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.
4. San Diego Brew Tours (Five Star Tours)
Where: San Diego, CA
Length: 3 hours
If there’s one thing that San Diego is known for, it’s the incredible weather. If there are two things San Diego is known for, it’s the incredible weather and the IPAs.
“Our focus is on very hoppy beer,” said Alfonso Hernandez, the general manager at Five Star Tours. “San Diego specializes in the double IPA, which was created here, so we try and focus on that in the tours.”
San Diego Brew Tours will take you through the city’s Little Italy neighborhood, hitting up spots like Ballast Point and Bottle Craft Brewery Shop. The tour pulls back the curtain on local breweries, letting you explore behind the scenes to learn about the different kinds of beer they create.
After the tour, Hernandez recommends sticking around the Neighborhood. “Little Italy is very vibrant with lots of different things to see and do,” he said. “We recommend people explore around after the tour, there’s a lot of interesting restaurants popping up there.”
5. Chicago Beer Experience
Where: Chicago, IL
Cost: $59.90 per person ($33.90 for non-beer tickets)
Length: 3 hours
According to Chicago Beer Experience’s founder and president, Bruce White, Chicago’s craft beer scene has had a recent resurgence. “When I first started, Chicago was seriously under-brewery-ied, so going to breweries was never really a thought,” he said. “Now there are tons, with more popping up every day.”
Chicago Beer Experience offers two tours in different neighborhoods: The Lincoln Park and Lakeview Beer Tasting and Bar Tour and the Bucktown & Wicker Park Beer Tasting and Bar Tour. The tours will take you through several locally owned bars like Harrigan’s Pub and Paddy Long’s, stopping to learn some history along the way.
“We give a lot of Chicago history and neighborhood history in addition to beer knowledge,” said White. “For example, did you know that, due to tax increases on beer and anti-immigrant sentiment, Germans rioted here in Chicago in 1855?...these are the types of stories we tell.”
White suggests following one of his tours with a trip to Wrigley Field, hitting up some local music venues, or checking out a river architecture tour.
6. Boulder Brew Tours
Where: Boulder, CO
Length: 2.5 hours
Although most people would probably say Denver is Colorado’s crown jewel of brewing, Boulder is home to awesome microbreweries like Shine, West Flanders and Boulder Beer. Boulder Brew Tours’ walking tour offers a relaxing overview of these while exposing you to some great mile-high suds.
“With my tour, you get to try many different styles of beers that are common to a lot of different regions,” said Lee Olliffe, Boulder Brew Tours’ founder and craft beer specialist. “Another part that makes it stand out is the laid back feel that it has, I try not to rush people and let each group dictate how much information they want to learn about craft beer, or with some groups they are more there just to have a good time tasting.”
Boulder Brew Tours’ walking tour will take you along the city’s historic Pearl Street and teach you about how the local handcrafted ales and lagers are made.
“The local beer scene in Boulder is one of the best in the world,” said Olliffe. “Boulder is home to Colorado’s oldest Microbrewery and the home of The Brewers Association, which is responsible for the Great American Beer Festival, so it is certainly a world class beer destination.”
Where: Asheville, NC
Length: 2-3 hours
Asheville has a flourishing beer community and is home to ten breweries in the downtown area. BREW-ed will give you an educational overview of these, guided by a certified cicerone.
“In my opinion, Asheville is home to some of the best breweries on the East Coast,” said Cliff Mori, owner of BREW-ed and certified cicerone. “Within a three-mile radius, you can enjoy hundreds of unique and delicious beers all produced right here in town.”
While walking though Asheville’s beer scene, you can expect to hit up such brew spots as Asheville Brewing Company, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Thirsty Monk and Green Man. You should expect to walk away from BREW-ed’s walking tour being something of a beer expert, as the cicerone guiding you has probably forgotten more about beer than you’ve forgotten about things you did while drinking beer.
“My tours are more than just drinking,” said Mori. “We take a detailed look at the brewing process. Participants learn how to critically taste a beer, where flavors come from and the social history of beer—all within the context of Asheville’s vibrant beer scene.”
8. Kalamazoo Craft Beer Walking Tour Series (West Michigan Beer Tours)
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Length: 4 hours
Kalamazoo is a city that loves beer. If you need any evidence of this, just look at the name of their local local baseball team: The Kalamazoo Growlers.
The Kalamazoo Craft Beer Walking Tour Series will take you through some of the top craft beer bars in downtown Kalamazoo, like Arcadia Brewing Company and Old Burdick’s Bar & Grill.
“On any given tour, you can sample a half-dozen different styles if you choose,” says John Liberty, the general manager of West Michigan Beer Tours. “At the end of August or early September, we launch our Hop Harvest Tour, where we visit a local hop farm and sample beers made using those hops. Clearly, this one is aimed at the hop heads in the crowd.”
Liberty says Kalamazoo lead Michigan’s beer revival and is deeply tied to the state’s history, which is explained in the tour. “I started covering Michigan’s craft beer industry as a journalist around 2006 or 2007,” he said. “At that time, the state had somewhere between 80 to 90 breweries. As the economic downturn smacked Michigan, the industry thrived and grew. It’s become a point of pride and an economic force. It’s just beer, but I think the industry and the people behind it provided an essential dose of good news, not to mention a great product that is now sought after across the globe.”
9. Chicago Detours
Where: Chicago, IL
Length: 2.5 hours
Chicago Detours is another great company out of the Windy City. It’s historical pub crawl will give you a deep dive of the area’s history and architecture.
“We did archival research to be able to really tell the story of brewing in Chicago,” said Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detour’s founder and executive director. “People think that microbrews are new thing, but they’re actually a revival.”
Chicago Detours’ walking tour acts as a beer-fueled time machine, taking you through the important historical time periods like the jazz era, prohibition and the swinging ‘60s. The tour also covers local lore such as the hex of the billy goat and Chicago’s speakeasy history, hitting spots like Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and Billy Goat Tavern.
If you finish the tour and find yourself wanting to soak up some more history, Scotese recommends hopping in a cab and going to the iconic Green Mill Jazz club.
Where: Portland, OR
Cost: $65 ($51 for non-beer tickets)
Length: 3 hours
Due to its sheer quantity and diversity of brews, some call Portland the beer capital of the world. While trying all of the different Portland ales is a daunting task, Brewvana is there to help you rise to the challenge.
Brewvana offers two main walking tours: the Beer Love in the Pearl Tour, which visits Deschutes, PINTS and Rogue, and the the Mississippin’ Walking Tour, which visits Ecliptic, Stormbreaker and Hopworks Bike Bar.
“The walking tours are an awesome way for people new to the area to get a good introduction to the area, or to take visiting friends and family around without bearing the burden of entertaining the whole time,” said Margot Ripley, lead tour guide at Brewvana. “You’ll get plenty of beer, but will get a well-rounded history of the area and we’ll leave you in a good spot to keep exploring.”
?Julia Marchionna, Brewvana’s communication coordinator, guarantees you’ll leave Brewvana’s walking tours as a certified Portland beer fan. “We have such amazing access to top quality water, hops, grain and yeast which results in incredible beer,” she said. “But besides the breweries, there are incredible tap rooms and beer bars, too. We kind of have it all and we guarantee you’ll find a beer you love that you’ve never tried before.”