Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour: The Best Breweries in the U.S.

Ah, beer. That nectar of the gods, that hops scotch, that oh-so-potent potable…today on International Beer Day, we cheers to YOU. Now we’re not here to claim cicerone status, but the Toads have been known to enjoy mighty good beer and yes, we have a kegerator in the office (which definitely gets used more than our fax machine). We’ve also been on the road as part of our national Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, so we’ve had the pleasure of stopping into some of America’s best breweries. We checked in with Drew, Rob, and Rachel (our trusty captains and volunteer beer tasters) for their favorite beers across the states:

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Drew’s picks:

  • ALABAMA – Good People Brewing in Birmingham; according to them, the first micro-brewery in the state. They host Birmingham Mountain radio in the brewery, so check them out while you’re drinking. Say hey to the owner, Mike—he’s a good dude.
  • SOUTH CAROLINA – Birds Fly South Project in Greenville (Pronounced “Green-vull” by the locals); tons of beers on tap and a great grass field to chill with your dog. Bonus: Epic food trucks, like Golden, Brown and Delicious.
  • NORTH CAROLINA – Vecino Brewing in Carrboro; Vecino means “neighbor” in Spanish, so they’re staying true to the name by supporting local non-profits and hosting lots of fundraisers. Dave, the owner, is an awesome guy.
  • PENNSYLVANIA – Victory Brewing (a few locations). I went to the one in Kennett Square; great food (pretzels on point!), wash it down with a Golden Monkey, a spiced Belgian-style ale.

 

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Rachel and Rob’s picks:

  • MAINE – Maine Beer Company in Freeport; “A Tiny Beautiful Something” is their signature pale ale for a reason.
  • VERMONT – Foam Brewers and Zero Gravity Craft Brewery in Burlington, VT ( the Little Birdy is delish), and Fiddlehead Brewing in Shelburne, VT (Awesome hazy NEIPAs and according to Rachel, “the Ghost Hits is hands down best beer I’ve had on the tour so far”).
  • OHIO – In Cleveland, Platform Beer Co. is great (go there after hitting up the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame!). In Columbus you’ve got lots of options: Antiques on High, North High Brewing, and Seventh Son are all great and in the super cool Short North Neighborhood.

 

Basically, we love beer almost as much as we love sustainability. If you’re like us, you’ll want to wear your heart on your sleeve. This 100% organic cotton tee can help.

 

STP Drink Nude

And we’re still on the road, headed west through the Midwest and into the Pacific Northwest. So where should we grab a beer?? Follow along on Instagram and send us your favorite beer recs by messaging or tagging us @toadandcoclothing.

 

10 Reasons Why Guinness Is Good For You

Spinach, kale, avocado, Guinness—A few of our favorite health foods. OK maybe we’re using the word “health food” a little freely, but we do have proof that it’s good for you (just like the old advertising slogan says). So this St. Patrick’s Day, fill your pint glass with the good stuff. Sláinte! (Which btw, is an Irish Gaelic saying for “cheers” and literally translates to “health.” Coincidence? We think not).

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1) Antioxidants make it heart healthy

Move over, red wine. A 2003 study claimed that a pint of Guinness could cut the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries, while other beers didn’t have the same effect. You can thank flavonoids, a plant-based antioxidant found in certain drinks and dark chocolate, for this heart healthy benefit.

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2) Iron does a body good

Though Guinness only contains .3 mg of iron per pint, most adults don’t reach their recommended 9-18 mg/day, so we say every sip counts! There was even a time when Guinness was given to post-op patients and pregnant women, and as recently as 2010, it was given to people after they donated blood to help replenish their iron levels.

3) It’s considered a “light” beer

Don’t let the color fool ya. A Guinness only has 15 more calories than a Bud Light and 5 more calories than the same amount of skim milk. Plus, you’re going to feel a lot fuller after a Guinness than a Bud Light (thanks to the CO2 and Nitrogen carbonation that leads to its thick, creamy texture), saving yourself from the extra food calories later. Drunchies beware.

