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5 Craft Beer Destinations For Your Next Vacation



Without doubt, craft beer is the new wine when it comes to discriminating tastes and discerning palates. But there’s a key difference; as true aficionados already know, it’s perfectly acceptable to chug craft brews instead of daintily spitting it back into a bucket.

So do you count yourself among the elite ranks of craft beer geekdom? If so, you should make it your mission to visit these 5 awesome beer destinations.

1. Denver, Colorado


Image via Flickr by mattcrest

In the Denver-Boulder-Fort Collins area, you’ll find what is arguably the finest selection of craft breweries in the nation. In fact, craft beer geeks sometimes call this area the “Denver Beer Triangle” and the “Napa Valley of Beer.” Some of the top-rated destinations in Denver that you’ll want to visit include:

  • Avery Brewing: Located in Boulder, this brewing company has been operating for 20 years now. Its award-winning dry stout, Bounds Stout, is one of their most popular brews.
  • Boulder Beer Company: This company claims to be “Colorado’s First Microbrewery,” which very well could be true, considering it was established in 1979. Its Flashback India-style brown ale and Kinda Blue blueberry wheat ale are particular favorites.
  • Upslope Brewing Company: This brew company packages its beer in aluminum cans, presumably because it’s “good for you, the beer, and the environment.” Visit its tap room to sample the company’s Craft Ale or Brown Lager, among many others.
  • Great Divide Brewing Co: Sitting right on Arapahoe Street, Great Divide is possibly Denver’s most popular brewery among the locals. Try the Yeti Imperial Stout or the Hibernation Ale for an excellent brew.
  • The Ale House at Amato’s: Sitting in the lower highlands with rooftop patio that has a breathtaking downtown view, the Ale House is a great craft beer destination. One of its more interesting beers is the El Picante Sol, which has overtones of peach salsa and habaneros.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, of course. Denver boasts 15 top-rated breweries, and there are more than 70 award-winning brew pubs and microbreweries in the area.

2. Portland, Oregon


Image via Flickr by Mafue

Another strong contender for the “craft beer capital” title, Portland is one of the best walking cities in the U.S., making it ideal for craft beer travelers. As documented in the book, Hop in the Saddle, the beer culture is closely related to its cycling culture as well. So if you love the combination of biking and brew, here are some of the can’t-miss breweries in Portland:

  • Cascade Brewhouse: This brewhouse is famous for its Northwest-style sour ales, and the company barrel-ages many of its brews.
  • Upright Brewing: Upright is famous for its French- and Belgian-style, “farmhouse-inspired” beers. Visit this microbrewery’s tasting room and try the Oyster Stout or Late Harvest beers.
  • Hair of the Dog: This brewery and tasting room keeps a seasonal rotation of 8 tasty beers on tap. It also offers a small but tasty menu of food to help soak up the suds.
  • Deschutes Brewery: This brewery sits right on the Deschutes River, and it’s known for adventurous brews like the Black Butte Porter and the Cinder Cone Red.
  • Breakside Brewing: Sitting on Northeast Deakum Street, Breakside’s decor is characterized by an industrial flair. It’s known for its Dry Stout and eco-friendly foodstuffs.

These are just a scant offering of the craft brew destinations that Portland features. The nearby city of Bend, Oregon (where Deschutes is located) is also making waves among beer enthusiasts, so you might want to consider making a side-trip there as well.

3. Tampa, Florida


Image via Flickr by Bernt Rostad

Although Tampa may be a relative latecomer to the craft beer industry, the Tampa Bay Area is certainly making up for lost time. In particular, the South Tampa and St. Petersburg areas have led some enthusiasts to refer to the Bay area as “the new hotbed of craft beer.”

The nearby beaches won’t hurt your reasons for taking a trip here either. But while you’re there, you should make it a point to check out these places:

  • Cigar City Brewing: Over the past few years, Cigar City has increasingly become one Tampa Bay’s most popular places for handcrafted brew. Try the Big Sound Scotch Ale, and get a stogie from the humidor if you’re partial to cigars.
  • Tampa Bay Brewing Company: Located right outside historic Ybor City, this family-run brewpub has been featured on the Food Network for its crafted brews and pub-style food.
  • Barley Mow Brewing Company: The beers here are, of course, brewed on site. And while it doesn’t serve food, it’s located next to one of the best BBQ joints in the bay.
  • Peg’s Cantina & Brew Pub: Sitting right outside St. Petersburg in Gulfport is this little gem. The outdoor patio has a tropical air, and it gets high marks from

The other major craft beer heavyweights in this area include New World Brewery, Mr. Dunderbak’s, Four Green Fields, and Saint Somewhere Brewing Company among others. For extra credit, try to time your visit so you can attend Tampa’s annual Beer Week in March.

