Look past the endless assortment of beer bars, wine bars and dive bars in NYC, and instead sign up for one of these booze tours in New York City. There’s nothing like sipping your beverage of choice right from the source: the brewery, distillery or winery where it was made. Most of these cheap (or free!) tours allow you to get a behind-the-scenes look at the production process and taste some of the wares. Who knows—you might even learn a little something. So what are you waiting for, boozehounds?
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in NYC
It’s always beer-thirty at this stalwart New York brewery. Thirsty drinkers can drop in for one of its two-hour guided tasting tours or gratis ten-minute walkthroughs any day of the week. During the former, you’ll sip four beers—including seasonal and rare Brewmaster’s Reserve pours. Don’t worry, you can still imbibe during the freebie tour by nabbing a pint ($5, five for $20) in the tasting room. During your stroll, peep the eight fermentation tanks that were shipped over from Germany, each holding up to 45,000 pints at a time. $15 for a two-hour tour, basic tours are free
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kevin Gessner
New York state was once the largest producer of hops in the United States, but over the last century, the great beer-making tradition lost some steam. Bronx Brewery brought it back to the Bronx in 2011, and they’ve been doling out pours of their signature Bronx Pale Ale and seasonal varietals ever since. Stop by on Saturdays and Sundays for free tours at 1:30pm, 3pm and 5pm. When the weather’s warm, you can even sip your pint outside in the brewery’s backyard. Sounds like the ideal Sunday afternoon to us. Free
This six-barrel brewery and tasting room in Long Island City integrates unique strains of yeast from their brewery “library” into farmhouse-style suds, like Brett Pale Ale and Gin Barrel Golden Ale. It sells beer in bottles instead of on draft, so come with a group of friends and buy a few varieties to share in the production-facility-cum-bar. Tours here are a more casual affair—just ask an employee to show you the digs on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Casual tours only
Queens, a borough laden with beer makers before Prohibition, returns to its frothy roots with its first full-scale brewery in decades. The 30-barrel brew house has a taproom outfitted with lagering tanks, a stage for live music and refillable growlers for purchase ($20–$30). SingleCut hosts free 30-minute tasting tours each Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, when you can sample the solely-brewed-in-Astoria beers, including the 19-33 Pilsner and the Softly Spoken Magic Spells IIPA. Free
A hops' throw from the Ferry terminal, Harpoon vet Patrick Morse and former Phoenix beer distributor Jay Sykes bring brewing back to Staten Island—the borough has been brewery-free since Piels closed its plant in the 1960s. Cool down after the ferry ride with tall mugs of the award-winning IPA, full-bodied Metropolitan Lager and other seasonal suds in the taproom. On Saturdays, boozehounds can pay $5 for a tour and tasting at either 2:30 or 4pm. $5
Though this brewery was born as a homebrewing project in its namesake Rockaway Beach, owners Ethan Long and Marcus Burnett set up their professional digs in Long Island City in 2012. Drop by the Queens brewery and taproom (or their new Rockaway location) to try favorites like the Black Gold Nitro Stout or 1875 Pale Ale. See how the sausage gets made on one of the many free tours: Fridays at 6pm, Saturdays at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 6pm, Sundays at 3pm and 5pm. And if you find something you love, you can always buy a growler ($23 for a 64-ounce growler, $15 for a 32-ounce growler) to take it to go. Free
Industry City, a group of repurposed waterfront warehouses that until 1974 was called Bush Terminal, houses this Brooklyn distillery built by five pals, all newbies in the alcohol industry. Plunk down $5 to join a tour every Saturday at 3pm, or spend a little extra for two special souvenir glasses. You will spot house-made items like a $3,000 yeast propagator tank that normally retails for more than $300,000 and a letterpress for bottle labels. Along with the golden Willy Wonka–inspired ticket you receive with your tour, you’ll also have a chance to taste the goods. $5 for a basic tour, $18 for two people with souvenir glasses
This whiskey distillery pumps handcrafted, organic-corn-based moonshines and bourbons in the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s 112-year-old Paymaster Building. Using only New York grain, old-school distilling practices (for example, aging whiskey for at least 14 months in charred-oak barrels) and minimal packaging, Kings County Distillery harkens back to a pre-Prohibition NYC. The hourlong tour grants admission to the “Boozeum,” which displays old photos and newspaper clippings about NYC’s distilling history, and includes three slugs of the hard stuff. $14
