Summer Road Trips: The Oldest Craft Breweries in the Country

American beer has gone through a transformation in the last 30 years. Wherever you are in this country, you’re bound to be about 15 minutes from at least one craft brewery. Everyone and their brother-in-law seem to be brewing small batch IPAs these days, but these are the old-timers who started the trend.

D.L. Geary Brewing Company

Photo of a geary beer bottle
Photo from @gearybrewing

Proudly bearing the title “New England’s First Craft Brewery,” Portland, Maine’s Geary Brewing Company got into the craft beer game ahead of the curve. More than 30 years ago, Karen and David Geary began brewing their signature pale ale after David learned brewing techniques with the help of a Scottish nobleman. Today, dozens of breweries make up Portland’s beer scene.

Boston Beer Company

Inside of a Sam Adams brewery
Photo by Kafziel via CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

As the story goes, Jim Koch found his great great grandfather’s Boston lager recipe in an attic in the ’80s and started his craft beer empire. Koch’s business acumen skyrocketed the Samuel Adams brand into a household name. The company’s Boston brewery sits in the old Haffenreffer Brewery, an 1870 facility in Jamaica Plain that earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to their classic brewery tour, Boston Beer also offers exclusive tours into the barrel room where patrons can get a closer look at the fermentation and aging processes and try pairings of Belgian-inspired brews with chocolate or barrel-aged beers and cheese.

Yuengling Brewery

Front of the Yuengling company
Photo by Jason Paris via Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), Flickr

America’s oldest brewery will be celebrating its bicentennial in ten years. Richard Yuengling, Jr. is the fifth generation of owners to run his namesake brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They still make the lager and porter that “Eagle Brewery” boasted for their “purity” and “cleanliness” in 1829, when it was sold to local coal miners. When you visit their historic site, you can enjoy a lager in their Rathskeller bar then jaunt down the road to get some Yuengling’s ice cream. It’s the (now unaffiliated) ice cream business that helped D.G. Yuengling & Son survive Prohibition.

Frankenmuth Brewery

Beer taps
Photo from @frankenmuthbrewery

The dachshund mascot “Frankie” has graced beer labels and truck sides for this historic Michigan brewery since the 1930s. The Frankenmuth Brewery itself has been around for even longer — since 1862 — situated in the small city of Frankenmuth along the Cass River. “Michigan’s original microbrewery” has had its share of hardships over the decades, from fires to tornados, but they still manage to turn out 36 different styles of beer, many of which have taken home awards at international competitions. When you’ve had your fill of beer, the world’s largest Christmas store is just down the street.

Stevens Point Brewery

Old photo of young and hip people posing with Stevens Point merchandise.
Photo from @pointbrewery

Wisconsinites have been enjoying Point Special lager since 1857, and the brewery even served it to troops fighting in the Civil War. It only became available to beer drinkers outside the Badger State in 1990; in 2003, the lager won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. The company prides itself on being Wisconsin-owned again after years of changing hands, and a walking tour of the brewery will afford you a close look at how their brews are made, aged, and packaged.

Minhas Craft Brewery

Though it’s gone by many names — Monroe Brewery, Blumer Brewery, Huber Brewery — the Minhas Craft Brewery, now owned by Canadian siblings Manjit and Ravinder Minhas, has been around since 1845. During Prohibition, the Monroe, Wisconsin facility even made ice cream and Blumer’s Golden Glow Near Beer, a nonalcoholic brew. The offerings at Minhas nowadays might deviate from your typical expectations around craft beer (they make Boxer lager and Axehead malt beverage), but a visit to the historic brewery offers the chance to see a large collection of 19th century brewing machinery and advertisements housed in an on-site museum.

Abita Brewing Company

Patrons tapping beer mugs inside Abita
Photo from @abitabeer

Beer from this Louisiana brewery can probably be found at a bar near you, since they distribute to almost every state. Abita attributes the clean taste of their beer to the source of the water they use, the artesian wells of Abita Springs. The bayou brewery also makes root beer and cream soda using Louisiana sugar cane. Just a short drive from New Orleans, this small-town stop offers beer lovers a taste of some of the first inventive brews in the south.

August Schell Brewing

August Schell founded his brewery (and his town of New Ulm, Minnesota) in the mid-19th century. The grounds of this historic property feature roaming peafowl, gardens, and a brick and stone mansion, built by Schell in 1885. The brewery has been passed down in Schell’s family since the beginning, and, in 2002, they acquired the beloved Grain Belt Beer.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

See where one of the first — and still among the most acclaimed — American Pale Ales was born. Ken Grossman opened his brewery and first brewed the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in 1980. Since then, the company has become known for sustainable practices like composting, CO2 recovery, and solar power. The Chico, California location is where the brewery picked up steam (hence the name), but Sierra Nevada opened a second operation south of Asheville, North Carolina in 2012.

Hale’s Ales

Front of Hales Ales, where a double decker bus can be seen.
Photo from @hales_ales

In 1983, Mike Hale opened his Washington brewery, a beacon in the formerly pale ale-less Northwest. Now, the Seattle operation offers a variety of flagship and seasonal brews, and they’ve turned their warehouse into a seasonal event space that hosts music festivals, standup comedy, and dance parties.