PORTLAND, Maine — The woods of northern New England are known for lots of things: bear, moose, towering pine trees, brilliant fall foliage and icy winters. But these forests are luring a new critter — beer tourists.
Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are emerging as major destinations for roving beer lovers. Western states like California and Oregon have drawn beer tourists for years, but a growing number of breweries now bring hops lovers to New England to tour brewhouses and sample beers.
Here's a selection of breweries in these northern states that are worth giving a shot, err, pint:
- Rising Tide Brewing
Where they are: 103 Fox St., Portland, Maine.
What they do: Rising Tide operates a bright, airy tasting room with chalkboards full of the day's beer offerings, which are available on tap and in cans. You can also get a look at some of the brewing equipment located in the industrial-type space.
More than beer: Food truck offerings vary daily and are posted on the brewery's website. July and August food trucks have included everything from Hakka Me, a Cantonese truck, to wood-fired lobster bakes from Fire & Company.
What to drink: Rising Tide is beloved for its Soundings Series, an experimental series of IPAs that focus on different hops.
Retail hours: Monday-Tuesday, noon-7 p.m.; Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
- Bunker Brewing Co.
Where they are: 17 Westfield St., Portland, Maine.
What they do: Bunker's Portland brewery is something of a DIY Bohemian beer hall, located down a dead-end road that will make you feel like you're going the wrong way. It's a little off the beaten trail, but the brewery serves as a spot to show off new creations in a relaxed, clubhouse-like environment.
More than beer: This summer, the brewery is hosting "Selector Sundays," which is an all-vinyl reggae, dub and dancehall party that takes place on Sunday afternoons. German beers and reggae music might sound like an odd pairing, but not if you're in the mood for a good time.
What to drink: Bunker is best known for Machine Czech Pils, a crisp Saaz-hopped lager.
Retail hours: Sunday-Thursday, noon to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.
- Hill Farmstead Brewery
Where they are: 403 Hill Rd., Greensboro, Vermont.
What they do: The Hill Farmstead Brewery has a cult-like following that attracts beer aficionados from across the country and sometimes the world. The website says the best place to buy Hill Farmstead brews is at the factory, on a dirt road in Vermont's remote Northeast Kingdom. It's such a popular destination, the website lists local accommodations for beer tourists.
More than beer: The brewery features regular events, including the annual Festival of Farmhouse Ales. There are also regular food vendors and other merchandise.
What to drink: The Greensboro retail shop is the only place the Hill Farmstead beer is regularly available. The brewery produces a variety of different beers.
Retail hours: Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
- The Alchemist Brewery and Visitor's Center
Where they are: 100 Cottage Club Rd., Stowe, Vermont.
What they do: No discussion of Vermont's thriving beer scene is complete without discussing The Alchemist, a family run brewery that specializes in fresh, unfiltered IPA. One of its brews, Heady Topper, is so popular — and scarce — that hopheads are known to follow delivery trucks.
More than beer: The state-of-the-art Stowe factory also offers a tasting room where people can sample the brews before buying their favorite brews. During the summer, The Alchemist sponsors Thursday Night on the Lawn along with the local restaurant Doc Ponds.
What to drink: Heady Topper. But, The Alchemist's second year-round beer, Focal Banger, is also great.
Retail hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Great North Aleworks
Where they are: 1050 Holt Ave., Manchester, New Hampshire.
What they do: One of the state's fastest growing craft brewers, Great North is best known for its self-titled Great North IPA. A top seller since it first was brewed, the beer was inspired by West Coast IPAs and has won several national beer awards.
More than beer: Great North has a tasting room with eight of its beers on draft and a menu featuring some local offerings such as fresh salsa and twisted pretzels. The brewery also has a monthly open mic night led by local musician Alli Beaudry, a trivia night and a monthly cribbage tournament.
What to drink: You have to try the brewery's pilsner, called Northbound, as well as its Smokin' ale which is brewed with malt from Bamberg, Germany, that is smoked over a beech wood fire.
Retail hours: Thursday-Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
- Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Where they are: 105 Towle Farm Rd., Hampton, New Hampshire.
What they do: One of the region's most established craft brewers, Smuttynose has banked its reputation on several big sellers — including its Finestkind IPA and Old Brown Dog brown ale. With an eye on New England's history and geography, it named its first beer off an island chain just off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine.
More than beer: Along with its free brewery tours, visitors can chow down at its Hayseed Restaurant and then walk it off on the brewery's 14-acre campus. Smuttynose also has a 9-hole disc golf course and occasional beer release parties.
What to drink: Visitors can try several more obscure brews from Smuttlabs, which is the brewery's experimental division. Since new owners arrived in April, the brewery has released two new Smuttlabs beers — Lady Stardust, a New England style IPA, and Wake & Break Gose, with coriander and sea salt. Moon Water will be the third.
Retail hours: Monday-Thursday, noon-7 p.m.; Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.