Those eager to spend time gazing into the surf with a cooler full of beers have plenty of options in the summer months. The best beach beercation destinations aren’t limited to the east and west coasts of America, either; there are little beach towns with craft beer scenes all over the interior of the country, too.
So whether you’re headed north, south, east, west, or somewhere in the middle, there’s a beachy beer scene for you. Here are six of our favorites.
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach is home to a vibrant LBGTQ+ scene, picturesque boardwalk, and longtime independent beer advocate Dogfish Head. The OG brewpub, Dogfish Brewings & Eats, on Rehoboth’s main drag, has a killer draft list that includes cellared offerings as well as craft cocktails. Throughout the summer there’s music — and this reporter once spied co-owner Sam Caligione inconspicuously busting a move, 75-Minute IPA in hand. Head out to the production facility a short drive away in Milton for rarities and draft-only stylings, not to mention one of the more entertaining brewery tours in the country.
Or, take a day to visit Dewey Beer Company in nearby Dewey Beach, where the main draw is crushable fruited sours that go down a little too smoothly in the sun. Stop in Revelation Craft Brewing to try Mother in Law IPA, brewed with Cascade hops grown by, you guessed it, the brewmaster’s mother in law.
Head back to the shore for a dozen oysters and a small but world-class beer list at Henlopen City Oyster House. For a deep draft list, hit up Rehoboth Beach Ale House, but make sure to save room for Thrashers fries later in the evening. They’ll surely absorb some of the booze.
Traverse City, MI
Traverse City, Mich., offers spectacular views of Lake Michigan and family-friendly activities like fishing and hiking. It’s also home to an underrated beer scene. Visit the 7 Monks Taproom for a great selection of Belgian beers and a Michigan-heavy tap list that includes current favorites like Old Nation and Wax Wings as well as classic Wolverine State beers from Bell’s and Short’s.
Tuck into wood-fired pizzas in a restored train depot at the Filling Station; it recently collaborated with Pipeworks for a double IPA called Train vs Unicorn. At Right Brain Brewery, enjoy GABF medal winner Mangalitsa Pig Porter (it’s made with real pig’s heads). If experimental beers aren’t your thing, Right Brain has a number of other styles, from hop-forward to cream ales to malty to Belgians.
Closest to the water, check out Monkey Fist Brewing Company for lighter options like Watermelon Rebellion and GW’s Little White Lie Belgian witbier, and then head up to Sunset Beach and watch the boats come in.
New England Seacoast
Start at North Beach in North Hampton, N.H., to get away from the tourist crowds, then head north along Route 1A, one of the prettier drives in the state. Pop into The Beach Plum for a hefty lobster roll (it’s BYOB).
Working north from Portsmouth, check out the city’s namesake brewery before heading to Tributary Brewery in Kittery, Me., home of Mott the Lesser (formerly Kate the Great), the legendary Russian imperial stout by Tod Mott. Go to Barreled Souls Brewing Company in Saco for superlative local, high-gravity, barrel-aged pastry stouts. If you’re still hungry and want a slight detour, The Clam Shack in Kennebunk is the best lobster roll on the planet, plus they have Allagash White on tap; and Mast Landing Brewing Company in Westbrook for trendy, hop-forward styles (don’t sleep on the peanut butter milk stout, though).
And, of course, no trip to the beer Mecca of Portland, Me., is complete without brewery trips to Allagash Brewing Company and Oxbow Brewing. Stop for a nightcap at Novare Res, the world-famous beer bar.
Thoughts of Minnesota likely include images of snow, hockey, and Prince, but the shores of Lake Superior also have a robust beer scene. Stop by Bent Paddle Brewing for Black, a black lager, and its cousin, Cold Press Black, made with locally roasted coffee. You won’t find any singular style dominating the taps at the wonderfully diverse Blacklist Artisan Ales, Hoops Brewing, and Canal Park Brewing, making them great places to try a variety of local specialties like Belgian strong ales at Blacklist, a Wood Smoked Wheat at Hoops, and old-school West Coast IPA at Canal Park.
Saddle up to the extensive tap list at 7 West Taphouse and grab a few beers to go for a stroll down the Lake Walk. Or, you can set down by the Fountain of the Wind and take in the enormity of the lake.
Bonus points for heading over to the Wisconsin side of Lake to Superior and visiting Earth Rider Brewery. Its North Tower, an English Oatmeal Stout, may be the best beer on the lake.
Eastern Long Island, NY
Once upon a time, Eastern Long Island drinking culture was limited to overpriced bars or Gatsby-esque private parties. While you can certainly still find plenty of places offering $15 Tito’s-and-sodas and mandatory valet parking, there are now lots of other, more democratic scenes for discerning drinkers.
On the North Fork, enjoy a Beehave Summer Ale and chill outside playing Jenga at Greenport Harbor Brewing. Grab your cooler and kayak and head out to Emerson Park for a peaceful afternoon on the wide sandy beaches on Hog Neck Bay.
If you’re heading out to Montauk, the easternmost stretch on the island, stop in to the Montauk Brewing Company tasting room for perfect post-surf-lesson session beers. Or fill your cooler with Montauk Summer Ale or a Blue Point Brewing Shore Thing (brewed with pilsner malt and sea salt) to go out striper fishing.
“The beer scene on the East End has evolved over the past few years,” said Montauk co-founder Vaughan Cutillo. “More and more local bars and restaurants are looking to carry a variety of local beers, and we are thrilled to be a part of that movement.”
San Diego, CA
San Diego is the ultimate beach-beer scene. Brewers here helped launch what is now a countrywide craft beer resurgence, and, well, have you seen those pristine beaches? Typically, San Diego beer pilgrims are directed to Miramar for AleSmith and Societe, North Park for Modern Times and Fall Brewing, and places closest to the Pacific. All are absolutely worth your time.
There are other spots in San Diego worth trying, too. Head to Pizza Port in Solana Beach for pizza or literally anything from the munchies menu and wash it down with Swami’s, the classic IPA that put this place on the map. For your to-go needs, there’s a Bottlecraft location less than a mile south. Down south and further into the heart of San Diego in La Jolla is Karl Strauss, selling everything from hoppy lagers to IPAs to English ales. Best of all, it’s just a five-minute walk from La Jolla Cove.
Keep heading south and hit up Crushed in Pacific Beach for one of the best tap lists by the beach. Coronado Brewing Tasting Room is just 10 minutes by car (the OG spot in Coronado is a little farther away). And, in Ocean Beach, there’s Mike Hess Brewing and Belching Beaver, among others.