Five coolest craft brew tours in America

Jenny Adams

School might be out, but for many beer-loving adults, summer will equal fun education in the form of brewery visits. We’re rounded up five of America’s craft beer brewers who are doing something “more” in terms of tours.

In Arkansas, you can pet a horse while drinking an IPA. In North Carolina, rhubarb is used far beyond baking pies and in upstate New York, you can rock out under the stars with live, nationally recognized bands. Include at least one of these breweries in your summer plans to make the most of 2013:

Golden Road Brewing
Los Angeles

You get your educational money’s worth at Golden Road. It’s co-owned and operated by America’s youngest brewery owner, 28-year-old Meg Gill. Gill is a competitive swimmer in her spare time (she almost made it to the Olympics), and her beer is pretty superlative as well. The tour starts at Chloe’s – the operation’s swank private bar – where you are handed a crisp, cold pint to carry on the tour. You wind through the brewery’s two-acre campus while expert guides give you a fun and informative play-by-play of how Golden Road produces their remarkable beers.

(See also: America's best beer gardens)

The Coolest Part: You get the opportunity to taste a beer poured right off the tank. Golden Road is one of the only spots in the world where you can drink a beer as fresh as it ever gets. Also, a mere $10 will get you a guided tasting of their elite specialty brews when you finish up back at Chloe’s.

Fullsteam Brewery
Durham, N.C.

These guys are crazy. So delightfully crazy, in fact, they once attempted to brew beer out of kudzu. That didn’t work. However, they have had success with other Southern staples, namely scuppernongs, muscadines, sweet potatoes, hickory-smoked malt, rhubarb, and foraged wild persimmons. Their tours are part of a three-tour package hosted by Beltline Brew Tours. Fullsteam got our attention because of their awesome offerings, like their new Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale and the Cackalacky, a spicy, delectable ginger pale ale. Dogs are also not only welcome, but encouraged at the brewery.

The Coolest Part: Your tour guide is Fullsteam’s owner, Sean Lilly Wilson. He starts off with a table of fresh produce and then explains how something like a North Carolina paw paw fruit can magically turn into Belgian-style Golden Ale. It’s magic! (Or, really good brew masters).

Price: $45 for three breweries.

Brewery Ommegang
Cooperstown, N.Y.

If you choose to visit Ommegang for a tour, make sure you check the calendar first. The brewery loves a good time and concerts in past summers have included some pretty big names in music, from Cake to Wilco. This year, they will feature The Black Crowes and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

“Most people know Cooperstown for The Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Larry Bennett, the brewery’s public relations and creative services manager. “But before Prohibition, this was the hops-growing region for America.” On their tours today, you can actually participate in a hops field demonstration, visit the open fermenter, and spend a few hours or an entire night on their stunning 140-acre property. They invite guests to camp all summer long.

The Coolest Part: They are releasing a line of beers inspired by the HBO hit television series, “Game of Thrones.” Iron Throne is their first release and according to Bennett, “it’s flown off the shelves. We will launch the next label in the series in fall of 2013.”

Price: Free

Cisco Brewers,
Nantucket, Mass.

It’s a one-stop shop for imbibers at Cisco, because their tour sends you not only through a brewery, but also through their adjoining winery and distillery.

The brewery’s got a lovely New England feel, situated just a mile from the beach and while they don’t have food on premises, they make up for it by hiring local food trucks in summer.

The Coolest Part: They make 4 core beer brands, 3 seasonals and a host of cool barrel-aged specialty beers, like the Lady of the Woods. It’s created by resting their Grey Lady Witte beer in a Chardonnay barrel for 18 months.

Price: $20

Saddlebock Brewery
Fayetteville, Ark.

“People from neighboring farms have ridden their horses up to the brewery and tied them up to take a tour,” said brewery owner Steve Rehbock.

As a tourist, you can’t yet saddle up at Saddlebock, but you can enjoy the animals from the ground and the sweeping views of the White River, which stretches across the 14-acre property. It’s a bit old-school here, too. They use manual hoists to get the grain into the second-level storage, and from there it’s gravity-fed into the hopper.

The Coolest Part: After the tour, stick around for a game of volleyball or horseshoes while sipping one of their eight exceptional labels. Pet a horse. Have a blast. This place is downright charming.

Price: Free