Happy National Beer Day: These Are the Best Brewing Cities in the US
Saturday, April 7, marks the 85th anniversary of President FDR reopening the nation’s pubs and breweries, leading to the end of Prohibition. The holiday has been immortalized as National Beer Day and is the perfect excuse for a beer-themed retreat in one of America’s great brewing cities. Hotels from New England to the Pacific Northwest welcome beer connoisseurs with hometown suds, behind-the-scenes tours and the chance to spend the night in a historic brewery.
Milwaukee became a key player in America’s love affair with beer over 150 years ago, when German immigrants first opened beer halls and taverns throughout the town. With Wisconsin’s wheat and the water of Lake Michigan, Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller flourished, becoming the world’s four largest breweries, and Milwaukee spent years as the planet’s top beer exporter. Today, the city’s lifeblood is flowing again with a resurgence in microbreweries, nanobreweries and pubs as part of the craft beer movement.
Housed in the former Pabst brewery, the Brewhouse Inn & Suites maintains the property’s history with original copper brew kettles, ironwork and an 1890s stained-glass window of King Gambrinus, the patron saint of beer, on display. Guests are greeted with a six-pack of PBR and, during baseball season, can take the free shuttle to Miller Park, home of the Brewers baseball team.
Before gracing the world with Biggie Smalls and Barbra Streisand, Brooklyn was known for its beer, with more than 50 breweries at the turn of the century. Many were shuttered as the area was deindustrialized, but in the 1980s, Brooklyn Brewery opened as the borough’s first new enterprise in decades and today is one of the country’s largest craft breweries.
A stay at the William Vale puts guests within one block of Brooklyn Brewery, where they can stop into the tasting room during public hours or book a small batch, behind-the-scenes tour. This year, the 5-star hotel will open All-Wise Meadery, run by the country’s youngest master brewer and former Disney star Dylan Sprouse. For alfresco refreshments paired with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, guests can retire to the hotel’s rooftop bar, Westlight.
Beer-drinking history buffs can still order a cold one in the Larimer Square saloon where miners and pioneers set up Denver’s first government during the Colorado Gold Rush. Since Coors tapped into the Rocky Mountains’ natural springs, over 70 breweries have opened between Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver, known as the Denver Beer Triangle. Now with more breweries than we can count, Denver is a year-round destination for craft brews, but we love visiting in September for the annual Great American Beer Festival.
Located inside the iconic Union Station, the Crawford Hotel, gives guests access to Terminal Bar, one of the city’s best for craft beer, without leaving the premises. The LoDo hotel is surrounded by breweries and taprooms that guests can reach in a 10- to 20-minute walk; a complimentary Telsa car service is also provided, ensuring everyone arrives home safely.
Beer brewing in Portland predates Oregon’s statehood, and the city became craft brewing’s epicenter when small-batch breweries started opening here in the 1980s. Several types of beer are produced throughout the state, and new hop varieties were developed in the labs at Oregon State University Fermentation Science program.
Today, Portland is home to more microbreweries than any city in the world and keeps its calendar filled with drinking festivals like Portland Beer Week in June and the Holiday Ale Festival. The Mark Spencer Hotel is within a few blocks of breweries and one block from light rail and streetcar stops, making the rest of the city easily accessible to guests. All rooms include a growler to fill up at local pubs plus access to evening wine tastings on site if visitors want a break from beer.
When General George Washington added beer to his troops’ daily rations, commercial production surged in the harbor city, and in 1812, it was on the floor of a Baltimore brewery where the flag inspiring “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sewn. National Bohemian beer, lovingly nicknamed “Natty Boh” by locals, was one of Charm City’s first thriving industries, and its legendary mustachioed mascot still winks a welcome from a tower in Brewers Hill.
Guests of the Inner Harbor’s Pier 5 Hotel can take the free area shuttle to popular taprooms, including The Brewer’s Art, Pratt Street Ale House and Max’s Taphouse while the pickup spot for City Brew Tours’ guided bar crawl through the city’s taverns and breweries is less than a mile away. On weeknights, guests are treated to “Crabby Hour” cooking demos with beer and wine to wash down the Old Bay seasoning.
Don’t let Vermont’s size fool you, the small state leads the nation with the most craft breweries per capita. An early history of temperance and prohibition squashed Vermont’s first beer-making ventures and it wasn’t until the 1980s that brewpubs were finally legalized. Making up for lost time, there is now one brewery for every 25,000 people in Vermont, including famous labels like Magic Hat Brewing Company, Heady Topper and Harpoon Brewery.
The Snapdragon Inn is a five-minute drive from Harpoon Brewery where Travelzoo members are treated to complimentary tours, tastings and a souvenir glass when visiting on a weekend. Any night of the week, guests of the historic property can unwind by the fireplace with books written by former guests -- and famous drinkers -- like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Elisabeth Barker is a Division 1 athlete turned globetrotter and travel writer. Based in New York City and Miami, she is the founder of @skirtandasuitcase, an online community focusing on inspirational travel, fitness and healthy lifestyle habits.