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Dogfish Inn, the Beer Nerd's Nirvana
It's Saturday evening, and the faithful are gathered in front of a beefy guy in a Mr. Incredible T-shirt with a growler in hand. "We've got Fall on Me here, so please try it," he says, raising the offering skyward. If you know suds — specifically, the quirky concoctions of Dogfish Head, headquartered just a few miles away — this is a big deal. The saison, sweetened with Red Delicious apples from a local orchard, isn't yet available to the public, and the groups' eyes widen, all wondering the same question: Dude, how'd you get the hookup?
"I know a guy," says Mr. Incredible, nodding to his brother, Dogfish distribution manager Justin Brunda.
We're at a weekly fireside chat at Dogfish Inn, the beach-town motel in Lewes, Delaware, that's become a sort of nirvana for discerning beer geeks. The 16-room inn, with its surfer-chic design, opened in 2014 as the brainchild of Mariah Calagione, the wife of Dogfish founder Sam Calagione, an English major who fell in love with craft beer in the early '90s, ditched his Norton anthology for a fermentation tank, and never looked back. The motel, the brewery, and the company's two restaurants on the main drag in nearby Rehoboth Beach create a sort of Bermuda Triangle of beer that you'd gladly get lost in forever. Guests often need to book two to six months in advance for the chance to sit around the fire and share the rare beers they've brought. Sam Calagione, now a cult figure in the craft world, lives just a few blocks away and usually leads the weekly talks — loose conversations about beer and heady musings on life's great mysteries. Today guests bond with innkeeper Andrew Greeley and a band of affable Dogfish insiders: a new product R&D honcho, a microbiologist, and the architect of their new distillery program.
Around the fire pit, a different Sam — this one a middle-school math teacher from southern New Jersey — is here with his bride on a mini-honeymoon. "This place feels like a reverse intervention," he says. "Like I need to have a beer in my hand at all times." Mr. Incredible plays cornhole with his kids, while three middle-aged pals finish off their 60 Minute IPAs before walking to dinner with their families. Chase McLean, one of the inn's employees, tries to explain what makes the Dogfish enterprise so addictive for its devotees, who come from as far away as Chile and Australia. "A lot of people make good beer," he says. "But there's so much more to the Dogfish experience."
Let's not underestimate the beer, though. Someone notices my empty bottle. "Need another cold one, man?" Absolutely.
Gun Flint Tavern, Grand Marais, Minnesota
In an old brick building on the shore of Lake Superior, this North Woods staple has a roof deck overlooking a harbor that seems like it's straight out of Maine. There's live music every night of the week in summer, and the tavern has a homemade pale ale and IPA in addition to an impressive craft selection.
Dusek's Board and Beer, Chicago
Inside one of those narrow, 1890s tin-ceiling buildings is a killer restaurant, and above it, one of the city's best music halls. You can catch the likes of Steve Earle or Lake Street Dive while downing a Chicago- brewed Moody Tongue. "We want you to go into a concert with more options than just Bud," says co-owner Bruce Finkelman.
Rising Tide, Bissel Brothers, Alllagash, and Geary's: Industrial Way, Portland, Maine
This industrial park is the Silicon Valley of beer. Local standouts Rising Tide and Bissell Brothers got their start here. Now the area is anchored by veteran shops like Allagash and Geary's, and you can stroll from brewery to brewery sampling the wares, including from newcomer Austin Street, which makes a deliciously citrusy Patina Pale ale.
The Tourist Club, Marin County, California
Tucked among the coastal redwoods north of San Francisco is a century-old chalet built by the Nature Friends club. Getting there requires a two-mile hike, but the reward is cold beer on a deck fronting Muir Woods. Unless you're a member, you'll have to visit during one of the club's public festival days. (Check its online calendar.)
Howard's, Shiner, Texas
This is Texas in all its weird, wondrous glory: a gas station–convenience store turned kick-ass music venue (there's a wooden stage out back) run by a former dentist. Howard's may also be the only place in the country where you can fill up your tank, pick up some ammo, and order a $2 pint of Shiner Bock (from nearby Spoetzl Brewery) to go.
Walt Disney World
We know what you're thinking: Disney World is better known as a source of parental PTSD than as a place to sip a cold one. But this massive complex in Orlando, Florida, comprising four theme parks and more than 25 resorts, also has some 600 different beers on offer — 600! — making it one of the best draft-swilling destinations in America. You can grab a Yeti Imperial Stout at the base of the Expedition Everest roller coaster, sip Gulden Draak Dark Triple Ale in the magician-themed AbracadaBar lounge, or order the St. Bernardus Abt 12 at the Indiana Jones–ish Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar. Plus, Disney has two exclusive brews: an Anheuser-Busch–brewed Safari Amber lager and Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale, the latter created for Animal Kingdom's upscale Tiffins restaurant. There's even a dedicated app, Beers and Ears, devoted to tracking what's on tap and where. And Disney provides one experience you can't get anywhere else: a global drinking tour, on foot. At Epcot, each of its 11 World Showcase pavilions features native brews: Boddingtons in an imitation British pub; La Fin du Monde on draft next to a mock Canadian waterfall; Estrella Damm outside an intricately tiled Moroccan city; and Warsteiner Premium Dunkel in Germany's Biergarten Restaurant (which sells Oktoberfest-worthy brews by the liter). After three or four countries, you might even start enjoying that song from Frozen again.