4. Seattle, Washington


Image via Flickr by bitmask

Not unlike Portland, Seattle is another great walking city full of unusually tasty craft breweries. The city is particularly well known for the 10-day Seattle Beer Week, which kicks off annually in May and features 200+ beer tasting events. While you’re there, don’t miss these places:

  • Pike Brewing: This brewery is ideal for local-vores who have a taste for superbly crafted brews. Its “beer museum” and onsite brewery make it a premiere stop for craft beer enthusiasts.
  • Elysian: Sitting on East Pike Street, this local brewpub has a cool industrial feel. Try the Night Owl Pumpkin Ale or the Avatar Jasmine IPA for some of the best beers in the city.
  • Emerald City Beer Company: South Seattle’s own craft beer company should be a definite stop on any brew tour of the city. Its small-batch beers are highly acclaimed; indulge in Emerald’s signature Black Lager or Ivana brews.
  • Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company: Not only is Snoqalmie one of the area’s top destinations for soaking up some quality craft suds, but it’s also well-known for its food. This down-to-earth establishment offers the best of both worlds.

Other excellent beer destinations in this area include Pyramid, Two Beers, Red Hook, Fremont, Maritime Pacific, and Schooner Exact, along with many others. And if you book cheap hotels when you visit, you’ll save cash to spend on all those tasty brews.

5. Boston, Massachusetts


Image via Flickr by Robert Banh

Home of what is perhaps the most popular craft beer, Samuel Adams, Boston also offers an array of fine breweries, brewpubs and micro-breweries. In all likelihood, this city is the mecca of craft beer destinations for New England. If you’re looking for proof, you could always check out the Northeastern Beer Map. Or you could just visit these noteworthy places:

  • Jack’s Abbey: This family-owned brewery uses local-grown hops to create some truly memorable brews. Try the British Beer, the Pale Lager and the India Ale for good examples of Jack’s craftsmanship.
  • Clown Shoes: If you’re looking for some street cred as a beer geek, the Clown Shoes Brewery probably produces some of the most underrated beer in the entire region. Check out the Hoppy Feet or the Blaecorn Unidragon.
  • Somerville: Broadway never had a bigger hit than this brew company, at least the street in Boston hasn’t. Drink a pint of Attic & Eaves Toasted Brown Ale or the Slumbrew Porter Square Porter if you really want to see what this place is all about.
  • Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project: Perhaps the most unique of all the brew destinations in this article, Pretty things is a self-styled “gypsy brewery without a proper home.” The beer is brewed at the Buzzard Bay Brewery, and its creators say it’s an “idea not a brewery.” Check out their website, and see what they’re all about.

Lord Hobo, Bukowski Tavern, the Haven, Ipswich, Cape Anne, Mystic, and Cambridge Brewing Company are all noteworthy members of Boston’s craft beer pantheon, too (as, of course, is Sam Adam’s). In fact, it probably wouldn’t be erroneous to say the Bean Town could very well be known as the “Beer Town.”

So if you’re looking to plan a vacation filled with heady brew, these destinations should be at the top of your list. What other craft beer scenes do you think deserve to be mentioned? What breweries, brew-pubs or micro-breweries did we neglect to include?

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  1. Chris Porter

    June 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Nice detail here – the only one of these cities I am getting to know personally is Tampa, and you hit the high spots in the area. One to add would be Dunedin Brewery, which is close to St. Pete/Gulfport. Good job!

  2. Mike Barnett

    June 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    A great article, but, like all critics, I feel compelled to point out a sin of omission: Cold Storage Craft Brewery in Tampa. Great beers, great staff, and a tasting room that is like somebody’s 2000 sq ft living room. They are definitely worth checking out!

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From Cocktails To Mocktails: 3 Boozy Drinks With Non-Alcoholic Variations



The summer season is fast approaching, and many people choose to enjoy it by drinking nice, cool cocktails under the warm, summer sun. Of course, there will be days when an alcoholic drink won’t work for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to enjoy the taste of a mimosa but not the late-afternoon hangover or drowsiness. Perhaps you really want that screwdriver at your favorite cocktail house, but you already volunteered to be the designated driver. Or maybe you could choose to avoid alcohol altogether as part of a sober lifestyle.

