Adult beverages are to summer leisure as base is to ball. The options for craft breweries and distilleries are almost more dizzying than the actual imbibing. Below is a balanced selection of some old standbys and new hotness.
Austin: Committed to sustainable brewing practices, Hops and Grain is a satisfying feel-good, drink-good combo. They donate one percent of their revenue to local environmental non-profits and lend their support to local growers and producers. Their "Brew Biscuit" dog treats are made from spent brewing grains. The taproom is only open Wednesday through Saturday. Intermittent free tours last approximately 45 minutes (check their schedule).
Charlotte: NoDa Brewing Company is still buzzing from its gold medal win in the super tough "American IPA" category at this year's World Beer Fest for its "Hop, Drop 'N Roll." Save stomach capacity for their weekly "NoDable Series," which features small batches made exclusively for their tap room, like "Can You Fig It," a brown ale infused with figs. A pre-tour stomach lining can be acquired at one of their daily featured food trucks.
Chicago: Long before the recent explosion of craft beer taprooms, there was Chicago's Goose Island, who have been creating hand-crafted ales and lagers since 1988 at their Clybourne location. The newer Wrigleyville location is the sports bar incarnation of the brand. Goose Island deals in seasonal brews, maintaining over 20 drafts on tap at any given time. The award-winning beers are supplemented by dishes like the Stilton burger, a variety of small plates and more.
Detroit: Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, located in Warren just outside downtown Detroit, was founded in 1998 and is still brewing with a passion. This year they brought home two gold medals from the World Beer Cup, and a gold, silver, and bronze from the Great American Beer Festival. A new facility in Clinton Township with a new tasting room and an outdoor beer garden opened in April.
Milwaukee: Great Lakes Distillery is a small-batch distillery of hand-crafted, award-winning spirits made in limited quantities using old world methods and traditions. Their products include absinthes, gin made with Wisconsin-grown ginseng, citrus honey vodka made with Wisconsin honey, "Roaring Dan's Rum" made with Wisconsin maple syrup and more. If it's beer you're after (this is Wisconsin, after all), Lakefront Brewery, founded by two home-brewing brothers in 1987, is home to award-winning brews such as RiverWest Stein (amber), Lakefront Bock, East Side Dark, and seasonal Pumpkin and Cherry Lagers. Lakefront was voted one of the top breweries in the country by Trip Adviser.
Philadelphia: Philly's very crowded brewery scene features the likes of Victory Brewing Company, who just opened a new facility in Chester County, southwest of Philadelphia. If you can't manage an actual site visit here, their "Summer Love Ale" (inspired by the city itself) is sold in more than 30 states.
Phoenix: In Phoenix and want to efficiently immerse yourself into the local brewery scene? Arizona Brewery Tours will take visitors to any of 13 craft breweries in Greater Phoenix, including The Phoenix Ale, Four Peaks and Arizona Wilderness. New to the scene (so new, they don't have a website yet) is Mother Bunch Brewing. Officially opening in June 2014, the brew house/restaurant combo are located in the historic J.B. Bayless building in Phoenix's downtown warehouse district. Mother Bunch will feature their own original beers as well as an array of Arizona-made beer.
Pittsburgh: Historic Wigle Whiskey was Pittsburgh's first distillery after the Whiskey Prohibition. Working to restore Pittsburgh's whiskey tradition, championed by rebellious distillers in the 18th and 19th centuries, Wigle Whiskey makes spirits from scratch with copper pots and local, organic ingredients, much like when Pittsburgh was the production epicenter of American Whiskey. Wigle is located in Pittsburgh's Strip District neighborhood and offering tours, tastings and whiskey sold by the bottle.
Richmond: Blue Bee Cider is Virginia's first and only urban cidery, named after one of Virginia's native bees, osmia lignaria, or the blue orchard bee. Their seasonal ciders are blended from heirloom Virginia apple varieties, including four semi-sparkling ciders, a dry cider, old-fashioned cider and two new ciders for 2014: "Fanfare," a mulberry infused cider, and "Firecracker," a summer dessert cider.
San Diego: San Diego is home to the World Beer Cup's 2014 "Champion Brewery of the Year" in the mid-sized brewery category: the family owned Coronado Brewing Company. In addition to the eight signature beers brewed on-site, including the popular Coronado Golden, the unfiltered "Idiot IPA" and the full-bodied "Outlet Stout," the brewpub offers a menu with woodfired pizzas and fresh seafood.