Olde Mecklenburg wins Best Brewery Tour


Magic Hat, New Belgium, Susquehanna and Sam Adams also top five

In the contest for Best Brewery Tour, two breweries came out of the gates strong in a fierce battle to the finish line. After four weeks of voting, USA TODAY 10Best readers named the brewery tour at Charlotte's Olde Mecklenburg the best in the nation, with Magic Hat in Burlington, Vt. coming in a very close second.

  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
    Milton, Del.

    The best reason to visit Milton, Del., is to add some off-centeredness to your life at Dogfish Head Brewing Co. Six days a week, uber-experienced tour guides bring a serious sense of fun to tours of the brewhouse and new robotic packaging line. Free tours include four beer samples in the tasting room, whose ceiling acts as a gallery for "off-centered artists, musicians, actors and iconoclasts." Lucky visitors might score an invitation to climb into the Steampunk tree house.
    Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
    Chico, Calif.

    Chico, Calif.'s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. isn't just the country's oldest existing original craft brewery, it's also the greenest. Environmentalists can choose to tour the farms on a 90-minute Sustainability Tour, while serious hop heads can take an intimate 3-hour Beer Geek Tour to sample wort and liquid right from the bright tanks at the brewery that brought pale ale to modern America. East Coast beer fans can now tour the new brewery in Mills River, N.C.
    Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

  • Philadelphia Brewing Co.
    Philadelphia

    Located in the factory that housed one of Philadelphia's many 19th century breweries, Philadelphia Brewing Co. gives tours that are as laid back as they come. Fans appreciate the free Saturday afternoon tours for the historical knowledge they impart, but regulars are likely to come back again and again for the nearly unlimited free samples served in the living-room like tasting room.
    Photo courtesy of Eli Pousson

  • Oskar Blues Brewery
    Longmont, Colo.

    Oskar Blues Brewing Co.'s tours in Longmont, Colo. are fun because, according to a former tour guide, "We get to hang out." Visitors can see how the first canning craft brewery makes its cylindrical containers, taste a free sample or gather a group of friends to rent the brewery trolley for the night. For $600, the trolley acts as a private taxi service for 4-5 hours, and guests get to apply the $600 toward a credit at any of the company's brewpubs or gift shops.
    Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues

  • Tröegs Brewing Co.
    Hershey, Pa.

    Whether self-guided or guided, daily tours of the gleaming modern Tröegs Brewing Company in Hershey, Penn., take visitors through the 'Scratch Beer' brewhouse, fermentation/filtration hall, quality lab, kegging and bottling lines and barrel aging room. Guided tasting tours cost a small fee and give participants a chance to ask questions, taste fresh beers and take home a sample glass. A chef prepares local snacks inside the tasting room that's open to all and seats diners together at long tables.
    Photo courtesy of Troegs Brewing Co.

  • Samuel Adams
    Boston

    On a free tour of Boston's Samuel Adams Brewery, the country's largest craft beer producer, visitors get 30 minutes of history and process and 30 minutes of guided tastings. These are drop-in and run six days a week. For special samples of wort or an experimental brew, reserve a spot and wake up early on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday for a full-of-surprises Morning Mash In tour.
    Photo courtesy of Samuel Adams Brewery

  • Susquehanna Brewing Co.
    Pittston, Pa.

    Nestled into the countryside in Pittston, Penn., Susquehanna Brewing Co. showcases some of the world's most unique and modern brewing equipment, designed by an Oxford-educated engineer to work at maximum efficiency. The milling is one of only a handful practicing endosperm mashing where 90% of the husk is separated in the mill and added to the lauter tun to bypass mashing. Free hour-long tours explore this network every Saturday.
    Photo courtesy of Susquehanna Brewing Co.

  • New Belgium Brewing Co.
    Fort Collins, Colo.

    The Fort Collins, Colo. New Belgium Brewing Co. tours are unlike any other; because New Belgium is an employee-owned company, enthusiastic tour guides all own a piece of the action. Visitors can hang out in the Liquid Center over a pint while waiting for a free 90-minute guided tour or stroll through at their own pace on a self-guided jaunt.
    Photo courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Co.

  • Magic Hat Brewing Co.
    Burlington, Vt.

    If you've ever seen the Alice in Wonderland-like quality of Magic Hat Brewing Co.'s bottle labels, you can correctly guess that the Burlington, Vt. brewery reflects that same trippy vibe. Guests start the free daily tour in the Artifactory (a gallery-slash-tasting room) then wander alone or follow a rabbit, er, guide, down the hole into the production space. Though Cheshire cats aren't welcome, friendly dogs are.
    Photo courtesy of Magic Hat Brewing Co.

  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
    Charlotte

    Charlotte's biggest and oldest brewery lets visitors into a rare operation that strictly adheres to German beer purity laws and uses traditional methods of lagering and carbonating beer. Olde Mecklenberg Brewery tour guides present information in a clear manner that even gives some beer nerds an "aha" moment or two. After the weekend tours, a bierhall with snacks and pints awaits.
    Photo courtesy of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

Across the country in Fort Collins, Colo., New Belgium Brewery fans voted the makers of Fat Tire into a respectable third place finish, but it was back to the East Coast – Susquehanna in Pittston, Pa. and Samuel Adams in Boston – to round out the top five.

With thousands of breweries in the USA, selection by our panel of beer experts for inclusion in the contest was an honor in itself, and being voted by USA TODAY 10Best readers into the top 10 is certainly worth bragging about!

The full list of winners in the 'Best Brewery Tour' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice is as follows:

  1. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery - Charlotte
  2. Magic Hat Brewing Co. - Burlington, Vt.
  3. New Belgium Brewing Co. - Fort Collins, Colo.
  4. Susquehanna Brewing Co. - Pittston, Pa.
  5. Samuel Adams - Boston
  6. Tröegs Brewing Co. - Hershey, Pa.
  7. Oskar Blues Brewery - Longmont, Colo.
  8. Philadelphia Brewing Co. - Philadelphia
  9. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Chico, Calif.
  10. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, Del.

Congratulations to all our winners!

The other ten nominees, also worth a visit (and a cold pint) were:

Abita Brewing Co. - Abita Springs, La.

Anchor Brewing - San Francisco

Brewery Ommegang - Cooperstown, N.Y.

Budweiser - St. Louis

Flying Dog Brewery - Frederick, Md.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. - Cleveland

Lagunitas Chicago TapRoom - Chicago

Rogue Farms Hopyard - Independence, Ore.

Stone Brewing Co. - Escondido, Calif.

Yuengling - Pottsville, Pa.

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Tara Nurin