Skip to main content

One for the Road: 7 Lesser-Known Ale Trails in the U.S.

Beer tourism is all the rage now amongst craft beer drinkers. And, really, it should be.

Despite what the savviest tourism marketer might tell us, pretty much every city of a decent size has a good beer community. Early on, it was true some cities were head and shoulders above the rest of the bunch, and while some are still the leaders, with 10,000 breweries in operation or being planned in the U.S., there’s plenty to be had everywhere.

So let’s look beyond some of the obvious “ale trails” like those in Vermont, Grand Rapids, Asheville, Denver, Portland, and San Diego, and go to some less-often talked about beer scenes.

Brewgrass Trail


Country Boy

Kentucky is known for bourbon, let’s get that out of the way. It’s so well-known and visited for its whiskey, there’s no wonder it’s often an afterthought there might even be a brewery there. But the Brewgrass Trail helps show another side of Kentucky’s beverage world, with Lexington’s fine beer community. Louisville has a decent scene led by Against the Grain, but Lexington, highlighted by Country Boy, Ethereal Brewing, and West Sixth, shows there’s plenty to drink in the Bluegrass State — even if it’s not bourbon.

Lake Superior Ale Trail


Ursa Minor Brewing

Michigan is certainly one of the great beer states, with fantastic beer cities like Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, and Detroit, but the Upper Peninsula is an incredibly beautiful place with plenty of beer, anchored by the Marquette’s sudsy industry. The Lake Superior Ale Trail is unique, taking visitors internationally into Canada and all the way around the gigantic Lake Superior. There’s a stop in Wisconsin and plenty to do in Duluth, Minnesota, which aren’t too shabby either!

York County Brew Trail

South Carolina

York County Brew Trail

Of the Carolinas, North Carolina certainly gets most of the beer love thanks not only to Asheville but Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham area as well. However, South Carolina can hold its own and the York County Brew Trail helps highlight the small county on the border of North Carolina, near Charlotte. The trail includes Slow Play Brewing, Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery, Rock Hill Brewing Company, Main Street Bottle Shop, Legal Remedy Brewing, Dust Off Brewing, and Amor Artis Brewing. Hit five of them, log into the ale trail’s app, and a visitor gets a T-shirt.

North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail

California and Nevada

Alibi Ale Works

California is plenty saturated with beer, but the most likely option isn’t to head toward the Nevada border. There is, however, a sneaky brewing community situated on the gorgeous lake and next to a lovely Reno beer scene. There’s plenty of outdoor activities to make you thirsty and get you to the various breweries, like biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and hiking. Work up that thirst, hit up the North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail, and check out Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., Alibi Ale Works, and Pier 111.

Las Cruces Ale Trail

New Mexico

Bosque Brewing Company

New Mexico, like much of the Southwest, is often overlooked despite its many awesome outdoor and culinary attractions. The beer scene is thriving and worth a pin on a map of must-hit beer destinations. Must-hits Santa Fe and Albuquerque aside, Las Cruces is a fantastic community. The Las Cruces Ale Trail features Spotted Dog Brewery, Picacho Peak Brewing Company, High Desert Brewery, De La Vegas Pecan Grill and Brewery, and Bosque Brewing Company.

Colorado Springs Crafts and Drafts Passport


Bristol Brewing

Denver is arguably the craft beer capital of the world. A little further north beyond Denver, Fort Collins is nothing to sneeze at, with New Belgium, Odell, Crooked Stave, Funkwerks, and plenty more, including a massive Budweiser facility. But it’s an area an hour south of Denver that hides a gem of a beer scene: Colorado Springs. It’s certainly the least heralded of the three major Colorado cities on I-25 when it comes to beer, but in a beer-rich state like Colorado, you can’t really go wrong. With early adopters Phantom Canyon and Bristol Brewing, alongside Pikes Peak Brewing and veteran-owned Red Leg Brewing, there’s plenty to check out along the Colorado Springs Crafts and Drafts Passport.

Fayetteville Ale Trail


Apple Blossom Brewing Co.

Arkansas is far from the top of the list when it comes to best beer states, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to promote it. Since 2013, the Fayetteville Ale Trail has touted the beer scene in Northwest Arkansas with 15 stops. Breweries range from Apple Blossom Brewing Co. to Bike Rack Brewing to Ozark Beer Co. and Fossil Cove Brewing. If anything, Fayetteville’s impressive beer trail shows there’s beer everywhere in America.

