Many Americans love their beer, and a great way to savor a cold brew is by indulging at the breweries from which they originate. Visitors to the nation’s top breweries have the opportunity to view how the beverage is produced from water, hops and malted cereal grains, learn about the history of the company and, of course, sample an assortment of freshly made beer. Most brewery tours allow visitors of all ages, but obviously, alcohol consumption is limited to adults with a valid I.D. The following are 10 of the best breweries to visit across the nation.
1705 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Founded in 1896, Anchor Brewing Company is America’s first craft brewery and one of the last breweries to produce California common beer, otherwise known as steam beer. With roots back to the California Gold Rush, the historic San Francisco brewery now sells 11 different varieties of beers and ales, but its most popular and most famous label is its amber-colored Anchor Steam Beer — a San Francisco classic. Located in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco, the brewery offers two free 45-minute public tours held weekdays by reservation only. Selected beer tastings of its beers and ales, including other favorite labels like Anchor Porter, Anchor Bock Beer and Old Foghhorn Ale, are only available for guests who take a tour.
79 N. 11th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Currently celebrating its 24th year, Brooklyn Brewery is one of just a handful of breweries in the New York borough that was once home to nearly 50. Tours Monday through Thursday beginning at 5 p.m. are available for $8, with advance reservations only. At the conclusion of the tour, guests can purchase pints of beer for just $5, or five for $20. On Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, the Tasting Room is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, with four free tours with no reservation required on Sundays. On Friday evenings, a happy hour draws a good crowd to this lively brewery in Brooklyn’s north side.
12th and Lynch St.
St. Louis, MO 63118
A complimentary tour to a brewery whose product is known as the “King of Beers” and its iconic team of Clydesdales should be high on any beer lover’s list. With a history stretching back to 1852, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company now operates 13 breweries in the country, with the original and its headquarters based in St. Louis. Tour guests can visit one of the world’s largest breweries, in addition to viewing the famous horse stables and sampling quality beers in the Hospitality Room. An optional beermaster tour is also available for $25 for adults ages 21 and older and $10 for visitors ages 13 to 20. On the first Saturday of each month throughout the year, visitors are provided with a photo opportunity with one of the world famous Clydesdales. Four other Budweiser breweries also offer brewery and beermaster tours in Fairfield, CA, Fort Collins, CO, Jacksonville, FL and Merrimack, NH.
Coors Brewing Company
13th and Ford St.
Golden, CO 80401
Located 15 miles west of Denver at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the Coors Brewery in Golden is the largest single-site brewery in the world. Established in 1873 by Adolph Coors, the brewery is on 5.5 square miles of land and has a work force of 3,000 employees. The 30-minute, self-paced tour allows visitors to view the malting, brewing and packaging processes of one of America’s favorite beer brands. Visitors of legal age can also enjoy free beer samples in the brewery’s “fresh beer room.”
306 Northern Ave.
Boston, MA 02210
Founded in 1986, Harpoon Beer is the largest craft brewery and one of the most recognizable labels in New England. Brewery tours are held daily, with more frequent tours on weekends. The cost of the tour is $5, including a beer tasting, but tickets are only available the day of the tour. Also onsite is a new visitor center and a spacious beer hall to enjoy some freshly brewed beer. The brewery sponsors a number of special events and festivals during the year, such as the annual Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue competition. The company’s other brewery in Windsor, VT offers guided brewery tours Friday through Sunday.
Miller Brewing Company
4251 W. State St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208
The history of the Miller Brewing Company stretches back to 1855, after German immigrant Fredrick Miller purchased the abandoned Plank-Road Brewery. At the Miller Visitor Center, free, guided, one-hour walking tours are offered with no reservations required. Tours run approximately every 30 minutes daily through Labor Day and Monday through Saturday from Labor Day through Memorial Day. During the tour, visitors can view high-speed packaging lines, the shipping distribution warehouse, the MillerCoors veterans memorial, a replica of the original Plank Road Brewery house and take a visit to the historic Miller Caves, where 19th century beers were stored before mechanical refrigeration was invented.
656 County Highway 33
Cooperstown, NY 13326
Located in Cooperstown, home of the prestigious National Baseball Hall of Fame, Ommegang is a Belgian brewery specializing in Belgian-style pale ales. Since its inception in 1997, Ommegang has won several international awards, such as a gold medal for its Abbey ale in the World Beer Cup and gold medal at the American Beer Fest for its Witte wheat ale. Public tours and tastings operate seven days a week and tour passes are available at the Store Host Stand on a first-come, first-served basis. Tasting passes are just $3 and are available from the Café Host Stand at the visitors center. Each pass comes with a complimentary glass to try at least six different beers from this widely acclaimed brewery.
30 Germania St.
Boston, MA 02130
For many beer lovers, a visit to the famed Samuel Adams brewery ranks at the top. Although the company, well known for its popular Boston lager, was founded in 1984, the original recipe for this award-winning beer was developed in 1860. Part of the Boston Brewing Company, Samuel Adams beers have won more international beer competitions than any other craft brand in the world in the last five years. One-hour brewery tours depart approximately every 45 minutes, seven days a week, and a $2 donation is suggested. Tour guests have a chance to meet with some brewery employees, and possibly with its most notable, brewmaster Bob Cannon, whose distinctive beard made him an instantly recognizable celebrity in Samuel Adams beer television commercials.
Stone Brewing Company
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029
Headquartered 30 miles west of San Diego in Escondido, Stone Brewing Company is the largest brewery in Southern California and one of the nation’s largest craft breweries. Guided public tours are just $3 for adults 21 and over with valid I.D. and $1 for youths, and passes are available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis. Stone Brewery has won a number of awards, including ranking number one on the “All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth” by Beer Advocate Magazine. The brewery’s bistro is open seven days a week and serves a variety of excellent dishes such as tempeh shepherd’s pie, yakisoba and New York strip steak with beer or wine pairings. The brewery also offers guided tours to Stones Farm on weekends for $20, which provides round-trip transportation from the brewery, a pint of beer brewed from the farm, a 25-minute guided tour, a bouquet of herbs and a souvenir pint glass.
501 Mahantongo St.
Pottsville, PA 17901
Although this brewing company may not be a household brand name like Budweiser, Coors or Miller, it is the country’s oldest operating brewery and one of the largest by volume. Founded by German immigrant David Yuengling, the brewery was founded in 1829 in the small city of Pottsville. Free guided tours of the site of America’s first brewery are held weekdays, last about 75 minutes and require walking up and down approximately 120 steps. The brewery’s gift shop is open weekdays all year round and on Saturdays from April through December.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com.