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4) It’s good for your bones

Beer contains a plant hormone called phytoestrogen, which is key to building dense bones, plus has calcium and dietary silicon, important for growth and development of bone and connective tissues. Studies have shown moderate beer drinkers to be less likely to have osteoporosis and lower risk of hip fractures. Of course, like with anything, moderation is key – overindulging can have reverse effects.

5) It’s relatively low on alcohol content

When comparing to other beers, Guinness has a lower ABV (4.2% compared with your average beer at 5%). So for party goers and bar frequenters, Guinness leans on the more responsible side.

6) It will make you the life of the party

If Elle Woods taught us anything, it’s that endorphins make us happy. Light to moderate drinking triggers these “feel good” chemicals in your brain (though as many of us have probably experienced, overdoing it will have the opposite effect). So on St. Patrick’s Day, help yourself to a pint or two of Guinness, and enjoy being the most fun, social, happiest friend at the party. Bonus effect: It will make everyone around you more fun and attractive too.

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7) It contains folate, fiber, and ferulic acid

Guinness contains more folate, a nutrient we need to make DNA, than any other beer. And it’s high in barley, which makes it one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber (while Bud Light and most other light beers don’t contain any. Thank u, next). High levels of barley also equal high levels of ferulic acid, which is associated with improved immune function. And all that fiber and ferulic acid lead to a couple of other benefits too…

8) It’s anti-inflammatory

Studies have shown the consumption of hops (in beer form) interfere with inflammation causing compounds. Plus, a fiber rich diet can help reduce inflammation.

9) It lowers bad cholesterol

Not to sound like a broken record, but have we told you about the benefits of fiber? It’s really good for you. And the soluble fiber in beer can help reduce LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) – plus it has a variety of other health benefits like promoting healthy blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.

10) It helps hydrate post-workout

Maybe the most surprising of them all, one study showed that people who drank a post-workout pint of beer were more hydrated than those who drank water. Probably why a beer at the top of a hike feels so right.

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So there you have it. A little bit of science and a little bit of Irish luck. Either way, feel good this weekend when you reach for that creamy, malty goodness.

Not feeling the booze? Just like Guinness is now vegan (true story!), we like to keep it green every day too.

A Noble Game of Kings Cup

Stuck in a cabin or need to break the ice with your sister’s new beau? Kings Cup is the great unifier. It’s the trick up your sleeve that can turn strangers into friends and a quiet night in into a jolly holiday. Great for groups of 4 or more and doesn’t require a lot of movement. All you need is a deck of cards, adult beverages and a bit of humor. Bottom’s up!

How to Play:

To start, fan out a deck of cards face down around an empty vessel (preferably a large one.) Make sure that all players have a beverage of some sort. (Note: Lighter beer is ideal for this game since you’ll drink a fair amount. Cocktails beware.) Whoever’s birthday is next goes first. Player 1 draws a card from the table and everyone must follow the “rule”. Each card has a corresponding rule/activity (see below). When the rule has been carried out, the person to the left picks a card. Continue in this fashion until the final King card is drawn or there are no more cards on the table, the choice is yours. Remember, there are no losers in King’s Cup!

 

Card – Meaning – What to do.

Ace – Waterfall – Everyone starts chugging their drink. A player cannot stop drinking until the player to their right has stopped drinking.

2 – You – The player who draws can choose another player who must drink.

3 – Me – The player who draws must drink.

4 – Floor – Everyone at the table must reach down and touch the floor. The last player to do so must drink.

5 – Guys – All of the male players must drink.

6 – Chicks – All of the female players must drink.

7 – Heaven – Everyone at the table must put their hands in the air. The last player to do so must drink.

8 – Mate – The player who draws picks another player to be their “mate.” The mate must drink every time the original player does. This keeps going until another 8 is drawn.

