Its no secret many local communities, regions and even entire states are actively touting beer tourism opportunities. Last year, in a Travelocity survey of 1,003 people, more than three-quarters of those surveyed said they would like to go on a trip where they visited craft breweries and sampled local beer.
These are definitely my people.
As a result of this interest in beer tourism, Travelocity, the travel website that encourages travelers to “Wander Wisely,™” sought the expertise of the Brewers Association to help create a Beer Tourism index. The goal of the index is to help travelers find America’s best beer destinations.
“Small and independent craft brewers are part of the DNA of their communities. They are becoming mainstay attractions for travelers,” said Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association and Publisher of CraftBeer.com. “Whether as part of a backyard getaway, a break from a business trip or as the main reason for a beer-focused vacation, we encourage everyone to broaden their knowledge of beer by visiting these local brewers, to experience firsthand the advancing beer culture across the country.”
Before getting to the results, and the inevitable arguments about their accuracy, you should understand how Travelocity arrived at its rankings:
By examining the location of all breweries in the U.S., and looking at other factors important to a successful “beercation,” including the availability of rideshare services, accessibility via air and the average cost of lodging, this index identified the best large and small metro areas to sample some of the nation’s best craft beers.
These are reasonable factors to use for a travel ranking of best beer destinations, as astute beer fans will recognize from Travelocity’s list of top large and small metro areas:
|Top 6 Large Metro Areas
|Top 6 Small Metro Areas
|1) Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA
|1) Bend, OR
|2) Denver-Aurora, CO
|2) Boulder, CO
|3) Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
|3) Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
|4) Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME
|4) Corvallis, OR
|5) Colorado Springs, CO
|5) Missoula, MT
|6) Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
|6) Burlington-South Burlington, VT
Astute beer fans may also be immediately asking “Where’s San Diego?” Or Chicago, Asheville, Grand Rapids, or even Tampa? Expand the list a bit and you’ll find some of them in there. And some oddities.
(I suspect you can’t read this graphic, in which case you’ll find it here: full list).
It’s great Missoula comes in at No. 5 for small metro areas. We have great beer brewed at great locations by great people. Missoula is definitely worth a visit for beer alone and deserves to be on the list. Come visit. In between pints you’ll quickly recognize how much more there is to discover.
But is it a better beer travel destination than Asheville, NC? Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood alone is off the charts when it comes to brewery wandering. Add in the nearby Oskar Blues and New Belgium facilities, and Sierra Nevada’s east coast palatial homage to beer and it’s a bucket list destination for many beer fans.
But that’s the useful point of these lists. The order can be debated for sure, but the factors Travelocity used to create this list results in providing exposure to some great spots many craft beer lovers have never thought about.
Is Spokane, WA, really “better” than San Diego, CA? I don’t know anyone who would reasonably make that claim, but Spokane is rapidly becoming an excellent beer destination. It deserves exposure. As does Billings, MT, particularly with Uberbrew consistently hauling in big-time awards.
So have fun debating the list, if you must. But a better use of your time would be to add a few of these to your travel plans.
(In case you’re interested, Travelocity has curated a selection of beer-related activities at www.travelocity.com/brewerytours, including beer tours, beer cruises and even beer trains, that can be booked directly on the Travelocity site.)