If you think baseball stadiums and friends’ backyards are the only places to enjoy a cold one this summer, you’re going to be amazed by all the fun that these spots around the country have brewing over the next few months. From fruity beer festivals in Portland to a week dedicated to the beverage in Philly, our Forbes Travel Guide editors raise a glass of amber ale to cities that will be hopping all summer.
In 2008, a passionate group of beer lovers banded together to create Philly Beer Week, a multi-day celebration of the City of Brotherly Love’s favorite beverage. Organizers hoped to schedule 75 events (think beer dinners, pub crawls and meet-the-brewer parties) in that first year; the final roster actually included more than 300. “It just took off immediately, and it has really grown in leaps and bounds,” says Don Russell, executive director of Philly Beer Week. This year, PBW (May 31-June 9) will feature more than 350 events at 250-plus bars, restaurants and breweries. Should you find yourself in Philly for this year’s festivities, Russell recommends attending the Opening Tap ceremony on May 31, during which Mayor Michael Nutter will swing the “Hammer of Glory” (a sledgehammer that is passed bar-to-bar in Olympic torch fashion) to open the first keg of Brotherly Suds 4, a collaborative beer created by brewers from the greater Philadelphia area. Admission to the tasting festival is $45; buy a ticket early, as this event sells out each year.
Where to Stay: After a day of partying, retire to Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia; but before you call it a night, grab one of the Dock Street Brewing Co. collaborative beers made specifically for the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel (the summer brew will be released at the hotel’s Backyard Beer Garden event on June 6, $25 admission). As an added perk, the hotel’s Mercedes-Benz S-Class can transport you to bars and breweries in the downtown area, free of charge. Simply inquire about its availability on nights you know you’ll need a ride when you check in.
The Appalachian Mountains aren’t the only high-gravity attraction in Asheville. This small North Carolina town has earned a reputation for the bold brews produced by its 12 hometown breweries. Tour and taste your way through them by foot or car with Asheville Brewery Tours. Four-hour mobile tours ($54) are offered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, allowing you to taste the brews at four different breweries. Shorter walking tours ($47) in the downtown neighborhood are held on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and include stops at three breweries and a taproom. For the die-hard beer fan, Asheville Beer Week (May 25-June 1) is the best time to visit. Though only in its second year, it already has a full schedule of pint nights at local restaurants (May 29 and 31), a homebrew festival (May 25), and a unique rare and wild beer tasting event co-sponsored by All About Beer magazine and the Thirsty Monk bar to benefit Pints for Prostates (May 31). If you’re lucky, you could snag tickets to the sold-out Beer City Festival on June 1 at the last minute. You might have better luck swinging by Green Man Brewery on May 27 for the tapping of the first-ever Asheville Brewers Alliance collaboration beer, the brainchild of more than 20 breweries. Admission is free, but bring cash to enjoy the fruits of the brewers’ labor.
Where to Stay: You’ll need a good night’s rest before you tackle the brewery scene so make reservations at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Inn on Biltmore Estate, a stately place to slumber in style or discuss the finer points of your beer exploration at the end of the night.
Tastemaker Carrie Brownstein helped spark a renewed interest in Oregon’s largest city when she co-created the hit Independent Film Channel show, Portlandia. As the show suggests, Portland is a place where things are a little different—including its beer festivals. On June 7, some 4,500 beer fans are expected to attend the third-annual Portland Fruit Beer Festival, a one-of-a-kind gathering that features more than 40 beers that span the flavor spectrum from a light orange juice-infused pilsner and a sour cherry wheat to sour cucumber beer, kiwi ale and rhubarb-infused hard ciders. General admission is $20 and VIP tickets are $28. The festival is part of Portland Beer Week (June 6-16), an 11-day affair filled with tap parties, seminars, classes and quirky events such as the Hopworks Pinball Tournament (June 10, free) and the second annual Battle of the Belgians (June 14, $15). You can even incorporate exercise into your visit by taking the Forest Pike Hike (June 12, $20), where you’ll join brewers from Breakside Brewery, Coalition Brewing Co., The Commons Brewery and Hopworks Urban Brewery for a hike through Forest Park to learn about the natural plants they’re incorporating into upcoming brews.
Where to Stay: At the end of the day, head to The Westin Portland, a Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel, to feast on chicken pot pie paired with a local IPA from the Daily Grill. Other luxe Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel options sure to help you recharge for another day of sudsy fun include Hotel deLuxe and Hotel Lucia.
New York City
New York City may not have the volume of breweries as its big-city cohorts, but what it lacks in homegrown ventures, it more than makes up for in style and substance. Take, for instance, the city’s newfound status as the home to SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, which has been held in Washington, D.C. for the past five years (it will return to the nation’s capital next year). The annual fête, set for June 14-15, will draw 76 small and independent American brewers and thousands of gourmet food fans to the Altman Building and Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. Guests will enjoy delectable small bites prepared by chef Adam Dulye (of The Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco) in collaboration with a team of chefs and Cicerones (professionally certified beer servers), ensuring that the entire food-and-beverage experience is one to, well, savor. Grand tasting tickets start at $170.
Of course, you don’t have to be in town for a festival to toast with locals who flock to the city’s many specialty craft beer bars. Spend an afternoon exploring on a New York Beer and Brewery Tour, which hits Chelsea Brewing Co. in Manhattan, Spuyten Duyvil and Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, and Bohemian Hall Beer Garden in Queens. The tour takes four to five hours and costs $100, but for the money, it’s a much more enjoyable way to see the city than hopping on a double-decker tour bus.
Where to Stay: If proximity to bars and breweries matters to you (and we hope that it does), here are our top lodging picks: ANdAZ 5th Avenue is just steps from Grand Central Terminal, where you can hop on the MTA, and ANdAZ Wall Street in lower Manhattan is close to the Brooklyn Bridge (in case you feel the need to get some fresh air on your way to or from the Brooklyn Brewery).
Did you know that San Francisco’s brewing history dates back more than 100 years? It’s true—and you can learn all about it at History and Hops, an event scheduled for May 23 at the Old Mint (a building that dates back to 1874). This special event will explore the city’s beer brewing history with special presentations, a panel discussion with the San Francisco Brewers Guild, guided tours of the Old Mint and beer tastings, all included in the $30 admission charge. Other summer happenings held by the San Francisco Brewers Guild include “Meet the Brewer” events at Magnolia Pub and Brewery (June 19), Pi Bar (July 17) and The Beach Chalet (August 21). Local brews and live music go hand-in-hand in the Bay Area—you’ll find plenty of both at the Chipotle Cultivate Festival on June 8. It’s a free outdoor festival featuring cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs such as Amanda Freitag and Tastemakers Richard Blais and Michael Chiarello, live music by The Walkmen and Mayer Hawthorne, and an à la carte tasting hall with local restaurants.
Where to Stay: Book a room at the luxe Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star St. Regis San Francisco. Should you enjoy a bit too much fun in the sun (or have a few too many beers), you’ll be able to rejuvenate yourself with a detoxifying seaweed wrap at the hotel’s Four-Star Remède Spa San Francisco.
Photos Courtesy of Portland Beer, San Francisco Brewers Guild, Brewers Association, Eddie Arrossi and Michael Persico