There are currently more than 1,500 breweries operating in the United States, and many of them offer tours for visitors looking to learn more about the brewing process. While you might think 'if you’ve taken one tour, you’ve taken them all,' these breweries stand out as having some of the best tours, making them worth even the most seasoned beer veteran’s time.
Anchor Steam Brewing . . . for San Francisco visitors
One of the last remaining steam beer producers, the facilities at Anchor Steam Brewing Company look unlike any brewery around. Instead of the massive, silver tanks, Anchor’s are copper and look a bit like giant antique oilcans. Tours are free, but only available by reservation on the weekdays. The hour and a half-long tour covers the brewery’s history, the unique steam brewing process, and all three floors of this Potrero Hill facility.
Brooklyn Brewery . . . for New York visitors
Brooklyn Brewery has been making some of New York City’s best craft beers in Williamsburg since 1988. Its Tasting Room is a popular place for locals to congregate, and there’s always something cool happening, from beer-and-food pairings to special dinners hosted by local chefs. Monday through Thursday, visitors can reserve a spot on the intimate Small Batch tours for $8. Free tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays, but no reservations are accepted; so it’s first come, first served. Small Batch tours offer a more in-depth look at the brewing process and the brewery’s history. The price also includes four sample tastings and a souvenir pint glass, unlike on the free tours.
Intel: Even if you can’t take a tour, Brooklyn Brewery’s Tasting Room is buzzing on the weekends with locals and beer-lovers from all over, making it an experience in itself.
Dogfish Head Brewery . . . for Milton, Delaware visitors
Dogfish Head received much attention as the subject of the Discovery Channel show Brew Masters, but even if you never caught an episode of the now defunct show, the brewery is still worth a visit. It’s definitely a trek to get to, but Dogfish makes it worth your while with its free tours that also include samples and special events including live music, beer dinners, kayaking trips, and more. Hours and tour dates vary by season, so always call before and make your tour reservation ahead of time.
Full Sail Brewing Company . . . for Hood River, Oregon visitors
Portland is packed with breweries, and truthfully, it’s hard to go wrong at any of them. However, for an idyllic Pacific Northwestexperience, try the Full Sail Brewery an hour east in Hood River. The tour itself is fantastic and gives great insight into one of Oregon’s first commercially successful breweries. It’s free, but you still get great souvenir pint glass to take home with you. While the tour is great, Full Sail’s location at the foot of Mount Hood is the true star. Grab a meal at the adjacent brewpub, and take it to the deck where, on a nice day, you can watch kite-boarders, windsurfers, and sailboats glide across the Columbia River. If you don’t remember it from the tour, the scenery will surely remind you how the brewery got its name.
Harpoon Brewery . . . for Boston visitors
Sure, when you’re in Boston, you could go to Samuel Adams and have a wonderful tour of its massive facilities. Or you can head to the South Boston Waterfront and check out the Harpoon Brewery, which is actually one of the largest craft brewers in the country. Tours of the full facility, which are free and last an hour, are only held on the weekends, but if you’re visiting during the week, you’re more than welcome to come by and do some tastings anytime from 2 to 4 p.m.
Lakefront Brewery . . . for Milwaukee visitors
If you want to have fun on a brewery tour, you’ve got to visit the Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. Located right on the banks of the Milwaukee River, this brewery is known for getting its samples flowing right from the beginning. Tour guides aren’t dry and boring; instead, they are funny and knowledgeable, assuring everyone has a good time. For just $7, you get a the tour, four samples along the way, a souvenir glass, and a ticket for a free beer at a select number of participating bars and restaurants in Milwaukee.
Intel: Every week, the brewery hosts a popular fish fry, which has become a local, Friday night institution.
Samuel Adams . . . for Boston visitors
Perhaps the most famous of all American craft breweries, Samuel Adams is the largest craft brewery in the U.S. Located in the Jamaica Plains neighborhood of Boston, tours are offered approximately every 45 minutes from 10 a.m. to 3p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays. On the hour-long tour, you’ll learn more about the company’s history, including why it’s named after the famous patriot, as well as more about the brewing process. You can even taste and smell the hops that founder Jim Koch famously travels all the way to Bavaria to hand-select. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll see him out on the brewery floor, overseeing his malty empire.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company . . . for Chico visitors
One of the most popular craft beers in the world, Sierra Nevada Brewery is as dedicated to brewing great beers as it is to the environment. The brewery is completely powered by solar energy, has charging stations for electric vehicles, and reuses cooking oil from the on-site restaurant to power its Biodiesel delivery trucks. Take one of their free daily tours, and you’ll learn more about the brewing process as well as their sustainable practices.
Stone Brewing Co. . . . for Escondido visitors
Well-worth the almost hour-long drive from downtown San Diego, Stone Brewing Co. is a state-of-the-art microbrewery that went from a tiny facility in San Marcos to one of the largest breweries in Southern California in just 10 years. Tours are offered several times each day and are lead by expert guides, called “Indoctrination Specialists.” They take visitors behind-the-scenes, teaching them more about the brewing process as well as craft beer culture. Whatever you do, be sure to set aside some time to eat at Stone Brewing Co.’s beautiful bistro, which serves decadent yet beer-friendly dishes like bison burgers, BBQ duck tacos, and homemade pretzels. It’s one of the highlights of the entire facility.
Yuengling Factory . . . for Pottsville visitors
The oldest brewery in America is Yuengling Factory, found in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. It’s been located on the same spot since 1831 and was one of the few breweries that survived Prohibition by switching production to “near beer” products. When Prohibition ended, the brewery sent President Franklin D. Roosevelt a truckload of its “Winner Beer” to celebrate. With such a long and rich history, tours of the Yuengling Factory are as fascinating as they are fun. They’re offered at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and several take place on Saturdays from April through December.