10 Brewery Tours That Feature Free Craft Beer
Craft breweries have sprung up all across the country, and many give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at where their favorite local brews are made. These 10 popular breweries offer free or low-cost tours -- and include free samples as part of the package.
Summit Brewing Co. got its start in 1986 brewing Extra Pale Ale and Northern Porter, which at the time were sold only in kegs. Since that humble beginning, the company has outgrown its original building and expanded its product line to include seven year-round brews as well as several seasonal and limited-release beers. In addition to bottled beer, Summit has a canning facility for a select few varieties. The brewery offers free tours that include free samples for guests 21 and older. Reservations are required and Saturdays fill quickly. While admission is free, a donation for the local food bank is requested.
New Belgium is a Fort Collins institution, having settled in its location in 1991. Products feature the company's iconic bicycle logo, and the flagship beer, Fat Tire, is probably New Belgium's best-known brew. The company offers free 90-minute tours (open to all ages) and provides samples along the way (to those with proper ID), but reservations are required. A handy online calendar lets visitors easily see which dates are available, although spots cannot be reserved more than two months in advance.
First opened in a turn-of-the-century brick building, Boulevard Brewing Co. has been turning out craft beer since 1989. Eight different year-round varieties and several seasonal concoctions are offered, as are more complex blends with higher alcohol content. Several tour options are available, including 40-minute free tours offered seven days a week. Tickets, which must be claimed in person on the day of the tour, are first come, first served and run out quickly. Reservations aren't accepted. At the conclusion of the tour, samples of several Boulevard brews are available in the tasting room.
Started in the 1970s as a small homebrew shop, Sierra Nevada blossomed into a small-scale brewery and has expanded to another facility across the country in North Carolina. Free tours of the original Chico location are available to guests age 12 and older, but participants must be at least 21 to sample any products. Reservations are required and can be booked online. For those on the East Coast, a tour of the North Carolina brewery is also available, with samples enjoyed alongside the brewery's impressive open fermenters.
Yards Brewing Co. boasts signature beers such as its IPA and Love Stout as it continues 22 years (and counting) of craft brewing in Pennsylvania. ISustainability initiatives include a wholly wind-powered plant and bar tops made from reclaimed bowling alley lanes. Free tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up quickly. Visitors receive plenty of samples, and tour guides are knowledgeable and charismatic, according to reviews.
Established in 1991, the Saint Louis Brewery, maker of Schlafly beer, is known for its wide variety of beers (more than 70) brewed each year. Half are bottled and shipped, while the remainder are available on draft exclusively at the company's two brewery restaurants. The brewery offers a few no-cost options for those interested in tours and tastings, including Schlafly Beer School on Friday afternoons, which includes the history of the brewing process and a guided tasting. Traditional tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at Schlafly Bottleworks and on Sundays in the original brewery. Reservations aren't accepted, so plan to arrive early to capture a spot.
Begun in 1994, Magic Hat Brewing Co. offers a wide selection of year-round brews (dubbed "elixirs"), as well as a merry-go-round of seasonal and limited or experimental flavors. Many are crowd favorites served at the Magic Hat Artifactory bar. Visitors can enjoy a guided or self-guided tour and reservations aren't required, although large groups (15 to 20) should phone ahead to ensure everyone can be accommodated.
A relative newcomer to the craft beer scene, Freetail Brewing Co. has been serving up classic brews such as its flagship amber ale since late 2008 and gained a respectable following among local enthusiasts. Private tours (complete with free beer) are available by directly emailing the brewmaster, who kindly requests 24 hours' notice.
Stone Brewing Co. was founded in 1996 as a collaboration between two friends who shared a love of music and excellent beer. The company's product labels feature a gargoyle, which is said to ward off cheap ingredients, pasteurization, and chemical additives. Tours are available for a small fee -- $3 for adults 21 and over -- and include a keepsake tasting glass and four 4-ounce samples of custom brews. Kids 12 and under are free, and older kids and adults not wishing to drink can tour the facility for $1.
Founded in 2006, Ninkasi Brewing Co. began production with a batch of its Total Domination IPA and hasn't looked back. Past customers rave about the overall "hoppiness" of most of Ninkasi's selections, including Tricerahops, a double IPA with a higher volume of alcohol than average beer. Free guided tours and tastes are available daily, and while reservations aren't required, they are recommended. Children under 13 are prohibited from taking the tour, but kids 13 to 17 are permitted when accompanied by an adult.