenty of other gems that fly under the radar—that is, until now. Read on to discover the lesser-known spots that will leave you itching to pack your bags (and a growler or two).
① Hampton, Virginia
Hampton, Virginia, is an ideal choice for anyone who enjoys history alongside their hops. The coastal city is home to one of the state’s oldest microbreweries, The St. George Brewing Co., which has been in operation for nearly 20 years. Stop by to sip one of its traditional English or German styles, or sample local fare from one of the rotating food trucks. The open-air taproom of Oozlefinch Craft Brewery is another fan favorite and sits just beyond the gates of Fort Monroe National Monument, a historic army post decommissioned in 2011. Or enjoy views of the Hampton River from the area’s first waterfront brewery, Bull Island Brewing Co., which opened last fall.
② Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City neighbors Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, once anointed by Good Morning America as the country’s most beautiful place, and boasts more than 20 breweries, despite its modest population (just over 15,000). Take advantage of local waterways (including Lake Michigan) with a kayak pub crawl; you can row up to popular stops like Right Brain Brewery and Rare Bird Brewpub. Be sure to plan a trip in mid-August to celebrate the Microbrew & Music Festival.
③ Torrance, California
Tucked away in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, Torrance is a serene seaside town that’s home to some of the finest tasting rooms in the region. Standouts include the family-run Smog City Brewing Co., which is known for its experimental beers (its Spittin’ & Cussin’ American wild ale is aged in wine barrels with sour cherries) and the Zymurgy Brew Works, a nanobrewery offering do-it-yourself classes where you can create custom blends. Talk about the best souvenir ever.
④ Boise, Idaho
If you envision potatoes and sprawling farmlands when you imagine Idaho, you’re not wrong—but that’s exactly what makes Boise one of the most exciting up-and-coming beer cities in the West. According to the USDA, Idaho is among the country’s top producers of barley and hops, giving brewers access to the freshest ingredients and translating to creativity and innovation. Prime examples include Cloud 9 Brewery (the state’s first certified-organic nanopub) and Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, whose Full Moon Stout (7 percent ABV) blends six varieties of local barley for a smooth, rich finish. Don’t miss Boise’s annual Hoptober Freshtival for the region’s best seasonal brews or visit next April for a series of beer-fueled events during Idaho Craft Beer Month.
⑤ Albuquerque, New Mexico
New Mexico’s largest city is fast becoming one of the top beer destinations in America. Albuquerque is home to a diverse array of breweries, including Canteen Brewhouse (the city’s longest-standing brewery, dating back to 1994), La Cumbre (a microbrewery blending beer, music, food trucks, and yoga) and Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. (a modern yet vintage beer hall founded by Shyla Sheppard, a craft beer lover born and raised on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation). An arid climate means aficionados can experience beer-themed events all year; our favorites include the New Mexico Brew Fest (October) and ABQ Blues & Brews, which takes place every May.
⑥ Anchorage, Alaska
There’s so much more to Alaska than Denali and the Iditarod. An early adopter in the craft beer phenomenon, the state has turned home brewing into a popular pastime since the 1980s, when locals began experimenting with natural glacial water in their recipes. Today, the Anchorage area is dotted with more than 30 breweries, many of which highlight locally sourced ingredients; Double Shovel, for example, spins Alaskan apples, berries and syrup into gluten-free ciders. Need some help getting started? Check out Big Swig Tours, which offers a bunch of packages dedicated to exploring “the Last Frontier”—one brewery at a time.
Ian Centrone is a native New Yorker and freelance writer currently exploring South America. Follow his adventures at @iancentrone.
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