Even if consuming alcohol is a no-go, the idea of a delicious, mixed drink on a relaxing day or energetic night out still could sound appealing to you or someone else. Mocktails are a safe and healthy alternative to the original concoction.

The term “mocktails” originated during the 1970s and ever since has been a savior for people who want the delightful taste of a mixed drink but with one specific ingredient missing.

A few classic alcoholic recipes can be tinkered with to create non-alcoholic masterpieces. These variations of popular cocktails either replace alcohol with the ideal replacement ingredient or drop the booze altogether. Vodka becomes ginger ale. Champagne becomes grape juice.

In the end, the alcohol might be missing but the taste is nearly identical to, if not better than, the original.

The Mockmosa

The Recovery Village has a useful summary of how to craft the non-alcoholic version of this brunch-time favorite. They also offer treatment for anyone struggling with substance abuse like the Ohio drug rehab. Mimosas are usually created by combining orange juice with champagne or sparkling wine.

This Mockmosa recipe trades the champagne out for some sparkling white grape juice, which makes a perfect non-alcoholic replacement. Look for grape juice brands that are dry in flavor, with little or no sugar or corn syrup, to replicate the champagne taste. Combine them in a champagne flute and, if you want to add a unique touch, garnish the drink with a mint sprig.

Non-Alcoholic Screwdriver

Usually, screwdrivers are made by combining vodka and orange juice. Replacing the alcoholic ingredient with ginger ale doesn’t drop the tastiness level at all. Leaf.Tv shows how to prepare this variation of the simple two-ingredient mixture.

Start with ice cubes, fill half the glass with ginger ale, and then top it off with a pulpy orange juice brand of your choice. Finish the process with a swizzle stick to combine the two liquid ingredients until the colors have swirled together to mimic a screwdriver. Before the ice melts, sit back and drink up.

Virgin Cucumber Mojito

This smooth-tasting drink is a favorite when temperatures rise and the summer season hits its peak. The alcoholic version includes rum, but it’s not really necessary to create the drink’s refreshing taste. A Frugal Chick has a great alternative to this classic, and the only change is dropping the alcoholic ingredient. Combine one lime, some mint leaves, white sugar, two cucumber slices, ice cubes and soda together for another version of perfection.

Cocktails are a staple of American drinking culture, especially at restaurants or bars with a group of friends or on a date. In the summer, they become staples for days spent by the pool or on the beach. But don’t give up — or give in to temptation — if you originally hoped to spend your day or night without any alcohol. These mocktails not only flatter the originals with their imitation, but they sometimes raise the bar even higher.

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Space Beer Is The Final Frontier Of Beer



Vostok Space Beer

If you’ve ever seen people drink those little travel bottles of booze on an airplane because they are nervous about flying, imagine what you’re going to need when you are flying toward outer space to stay in one of those fancy space hotels.

Space Beer, that’s what you need. It will help you to blast off while you’re blasting off. Hailed as the world’s first beer for space, Vostok Space beer is specially designed to be drunken in space. Is that proper English? You’ll get drunken in space alright.

Anyway, 4 Pines Brewing Company and Saber Astronautics have teamed up to not only create a space beer but also a space beer bottle so people can drink it in space. Why? Because, beer.

These guys know that space travel is our destiny and they want to be ready with the necessary beverages. As they point out on their Indiegogo page, there is now more recreational space flights that have been booked than there have been astronauts in space in the last 57 years.

Vostok Space Beer

Space tourism is happening, and soon. Do you want to take your trip without beer? Of course not. Whether it’s a suborbital flight or a trip to Mars, a beer would be great. You need a space beer bottle because physics are different in space. There’s no gravity for the liquid to pour. They equate it to making a fuel tank for beer.

This is a noble cause. When you are that first tourist on the moon, you’ll stop and say, *BURP* “That’s one small burp for man, one giant burp for mankind.”

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If You’re A Fan Of Jack Daniel’s, You’ve Got To Make The Pilgrimage To Lynchburg



Jack Daniel's Distillery

Earlier this month, the folks at Jack Daniel’s flew us down to Lynchburg, Tennessee to visit the iconic Jack Daniel’s Distillery, where the world-famous Old No. 7 has been produced for over 150 years, to learn firsthand about how their Tennessee Whiskey is made.

As someone who’s been drinking Jack Daniel’s for the greater part of 20 years, I was excited to learn more about the brand’s history of making whiskey, and the man behind it.