Over the last decade, Danny Meyers' chain has become a sure stop for solid craft beer. While each of its 95-plus restaurants in 14 states offers a selection of local selections, every location also carries the crisp, hoppy ShackMeister Ale, made specifically for them by Brooklyn Brewery.
Asheville, North Carolina
It's the South's most dynamic beer mecca, now home to 30-plus breweries, both homegrown (Burial Beer Co., Wicked Weed) and transplanted (New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada). There are great bars here, such as the Thirsty Monk, which has three locations, and world-class bottle shops like Tasty Beverage. And there's even Beer City Bicycles, a full-service bike shop that serves draft ESB and Sierra Nevada, so you can crush a pint while your derailleur is tuned. To see just how beer-soaked Asheville has become, check out the crowd at Wedge or Green Man. "The beer community here is like a family," says Sierra Nevada's Brian Grossman. "It's not unusual to step into a tasting room and find the bar deep with brewers from other breweries, all sharing stories over pints."
Ebenzer's Pub, Lovell, Maine
If there's a better small-town beer bar, we've yet to find it. Owner Chris Lively comes from a family of collectors that runs seven generations deep, and he's decorated his pub with a treasure trove of beer artifacts. Plus, he serves world-class aged sours and Belgians from one of the greatest cellars in existence. How great? He has more than a thousand beers from around the world, with a rotating cast of 35 fresh ones on tap.
The Crawford Hotel, Denver
This 112-room inn, tucked inside a grand 19th-century train station with massive arched windows, is as cool as it gets. And you can enjoy the city's best beer spot, Terminal Bar, with 30-plus taps, without stepping outside.
McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland, Oregon
On the edge of the most brewery-dense city in the world, this funky (naturally) converted elementary school has its own brewery, Concordia, which covers classic American styles. Plus, you're only a short spin from Stumptown's 64 other great breweries.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, this retreat is one of America's top resorts for everything from fly-fishing and clay shooting to fine dining. It also has an award-winning brewery, which features delicate Belgian ales and limited-release culinary-inspired brews.
Hotel Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
This hotel in downtown Burlington employs a beer concierge to lead brewery tours that hit the likes of Hill Farmstead and Lost Nation. He'll also help you get your hands on hard-to-find brews from the Alchemist (maker of Heady Topper) and Lawson's Finest Liquids.
Any Professional Soccer Stadium
Beer and baseball go hand in hand, but no sports venue in America offers a wider selection of beer than those stadiums in which fútbol is played. At Seattle Sounders home games in CenturyLink Field, you can choose from nearly 40 different brews, including those from Northwestern staples like Deschutes, Fremont, and Elysian Brewing. The stadium even features an exclusive beer from Seattle's Redhook Brewery, a collaboration with the team's independent fan club, Emerald City Supporters. Widmer Brothers' Hefeweizen is the Portland Timbers' official craft beer, available on draft on a massive Widmer-themed deck in Portland, Oregon's Providence Park. But for the best international selection, head to the 18,000-seat Avaya stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes, which has dozens of beers, as well as a Beers of the World stand with suds from Spaten, Smithwick's, and a half dozen other brewers from around the globe.
Just Off the Lift
Not long ago, drinking slopeside at a ski resort meant a selection of two beers and a well-used shot ski. But resorts are finally opening on-mountain bars with epic views and great beer. Telluride's Gorrono Ranch has a massive outdoor deck that, when the sun is shining at least, is ideal for sipping Telluride Brewing beers while taking in 14,252-foot Mount Wilson. Even more stunning are the views at Big Blue View Bar, Homewood Mountain Resort's mid-mountain outpost, which is perched 7,100 feet above Lake Tahoe ("Big Blue"), where you can sip Outlaw Milk Stouts from the Great Basin Brewing Company, Nevada's oldest. And then there's The Ice Bar at Uley's Cabin, at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which serves Colorado craft brews atop an outdoor bar quite literally made of ice.
Von Trapp Brewing, Stowe, Vermont
When you're taking a break from skiing or biking at Stowe, there's no better place to stop than the Sound of Music family's lodge. Its new brewery serves a Bavarian-style white beer (made with pale malt wheat) and a Vienna lager, which, after a long day on the mountain, will probably become two of your favorite things.
Wrecking Bar, Atlanta, Georgia
Over the last 116 years, the beaux arts Victor H. Kriegshaber House has been home to a Protestant church, a dance studio, an antiques shop, and now a pub brimming with Southern hospitality. Snack on beer-boiled peanuts while sampling pints of crisp Breaking Bob Kölsch and tropical Victor IPA, a nod to the mansion's namesake.
The Sovereign, Washington, D.C.
Most Belgian beer bars serve potent monk-made concoctions and call it a day. The Sovereign, with big wooden communal tables, has heavenly, rare elixirs such as De Dolle's vinous Oerbier and De Ranke's extravagantly hopped XX Bitter, poured from a custom-built tap system. It's as close as you'll get to Brussels without a passport.
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