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:

Drew in truck

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.

 

Rob and Rachel in trailer

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.

 

How to Have an Awesome Microbrew Tour in Jackson County

Innovation Brewery

 

Loaded with more microbreweries than any other southeastern state, North Carolina is rightfully recognized as one of the country’s booming bastions of craft beer. While Asheville’s heavily concentrated collection of microbreweries may have made the town North Carolina’s capital of craft beer, one of the state’s most singular beer trails is just west of the city, in mountain-rippled, stream-laced Jackson County.

Jackson County features an eclectic trio of breweries around Sylva.
Jackson County features an eclectic trio of breweries around Sylva. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

The Jackson County Ale Trail makes for a compact, craft-brew loaded pub crawl. The scenic, mile-long route winds through picturesque Sylva, showcasing the town’s closely concentrated but eclectic trio of breweries—including Heinzelmännchen Brewing, Innovation Brewing, and the newly opened Sneak E Squirrel. The trail’s taprooms serve everything from time-tested classic ales, to outdoor-inspired seasonal brews, to experimental flavor fusions with limited release, guaranteeing Sylva’s collection of craft breweries will proffer a pints sure to satisfy even the pickiest palates.

The ale trail’s first stop is the Sneak E Squirrel, the most recent arrival to Sylva’s craft brewing scene, opening last year in a creatively repurposed car dealership. The tap list at the newly minted microbrewery is largely driven by inspired interpretations of classic European-style ales, punctuated with inventive fusions like the Pepper Squirrel Habanero IPA.

The Sneak E Squirrel features creative interpretations on classic European-style ales.
The Sneak E Squirrel features creative interpretations on classic European-style ales. JCTDA.

The Sneak E Squirrel’s breadth of beers includes options like the 221 Sneak E, a traditional English bitter; the Clockwork Zombie, a Belgian wit style beer infused with hints of cherry and pomegranate; and the full-bodied Parrot Porter. The whimsical hangout includes barroom treasures like billiards and ping pong, and you’ll find the place scattered with assorted board games, including rarities like Star Trek Catan. The brewery also dishes up an imaginative menu, with elevated munchies like fried green tomatoes and truffle fries. Specials include the likes of Riblettes served with Bananas Foster and playful plates like the Pork Belly BLT and the Fat Elvis—a sandwich loaded with bacon, peanut butter and fried bananas. Best of all, the menu even includes suggested beer pairings for every dish.

For artsy ale enthusiasts, the Sneak E Squirrel is also the perfect place to pick up an original work. The brewery showcases the work of local artists—offering an array of unique pieces for sale, with displays changing every two weeks to highlight different contributors.

After the Sneak E Squirrel, mosey along to the Heinzelmännchen Brewery in downtown Sylva, the second stop on the ale trail, and the town’s longest-standing microbrewery. Heinzelmännchen’s German-born brewmaster Dieter Kuhn has been crafting Bavarian-inspired beers at the location since 2004, alongside his wife and brewery co-owner Sheryl Rudd.

Heinzelmännchen is Sylva's oldest microbrewery.
Heinzelmannchen is Sylva’s oldest microbrewery. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

The brewery’s cozy and casual taproom serves well-rounded collection of ales, with offerings like the Ancient Days Honey Blonde Ale, a crisp, pilsner-style beer infused with locally harvested honey; the rich Black Forest Stout, flavored with notes of roasted coffee and caramel; or the hearty but highly drinkable Middleworld Brown Ale, with a flavor profile distinguished with slight traces of toffee.

Heinzelmännchen’s beers can also be interspersed with samples of the brewery’s nostalgia- inducing offerings—non-alcoholic root beer and autumn red birch beer, also available both by half-gallon or the keg. To round out the authentic Bavarian beer hall experience, the brewery offers locally made soft pretzels served with Asheville-produced Lusty Monk mustard.

Behind the scenes at Innovation Brewing.
Behind the scenes at Innovation Brewing. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

Finally, cap off the Jackson County brewery crawl at the ale trail’s third stop, Innovation Brewing. Boasting the lengthiest beer list of Sylva’s three breweries, Innovation Brewing has more than 30 different options on tap, pouring everything from beloved year-round mainstay brews to experimental ales and rotating seasonal options. The extensive beer selection at the three-year-old brewery includes constants like the Afternoon Delight Blonde Ale, the Hoppy Camper IPA, and the Nitro Irish Stout, mingled with rarities and seasonal brews like the Nitro Coffee Blonde, the Orange Berlinerweiss, and the Beet and Basil Pale Ale.

Aside from the beers, the beloved Sylva-based food truck Cosmic Carryout is also reliably anchored in the brewery’s outdoor beer garden on a daily basis. The laidback location also regularly hosts live music, featuring shows on Saturday nights. Earlier this year, the environmentally conscious brewery also took an ambitious step to reduce the location’s energy footprint by mounting 100 solar panels on the location’s rooftop.

Originally written by RootsRated for Jackson County Tourism Development Authority. Featured image provided by Nick Breedlove.

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings Near Portland

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Situated in the Willamette River Valley, at the base of towering mountains and sprawling forests, Portland is a city that needs no introduction in terms of its outdoor offerings. Giant urban parks like Forest Park are located within city limits, with easy access to the stunning Columbia River Gorge and its endless amount of trails and waterfalls. Portland really is a place where you could spend a lifetime and still not experience all that it has to offer. Especially when it comes to the craft beer scene. Oregon is home to more than 200 breweries, with nearly 85 in the Portland Metro area alone, making it one of the best places in the country to enjoy some adventure and ales. Trust us, we know – our store, the Lizard Lounge, is in the Pearl District so we’ve been sampling the local fare for years!  Here, we bring you a sampling of some of our favorite trail to tavern pairings in The Rose City and beyond.

