The Breweries of America

1. New Belgium Brewery (Free, but reserve a time slot in advance): The beer is amazing, and you get several samples as well as two pint tokens, and it's not that hard to get more, if you really need it. I got pretty tanked before I could even use my friend's unused tokens.

The beet beer was the best.


Even my friend who doesn't drink had to try the beet one.


Crappy picture of me in front on tuns





Tour guide telling us about his favorite beer, Le Terroir.

A beer that hadn't come out yet!

Operations

Me, pretty tipsy by this point




I learned a lot about beer and this incredible company, which treats its employees so well.  At one point in the tour, I was actually tearing up a bit because everyone in the company voted unanimously to give up their annual bonuses to make the company completely sustainable energy-wise.


2. Harpoon (Free) - Boston, MA: I didn't even do their tour, just the tasting, but the guy and gal explaining the beer did an excellent and genuinely enthusiastic job, and with good reason - their beer was delicious! They had a dozen or so beers on tap to try, and we could have as much as we wanted of all of 'em.

3. Allagash (Free, but reserve a time slot) - Portland, ME: My expectations weren't very high for this tour going on for some reason, but they really surprised me! Allagash is a growing company, having started in 1995 and grown to fifty employees by now (2012). My tour guide was intelligent and well-informed - I actually learned some new things from him. The beers were also impressive. You get four 3 oz. (legally, that's the limit, though I got tipsy enough that I think they might've each been pushing 4 oz. Then again, one of them was an 11% - The Curieux, a trippel that is aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, which you can taste through and through). Maybe I just have a thing for Belgian style brewing, or maybe the kind of people drawn to the Belgian style tend to be awesome. The names they choose for beers is also adorable: Curieux, Confluence, Fluxus, Odyssey, Vagabond, Interlude, Avancé, Bourbon Barrel Black...



The restroom had a loop of old (50sish) commercials for all kinds of beer. They were so cute and fascinating!







4. Geary's (Free, but call ahead to let them know you're coming - they didn't even ask my name, just needed to know someone'd be there) - Portland, ME, a few minutes' walk from Allagash: This tour was the smallest I've ever been on, and it ended up winning points for it. The tour guide was a little drunk and mumbly but charming and affable. Their beer was bland, but we got it so fresh, right out of the tanks.





From England!

Pale Ale

Pale Ale at different stage

Autumn Ale at yet another stage

Empty tun!

Fresh Pale Ale!

Pale Ale - one of two 8 oz samples



5. Sam Adams (Free, but a $2 or so donation is encouraged) - Boston, MA: This one's cuter than anything. They explain the bit about beer-making, but if you've been on any other brewery tours, you won't get anything new here. My favorite thing about this tour was that you get a little Sam Adams label that you can take to Doyle's (an old bar) down the street that day, and if you buy a pint of a Sam Adams beer (about $5.50), you get to keep the
"Perfect Sam Adams Pint Glass" ($8.50 in their gift shop).



6. Magic Hat (free) - Burlington, VT: They have some good beers and a fun attitude. The tour was decent. The guide seemed new, nervously bouncing between his feet the whole time, not to mention his total lack of awareness of even the concept of subject-verb agreement. I've tried a lot of their beers, and many are good, but I must say the #9 really is their best. Not only does it taste great, but most people just do not get the fruit-ed beers right, and this one is. It tastes clearly of delicious apricots, and it's light and refreshing.








7. Shipyard (free, but reserve a spot for a full Tuesday night tour) - Portland, ME: This tour was silly. It started with a cheesy video that lowered my opinion of the brewery.  Then a young lady took us down for a tour, but the brewery had finished operations for the day.  She gave is very little information and asked condescending questions. Then, after a brief, rote description, we sampled four tiny samples of so-so beer. (I have heard a report since that time that the full tour is better and gives about a dozen samples.)

In the gift shop they did have some thing I wanted. How cute is this tap handle?

Also, how many of your girl friends would enjoy this to for a nice present?

Non-ranked:

Switchback Brewery in Burlington, VT: It's very small, and we just did a free tasting instead of a tour, for which you must make a reservation. We tried only two beers. They were fine. The place is still really small.

Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville, VT (near Stowe): We did a tasting and not a full tour. It was $4 each for a tasting of four beers each and a cute Rock Art tasting glass (half or full pint sizes available). The beers were all quite tasty.





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