Phoenix → Flagstaff → Prescott
Phoenicians’ need for a summer getaway is pretty much unparalleled, as temperatures reach surface-of-the-sun levels and even kiddie pools full of ice cubes do little to combat the scorching heat. Luckily, Flagstaff is a day trip away; its significantly higher elevation making it a (relatively) cool oasis. Once in town, beer seekers should hit up Historic Brewing Co.’s downtown Barrel + Bottle House outpost for a glass of cult favorite Piehole Porter, which was recently pulled back to a taproom-only release. Hungry? Fresh, substantial sandwiches from next-door Proper Meats can be ordered to the patio. Next, hit up The State Bar for a 30-tap draft list that rounds up the best of Arizona’s breweries. (You’ll also want to take a photo of historic Route 66, just across the street.) Other great stops in Flag include Hops on Birch, Mother Road Brewing and a final stop at Pay ‘n’ Take bar/beer shop for souvenirs. Add on to the trip with an additional stop in quaint, small-town Prescott, where you can visit renowned Superstition Meadery and Prescott Brewing Co. in the same block.
Tampa → St. Petersburg → Tarpon Springs
Tampa has its own growing beer scene, but it’s just a 30-minute drive across the bay to the southern end of St. Petersburg’s newly launched Craft Beer Trail, which runs north to south from Tarpon Spring to St. Pete. Start off at the legendary Cycle Brewing, ideally with a seat at a picnic table on the front patio. Draft offerings rotate constantly, but you can’t go wrong with any barrel-aged and flavor-spiked stout on the menu. Then it’s onward to Green Bench Brewing for 20 taps of brewer Khris Johnson’s creations; try the refreshing Les Grisettes if it’s available (if not, don’t fear, bottles are available yearround). En route to Tarpon Springs, make a detour to Rapp Brewing, an unassuming tasting room in an industrial strip of Seminole, Florida. Its location belies the top-notch stuff flowing from the 650-square-foot taproom, including a thirst-quenching gose. Onward to Tarpon Springs for pilgrimage to St. Somewhere’s new, (dare we say adorable?) taproom for a taste of brewer Bob Sylvester’s unfiltered, exquisite farmhouse beers. Definitely pick up bottles to take home.
Seattle → Bellingham → Skagit Valley
There’s obviously no need to leave Seattle if you’re in search of great beer. But if you want some laidback charm and pastoral views with your pint, you’ll have to hit the road. Drive north for about an hour to Farmstrong Brewing in Mt. Vernon, where you can cool down with Cold Beer pilsner and learn about the brewery’s goal of one day using 100 percent local malts. Then hop on Chuckanut Drive/State Route 11 for a scenic, water-views drive to Bellingham where a smorgasbord of great breweries await (watch for bicyclists). Refuel with grilled rockfish tacos and a glass of Disco Lemonade Berliner weisse in Aslan Brewing’s sunny brewpub, then revel in the tart and sour spectrum of offerings while catching rays on the patio at Wander Brewing. On your route home, swing by Chuckanut Brewery’s new Skagit Valley spot in Burlington, affectionately called South Nut; there you’ll find two outdoor seating areas surrounded by verdant lawn (and giant Jenga and cornhole games), a fishing pond and plenty of nearby farm stands to pick up a fresh snack for later.
NYC → Hudson Valley
Just an hour and a half (ish) from New York City, Hudson Valley is a scenic destination with a growing food scene. The agricultural focus has also lead to a boom in farm breweries, many of which are located just a half-hour’s drive from each other. Start the rustic exploration at Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon for a taste of easy-drinking, oak-fermented wild ales as well as dry-hopped IPAs and double IPAs (pick up some of the hoppy goods in cans, with barrel-aged sours in bottles debuting this summer as well). From there, head 30 minutes north to Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, whose mission is to brew with all in-state-grown ingredients, including many from the 25-acre farm itself. While the brewery’s taproom clears final licensing hurdles, Plan Bee has set up an event tent on hill from which they serve four draft beers and more than a dozen styles in bottles for onsite consumption or take away. Make sure to check hours before arriving; Plan Bee’s farmstand is only open to the public on weekends. Another 30 minutes’ drive north will get you to Suarez Family Brewery, an attention-garnering year-old outfit from a former Hill Farmstead brewer; if sitting in the sunshine drinking an unfiltered pilsner is your idea of a good time, you’ll find yourself in good company. If you still haven’t had your fill, Sloop Brewing is just a quick jaunt from Suarez and satisfies with all manner of IPAs, double IPAs and sour beers, plus live music on Sunday afternoons.
Chicago → Milwaukee
While this could technically constitute a road trip, it could also be accomplished as a rail trip: Amtrak operates 14 daily trains between Chicago and Milwaukee (12 on Sundays), with each leg lasting a leisurely 90 minutes. Milwaukee’s brewery scene has exploded recently; we won’t summarize all the new openings, but find them here in our recent Beertown: Milwaukee. In between brewery stops, you’ll want to make sure to check out the city’s beer bars, which are some of the best in the country. Start at Burnheart’s, where a formerly run-of-the-mill corner bar has maintained its Midwest hospitality but seriously upped its beer cred. Make sure you’re hungry for your next stop: Honeypie, a pie cafe with solid beer options (Milwaukee, we love you) where you can wash down a slice with a silky Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or local favorite Bells Oberon. Then it’s an invigorating walk south along bustling Kinninickinnic Avenue to Palm Tavern, a small Bayview bar literally crammed with booze, including the best of regional and international beers as well as an impressive liquor back bar. Up for one more stop? End the tour at Romans’ Pub, a 20-plus-year-old Milwaukee beer institution, and a must for any first-time visitor.