Want beer, will travel
March 18, 2010 2:34 PM   Subscribe

As an enormous fan of American craft beer visiting New York, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where should I go to partake of the finest brews? Do any local breweries offer tours of their facilities or tastings? Are there any beer happenings going on in the period between the 10th and 20th of April this year?

The plan is to fly directly to Portland, Oregon through New York. From there on, we rent a car and drive down to Los Angeles, stopping in San Francisco. We'll spend 3 days in Los Angeles, so going to places a bit out of town won't be a problem. After that, we fly to New York, and spend the 16th-20th there.

This entire trip is based around food, beer, wine and all-round enjoyment, so if you have any other related tips or suggestions, feel free to add them.
posted by flippant to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I think most of the breweries in Portland offer tours. I'd recommend checking some of the less 'commercial' microbreweries - and avoiding places like Widmer, Bridgeport - unless you want to hit those bit spots.

My favorite breweries in Portland are:

Amnesia Brewing (great beer, cool brewery)
Hopworks Urban Brewery (awesome)
Laurelwood Public House and Brewery
Old Lompoc - there are various locations, but I like the 5th Quadrant
Roots Brewery

All of these are on the eastside (Laurelwood has two locations - but I recommend the east side one) and in really neat neighborhoods - so it'd be a really fun day/night to sort of start South and move your way up, with pints all along the way!

Seriously though, you almost can't go wrong with any of the microbreweries in Portland.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:43 PM on March 18, 2010

Ooh! Since you're driving down from Portland, take a detour over to 101 and stop for the "tour" at Lagunitas in Petaluma. They do it on weekdays at 3 (I think -- double-check with them), and it's free.

I put 'tour' in quotes because it's really more of a 1-hour tasting session in the employee bar/hangout, during which you'll sample 10 (or more) of their beers. And these aren't the little 1-ounce pours most brewery samplers offer. And they'll give you all the refills you want and tell you anything you want to know about the brewing process. And after that hour's up, they'll take you back downstairs into the brewery and give you a drunken overview of the brewing process.

Have you ever had their beers? It's good, good stuff.

It's an awesome afternoon. Don't go on an empty stomach.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:46 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

New York -you have the Beer Garden in Astoria Queens, and there are a couple of local breweries on Long Island (Blue Point, Brick House in Suffolk/South Shore).
posted by kellyblah at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2010

Anchor does brewery tours in SF, but you've got to book pretty far in advance. The tour's great though so it's totally worth it to call them up and see what you can swing.

Also cannot second Lagunitas strongly enough.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:48 PM on March 18, 2010

I've never been to their brewery (but now I want to!!) but Lagunitas is so so so good - one of my favorite beers (shhh...can't say that in Portland....). So thirded, hard.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2010

Would it be OK to piggyback an inquiry about Seattle onto this? I'm going to be in Portland and Seattle in May for a couple days each, and am very interested in this question.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2010

Driving from points north to San Francisco? Drinking beer as you go? I've done that!

I'll be leaving some out because I either don't know about them or have forgotten about them, but if you're driving down the coast, you should stop in (this is north to south):

Fort Bragg, CA: North Coast Brewing

Boonville, CA: Anderson Valley Brewing

Healdsburg, CA: Bear Republic Brewing (home of the fantastic Racer X!)

Petaluma, CA: Lagunitas Brewing

I've done this drive/tour/drink route, and it's highly recommended (as long as someone not drinking is doing the driving, duh).

Once you get to the SF/Oakland/Berkeley, you're spoiled for choice. Anchor Brewing does a wicked nice tour and tasting, and I've heard good things about Speakeasy as well.
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In New York, the Brooklyn Brewery is open certain nights just to hang out and drink beer. It's really fun and low-key, but check the website because it might not be open when you're in NYC.

Sixpoint is my personal favorite brewer in NYC, and they also have a tour/tasting thing.

Lastly, you might consider hitting up one of the specialty beer stores/bars, like Spuyten Duyvil. Spuyten Duyvil is a crazy beer-centric bar, but they also have a store called Spuyten Duyvil Grocery that stocks all kinds of crazy and obscure beer.
posted by jeb at 2:53 PM on March 18, 2010

Brooklyn Brewery!
They give free tours on Saturday and Sundays. No reservations necessary. And you get to drink beer at the end with a bunch of people in a huge room.
posted by wondermouse at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2010

In Brooklyn:

Sixpoint Craft Ales -- truly incredible beer. Their website is annoying, but they apparently do offer tours.

Brooklyn Brewery -- I've done this tour, and while it's simple, it's informative and entertaining. Lots of beer to sample afterward in their garage-style beer hall.

