The craft beer movement is on the rise, with more microbreweries popping up all over North America. With the recent "local motion" trend (where hotels, restaurants and bars are switching out big-name brands for local vendors), the public is getting a good taste of local beer scene. In fact, craft beer sales recently grew nearly 25% in the Southeast alone, and those numbers continue to rise. So gather up the boys, and head to these destinations that are fast becoming beer scene kings that offer some of the best suds in town.
They don't call Asheville Beer City USA for the heck of it. The Southern city has 11 breweries -- and counting! Asheville's brewing community is diverse, with operations that range from the nanobrewery at the Thirsty Monk pub to the heavyweight Highland Brewing Company, the third largest brewery in the Southeast. What may be a testament to the growing beer scene here is that Sierra Nevada and New Belgium breweries will expand their East Coast expansions in Asheville later in 2012. The Best Firkin Beer Festival (named after the traditional beer cask, of course) made its debut in April 2012, and plenty other beer-centric events happen year-round.
Los Angeles' Popular Breweries
Four Points by Sheraton LAX not only has a beer menu featuring more than 100 beers (many craft and microbrew) at their Brewster's Bar & Grill, but the airport hotel also has a director of brewer relations, a beer advisory board and a beer club package featuring a customized in-room beer fridge. Clearly they love their beer, but the hotel is also a testament to the hops-happy city of Los Angeles. In the past few years alone breweries have spiked in numbers with a handful to open within the year. Head to Strand Brewing Co. and El Segundo Brewing Company, two of the more popular breweries.
Virginia's Lagers and Ales
The entire state of Virginia is so obsessed with its beer culture, it is officially naming the month of August "Virginia Craft Brew Month." Virginia has more than 40 breweries, a 25% increase in the past 2 years alone. Head to Roseland, VA, to the popular Devils Backbone Brewing Company, home to the annual Virginia Craft Beer Fest, and Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA, the state's first countryside brewery, hop farm and tasting room. Central Virginia’s oldest and largest microbrewery, Legend Brewery, provides true premium beers to many local restaurants and is one of the few craft breweries in the entire region to produce both lagers and ales. While you're in town, check out the Richmond, VA, skyline from the brewery’s outdoor deck, one of the best places for the view!
Toronto's Craft Breweries
Nothing goes better with a game of hockey than a pint (or 2 or 3) of beer, and Toronto has a number of craft breweries to get you brew-happy. You'll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant, bar or lounge that doesn't carry a local beer. (Canadians are not only patriotic but hyper-supportive of Canadian businesses.) You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone at the brand new Indie Ale House Brewing Co., which also has a restaurant for lunch and dinner. Still want more brewski? Sign up with Ontario Craft Brewery Tours to explore craft breweries in the greater Toronto area. The tour includes 3 to 4 craft brewery visits -- with samples, of course!
Finger Lakes, New York's Beer Hub
The 11 vacation regions of New York State hold more than 100 craft breweries, with the highest concentration in the Finger Lakes area. This region, particularly known for wine and farm-to-table food, has 14 microbreweries with tasting rooms, 10 brewpubs and 3 distribution-only brewers with more openings in the "hop"-per. The popular Rooster Fish Brewing has inventive beer varieties, such as Black Walnut Nut Brown Ale (now known as Original Nut Brown Ale) and Firehouse Blonde. The highly anticipated Abandon Brewing Company is slated to open in summer 2012 in a 19th-century peaked roof barn, and is owned by 2 engineers and a physicist. Talk about a smart brew!
Watch out, Coca-Cola! Local beer has become the preferred carbonated beverage of choice in this Southern mecca for craft breweries. In fact, 5 new breweries opened in 2011 alone, with at least 5 more expected to open in the next 2 years. The famous SweetWater Brewing Company, a staple in Southern craft beer since 1997, was named one of the top 25 US craft breweries by the Brewers Association. Beer tourism is also a hot addition to the beer scene, with Atlanta Beer Tours and Brews Cruise Atlanta on any beer drinker's radar.
Traverse City, Emerging Beer Town
Traverse City, MI, is a burgeoning food and wine destination -- in fact, chef Mario Batali spends his summers here. But the beer scene is equally headline news with 4 microbreweries and 2 restaurants that brew their own beer on-site -- a high number for such a small city! One of the more popular options is Short's Brewing Company, which features an intensely hopped brew called Huma Lupa Licious. And if you really want to connect with Traverse City’s claim-to-fame -- cherries -- head to Mackinaw Brewing Company, the city’s original brewpub that serves up a cold-brewed lager flavored with local, tart cherries.