I am not saying you should take a vacation FROM beer. I am saying that you should turn your vacation into a Beer Vacation. With the growth of the craft beer scene all across the country, this is much easier than it sounds. Living with a home brewer, as I do, the task takes on even greater ease! He is willing to do all of the research into finding local breweries and craft beer bars in any area we travel! Consequently, each vacation lately has become a beer vacation for at least one of the days we are traveling. Sometimes we take a guided tour of the brew house; sometimes we just enjoy a flight of whatever happens to be on tap.
Beer Vacation – Hitting Up as Many Breweries as Possible
Vibrant craft beer scenes in the Pacific Northwest are a great place to start. We have made Seattle and Bend, Oregon into craft beer vacations, hitting up as many breweries as possible. (For Bend, go to the “Visit Bend” site and get all the info you need to take a great beer hike around town.) Another great option is the San Diego area. There are dozens of microbreweries there and a few really big ones too – like Stone, Green Flash and Lost Abbey off the top of my head.
Northern California is a Treasure Trove
Last year, attending the wedding of a friend, I had the good fortune to take some of my gal pals on a tour of Sierra Nevada in Chico. None of them had ever done a full blown brewery tour and they will forever be ruined for all others! I have been on dozens of tours, and this one is the BEST I’ve ever taken. The building is Lied Certified and they do all sorts of next level shit in there to help the local community, environment and the craft brew scene. All of Northern California is a treasure trove of amazing taprooms and breweries. The San Francisco area boasts a Rogue taproom, 21st Amendment Brewing and Speakeasy brewing just to get you started.
On our most recent trip (you can read about it in four installments here on the site) we had the great good fortune of making beer vacation days out of Bamberg, Vienna and Frankfurt. But the biggest happy accident of the trip was finding a small local brewery in Amsterdam. After chatting with the barmaid at VOC Café where we enjoyed bitterballen, we asked about a nearby brewery, Brouwerij De Prael. She warned us that it was small, but we weren’t deterred. Size doesn’t always matter. Great beer does! It was close by so we trekked on over to check it out. We weren’t disappointed!
A Rabbit Warren of Small Rooms
After walking down a cobblestone alley where no car could have driven, we walked into a wild scene of “bingo night” where the grand prize was a scooter. Brouwerij De Prael was packed to the rafters with loud contemporary and 80’s pop music blaring and everyone was having a good time. The building itself is a rabbit warren of smaller rooms. A taproom in the front, several small dining rooms, and an American style bar menu featuring burgers, dogs and sandwiches. Because it was so busy, finding a place to park ourselves was a challenge, but we found a couple of seats at a shared high-top table in the front room near the door and tucked in for a good time. Of course John mentioned to the door man, Nelis, (pronounced NAY-liss) that he is a home brewer. Nelis then proceeded to give us a private guided tour of the brew house, complete with meeting the local homebrewing club! What a Happy Accident!
Resources to Get You Started
Intrigued? Wanna try it out for yourself? There are several great references out there. Of course you can go to the Chamber of Commerce or tourism site for any city you are visiting. Beware, they don’t always have great info on craft beer bars or breweries, unless the area is known for their craft beer scene, like Bend. Online be sure to check out Beer Advocate. Go to the “places” tab and select “directory”. They list breweries, bars, brew pubs with food, home brew supply stores, and stores with great beer selections. While you are there, subscribe to the magazine! Check out Lonely Planet and their collection of Global Beer Guides, available in print and digital formats. I prefer Lonely Planet travel guides over others because there are always quirky little things they find that aren’t in other guidebooks. You can select individual chapters for just the area you are traveling to, but WHY? Get the whole damn book so you are prepared for your next adventure ($20 in hardback)!
Another great book is this one by National Geographic. As with all Nat Geo products, the photography and content are first rate. It is a larger format book, a fantastic “coffee table book” for the beer lover on your Holiday gift list. ($40 in hardback.)
Finally, talk to the bartender at your local craft beer bar, beer goddesses at beer festivals or your local home brewers’ club. Those folks know where it’s at when it comes to craft beer and can point you in the direction of fab bars and breweries. Definitely do this AT your destination. Find one great taproom and the kind folks there will lead you to others. And ALWAYS – drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive!