Set a course for these 12 breweries on the water, where you can practically step off your boat and up to the bar.
You'll find this well-known brewery inside an old warehouse in the Seaport District of South Boston. The original Harpoon Ale was crafted here in 1987, and over 30 years later, it is the centerpiece of an impressive ensemble of beers and ciders 155 year-round and seasonal varieties in all, from altbiers to weizenbocks and everything in between. The brewery's Bavarian beer hall has sprawling wooden benches and serves spent-grain pretzels with homemade dipping sauces. Two rotating small-batch beers are exclusive to the hall, so quaff them while you can.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Company lore says Dogfish Head began in 1995 as the smallest commercial brewery in the United States, able to produce only two or three 10-gallon batches a day. This allowed founder Sam Calagione the flexibility to mix off-centered tastes and grow a following of adventurous beer drinkers. Current offerings carry on the experimentation with draughts like Dragons & YumYums (brewed with dragonfruit, yumberry, passionfruit and black carrot juice), SeaQuench Ale (black limes, sour lime juice and sea salt) and others. Brewings & Eats has a menu with pub fare and wood-fired pizzas, plus live music on its state-of-the-art stage.
Where to Dock: Rehoboth Bay Marina
Oak-planked and gleaming, the Bluejacket restaurant and bar occupies an old ship and munitions manufacturing complex in Southeast D.C. that has been renovated with precision. Launched in 2013, as the home of the same-named beer, the space has 5,600 square feet of brewing on three levels, 19 fermentation vessels, two barrel rooms and three temperature zones. What this means is patrons can enjoy a rotating selection of 20 beers and five cask ales, all poured at the ideal temperature, and most are available only on-site. The food menu extends the classic beer hall fare to incorporate new American cuisine using locally sourced products.
Where to Dock: The Yards Marina
Founded in 2012, Smartmouth Brewing produces 4,400 barrels of craft beer each year on the banks of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk's Chelsea District. It has five year-round beers that span the palette, from saison to amber to double IPA, and three seasonal beers and limited-edition brews add more breadth to the menu. Rather than flash, the brewery concentrates on quality ingredients and well-crafted flavor. Have a sip in the 1,100 square-foot tasting room and take a tour of the facility. It's free every hour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Where to Dock: Waterside Marina
Charleston, South Carolina
Family owned and housed in an old Navy base in North Charleston, COAST proves the adage that sometimes simpler is better. Head brewer David Merritt favors organic and local ingredients, and his creations are straightforward, drinkable and done well. Year-round selections include an imperial India pale ale, American pale ale, imperial stout, American brown ale, India pale ale and kolsch. Flavorful, not fancy. Seasonal brews like saison, wheat and dark ale add variety. The COAST tasting room is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Charleston City
Befitting its name, Service Brewing is owned and operated by and dedicated to American veterans. The theme runs throughout its tasting room, which is decorated with repurposed shipping containers, military-style emblems and an industrial atmosphere. Even the beer names have soldierly themes: Ground Pounder, Rally Point and Compass Rose. Service Brewing's tasting room is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Tour the facility, see the magic behind beer brewing, and toast our service men and women and first responders.
Where to Dock: Thunderbolt Marine
Seafood and oysters are served right off the boat in this historic watermen's town. You can wash them down with three quality beers from the home-base brewery, which was founded in 2014 by the owners of Apalachicola's Owl CafÃ© & Tap Room. Apalach IPA, Hooter Brown Tupelo Honey Ale and Mill Pond Dirty Blonde Ale were the original releases, with First Light of Day Summer Ale marking the brand's first seasonal release. It's described as crisp and smoothed, steeped with orange peel. Sounds perfect for a steamy summer day in Florida.
Where to Dock: Scipio Creek Marina
Key West, Florida
It's not called the Waterfront for nothing! This working brewery and restaurant lies in the heart of Old Town overlooking the Key West Historic Seaport. A rotating selection of suds brewed on site includes signature beers Crazy Lady (a honey blonde), Lazy Way (India pale ale) and Island Life (American lager). Have a curious palette? Try the Elven Orchard apple graff beer. The Waterfront is a licensed wholesaler of Florida Keys finfish and shellfish and has a full menu with handcrafted sandwiches, steak and seafood entrees, and a raw bar.
Coronado Brewing beers are sold coast to coast and have won awards the world over, but owners Ron and Rick Chapman say they're proudest that the company has retained its authentic coastal roots and spirit. The brewery makes nine core beers a pilsner, a wit, a red and a slew of India pale ales. In addition, it offers seasonal/ limited releases, the art series (new for 2018; think experimental) and the barrel-aged Coronado Collection for bold, rich tastes such as Black Forest Cake. The Coronado Brewpub offers pub favorites along with a full dinner menu and dessert.
Where to Dock: Glorietta Bay Marina
Long Beach, California
What do the folks at Ballast Point love almost as much as making beer? Fishing! That's why many of their beers are named for fish or fishing terms, with labels featuring beautifully detailed illustrations. Try the Dorado Double IPA, Bonito Blonde Ale, Sculpin India Pale Ale, Wahoo White or any of the 24 year-round selections. But wait, there's more! The Homework Series interprets the best homebrew recipes from employees and friends, and they pour barrel-aged and pepper beers (beer brewed with pepper). Visit their Long Beach location for tacos, flatbreads, sandwiches and suds.
Where to Dock: Alamitos Bay Marina
Housed in an old cannery building overlooking the Columbia River, Buoy Beer has a distinctive can and a history dating back to 2011 when entrepreneur Luke Colvin first drank some of founding brewer Dan Hamilton's homemade swill in his garage. The company now creates 15 beers, mostly European influenced, across a spectrum of tastes including porter, Belgian dubbel, German lager and maibock. The facility opens daily at 11 a.m. serving small bites and bigger bites, such as daily specials with an emphasis on local seafood.
Where to Dock: East Basin Marina
Lakefront Brewery is actually located on the Milwaukee River in the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company's old power plant, built in 1908. The company has won more than 200 awards in its 30 years of brewing and prides itself on innovation. It became the first U.S.-certified organic brewery. In 1996, it produced the country's first gluten-free beer and was the second to make a pumpkin beer. It currently brews eight year round beers (ales and lagers), plus five seasonals, four organic and gluten-free beers and 11 limited-release beers. The Lakefront Brewery Beer Halls has a full menu with daily specials and sausage flights.
Where to Dock: McKinley Marina