It’s hard to beat getting a beer right from the source. The flavors are simply more intense from beers kegged and canned days or even hours before consumption. Being at the source also has another added benefit: brewery tours.
Not every brewery offers brewery tours. For the ones that do, the behind-the-scenes view can be an unbeatable experience in beer appreciation (not to mention all the free samples). From California to New York, here are the best breweries to visit for a look at how the best craft beers are made.
Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, Missouri
Boulevard has three levels of tours: free public tours, the smokestack tour and tasting, and the private tour. The hour-long free tour gives you a behind-the-scenes look at one of Missouri’s best breweries, as well as a bit of history. Shell out some money for a tour, and you can get a two-hour guided tasting and food pairing (the smokestack), or a personalized tour with two full pints (the private tour).
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Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei, Hawaii
Not everyone gets a chance to make it out to the Hawaiian islands. But if you do, you should visit Maui Brewing Co. Daily 45-minute tours lead people through the brewery, the cellar, and the packaging line for $15. Then there’s a tasting of Maui Brewing’s flagship beers at the end, a full beer of your choice, and a free souvenir glass.
Tröegs in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Like doing things at your own pace? Tröegs is the brewery tour for you. The self-guided tour path through the brewery lets people wander through the fermentation/filtration hall, the quality lab, packaging lines, and the barrel-aging room. Best of all, it’s free. For something a little more, there’s a $5 guided tour that includes a few samples and a souvenir glass.
Sweetwater in Atlanta, Georgia
Sweetwater Brewing knows how to party. Every half hour from Wednesday to Sunday there are $12 tours that include a souvenir pint glass and six 6-ounce samples. Walking through someone’s place of employment couldn’t be more fun.
Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California
Stone has tours at all three of their breweries (Escondido, Richmond, Virginia, and Berlin, Germany). The tour of Stone’s home state of California is the one you don’t want to miss. For $3, you can get a souvenir tasting glass and four 4-ounce samples of beer. One of those samples is a special release beer.
Sierra Nevada in Chico, California
Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Chico has every level of tour you could imagine. There’s the self-guided tour to explore at your leisure, the educational tasting tour that only takes 30 minutes, an engineering tour, a three-hour beer geek tour, a sustainability tour, and the standard brewhouse tour.
Anchor Brewing in San Francisco
America’s first and oldest craft brewery only offers two tours a day, and only on weekdays. But don’t mistake the scarcity for quality. The tour lasts an hour and a half and includes a brief story of Anchor’s long history, a walk through of the brewery’s three floors, and a tasting session.
Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine
Allagash offers a free tour that includes four 3-ounce pours of beer. And while it’s hard to beat free beer, the Grand Cru Tour is something to behold. It’s three hours long, and guests get in-depth knowledge about the brewing process — blending and brewing, quality control, and tasting beers straight from the barrel.
Abita in Abita Springs, Louisiana
Louisiana’s top craft brewery offers $5, 30-minute tours that include 4-ounce pours. There’s also free self-guided tours where visitors get to look over the brewery tanks. Whichever one you choose, you know there’s going to be delicious Abita beer waiting for you at the end.
Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan
The original Bell’s brewery in Kalamazoo is historic. It’s also right next to the General Store — the beer garden at the Eccentric Café. After the tour through the brewery, relax and pick up a pint from the more than 40 different beer options on tap.
Samuel Adams in Boston, Massachusetts
Samuel Adams Boston Lager helped kickstart the craft beer movement. Today, Boston Beer Company is one of the biggest in the country. The first-come, first-serve tours give you an inside glimpse into how that all happened. There’s also the Morning Mash-in Tour, where you can go in early and taste exclusive experimental beers.
Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware
Dogfish Head’s free, hour-long tour shows visitors how the beer is made and gives some history of the people behind 60 Minute IPA. Also, you get four healthy samples. If you go on the more involved Grain to Glass tour, you’ll also learn about the Dogfish Head distillery, where vodka and rum are made.
Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York
Making it into the Brooklyn Brewery tour in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge with a worthy reward. The Small Batch Tour gives visitors a chance to see what it takes to be one of the largest craft brewers in the United States.
New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado
The 100 percent employee-owned New Belgium Brewery offers free 90-minute tours. Samples are included, but look ahead on your schedule if you’d like to get a look inside because the tours fill up quickly.