Visitors to this Williamsburg craft distillery can enjoy a guided tasting of spirits like the Perry’s Tot 114-proof Navy Strength Gin (one of the few navy-strength gins produced in the country) and the Dorothy Parker American Gin (a contemporary-style gin infused with elderberry and dried hibiscus petals). After marveling at the 1,000-liter copper-pot still, have a couple more drinks inside the company’s on-site cocktail bar, the Shanty. The free tours happen every Saturday at 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 5pm. Free
This Red Hook spot brings spirits like New York grain whiskey, Due North rum, Red Hook grappa and moonshine back to the borough where they were once heavily produced. Investigate the process behind copper-pot distilling before concluding the tour with a taste of the good stuff. $10
Port Morris Distillery
Adventurous drinkers must head up to the Bronx to taste this tiny distillery’s little known spirit: pitorro, a Puerto Rican moonshine made from sugar cane. This stuff is strong—92 proof—and comes from an old family recipe that master distiller (and tio to founders Jerry and Ralph Barbosa) Rafael Rodriguez brought with him from Puerto Rico. Sample both the original pitorro and pitorro anejo aged in wooden barrels on a tour of the facilities. $12 for two people
This isn’t the run-of-the-mill stuff you find doused with tonic in dive bars. Greenhook Ginsmiths relies a custom-made copper still and unique vacuum distilling process to preserve the delicate aromas of juniper, elderflower and chamomile. Reserve a spot in a 45-minute tour any Saturday at 1pm or 2:30pm to meet the ginsmiths and taste all three of the intriguing spirits: American Dry Gin, Beach Plum Gin Liqueur and Old Tom Gin. $20 for two people
There’s a definite retro feel to this East Williamsburg rum distillery: "The Noble Experiment" was once a nickname for the 18th Amendment, while the name of Owney’s Rum honors Owen “Owney” Madden, a notorious bootlegger. That white, unaged rum is the distillery's sole spirit, but it's an unusual one: Owney's is cold-fermented for a whole five days. Join a 45-minute tour each Saturday at 2pm or 5pm to learn about the production process and taste the distinctive rum straight up and in a cocktail. $10
The thorough 30-minute behind-the-scenes tours at this Williamsburg winery also include a curated tasting of a variety of wines at the bar. Our tip? Ask about their award-winning vintages, like the 2012 Cabernet Franc made from grapes grown on Seneca Lake and the 2014 Riesling, which the winemakers expect to continue to age well for the next 10 years. $25
For 35 bones, embark on a tour and tasting at this Soho restaurant, bar and music venue. Tours include your choice of three vinos (typically made on-site) paired with a seasonal cheese plate. Oenophiles will be happy to know that City Winery offers tours seven days a week at 4pm. $35
Red Hook Winery
Red Hook has become a stronghold of the Brooklyn DIY food and drink movement, with artisanal chocolate, vermouth and other goodies spilling from the cobblestoned community. In 2008, the ’hood upped its quota of locally sourced fare with the opening of Red Hook Winery, which uses exclusively New York State grapes to make riesling, sauvignon blanc, petit verdot and other wines. Stop by on weekends to enjoy a tasting ($15 for four pours) and a complimentary 15-minute tour of the facilities, or book a private barrel tasting and tour. $35 for a barrel tasting and tour
Looking for another drinking activity?
This neighborhood bar in the East Village offers Southern fare and ample drinks to its patrons. Come for brunch to score unlimited mimosas or Bloody Mary’s for just $12 with any entree. Mama’s Bar partners with Root & Bone for the food menu, which includes crispy chicken biscuits with root chips and tabasco pepper jelly ($12), a waffle benedict with pork belly bacon and lemon hollandaise sauce ($15) and a farmer’s omelette with mushrooms and bell peppers. Even the late-night crowd can try some of the Southern bar bites, like deviled eggs ($7), crispy chicken wings with spicy honey ($9), pimento cheese biscuits ($8) or short rib biscuits with tomato jam and pickles ($10). In addition to full bar service, Mama’s Bar also serves signature cocktails like Dick’s Cucumber Cooler with cucumber-infused gin, lime, bitters and tonic, the Hot Mama with jalapeno tequila, cilantro-flavored vodka, Malibu rum and pineapple juice and a Manhattan Iced Tea with rye, lavender bitters, lemon juice and chamomile (each $10).
Venue says: “We've got frozen drinks! Come and try our Froze, and many other flavors!”