9 – Rhyme – The player who draws must say phrase (“There’s so much holiday cheer”). Going to the left, players have to make up a rhyming phrase to stay in the noun (“I like to drink beer” or “the weather’s been clear”). The first player who fails to think of a rhyme must drink.

10 – Never Have I Ever – Everyone at the table must put up three fingers. Start a game of never have I ever (You say, “Never have I ever….” and if someone has done that, they put a finger down). The first player to lower all three fingers must drink.

Jack – Make A Rule – The player who draws can make a rule that must be followed for the rest of the game. Any player who breaks the rule must drink. Any player who draws a jack can overturn the rule. (ex: No pointing, must speak in an accent, must refer to all players as “sir and/or madam.”)

Queen – Question Master – The player who draws a Queen can ask questions throughout the game, but whoever answers the question must drink. Continue until another queen is drawn and a new question master is crowned.

King – King’s Cup – The player who draws must pour the remnants of their drink into the King’s Cup. When the last king is drawn, that player has to drink the King’s Cup and the game is over! Huzzah!

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DIY Pumpkin Keg 

You say Jack-o-Lantern, we say Pumpkin Keg. With a love of beer and a handful of random kitchen supplies, we looked at a pumpkin and saw opportunity. Advancements were made, limits were pushed, and the results were beyond our wildest dreams: a more sustainable, more portable, more festive keg. Follow these steps to make your own Pumpkin Keg. Medium size pumpkin holds a six-pack.

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Step 1: Cut out the stem of the pumpkin in a hexagonal shape, with a slight tilt to the knife (you don’t want the top to fall in). Cut an opening large enough to fit your hand.

Step 2: Remove all of the pumpkin innards. Be diligent! The more seeds and insides you take out, the less floaties you’ll have in your beer!

Step 3: Carve a hole for your spigot* on the lower half of the pumpkin. The hole should be slightly smaller than the spigot diameter. Shove the spigot in the hole with as little adjusting as possible. Should be nice and tight.  (*We used a spigot from an old punch dispenser. Waste not, want not.)

Step 4: Pick your poison (or your favorite adult beverage) and fill up your pumpkin keg. “Tap” your keg and cheers to your ingenuity. Happy Halloween, kids!

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Shop the Men’s and Women’s Indigo Styles and BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin.)

Of Mountains and Beer

 

What is it about hoppy beer that makes us feel a certain type of mountainous way? Maybe it’s the similar aroma of hops and pine trees, or maybe it’s the parallels between a good buzz and altitude sickness. Whatever it is, a plethora of breweries are named after mountains. Whether it’s nationwide Sierra Nevada, or Santa Barbara favorite Topa Topa, lots of our favorite suds are branded under the name of a mountain or mountain range. We’re going to start a list of our favorite breweries having to do with mountains, but were going to need your help to make this list complete. Please leave names of breweries we have missed in the comments and we will update the blog as comments come in.

Adirondack Brewery
Altamont Beer Works
Appalachian Mountain Brewery
Big Bear Mountain Brewery
Bitter Root Brewing
Blue Ridge Brewery
Cascade Brewing
Catskill Brewery  
Colorado Mountain Brewery
Denali Brewing Company
Figueroa Mountain Brewery
Grand Teton Brewing Co
Green Mountain Beer Co

Lassen Ale Works
Mount St. Helena Brewing Company
Mt. Hood Brewing Co
Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co
Rainier Beer
Rocky Mountain Brewery
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery
Sawtooth Brewery
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Siskiyou Brew Works
Smoky Mountain Brewery
St. Elias Brewing Co
Tioga Sequoia Brewery
Topa Topa Brewery
Uinta Brewing
Wind River Brewing 

Featured Image courtesy of Waterline SB. 

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Telluride

Downtown Telluride, Colorado

20 years ago we got our start making fleece hats out of a garage in Telluride, CO. We’d go from the slopes to the office, climb a waterfall on our lunchbreaks  and end the night at one of Telluride’s best watering holes. So ya, we’ve got a soft spot for this little box canyon town. With 14,000-ft mountain peaks rising in the distance, nothing makes you want play hookie like a sunny day in the San Juan Mountains. And trust us, nothing is better for the soul than giving in.

