Lots of New Years resolutions circulating around this time of year. I’m not a fan of such things, but one that I could always get behind was the resolution to travel more.
While traveling, if you’re anything like me, you immediately take to Google, or that area’s local craft beer Facebook group, looking for the best breweries in the area. And I’m assuming, if you are reading this, you know, at the very least, the big craft beer destinations in America: Asheville, NC, Denver, CO, and Boston, Mass, and OF COURSE, Pittsburgh, PA. But there are so many cities out there who are criminally underrated for a solid craft beer scene.
Santa Cruz, CA
When I describe Santa Cruz to someone, I’ll say, “think Hawaii vibes, but like, mainland.” Nestled on the Northern part of Monterey Bay, and about an hour south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is certainly one of my favorite places to visit, for many reasons.
Amongst the impressive Redwood forests, gorgeous coast and a whole lot of kooky charm, you can find breweries turning out some of the best beer on the market.
At the top of my list, Humble Sea, a brewery who offers an assortment of styles and hilarious beer names and can art. Right around the corner from their original West Side location is Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, who’s been around since 2005. Be sure to take a lovely little stroll along West Cliff Drive, before or after having a couple brews.
And I can’t write this without mentioning another favorite of mine, Santa Adarius Rustic Ales. Commonly referred to as, SARA, their product really pushes the envelope while giving a nod to the curious nature of brewers all over the world. SARA brews typically make their way into wine barrels with various yeast and bacteria strains. Lookin’ to nerd out over some of the best out there? Check them out!
By the way, Santa Cruz Mountain and SARA are both female owned, which is always a plus in my book.
Lastly, take a trip to Big Sur, Henry Cowell State Park, walk around, get some tacos (Perico’s is life) and definitely visit the boardwalk. When ya do, go find the Lost Boy’s bridge, and for God’s sake, don’t swim in the San Lorenzo river below the bridge or the river mouth. Just. Don’t.
The great thing about living in the Hudson Valley is that I am so close to the Connecticut border. And I’m not going to pin-point one region of Connecticut because, let’s face it, it’s tiny. You can cover a lot of ground, if not the entire state, in one day. Okay, maybe a weekend. But for being a small state, their craft beer scene is quite large. Explosive, even.
As of November 2021, Connecticut is home to 123 operational breweries with more breweries in planning (source: CT Brewers Guild)
Just over the border, in Newtown, CT are two breweries definitely worth visiting. Reverie Brewing, and Newsylum Brewing, both who are minutes away from each other and opened around the same time. Reverie pushes the envelope with unique combinations of adjuncts and Newsylum is cool AF because it’s located on the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital campus. Creepy and awesome.
Seriously, Connecticut has a lot of colonial charm, quaint little villages and an impressive craft beer scene. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
I had visited Lexington only once before, and it was a quick stop as I passed through on my way to a wedding in Birmingham. I thought it’d be somewhat illegal to not stop at least one distillery, so I checked out Buffalo Trace.
Up until this summer, in addition to all of the famous distilleries, I didn’t realize Lexington had so many amazing breweries!
With the help of our other great craft beer gal pals, @thebrewersdaughters, Jen and I had a full schedule of brewery hopping, when we weren’t at the music festival (which is a wild story within itself, ha).
West Sixth is a great spot that houses Smithtown Seafood, which had surprisingly good fish tacos. From there, we visited Ethereal, an impressive little brewery situated in Lexington’s historic Distillery District, a 25 acre property that was once home to the James E. Pepper Distillery founded in 1879. You’ll find other breweries, restaurants and bars to keep yourself entertained. We closed the first night with some old school video games at The Burl Arcade, across the street from Ethereal.
The next day, we hit Blue Stallion, a brewery dedicated to classic European styles and then checked out Wise Bird Cider, twice, because yes, it was damn good. If they have it, get the Bourbon barrel-aged cider or try one of their cider cocktails.
Mirror Twin is also highly recommended on the list. Grab some pizza and a few pints; you won’t be disappointed.
Ps: Josie’s Restaurant is a cure-all for the almighty craft beer hang over.