Drinking and walking have shared a rich history since our first human ancestor stumbled back to a tree after eating a fermented piece of fruit 80 million years ago. From the block party to the pub-crawl, drink-walking is basically built into our DNA. Given that, it’s a little surprising that one of the best ways to imbibe and stride—the beer walking tour—has only become popular in recent history.
Perhaps beer walking tours’ popularity increase can be explained by the fact that microbreweries seem to be popping up right and left as Americans are demonstrating a greater interest in craft beers. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the country has more than doubled in the last 10 years to 3,464 today.
Beer walking tours are a great way for locals and visitors alike to get the lay of the land and learn more about local suds scenes. From Boulder to Brooklyn, there are more walking tours dedicated to lagers and ales out there than ever before. So what are you waiting for? Here are ten beer walking tours to stumble upon this Summer.
1: Philly on Tap (Philadelphia Urban Adventures)
Where: Philadelphia, PA
Length: 2 hours
Philadelphia is a city of revolution and that’s reflected in their beer. Philly’s local beer scene took off when people started making their own beer in response to the big three’s (Miller, Coors, Budweiser) centralization of U.S. brewing in the ‘70s.
“We’re very locally focused, from the beers to the businesses,” said Jason Fried, director of operations and tour guide at Philly on Tap. “In Philly, we’ve been brewing beer since before William Penn arrived and the loyalty factor sets in right away. When you come to a bar in Philly, it’s actually very difficult to find an outside brewer’s product at the tap.”
Philly on Tap will teach you about Philadelphia’s brewing history, taking you through a variety of local brew spots. On each tour, you can expect to hit a local bar like McGillin’s, the oldest continuously operated tavern in Philadelphia, or one of Philly’s many beer gardens.
“Coming out of prohibition, Philadelphia had Draconian beer laws,” said Fried. “One of the reasons that beer gardens began popping up was because they could get around needing a liquor license by using a catering permit. Some of the beer gardens are actually run by the horticultural society.”
Fried says there’s really no bad time to come for a tour, but beer aficionados may want to plan their walking tour around Philly Beer Week, which runs from May to June.
2. Brewed in Brooklyn (Urban Oyster)
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Length: 3.5 hours
David Naczycz, owner and president of Urban Oyster, is a man on a mission. “I see us as converting casual beer drinkers into craft beer drinkers…we’re all about encouraging them to give up their Miller, Corona and Heineken habits and getting them to drink local beers,” he said.
Based in Brooklyn, David’s mission couldn’t ask for a better staging ground. The city’s booming local beer scene is built on a rich history of brewing. Home to historic breweries like Rheingold and Schaefer, Naczycz says Brooklyn was the “Milwaukee of the East Coast,” producing about ten percent of beer in the U.S. in the ‘60s.
“One area where a lot of the breweries congregated was along Brewery Row on Meserole Street, said Naczycz. “Some of the old buildings are still there, and there’s actually a new bar (The Well) in one of the old breweries. Today, there’s a thriving craft beer scene in Brooklyn, but the patron saint of all is the Brooklyn Brewery.”
Along with Brooklyn Brewery, you can expect to hit legendary beer spots like The Well, Noorman’s Kill and Spuyten Duyvil on this tour. Naczycz says to really put a perfect cap on the day, you should hit up Peter Lugers Steakhouse after the tour for a nice cut of meat.
3. SF on Tap
Where: San Francisco, CA
Length: 3.5 hours
The Bay Area seems uniquely suited for beer walking tours. It’s home to amazing breweries like Lagunitas and Anchor Steam and it’s only seven by seven miles, so people tend to walk a lot there. However, beer walking tours haven’t really had a presence in the City by the Bay to date.
Adam Marca, founder of SF on Tap, is looking to change that. Combining his life-long love of beer with his background in the travel industry, Marca launched his own tour company this year.
SF on Tap offers two main tours: one in the Haight district (Celebrate the Haight) and one in SoMA (Big Sippin’ in the SoMA). SF on Tap’s tours take people through famous San Francisco beer institutions such as Mikkeller, City Beer Store and Magnolia, offering a diverse array of brews.
“We don’t have one focus or specialization,” said Marca. “The goal is to provide you with a wide variety of great beers that have interesting talking points and may expand your horizons. There will always be IPA in the mix and lately sour beers have been a hot topic, so we tend to get into those.”
Marca says the growing interest in beer walking tours is linked to America’s quest for quality local brews.
“Americans are a lot more focused on quality and buying local than ever before,” said Marca. “There is a tremendous allure to the concept of drinking amazing beer brewed right in your area…We’re always looking for that next beer that blows us away, wherever it comes from.”
If you decide to do the SoMA tour, Marca recommends trying to time it with a Giant’s game since AT&T Park is a quick walk away.