The Beer Garden is a fun spot, but not necessarily the best place to explore a wide range of beers. If you do the Brooklyn Brewery tour and are hankering for more, you may want to check out Mugs Alehouse nearby. They've got a ton of stuff on tap, plus a huge selection of U.S. and imported bottles.

In Manhattan, the Blind Tiger Ale House is worth a visit. Really good stuff.
posted by bethist at 2:57 PM on March 18, 2010

Check out Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn (you may see me there, as I live one second away). You can get a sandwich and try some of the beers they have on tap or for sale. They have a pretty great selection of American beers. They also have tastings at 7pm on Tuesdays.

If you want to try some pretty hard to find beers, head over to Beer Table, which is also in the neighborhood (although they don't have as many American craft beers as you might like).
posted by Falconetti at 3:07 PM on March 18, 2010

I always recommend Bailey's Taproom in downtown Portland because it's just awesome. From their site:

Bailey’s Taproom offers 20 constantly rotating taps, plus one beer engine, encompassing the entire range of beer styles with an emphasis on Oregon breweries. Whether you’re seeking a brutally hoppy IPA, a clean lager, a sour Belgian, a thick stout, or a boozy barleywine, you’ll find it here, along with everything else in between.

So not a brewery but a great place to get lots of tasty PNW beers.

If you can go a bit outside of Portland, Full Sail Brewing has daily tours, and Hood River is a cute town with beautiful scenery.

If I were heading down to CA, I would do (almost) anything to hit up the Firestone Walker tasting room. Everything I have of theirs blows me away. I volunteered at the Holiday Ale Fest here in Portland a couple of years ago, and the runaway favorite that night was FW's Velvet Merkin.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:13 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

To help you find events as you travel, I recommend Beeradvocate.com's Beer Calendar. You can filter by location and time period. I also recommend Beeradvocate's "beerfly" area -- I've used it several times when I'm in a new place and don't know where to go for quality beer.

All of the places people are suggesting in Brooklyn are good, though I'm surprised no one has mentioned Barcade yet. When you're in SF, you should check out The Trappist in Oakland -- it's one of the best beer bars I've ever been to.
posted by thebergfather at 3:14 PM on March 18, 2010

I love all of our Portland breweries, but I really think it's worth the beautiful drive to Hood River to visit Double Mountain. They have some amazing mall batch stuff that is only available at the brewery (try the Devil's Kreik!) I drink a a lot of beer, and they make my favorites.

If you want to try a bigger brewery, Full Sail is only a couple of blocks away. The Elliott Glacier Public House is small and somewhat nearby in Parkdale. If you drive back to Portland on the Washington side of the river, you can go to Walking Man.
posted by monkeystronghold at 3:31 PM on March 18, 2010

Eugene, OR : Ninkasi

5 minutes of Interstate 5. You will thank me, I promise you.
posted by Danf at 3:35 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also second Double Mountain. And I almost suggested Walking Man but held off, thinking it might be a bit too far off the track. But it's not far from Hood River. I dunno that Walking Man does tours but they have a cute little pub and their beers are always solid.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:35 PM on March 18, 2010

The craft beer scene is pretty light in LA. This is a cocktail town.

Eagle Rock Brewery just opened up shop a short while ago, and some of their stuff is pretty good. They offer tours on Sundays, I think, but it's a super small operation.

Craftsman Brewing Co. is in Pasadena. I really like their beers, but I don't know if they have tours at all.

Father's Office in either Culver City or Santa Monica is your best bet for regional craft brews, but they're always super packed. Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park always has a nice selection of local-ish beers, but the shady neighborhood can scare folks off.
posted by hwyengr at 3:37 PM on March 18, 2010

You have to stop in Santa Rosa and go to the Russian River Brewing Company. I've been to just about all of the breweries mentioned so far in this thread and Russian Rover is the best brewpubs I've ever been to. Make sure you try the belgians: if they have Sanctification on hand you are in luck.
posted by fshgrl at 3:38 PM on March 18, 2010

The Bruery in Placentia (beeradvocate, yelp) - technically in Orange County. Their brews are very seasonal. You can get "flights" for $8 (5 x 2 oz. tasting), or full glasses for something like $5. Their tasting room opens at 4pm usually, and if you're lucky the Kogi truck will be there.

Seconding Craftsman. Wonderful beer, and Pasadena is a cool town, but I'm not sure about tours -- they might fill a growler for you, but call ahead. As noted, you can get Craftsman at Father's Office.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:44 PM on March 18, 2010

The Trappist in Oakland is a great beer bar. In SF, check out Toronado, a dive with a great beer selection. They have a spinoff of sorts, Rosamunde, with a lesser but still pretty good beer selection. Monk's Kettle also has a great beer list and very good food. If it's a nice day, the beer garden at Zeitgeist is a classic SF experience, although the beer list is not as extensive as Toronado or Monk's Kettle.