Our journey began in Nashville, about an hour and a half north of Lynchburg. During our ride to the distillery, our guide gave us some history about Jasper Newton Daniel (Jack), and the interesting road that led him to start Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Born in 1849, Jack Daniel was the youngest of 10 children, with his mother dying shortly after his birth (likely due to complications from childbirth). A few years later, his father remarried and had another 3 children with his new wife. Jack leaves home at a very young age and he is taken in by Reverend Dan Call, where he works on the family farm. And on his farm, he had a still, which Jack quickly took interest in it.

It’s here where Jack learns the art of whiskey making from the preacher and his head distiller, Nathan “Nearest” Green. In 1866, Call decides to focus on his calling as a minister, selling his whiskey business to Jack. Jack in turn hires Nearest as his Master Distiller. A few years later, they open the now-famous distillery in Lynchburg, and the rest is history.

Jack Daniel's Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher

A short while later, we arrived at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, and gathered together for a VIP tour hosted by none other than Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher! As you can imagine, he’s got extensive knowledge of the whiskey making process, which he shared with us in great detail as he took us through the entire facility.

Not only that, but Fletcher is actually the grandson of retired Master Distiller Frank Bobo, the distillery’s fifth master distiller from 1966-89. Needless to say, whiskey is in his blood.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

The first stop on our tour was Cave Spring Hollow, which houses Lynchburg’s greatest natural resource – clean, pure, spring water. The cave’s layers of limestone naturally impart a variety of minerals to the water which contribute to Jack Daniel’s character. More importantly, the limestone also removes iron (which is bad if you are making whiskey) from the water.

Did you know that every bottle of Jack Daniel’s sold around the world is made with water from this source? I actually got to take a drink from the spring, and it was perhaps the purest water that I’ve ever tasted.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

From here, we made our way to the Rickyard, where they stack 5-foot tall pallets of hard super maple, douse them in raw, unaged whiskey, before setting the wood ablaze. The inferno peaks at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before burning down into smoldering embers. The resulting charcoal is used in the charcoal mellowing process.

We got to take part in this process, and it was pretty wild, the heat getting so intense that you had to walk away after awhile or risk getting burned. How these guys manage to keep cool in the hot Tennessee summers is beyond me, but my hats off to them.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Afterwards, we walked down to the Distillery Building, where we got to learn more about the whiskey making process including the whiskey stills, the fermenting tanks and the charcoal-mellowing vats. That last part is perhaps the most important, filtering the 140-proof, unaged whiskey drop by drop through 10 feet of handcrafted charcoal.

It’s this extra step that imparts the distinctive smoothness you have come to expect from Jack Daniel’s, and it’s what makes this a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Next, this whiskey goes into American White Oak barrels that are hand-built at Jack Daniel’s Cooperage. Once assembled, the barrel’s interior is toasted and charred using a proprietary method to coax the wood’s natural sugars out and caramelize them. The whiskey enters the barrel colorless and raw, but during the maturation process, the whiskey draws all of its rich amber color and much of its distinctive flavor from the barrels.

As you can imagine, if Jack Daniel’s were to reuse their barrels, they’d get diminishing returns, as the first batch of whiskey already draws out most of the flavor from the barrel. That’s why they only use a barrel once, after which they sell them off to third-parties.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Interestingly enough, a number of variables determine how long a barrel of whiskey stays in the barrelhouse, including the barrel itself and where it’s located in the barrelhouse. Barrels located on the upper floors (where temperature changes are more extreme) tend to mature faster than barrels on the lower floors, where it’s generally cooler.

So rather than rely on age, a team of whiskey tasters sample each and every barrel to decide when they’re ready for bottling. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett showed us this process by bringing us to one of the barrelhouses and taking us up to the 6th floor, where he tapped into a couple of barrels and let us sample them right from the source. In a word.. incredible!

Jack Daniel's Distillery

If that wasn’t enough, they also set up a tasting for us, where we got to sample every product in their portfolio, including Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel Select, Rye, Honey, Fire, and more. I really enjoyed the Single Barrel Select, but Honey and Fire were also standouts for me, and I definitely need to pick up a few bottles of these for myself.

Overall, I had a great time visiting the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and seeing everything that they have to offer, and I’d highly recommend taking the tour if you’re coming through Tennessee, even if you’re not a whiskey drinker. There’s a ton of history here, and it’s sure to give you a newfound respect for Jack Daniel’s, and the man who started it all.

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