Beautiful views await in Telluride, Colorado.Beautiful views in Telluride, Colorado.Rhonda Johnson

We call it the Trail to Tavern lifestyle. Spend a few hours getting your feet dirty outside, then kick ’em up with a cold beer at the end of the day. It’s easy to do in Telluride – since it’s a box canyon, every trail naturally leads you back to the taverns (no matter what the season). Here we’ve paired our favorite trail excursions with our favorite local bars. You’re in good hands – it’s a craft we’ve been perfecting for years!

Jud Weibe Trail + The Last Dollar Salloon (aka “The Buck”)

The Jud Weibe Trail starts and ends downtown, so it makes for a perfect trail to tavern experience. Named after the man who built it, the Jud Weibe is a go-to hike for Telluride visitors and locals alike (when the trail does not have snow) generally June through October. Start at the Aspen Street trailhead, where you’ll find a map kiosk next to a trio of boulders. Hike up and enjoy the 2,000 feet of elevation gain, which allows for beautiful panoramic views back toward town. You’ll cross Butcher Creek, walk through beautiful aspen groves, and be rewarded with a killer view at the trail’s high point of about 10,000 feet. Conveniently, this view and the bench to enjoy it comes about halfway through the 3-mile hike. Take a minute to soak it all in because it’s all downhill from here.

The Jud Weibe Trail is easily accessible by foot from downtown Telluride.The Jud Weibe Trail is easily accessible by foot from downtown Telluride.Ondrej Kavka.

At the bottom of the trail, you’ll pop out on North Oak Street, just a few blocks from what locals call “The Buck.” Officially known as the Last Dollar Saloon, this iteration of the local watering hole has been open since 1978, but the original saloon dates to 1899. With tin roofs and creaky wooden floors, the classic victorian building doesn’t hide its long history. The Buck doesn’t serve food; you’ll want to brown bag it, or have your name in for a table at the neighboring Brown Dog Pizza (more on that below).And don’t spend your last dollar, because you’ll want to put a couple in their jukebox (and as long as you don’t play “Don’t Stop Believing”, you’ll be welcomed back).

Telluride Ski Resort + La Cocina de Luz

Telluride ski resort has amazing skiing no matter what your skill level, but it’s known for diverse terrain, steep shots and deep powder. With over 300 inches of snowfall annually, you’re likely to get some good fresh snow, but you’re also likely to see a bluebird day, since Telluride gets an average of over 300 days of sunshine.

Even if you’re not visiting during ski season, you can ride up the gondola, a memorable part of any Telluride trip, and then hike or ride a bike down the resort’s network of trails.

The gondola at Telluride is a memorable experience in any season.
The gondola at Telluride. Ken Lund.

There’s nothing quite like a cheesy, spicy Mexican meal to help you recover after a full day of skiing or hiking. Finish your day (or get the evening started) at La Cocina de Luz. This restaurant focuses on whole foods and  a menu that will please every diner–whether vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. If you’re there to recharge, try their organic juices. If not, start with a pitcher of house-made margaritas.

Bridal Veil Falls + Brown Dog Pizza

If we had to choose a single hike in Telluride, we’d be hard-pressed to find one that offers as beautiful a payoff as Bridal Veil Falls. The trail is actually an old jeep road heading up Black Bear Pass. The payoff we mentioned is the beautiful waterfall you’ll see, as well as the stunning views of the valley. This is no ordinary falls; Bridal Veil is Colorado’s largest free-falling waterfall at 365 feet. Round trip, the hike is only four miles.