Other good brewpubs in SF include 21st Amendment and Magnolia. Also, if the Elizabeth Street Brewery happens to be open when you're in town (follow their twitter) that's an interesting experience (and good beer).
posted by pombe at 3:55 PM on March 18, 2010

I'm not familiar with those particular cities, but certainly if you're going for the beer you should see if anywhere (and I'm there's somewhere) has a selection of cask conditioned beers available. Traditional cask conditioned beers are really something special, and not widely available.
posted by OmieWise at 4:01 PM on March 18, 2010

bethist: In Manhattan, the Blind Tiger Ale House is worth a visit. Really good stuff.

Just look out for Katz sitting in the corner; don't let him rope you into his booth, or you'll never hear the end of 'tri-PEHLL' and 'lam-BEEEK'.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:04 PM on March 18, 2010

thirding Double Mountain, and adding Upright Brewing in Portland and Rogue if you're out on the coast.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2010

Most of my favorite places in Portland have been mentioned already (listen to Lutoslawski! That's a great list), but I'd also be sure to stop by the Tugboat. It's Portland's oldest microbrewery, and also its most adorable. It's right downtown, right by Bailey's Taproom (mentioned above), has live jazz every night, and is small and dark and full of books.
posted by dizziest at 4:08 PM on March 18, 2010

Also: I've never been to any of them, but Bruery and North Coast would be my top two picks followed by Lagunitas, Full Sail and Bear River. Never been to any of them, but I have had the beers.

Anybody know about visits to Green Flash in Vista? Their beer is pretty good.

Depending on where you are going to be in NYC you might want to skip Brooklyn Brewery and just go to a beer bar in Manhattan, my understanding is that getting to the brewery will eat up a decent chunk of time, if you are starting from downtown.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:09 PM on March 18, 2010

I'm clearly on comma over-load today.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:10 PM on March 18, 2010

For the LA area, head a bit further south to San Diego and spend a day or so in San Diego to check out Stone Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewing, and Port Brewing.

And since I'm about an hour east of LA, I'm compelled to put in a plug for my favorite, local, up-and-coming craft brew operation, Hanger 24, in Redlands.
posted by zen_spider at 4:25 PM on March 18, 2010

Best answer: Russian River in Santa Rosa has incredible beers, esp. their sour+wine cask aged beers supplication and consecration.

Lagunitas and Anderson Valley are also well worth the visit. Lagunitas has a spectacular IPA.

Santa Cruz Mountian Organic Brewery has great beers, is in santa cruz, and has a really homey taproom that I can't recommend enough.
posted by Large Marge at 4:36 PM on March 18, 2010

In Manhattan, the Chelsea Brewing Company. Don't eat at the restaurant, though. The service and food are terrible.
posted by zarq at 4:37 PM on March 18, 2010

As a big fan of beer myself, and a former resident of New York, I would honestly say that Brooklyn is better than Manhattan, at least for beer (though probably for everything else). As mentioned above, you cannot go wrong with Spuyten Duyvel. (Though I will note that it's not focused on AMERICAN microbrews specifically). I might skip out on the Brooklyn Brewery. Brooklyn Brewery is OK, but the brew is universally sold throughout the Northeast, and you only have a short time to enjoy the best. Two places in Brooklyn with very, very good selections of American microbrews:

Pacific Standard
Absolutely great bar, and totally, freakishly dedicated to the American microbrew. It's selection will change on a very frequent basis, and always includes the very local.

Barcade. Barcade is doubly fun, since you have a solid beer selection alongside several dozen different arcade video games. So bring quarters, and break out your flannel, because its in the middle of Williamsburg.

Both Barcade and Pacific Standard are very plugged into the NYC beer scene, and will often have tailored microbrews from the local breweries. Six Point is the rising star of this scene, and you should make sure to drink one while in Brooklyn.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 4:51 PM on March 18, 2010

Brooklyn Brewery has a lot of beers that they only serve at the brewery. Or rare beers they don't distribute much. (I would KILL someone for that Ace, the one with the Japanese wheat. Oh god. Korean beer is so bad. So bad.)

Barcade has a nice selection (and is nearby) and has a ++ for novelty factor. N'thing Spyuten Devil if you have some money to lose.
posted by GilloD at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2010

Best answer: I just came back to say that if you have the gumption, drive down to San Diego (not the nice sunny beach part of San Diego, either) to visit Stone Brewing Co. Make reservations if you plan on eating there, otherwise just cozy up to one of the 2 bars there. They make the Arrogant Bastard, Ruination, Levitation and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ales.