Editors' Recommendations

Pat Evans
Pat Evans is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on food and beer, spirits, business, and sports. His full…
New Coca-Cola Signature Mixers Hit the U.K. Market, U.S. Missing Out For Now
coca cola mixers

Coca-Cola is getting frisky with its entry into the mixer space and we're all about it. The soft drink company has announced lines of mixers in the United Kingdom, indicating a strong potential play in the space for the long term.
In the U.K., the company worked with mixologists to come up with its line of Signature Mixers as the company steps up to occupy its place in the mixing world with “dark spirits making a comeback and the cocktail culture hotter than ever.”
The U.K.’s line of signature mixers come in four flavors: Smoky Notes, Spicy Notes, Herbal Notes, and Woody Notes.
The Signature Mixers will come in Hutchinson bottles as “a nod to the silhouette of the first-ever Coke bottle from 1894.” Each label is then signed by the co-creator mixologist responsible for the mixer.

“Coca-Cola has always had a synergy with dark spirits and classic cocktails, from the inception of the iconic Cuba Libre in the late 1900s to the popular whiskey and Coke in the early 20th century," said Ana Amura, senior brand manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain. "With the rise of mixed drinks, we’re excited to announce the launch of Coca-Cola Signature Mixers, a specific range uniquely created to mix with dark spirits.
Max Venning helped create the Smoky Notes Signature Mixer, meant to complement spiced rums and whiskies with its Ylang, ambrette seed, dried fruit, warm brown spices, Peru Balsam, and amber. Spicy Notes came from Adriana Chía and Pippa Guy and features lime, ginger, jalapeño, rosemary, and jasmine to go with spiced rums, aged tequilas, and spicy or sweet whiskies.
Antonio Naranjo brought together lemongrass, dill seed, and tagetes for a simple profile in the Herbal Notes mixer for amber whiskies and rums. Finally, Alex Lawrence rounded out the four expressions with Woody Notes’ patchouli, yuzu, and basil for golden rums and smoky and woody whiskies.

Read more
Ad Astra Per Whisky-A: Australia’s Starward Whisky Debuts on U.S. Shores
starward whiskey

Whiskies from all over the world continue to flock to the U.S., and one of the latest is a new brand from Australia.
The Australian single malt whisky brand Starward is now available nationwide in the U.S. Like many whiskies of the world, Starward brings a unique set of whiskey characteristics to the American market.
“Starward began with a simple vision: to make a distinctly Australian whisky we could offer the world with pride,” Starward Whisky founder David Vitale said. “I have long dreamed of being able to share our whisky in the U.S. It is a genuinely exciting time for the team as we take the next step on our Starward-bound journey.”
Vitale started Starward in 2007 in his hometown of Melbourne after time as a business manager at a Tasmanian distillery. As with many of the other whiskies from non-traditional regions, Starward leans on some neighbors to stand out with an Australian flair. The distillery's proximity to the wineries of Southeastern Australia help lend a unique twist to its whiskies. 

Starward spends its time maturing in un-charred Australian red wine barrels, and the first expression, Starward Nova, is a single malt that spends three “Melbourne years” in the barrels, which include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir barrels from local wineries.
The Melbourne climate is dynamic in temperature fluctuations, which helps accelerate the aging process, so three “Melbourne years” helps result in a “long, distinct and spicy finish that creates a complex single malt from a relatively young whisky.”
According to the company, the barrels are wet-filled to “maximize the flavor of wine permeated into the oak.” The whisky also takes on some of the red hues from the leftover wine and also plenty of fruity notes from Australia’s strong wine industry.
On the nose, Starward has “bright red berries, orchard fruits, and soft oak spice,” while the palate is hit with “vanilla and berries balanced with caramel and spice,” before finishing “long, fruity, and slightly tart with hints of baking spice.”
The whisky maker says because of the influence of the “vibrancy of big red wines” from Australia, Starward whisky is perfectly married with food.
A two-time winner of “Best Australian Single Malt” at the World Whiskies Awards, Starward Nova has a suggested retail price of $55 per bottle.

Read more
7 Mexican Craft Breweries You Need to Know
Aquamala Cerveza Artesanal

As American craft breweries continue to dive into Mexican-style lagers, Mexico continues to develop a solid artisan beer scene of its own. Whether you're headed to Mexico or not, check out some of these Mexican craft brews, if you can find them.

There's certainly nothing wrong with grabbing some traditional Mexican lagers, like Pacifico, Corona, Dos Equis, Tecate, or Modelo, but to pack in a little more flavor, these breweries are brewing up beers just as fine as their industry compatriots to the north.
Baja Brewing

Read more