Once you head back down into town, stop by Brown Dog Pizza, owned by Chef Jeff Smokevitch. Jeff knows pizza; he has studied at the International School of Pizza and has been rewarded for his hard work by winning top honors at the World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy. Ask for the pizza that won the competition, or choose from deep-dish Chicago pizza, Detroit style pizza, classic American (round) pizza, as well as calzones and stromboli. So pretty much everything is awesome. Brown Dog offers a full bar and a fully-stocked tiramisu that may single-handedly convince you to move to T-Ride.

Wasatch Trail to the Falls + Smugglers Brewpub

If you’re looking for something a little more technical and challenging, Wasatch Trail will also give you fantastic views of Bridal Veil Falls. Start at the Bear Creek Trail, join the Wasatch and then go up and over the saddle between the Bear Creek drainage and Bridal Veil Basin, just above 13,000 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado.
Bridal Veil Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado. Wikimedia Commons.

You’ll hike past evidence of Colorado’s mining history, wildflowers when they’re in season, and breathtaking views of Bear Creek Canyon. You’re in for a big day if you do the entire loop; be sure you have enough water, proper gear, and navigation tools (the guidebook always helps).

You’ll deserve a cold one when you’re done. Head over to Smugglers Brewpub for craft beers and farm-fresh Colorado meats. Nearly everything in the kitchen is made in-house. This careful attention to detail is carried over to the bar, which features house-made bitters and delicious spirit infusions. If cocktails aren’t your thing, award-winning brewmaster Thomas Daly creates a variety of seasonal beers and classic lagers.

Smuggler's Brewpub in Telluride
Smuggler’s Brewpub in Telluride. lulun & came.

Valley Floor Trail + The Butcher & Baker Cafe

Our last pairing is for those who are already familiar with Telluride’s classics and want to try out two of the newer additions to town. The recently-protected Valley Floor Trail offers amazing ski trails, biking, hiking, and trail running; while the relatively new Butcher & Baker Cafe has a variety of food options.

First, the trails: In the winter, the Valley Floor has a network of beginner-friendly groomed Nordic ski trails, easily accessible from town. You can run the trails in the winter, as long as you are on the designated multi-use trails. When the snow melts, the entire area becomes a playground for trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. With over 500 acres in preservation, this area offers about a dozen miles of singletrack trails, all flat or rolling. As you move around this open valley, you’ll get a different view of the box canyon that makes Telluride so special. To get there from town, just take the San Miguel River Trail west.

When you’re good and tired, head back east to the Butcher & Baker Cafe for killer fresh-baked pastries. If you must have some protein, they’ve also got a full selection of breakfast staples like omelets to complement the pastries. Check their schedule online for specials and events. They have liquor tastings and the occasional prix-fixe menu (the “Birds and Bubbles” dinner pairs homemade organic fried chicken and a flight of champagne. YUM). While these two haven’t been around all that long, we think they’ll become classics in due time.

Want to win a 4-day trip to Telluride for you and a friend?

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Prepare for your trip with our exclusive Telluride Heritage Collection:

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Jared Skoviak

 

Trail to Tavern San Diego

 

As part of our Trail to Tavern series, we reached out to one of our favorite road warriors, Katherine, to see if she had made her way to any local trails and taverns around the country lately. Last month she sent word from Florida, and this month she and her beau hit up the bottle shops and breweries in San Diego, CA. Enjoy responsibly.

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We live in Illinois when we’re not living on 4 wheels. Recently we packed up and called Arizona home for a month. Itching for some salt water (that wasn’t sweat…) we decided to visit some friends in LA then check out the beer scene in San Diego. We’re beer people and have heard through the hops-line that there was a plethora of good beer in the San Diego area. On a whim, we ended up finding a spot to stay in Escondido and quickly found that any time you mention “Escondido” to anyone in Southern California they say, “You’re going to visit Stone Brewing, right?”

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At Stone Brewing, the first thing that hits you is the massive tap room. The ceiling must go up 2-3 stories, with plants and water features throughout the building. You sort of feel like you’re in a terrarium. A beer terrarium. There’s also a lovely outdoor area that’s great for kids to run around in the gardens. Take a brewery tour (thought they fill up quick on the weekends, it’s first-come first-served) or just relax in the gardens and eat up. You cant go wrong with anything on tap at Stone. They’re really into organic ingredients in their beer and they actually bought a farm specifically to grow organic veggies for their bistro. That’s pretty cool.

