Juicy IPAs in college towns, barnyard funk sour ales in Rust Belt cities, and boozy barrel-aged stouts in the Bible Belt. No matter where you travel in U.S., the country is awash with the craft beer movement. Why then does it seem like whenever I go to the beach, I’m relegated to Bud Light, “crafty” breweries owned by big beer, and chain brewpubs?
As a beach-loving beer nerd, I find it unacceptable that the beach coolers of the United States serve only one purpose – to keep the Coors Light Rocky Mountains blue. Thus, I’ve scoped the country from East Coast to West Coast (and even a few coasts in between) to find beach towns that are an exception to the rule. Beach towns where you can trade that Corona Light with a lime for a refreshingly tart Berliner Weisse brewed a few blocks off the sandy shores of your family vacation.
6 Beach Vacations for Craft Beer Drinkers
Wilmington — Where Asheville Goes for a Beach Vacation
Overshadowed by beer city powerhouses like Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, Wilmington is one of North Carolina’s best kept secrets when it comes to beer. Whether you’re looking to take a break from gallery hopping in downtown, beach-bumming in Wrightsville Beach, or movie-set chasing throughout the city, there’s a nearby brewery ready to serve you local suds.
IPA fans will dig just about anything Wilmington Brewing is brewing, sour fans can have their pick from either Flytrap Brewing or Broomtail Craft Brewery’s Sour Barn, and foodies will devour fresh seafood from Wrightsville Beach Brewery.
Where to Stay in Wilmington
The Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach speaks to the active nature of the craft beer community. Sure, there’s plenty of beachfront landscape to relax on with your favorite session beer, but the hotel’s position on both the ocean and intracoastal waterway allows it to offer so much more, from fishing to sailing and stand-up-paddle boarding. The hotel even offers a Craft Beer Beach Vacation package complete with a two-night stay, dinner in EAST restaurant with a sampling of current craft beer offerings (the chef was on Hell’s Kitchen), and breakfast both mornings.View Resort
Traverse City – Where Michigan Beach Vacations
You might be thinking, “Hold-up. Did you just use the words Michigan and beach vacation in the same sentence?” Why yes, yes we did.
Traverse City is blessed with miles-upon-miles of white-sand beaches along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Sail the deep blue waters in a historic tall ship or climb the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes for an experience that is uniquely Michigan. The best part about taking a beach vacation on the Great Lakes? You’ll never have to worry about sharks.
Then there’s the beer. Michigan’s numerous hop farms lend to a beer scene that is bursting with fresh hop flavors. Many breweries in Traverse City also work locally grown tart cherries into their beers. (The city happily calls itself the Cherry Capital of the World.) One of the most well-known is Mackinaw Brewing’s Cherry Heritage Lager. Right Brain Brewery plays upon the city’s obsession with cherry pie and brews their Cherry Pie Whole amber ale with cherry crumb pies from Grand Traverse Pie Company.
Where to Stay in Traverse City
Traverse City is small enough where you can have both the beach and breweries within walking distance of your beach vacation digs. Bayshore Resort is a great example of a property located on the beach of West Grand Traverse Bay. Go full 80s rock star and opt for a suite stacked with a two-person spa, fireplace, wet bar, and refrigerator.View Resort
Jacksonville Beach – Laid Back Beach Vibes with Fresh IPAs
When most people plan Florida beach vacations, they default to the chaos of known commodities like Daytona Beach, anywhere in South Florida, or the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area and come home needing a vacation from their vacation.
Jacksonville Beach, located away from the fray in North Florida, offers a less crowded coastal vacation. The city boasts a vibrant craft beer scene and over 22 miles of beaches. Refresh yourself after a day at the beach with a hop-forward brew from Green Room Brewing, relax after an evening of exploring the hip San Marco neighborhood with a foeder aged sour at Aardwolf Brewing, or tailgate with a Belgian influenced ale at Intuition Ale Works before a concert or Jaguars game at TIAA Bank Field.
