COLUMN WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
In a mid-year report, the Brewers Association announced that approximately 12.2 million barrels of beer were sold by U.S. craft brewers through the end of June 2015, up from 10.6 million barrels during the first half of 2014. Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, explained in a press release, “The continued growth of small and independent brewers illustrates that additional market opportunities and demand are prevalent, although competition in the sector is certainly growing and the need for brewers to differentiate and produce world class high quality beer is more important than ever.”
This increase in production is also a result of the steady increase in the number of professional craft brewers in the U.S. In 2014, 555 new craft breweries opened, in addition to the 462 that opened in 2013, according to statistics from the Brewers Association. With so many new craft breweries opening, there has also been an
increase in “beer tourism.” More and more people every year are either taking specific beer focused trips, or incorporating brewery visits into their summer vacations.
Philadelphia has a new brew tour which also operates in several other cities including Boston, Washington DC, Burlington, Vt. and New Hampshire’s sea coast. Check www.phillybrewtours.com for more information. But within just a few hours of Philadelphia there are a number of cities that have exploding beer scenes — and organized beer tours to help you find the newest and the best breweries they have to offer:
Portland, Maine: With more than 10 craft breweries within city limits that vary in all sizes, Portland’s beer scene should definitely be on your beer tour list. From larger craft brewers like Allagash Brewing Company (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) and Shipyard Brewing, to smaller ones such as Bissell Brothers, Bunker Brewing and Rising Tide, you can visit them on tours provided by the Maine Beer Bus (themainebrewbus.com) and Maine Beer Tours (mainebeertours.com).
Asheville, North Carolina: Home to local breweries like Wicked Weed and Highland Brewing Company, Asheville attracted California brewery Sierra Nevada to open a facility there as well. Brewery tours can be booked through BREW-ed (http://www.brew-ed.com), Asheville Brews Cruise http://ashevillebrewscruise.com) or Asheville Brewery Tours (http://ashevillebrewerytours.com).
Tampa, Florida: If your vacation happens to be in Orlando, you may want to consider stepping away from amusement parks for one day and taking a beer tour of Tampa, the home of Cigar City Brewing, and of course, the additional facility of Pennsylvania’s own D.G. Yuengling Brewery. The very popular Brew Bus (http://www.brewbususa.com) can help you in your journey.
New York Finger Lakes: More well-known for its wine, the New York Finger Lakes Region also has grown a vibrant beer scene. Recommendations for tour companies and breweries can be found on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail website – http://fingerlakesbeertrail.com/content/tours. And for those who are fans of both beer and wine, several companies offer combined tours so you can experience the best of both worlds.
Beer tourism is a great way to “drink local” — but in another locality. As the craft beer industry continues to expand, so does the complexity and diversity of American beer. When you plan your next vacation, take a few moments to do an internet search for breweries in your destination and then visit one of them. You never know when you might find the best beer you’ve ever had — unless you get out and try!
Columnist Matt Brasch is a Souderton Area High School graduate and a beer enthusiast. For more, check his blog at http://thebrewholder.com.