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A 15-minute drive from the brewery leads you to the trailhead at Lake Hodges. Lake Hodges isn’t actually a lake – it’s a reservoir – so you can’t swim in it, but there are lots of great trails that loop around the lake. Just a word to the wise – it gets pretty hot in the summertime. So pack a lot of water and if you get sweaty, you’re just an IPA away from Stone Brewing.

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Next up was Toolbox Brewing Company, one of the most unique and special breweries we’ve been to. Their tap handles were made of tools (reminiscent of the San Diego Skyline), and the overall design of the place reminded me of an extremely clean mechanic’s shop! And I’m a sucker for a wall of beautiful barrels. We sat at the bar and got the rundown on their experimental recipes (wild yeast, anyone?).  A quick peak in the back shows the unlikely combo of beer steins and petri dishes scattered at various brewing stations. These guys have something really cool going on.  I gotta throw some love toward the Bog Sauce – a cranberry and raspberry Berliner weisse. Apparently they make a cucumber version too, so we’ll just have to come back after a day at the beach – Carlsbad is just a few miles up the road!

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Modern Times Flavordome in North Park has an Alice and Wonderland thing going on. Lampshades hang from the ceilings, floppy discs cover the walls, old VHS videos have been turned into a bar and you don’t know whether to get beer or coffee. What kind of bar is this?? A Modern one. Sidle up to the bar and oder a flight, first thing – they serve flights in old wooden cigar boxes! Then give yourself a shot of energy with a nice cold brew over ice. Anywhere that brews their own beer and roasts their own coffee is A-OK with us. They don’t serve food, but pack a picnic or get delivery from nearby restaurants because you’ll want to stick around a while – they have 16 beers on tap and change them up regularly. If they have the Guava Gose when you’re there, DO IT.

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Our last stop in SD was Council Brewing – a small batch brewery with big ‘ol flavor. I knew I would love it when we walked in and were greeted by a gigantic wall of barrels! Aside from making for great photo-ops, I’ve heard that old barrels make good beer, too – good beer takes time to age. Aged beers like tart saisons, my favorite.

You’ll see the word “beatitude” all over  the place. Beatitude is the French word for bliss, which is what you’ll experience when you dive into one of the sour beers. We tried several sour fruit beers under the Beatitude line, and loved absolutely everything we had (though the Prickly Pear was exceptional!). I love a good IPA as much as the next girl, but sometimes something tart just hits the spot when it’s too hot for hops. A great open space and nice patio, only bummer is that you can only get Council Beer in the SD area! Stock up while you’re here and be sure to stop by anytime you’re in the area. These guys are only getting better with age.

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Biergartens Abound!

Oktoberfest is something we can get behind: It’s a celebration of camaraderie, home-cooked food, and lots and lots of good beer. The annual German tradition technically takes place during the month of September, but with biergartens making merry well into the month of October, why limit ourselves? From river-side picnic tables to historic urban drinking halls, here are some of our favorite Oktoberfests and Biergartens around the country (USA, that is). Prost!

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Frankford Hall, photo courtesy of Stephen Starr Group

Frankford Hall – Philedelphia, PA

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the fraus and fraulines queued up to enter Frankford Hall. Yes it’s worth it, and yes it moves quickly. Bundle up or grab a spot by the fire pits, but plan on spending a few hours at one of Philly’s go-to spots. Classic German beer and schnitzel abound, or go for a new-age beer cocktail (Respect Your Elder has a nice zip to it). The cheese spatzle with carmelized onions will definitely provoke getting seconds (they say spatzle, we say mac n’ cheese), or hail one of the “pretzel girls” who’s slinging hot soft pretzels right on the spot. Can’t get enough of this biergarten? Neither can the locals – Frankford Hall is open 7 days a week, all year round. We’ll drink to that.