1. Coyote Wall to the Labyrinth | Backwoods Brewing Company

Admiring the views of the Columbia River GorgeAdmiring the views of the Columbia River Gorge. Abby Joffe.

Located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, the hike from the Coyote Wall Trailhead to the Labyrinth is a 5.8-mile loop that has it all. The views of the Columbia River Gorge as you trek through this unique fluvial landscape to the Labyrinth are incredible. But before you make it to this grassy area high above the banks of the river, you’ll travel through groves of oaks, past a beautiful waterfall, up through a small canyon, and over basalt outcroppings. If you plan your visit during the spring and early summer, the grassy hillsides are often exploding with wildflowers, but truthfully any time of year is a great time to hike this scenic trail.

Just 30 minutes away from the trailhead, Backwoods Brewing Company offers up the perfect place to enjoy a post-hike brew. Founded in 2012, this brewpub has quite a close connection to the Columbia River Gorge: The water used in its beer is sourced from nearby Bear Creek, its interior is adorned with a stark wooden bar, and its beer names (including Log Yard IPA, Clear Cut Pale, and Ridge Run Stout) reflect the regional lexicon. And with freshly made, hand rolled, tossed out pizza, it’s a great place to unwind after a hike with some good grub and great beer.

2. Salmon River Trail | Base Camp Brewing Company

With easy access and a beautiful riverside trail through lush old-growth forests, it's no wonder the Salmon River Trail is a popular option for Portlanders.With easy access and a beautiful riverside trail through lush old-growth forests, it’s no wonder the Salmon River Trail is a popular option for Portlanders. Abby Joffe.

With an easily accessible trailhead and a beautiful riverside trail through lush old-growth forests, it’s no wonder that the Salmon River Trail is a popular option for Portlanders. Situated in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, the Salmon River meanders gracefully through untouched forests, plunges off hidden waterfalls, and swirls into deep inviting pools. Running parallel with this river for roughly 8 miles, the Salmon River Trail is easily one of the most inviting trails in the area, as you’ll be hiking under a thick canopy of towering old-growth forests for much of the way.

Once you’re done, head back into town for a visit to one of Portland’s most outdoorsy craft breweries: Base Camp Brewing Company. It’s almost as if this place was created to deliver the ultimate trail to tavern experience. The interior feels like a cross between a Portland brew pub and a sleek REI. A canoe is suspended above the bar, numerous outdoor action photos hang above the taps, exposed wood graces the interior, and clear lights twinkle in the ceiling, evoking a starry sky after the sun sets.

3. North Portland Loop | Occidental Brewing Company

Okay, so it’s not a hike, but the North Portland Loop is an urban bike trail that takes cyclists through an area of the city known for its diverse landscapes, but which nevertheless rarely shows up in Portland tour guides. Many Portlanders consider the Portland peninsula to be one of the furthest, tumbleweed-laden, lawless outposts of the Rose City, but, in reality, it’s actually a fine place to get a little fresh air via bicycle. From the bluffs of Willamette Boulevard to the serene Smith and Bybee lakes, there’s a lot to appreciate on this 19 mile bike ride around North Portland.

For the best trail to tavern experience along this route, take a break along the way at Occidental Brewing Company, one of Portland’s best-kept brewery secrets, in the St. Johns neighborhood. Occidental serves German-style beers—including a dunkel, kolsch, and hefeweizen—with nary an IPA to be found (sorry, hopheads!).

4. Hoyt Arboretum | Cascade Brewing Barrel House

With an awesome outdoor patio and a huge selection of sour beers, Cascade Brewing Barrel House is a fantastic place to wile away the hoursWith an awesome outdoor patio and a huge selection of sour beers, Cascade Brewing Barrel House is a fantastic place to wile away the hours. Christopher Murphy.

Located in Portland’s Washington Park, the Hoyt Arboretum is home to over 2,000 species of trees and plants from all over the world. There are 12 miles of trail spread out over 189 acres, and the well-manicured paths take you through groups of trees, including larch, spruce, oak, and even sequoia. With trail surfaces that range from hard-pack dirt to gravel and pavement, this is the perfect place to enjoy an easy stroll through a diverse and scenic landscape.

Like Hoyt Arboretum, variety is paramount at Cascade Brewing Barrel House. The Eastside outpost specializes in all things sour beer, with nearly 20 taps available and almost 25 bottles for sale. Catch it on a Tuesday, and Cascade Barrel’s Tap It Tuesday events introduce beer aficionados to a new sour every week.

5. Angel’s Rest Trail | Thunder Island Brewing Company

All smiles at Thunder Island Brewing Co.All smiles at Thunder Island Brewing Co. Christopher Muhs.

Angel’s Rest is one of the most popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge—good luck finding parking near the trail head on a sunny Saturday afternoon—thanks to the 270-degree views at its summit. On the way up, hikers gain about 1,500 feet over 2.5 miles, traveling through many different landscapes, from lush green forest, to charred remains of trees near the summit (the result of a 1991 forest fire). Once to the top, the views unravel as far as the eye can see with sweeping views of the Columbia River, East Portland, Beacon Rock, Hamilton Mountain, and Cape Horn.

Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks, not unlike Angel’s Rest, offers some of the best Gorge views this side of Hood River. Sure, it’s another half-hour east, but it’s worth the trip for the brewery’s outdoor seating, mere feet from the banks of the Columbia River. Enjoy the shade of a few fir trees and watch the river roll by while enjoying Thunder Island’s citrusy IPA.

Inspired? Stop into the Lizard Lounge for all your Toad trail to tavern needs! Visit us at:

LIZARD LOUNGE, 1323 NW Irving Street, Portland, OR 97209

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Originally written by RootsRated. Featured image provided by Bill Automata.

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.

Modern+Times

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!