Where to Stay in Jacksonville Beach
Casa Marina in Jacksonville Beach offers that taste of old-school Florida beach vacation that is disappearing (Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Katherine Hepburn all stayed here). The hotel’s central location is within walking distance of the Jacksonville Beach Pier and both Green Room Brewing and Ruby Beach Brewing. The hotel’s main selling point though is its rooftop Penthouse Restaurant and Martini Bar’s killer happy hour specials with sunset views.View Hotel
Virginia Beach – Something for Everyone
Virginia Beach checks all the boxes for a well-rounded family beach vacation. The Oceanfront district boasts a traditional boardwalk that spans three-miles and offers the essentials for an American beach vacation – street performers, snow cone stands, and t-shirt shops. Chesapeake Bay, on the other hand, is perfect for those who prefer a more relaxed and natural beach setting with ample opportunities for dolphin watching. Beyond the beach, there’s also salt marshes and cypress swamps in First Landing State Park, local makers’ shops in the ViBe Creative District, and colonial history just a stone’s throw away in Williamsburg.
Cap each day with a delicious brew at a local brewery like Oceanfront’s Smartmouth Brewing Pilot House, which helped kick-start the local craft beer scene, or at Williamsburg’s Alewerks Brewing, which partners with Colonial Williamsburg to lead colonial-era brewing demonstrations.
Where to Stay in Virginia Beach
The Cavalier provides historic touches as a National Register of Historic Places hotel along with beachfront access, refreshing swimming pools, and a luxurious spa. The property recently went through a complete overhaul by Marriott to become an Autograph Collection Hotel with recent guest reviews reflecting the transition, boasting about the private beach access that feels like the Caribbean and the excellent, attentive staff.
On-site, Becca restaurant serves farm-to-table fare with modern and European influences, and the Hunt Room pours classic cocktails and craft beer in an intimate tavern plucked out of the hotel’s early years. The proverbial icing on the cake, however, is the onsite Tarnished Truth Distillery.View Hotel
Astoria – Goonies for Beer
Astoria may not be your typical white fluffy sand beach vacation, but it does offer all the quintessential elements of a Pacific Northwest coastal town like kayaking along the Columbia River, salmon fishing in the Pacific Ocean, or Goonies movie set spotting (the movie was filmed in Astoria).
Like any Northwest city worth its hops, Astoria also offers plenty of breweries like organic-forward beers from Fort George Brewery + Public House or creative brews with views on the Columbia River at Rogue Ales Astoria Public House (the building used to be a Bumble Bee Tuna cannery).
Where to Stay in Astoria
It won’t take long to discover that Astoria has a long history in the canning industry. Why not stay in a hotel built on the site of a former cannery? The Cannery Pier Hotel is located on a pier jutting out over the Columbia River. Rooms come appointed with a fireplace, hardwood floors, and unparalleled views. Detox from your coastal beercation with a few hours in the full-service spa that includes an authentic Finnish sauna to help get out all of those beer sweats.View Hotel
San Diego – Over 140 Craft Breweries. Need We Say More?
With 70-miles of beaches and over 140 craft breweries, San Diego is clearly a beer-lovers beach paradise. The craft beer faithful can make pilgrimages to some of the founding fathers of the current craft beer movement with visits to breweries like AleSmith Brewing, Coronado Brewing, Karl Strauss Brewing, Pizza Port Brewing, and Stone Brewing. Don’t just get wrapped up in these OGs of craft beer, though. Be sure to visit lesser known breweries that are also making waves with their suds like Second Chance Brewing for their GABF gold-medal winning Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter, Societe Brewing for a taste of why the brewery has won the West Coaster’s Best Brewery award multiple times (hint – it’s their IPAs), or Pacific Beach Alehouse for their beachfront vibes.
Where to Stay in San Diego
The Lafayette Hotel has everything you need to plan a beach-filled beercation. Its location in North Park puts guests within walking distance to several breweries, including Mike Hess Brewing and Pariah Brewing (San Diego Magazine’s pick for Best New Brewery of 2017). The hotel also boasts proximity to the beach, one of San Diego’s most famous swimming pools, and private bungalows with enough room for the entire crew to pile into. After a day of beach and brewery hopping, return to the hotel bar, where you and your buddies can replay Top Gun’s “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” scene, which was filmed on the premises.View Hotel
Feature image courtesy of Brian Lantz Photography