Estabrook Beer Garden – Milwaukee, WI

If you can’t make your way to Munich, make your way to the next best place: Milwaukee. Located along the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park, Estabrook Beer Garden is the real deal: German Hofbrau beer is served in heavy glass steins (1 Liter = 3 beers, so pace yourself), giant pretzels and bratwurst are always hot off the grill and live polka bands set the mood on weekends. The ‘Brook is in full swing now through Sunday, November 8.

Der Biergarten – Atlanta, GA

With a name like Der Biergarten, you know you’re in for something slightly kitschy, very delicious and distinctly Bavarian. Pull up a bench outside in traditional family style seating and cheers new friends and old with pints of Weihenstephan – the world’s oldest commercial brewery. And share (or don’t…) classic dishes like schweinshaxe, sauerbraten and strudel. If you’re a local with a love of beer, join the Stein Club – a personalized stein and any beer for $8, any time.

VBGB – Charlotte, NC

Though the Southern vibes are distinctly stronger than the German ones, Charlotte’s VBGB has still mastered the art of Getmütlichkeit (good times). Perhaps it’s the union of two great cultures: NC beer is served up in traditional German steins, long picnic tables are great for board games, and sauerkraut and jalapeño slaw makes a surprisingly excellent burger topping. A tasty melting pot, indeed!

Modern Travel: Santa Barbara

 

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This month Outside Magazine’s Best Towns 2015 competition kicks off, pitting 64 towns against each other in a bid for the Best Town in America title. We’re big fans of all the nominated towns, but there’s a special spot in our hearts for one town in particular: Santa Barbara, CA – our home sweet home!

Nestled amongst the hills where the Santa Ynez mountains kiss the Pacific, Santa Barbara is anything but a sleepy beach town: Artist colonies, renowned universities, international non-profits, muchas taquerias autenticos, loads of small businesses and a blossoming tech industry mean there’s something for everyone. And with more than 300 days of sunshine per year, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities – smell the roses at the Queen of the Missions, hike around the Lost Padres National Forest, kayak the sea caves of Channel Islands National Park, bike State Street or cruise along East Beach, hit the local wineries, splash around at Butterfly Beach or get barreled at Rincon Point. If you’ve still got energy after a day of activities, catch a show under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl, because where else can you dance the night away with a view of the ocean? So come check out our town and who knows, maybe you’ll think it’s the Best Town Ever too.

WHAT TO DO IN SANTA BARBARA

Channel Islands National ParkClose to the mainland but worlds away are five islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara – that make up the Channel Island National Park. This relatively untouched archipelago is absolutely stunning and one of the richest marine biospheres in the world with many species that live nowhere else on earth. And getting there is half the fun. Head over to Channel Island Outfitters in the Santa Barbara Harbor and they’ll hook you up with everything you need for a day on the water – scuba or snorkel the great kelp forests, kayak through the sea caves (the Painted Cave is pretty spectacular) or leisurely take in the wildlife from your SUP. Hike around the islands for an afternoon or pack a tent and stay a while. Boats leave every morning from the harbor, so be sure to check in with CIO and set your alarm.

Tacos El ReyOne of the best parts of Santa Barbara is the mix of Native American/Spanish/Mexican heritage, and no where is this more evident than in the culinary traditions. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a killer Mexican cafe in this town, but we’re digging Tacos El Rey, a tiny hole-in-the-wall, cash only taqueria just off State Street. Served on handmade tortillas that are made daily, this might be one time when your eyes won’t be bigger than your appetites: The tacos al pastor come topped with grilled pineapple, catch of the day fish tacos mean you’ll always try something new, the portobello mushroom taco is seasoned to perfection and top it all off with the best salsa in town (spicy peanut salsa, anyone?). Grab a watermelon agua fresca to-go and a walk it off – it’s only 5 blocks to the beach!

