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The craft brew craze is exploding in the U.S. and small brewers are popping up in towns across the country. But keeping track of the newcomers and knowing if any brewer is worth the trip can be hard to figure out.
Now, you can jump on one of the hoppiest, most tasteful road trips that cuts all the confusion – and best of all, you don’t need to worry about doing the driving. Beer Tours USA takes people on personalized tours of breweries around the country.
Beer tours operate like winery tours and they’re gaining in popularity as Americans discover their love for craft beers.
“As they start drinking that type of beer, there might be something else they might want to try,” said Robin Fuchs, founder of Beer Tours USA. “People have fun when they are going around.”
Fuchs, a financial adviser who lives in Springfield, Ill, started Beer Tours USA in 2011 after he discovered some small-batch brewers producing some big beers. Fuchs, who says he is currently in the planning stages for his 2013 beer tours, has a host of trips to choose from, including historical themed tours. Groups typically go to between 6 to 8 craft breweries and brew pubs to look at how the beers are made and to sample its products.
His tours, offered throughout the U.S., include hotel stays, a continental breakfast, and background information on breweries. No need to bring along a designated driver -- because transportation to all of the breweries is provided by a chartered bus, so guests can enjoy every last drop of the many brews they will taste along the way.
Visitors can sample beers in tasting rooms, tour breweries, and check out the town. The two-day trips start at $179.
Here are some of Fuchs' favorite beer tours:
Potosi Brewing Company
Founded in 1852 – but then abandoned in 1972. Locals came together and re-opened it as a non-profit in 2008. “This has got to be one go the best places in America to stop if you like beer and American beer history,” said Fuchs. The National Brewery Museum is on site. The brewery has a lagering cave that was to brew the beers before the days of mechanical refrigeration. “We still use the cave to age the barrel varieties that our brewer creates,” said Larry Bowden, member of the Potosi Foundation board of directors.
Great River Brewery
Desks turned to beer taps! The brewery was designed in what was once an old school in the Hawkeye state. Here they print their own labels on their cans allowing them to be more versatile with their products. It’s a friendly atmosphere. “We encourage social drinking and meeting new people through the art of conversation,” said master brewer Paul Krutzfeldt. Some of their brews include Roller Dam Red, 483 Pale, Farmer Brown, and Redband Stout all on tap at $4 a pint. Fuchs said the brewers know their products well. “A huge amount of talent and knowledge.”
Triumph Brewing Company
Located in the “old city” area of Philadelphia, this brewery is walking distance from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. An old building with a modern feel - “there are never-ending rooms and seating,” said Fuchs. The brewery opened its doors in 2007. Come hungry, because brewer Josh Gambrel said the tasting experience is delicious with the food they offer. “All the pairings and all the flavors,” he said. Popular on tap: The Amber and Bengal American IPA. Much of the décor came from scraps of the building renovation. Other locations are in New Hope, Penn. and Princeton, NJ.
Six Row Brewing Company
St. Louis, Missouri
Fuchs described this stop as “very small and charming.” The building was first used by the Falstaff Brewing Company, which opened in 1911. Here they offer 24 brews at a time. Brewmaster Evan Hiatt said “the tasting experience is much like you would taste a wine. We look at the color of the beer then the aroma and finally the flavor and tactile (feeling) of the beer.” They are also famous for their meatloaf. “Our main dining room is just small enough to get a pleasant aroma of good food cooking in the kitchen along with beer brewing in the kettle behind the glass curtain wall,” said Hiatt.
Galena Brewing Company
The small town of Galena had 9 breweries in the 1800s and the last one closed in 1938, according to Warren Bell, owner of the Galena Brewing Company. “(We’re) unique in connecting Galena residents and visitors with Galena's rich brewing history.” They opened their doors in 2010. “This place explodes with fun and charisma!” said Fuchs, who complimented their live entertainment. “Walk the streets till late, and you'll always find something fun going on.” Tastings are also included in their tours. Their Nutbrown Ale won a silver award at the 2012 World Beer Cup.