California's best craft beer

How do you get to the heart of the craft brew craze? Go taste at the source: along the Sonoma and Mendocino ale trail
Nino Padova

MORE CLASSIC ALE TRAILS

– Eric Smillie

1. Denver to Fort Collins, CO (76 miles)

  • Great Divide Brewing, Denver. Don’t miss: Oak Aged Yeti, a roasty Imperial Stout with a touch of vanilla. greatdivide.com
  • Avery Brewing, Boulder. Don’t miss: Small-batch specials; coconut shrimp with lemony White Rascal witbier. $; averybrewing.com
  • Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont. Don’t miss: Firkin Fridays for one-off experiments at the Tasty Weasel Tap Room. oskarblues.com
  • New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins. Don’t miss: The 90-minute brewery tour that ends with you going down a slide. newbelgium.com

2. San Diego to Placentia, CA (112 miles)

  • AleSmith brewing, San Diego. Don’t miss: Evil Dead Red, a red ale thick with hops and a smooth toffee sweetness. alesmith.com
  • Stone Brewing, Escondido. Don’t miss: Sampling four beers on the brewery tour, including the powerful Arrogant Bastard Ale. $$; stonebrew.com
  • The Lost Abbey, San Marcos. Don’t miss: Wild yeast brews, such as the dry, sour-cherry-flavored Cuvee de Tomme (released in mid-November). lostabbey.com
  • The Bruery, Placentia. Don’t miss: Beers made with surprising ingredients like yam, Thai basil, and toasted pecans. thebruery.com

3. Portland to Newport, OR (385 miles)

  • Hair of the Dog Brewery, Portland. Don’t miss: Adam, a chocolatey, earthy dessert ale. $; hairofthedog.com
  • Full Sail Brewing, Hood River. Don’t miss: Locally-raised-beef burgers and a view of the Columbia River from the pub deck. $; fullsailbrewing.com
  • Deschutes Brewery, Bend. Don’t miss: Trial brews such as the Oh Be Joyful pale ale and spicy mac and cheese. $$; deschutesbrewery.com
  • Rogue Brewery, Newport. Don’t miss: The brewery’s full catalog of beers on tap, plus halibut fish and chips. $$; rogue.com 
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