Handlebar Coffee RoastersLocated just across the street from the historic Spanish Presidio, Handlebar Coffee Roasters is good coffee and good people. Started by a couple of local pro-cyclists who combined their love of biking and coffee, grab a great cup of joe for the road or linger at a sidewalk table and get wrapped up in good conversation. But be warned, their coffee packs a mean punch. It’s made from sustainable beans from three different continents and roasted and brewed to perfection on site. Go for a straight up shot of the best espresso you’ll ever try or a fancy macchiato. Bring your dog (they’ve got dog treats and water bowls), and there’s lots of bike parking for those who roll up on two wheels. Delicious coffee and nice folks, plain and simple.

Telegraph Brewing CompanyA favorite of the Toads, you’re in good company when you’re at Telegraph Brewing. With the tapping of their first keg in 2006, Telegraph has steadily grown to be one of California’s best craft breweries and one that’s committed to using sustainable ingredients and brewing methods. They also happen to make excellent beer. Telegraph typically has 10 different beers on tap and they’re constantly rotating: Currently, the Cervza de Fiesta Pilsner lives up to its name as a party for your taste buds, while their award-winning flagship California Ale will have you savor every last drop. Family style tables, big open garage doors, pub games, food trucks and environmentally friendly oats – we’ll cheers to that.

Los Padres National ForestExtending from Ventura to Monterey across roughly 2 million acres of varied wilderness, the Los Padres National Forest is nothing shy of stunning. From the beautiful Big Sur Coastline of the north to the Matilija Hot Springs of the south theres no limit to the breathtaking views, wonderful hiking trails, epic bird watching and overall good vibes. Our friends at the Los Padres ForestWatch can tell you all about it (they’re the non-profit tasked with keeping the forest thriving), but if you need a place to start then check out the Santa Ynez Mountain Range in Santa Barbara’s backyard. Pick up hiking trails to popular spots like Inspiration Point, Rattlesnake Trail and La Cumbre Peak (the highest peak in town!), or take scenic Highway 154 out of town about 30 minutes to scramble around the rocks at Lizard’s Mouth and take a dip in the pools at Red Rock. Sunscreen, water, sneakers, GO.

WHAT TO WEAR IN SANTA BARBARA

Rivulet TeeChoose a more colorful path. That’s the spirit of Santa Barbarans and the art of our Rivulet Tee. Offered in three sunny colors, it’s miles beyond basic tees – with a flattering silhouette, wide scoop neck, cap sleeves, solid color front, and cool striping up the center back. It’s made from our Slubstripe fabric, a dream-weight knit of pure organic cotton with cool slubby texture so you’ll be cool as a cucumber as you cruise the beach.

Cetacean TrunkNow you can surf, swim, sail, paddle, snorkel, spike and swig Mai-Tais with one pair of shorts. In fact, if there’s liquid and action verbs involved, our Cetacean Trunks are up to the task. They’re made of 4-Ply Supplex, our performance-proven nylon fabric that’s tightly woven for extreme durability, treated for quick-dry convenience, and wavy striped for aquatic vitality. Clean styling lets you wear them in town too, and handy zip side pocket mean you’ll never lose your keys (no matter how wet and wild you get).

Capellini DressThe Capellini Dress dances and sways with a life all its own. No surprise, it’s made of our famous Samba fabric, a slub-textured jersey knit of silky Tencel®, oh-so-soft organic cotton, and a smudge of spandex for stretch. The cool slub texture looks like sun shimmers on water, giving the fabric a little motion even when you’re standing still. A simple A-line dress with a built-in shelf bra and  stealth stash pocket let you can go from coffee shop to beach to date night and never miss a beat.

Fletch shirtStand out from the plaid. Street smart organic cotton with a cool crossfire of printed arrows and sharp details make you cool without being too trendy. Comfortably cut with just the right amount of room in the torso, this shirt hits the mark and looks awesome when paired with slacks or swim trunks.