I always respect a microbrewery confident enough in their own product that they serve beer other than the home team stuff, meaning that you can get a bunch of other great microbrews and Belgians there as well.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:41 PM on March 18, 2010

You won't be in town for a Beer Friday, so if you want to sample something from Devil's Canyon Brewery, you'll have to visit a bar on the peninsula.

Between SF and LA, you can take a small scenic detour and stop at the Boulder Creek Brewery, in the Santa Cruz hills. One of the earlier brewpubs in the state, they brew some darn fine beer, and don't distribute it very far. Plus, when you're ready to leave town (with a sober driver, please), you can go south and catch route 152 from Gilroy to Interstate 5, a wonderfully scenic drive... perfect for saying goodbye to the central coast, before merging onto the long flat slab that is I-5.
posted by toxic at 5:44 PM on March 18, 2010

In the Berkeley area, I'd check out Jupiter, and its sister brewery, Triple Rock. Excellent beer and good pizza too.

Sadly, I'm from LA and agree with hwyengr. Not much in the way of breweries around here. Father's Office has an impressive selection of beer on tap, as mentioned. I'd also check out the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:13 PM on March 18, 2010

Not a brewpub (that I know of), but huge bottle selection in NYC:

Peculier Pub

Here is their beer menu (opens a PDF file).
posted by Alabaster at 6:16 PM on March 18, 2010

In Portland, in addition to what's already been mentioned, Horse Brass Pub and also the Green Dragon, both in SE Portland, are worth visiting. They both have a wide selection of local beers that change up frequently, including a lot of limited edition brews.

There are two bottle shops, Saraveza (in North PDX) and Belmont Station (in SE), that have hang out/tasting areas with beers on draft in addition to a huge bottle selection. They both seem to have a fair amount of special beer tasting events.

Check out Northwest Brewing News online for other events going on.
posted by medeine at 7:11 PM on March 18, 2010

Erm, I meant Beer Northwest: http://www.beernw.com/events
Don't believe the NW Brewing news is online.
posted by medeine at 7:15 PM on March 18, 2010

I'm not familiar with those particular cities, but certainly if you're going for the beer you should see if anywhere (and I'm there's somewhere) has a selection of cask conditioned beers available. Traditional cask conditioned beers are really something special, and not widely available.

Russian River Brewing Company has a bunch. They are really fantastic.
posted by fshgrl at 8:38 PM on March 18, 2010

Here on long island we have the blue point brewery and they offer tours . Also here on long island We have a TON OF WINERIES some which are nationally known brands.

So if you dont mind taking a slight detour from NYC.

Let me know if you need any help .I live here on long island.

PS There is also the Brookly brewery.

posted by majortom1981 at 8:54 PM on March 18, 2010

Deschutes! I can't believe no one has mentioned it (including rtha). Drive through Bend, Or on your way south. A little out of the way, but very worth it. We were there last summer, and wished we had more time. A friend just did the brewery tour and loved it.

And have a great time. We also often plan our vacations around breweries, and there's lots to drink between Portland and LA.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:05 PM on March 18, 2010

For Portland, I think your question has been pretty well answered but I'll put in my 2 cents.

Do go to Bailey's Taproom. It's heaven on earth for beer geeks. Get the sampler (or 2). An easy way to try half or all of the beers on tap.

Don't go to Roots. Sad to say, but it's gone downhill and is now for sale.

Do go to the Horse Brass if you can. It's been Mecca for the Oregon craft brewing industry since the 1980s.

Don't go the Green Dragon unless you've already been to Bailey's and the Horse Brass.

If you want bottles, go to Belmont Station a few blocks away from the Horse Brass. World class selection.

Do MeMail me or make a MeTa post about getting beers while you're in town.
posted by turbodog at 10:35 PM on March 18, 2010

In New York, Brooklyn is probably the center of the local beer universe, with Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint. Brooklyn Brewery is a worthwhile stop, because there aren't all that many places you can try their Brewmaster's Reserve creations. It can be part of an entire Williamsburg excursion including Spuyten Dyuvil and Barcade. Next door to Brooklyn Brewery is Brooklyn Bowl, which serves local craft beer.

Pony Bar in Hell's Kitchen focuses solely on American craft beer selection. For example, I think that's the only place outside of Brooklyn Brewery I've had Sorachi Ace.
posted by andrewraff at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2010

Best answer: As someone else mentioned, Los Angeles is not much of a beer town yet but that's been seriously changing in the past few years, at least as far as craft beer bars go. Joshua Lurie's Food GPS puts out a weekly email blast that you can also read online. Here's the latest edition, which details what you can find on tap at some of the finer local establishments.

If you're willing to head further south, San Diego is a true beer mecca, particularly for the West Coast-style IPAs. I can't say I know all that much about the breweries themselves, but I've heard that Stone brewery tour and restaurant are amazing.
posted by dhammond at 9:14 PM on April 1, 2010

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