Some years ago, I hit town for a weekend of beer, college football and beer. The weather added some intrigue. A nor’easter threatened but decided to remain at sea. I finally got into Harvard—John Harvard’s Brew House, that is; had a couple of quiet pints at Boston Brew Works, across the street from Fenway Park, on the way to the game; and, afterward, discovered The Boston Beer Co.’s brew house in the Lenox Hotel. The Sam Adams/Lenox marriage is now history, but memories of the maple porter and grilled sausages live on. Heading the to-do list for my next visit to Boston is the 3:00 tasting at the Harpoon Brewery. Make mine a Munich Dark, please.
Burlington is forbidding in mid-winter, but it was gorgeous when I attended the Vermont Brewers Festival. The backdrop is Lake George and, beyond it, the Adirondacks. Burlington is a perfect base for exploring the state, starting with the Vermont Pub & Brewery and the quirky little Three Needs Tap Room. The Magic Hat Brewing Co., a few miles down the road, is a trip back to the ’60s, complete with tie-dye T-shirts. Throughout Vermont, you’ll find local beer in bars, grocery stores, and even gas stations. Natives love small businesses and are fiercely loyal to local products.
California’s Wine Country
“You’re either a beer lover or a wine lover, but not both.” Tell that to the regulars at the Third Street Ale House in Santa Rosa, who unwind over pints after work—at the local wineries. My travels in Napa and Sonoma counties also took me to Downtown Joe’s American Grill and Brewhouse in Napa; Silverado Brewing Co., on the winery-studded Highway 29; the Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Healdsburg (its Racer 5 IPA justified the trip); and Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery in the spa town of Calistoga.
College friends from Chicago swore by hole-in-the-wall places where conversation, usually about sports, was the main attraction. As a student I fell in love with Howard’s, across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s now closed, but the Goose Island Brewing Co. more than made up for the loss. But my favorite place to drink beer in Chicago is Wrigley Field—actually, a pre- and post-game sweep through Wrigleyville, whose bars offer everything from ’80s heavy metal to classical music to no music at all. It’s the Midwest’s answer to Bourbon Street.
Denverites insist that beer and baseball revived the Lower Downtown neighborhood. This district, surrounding Coors Field, has become a prime pub-crawl venue. Wynkoop Brewing Co.’s claims to fame includes a lineup that ranges from gruit to Anaheim chile beer and an owner who’s now Denver’s mayor. Within walking distance, there’s Rounders at the Sandlot; Breckenridge Brewery and BBQ; Flying Dog Ales, whose glasses feature the work of artist Ralph Steadman; the Falling Rock Tap House, the after-hours headquarters for brewers competing at the Great American Beer Festival.