The Art of Visiting Breweries

Guest post by Graham Holt

When traveling for business or pleasure, visiting a local brewery can provide more rewards than just the freshest beer in town. It’s also the chance to support a local business, gain access to rare beers, and hear the inside scoop on the surrounding area.

I always check to see if there is a brewery in the area when visiting a new town,. As a lover of beer, I’m interested in not only the product, but also the process, equipment and people that are involved in making my alcoholic beverage of choice.

Aside from the strictly beer-related benefits, brewery employees are a wealth of local information. This is where they work and live, so they will be able to point you to the best food, music, and bottle shops in the area. Since independent breweries are local businesses, they will likely direct you to the local businesses that will best suit your needs. Personally, I’d much rather support local businesses than national chains that are doing fine without my money.

Finding breweries to visit
Before visiting a brewery, you’ll need to do a little research. I recommend using Google MapsBeer Advocate, and Yelp to find breweries, and to help decide which one(s) to visit and which one(s) to avoid.

Google Maps: A search on Google Maps for breweries and brewpubs near the town you are visiting will give you an idea of your options. Check
each local brewery’s website to see if their visiting or tour times will line up with your trip.

Beer Advocate: If you are unfamiliar with a brewery’s offerings, a search on Beer Advocate can show you how well a brewery’s beers have been received by the public. If any beers stick out as something you’d like to try, make a note of them in a place that you’ll be able to access on your trip.

Yelp: Details that are unavailable on a brewery’s official website are often available on Yelp. These reviews can be brutal, so always read a few before letting them affect your plans. Many breweries are in industrial areas that can be sketchy, and Yelp reviews may include safety warnings that are worth considering in case you will be beginning and/or ending your visit in the dark.

Tips For Your Visit

Try New Beers
If given a choice of what to sample, try something that you can’t find in your hometown. This could be a style that you aren’t familiar with or fond of, but I say go for it as you might be pleasantly surprised. Occasionally, a brewery will be sampling a special test brew that won’t get bottled. The opportunity to try these unique, often single-batch beers is a great perk to brewery visits.

Bring a Gift
Just as you will likely find beer that you can’t find at home, you may find that beers you consider common are missing from bottle shop shelves when you travel. Bringing a bottle of beer that isn’t locally available is a great way to introduce yourself when visiting a brewery.

A gift certainly isn’t expected, but it’s nearly always well-received. This has garnered me beer samples that aren’t generally available to brewery visitors, and better service at brewpubs. The important thing is to never expect anything in return. If beer is offered in the true spirit of giving, then a smile or thank you will be all the reward that you need; consider anything beyond that a bonus.

Chat
I’ve found that most brewery employees are more than willing to talk about the local attractions and eateries if they aren’t swamped with customers. It’s great to take an interest in the people, the product, and the area, but don’t get in the way of anyone that is actively trying to make a purchase.

Purchase Something
If you have enjoyed the beer samples, it’s considered good form to purchase some beer at the brewery. In the event that beer is not for sale at the brewery due to legal reasons, then glassware, t-shirts or other merchandise is nearly always available.

Beer that is available for purchase may include offerings that are available exclusively at the brewery (Night Shift has such exclusive offerings). These hard-to-get beers will often be the star of your next backyard get-together.

If the beer that you sample is something you’d rather forget, then don’t feel obligated to buy anything, just be sure to support the breweries that make products you enjoy.

The next time that you are traveling, I hope that you’ll consider looking into visiting a brewery, as doing so can be quite rewarding. When visiting the Boston area, I would recommend stopping by Night Shift Brewing if you have a chance.  If you have visited breweries while traveling, feel free to share your favorite brewery visits in the comments section below, as I’m always looking for new places to visit.

Graham Scott Holt is a technical training specialist living near Boston.  He has traveled the world (for work), and brought back interesting beers.  When he’s not working or doing something related to beer, Graham enjoys writing, gardening, making candy (Holt’s Confectionery) and doing a terrible job at learning to play the ukulele.

All photos by Charles J. Parsow

3 Responses to “The Art of Visiting Breweries”

  1. Adam P
    December 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    Great writeup and tips, Graham. One of my top brewery visits ever was Fort George Brewpub in Astoria, OR. They definitely made me feel part of the family, and even shared the secrets of brewing their unique Spruce Tip Pale Ale using fresh-cut douglas fir branches. A quintessential Pacific NW experience.

  2. December 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Thank you Adam, I’m glad you like the article. It’s always nice when a brewery makes you feel at home. When I lived in Oregon, I never did get out to Astoria, but if I do, I’ll definitely look into the Fort George Brewpub.

    On my list of breweries to visit in Oregon is Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge. It’s a bit out of the way, but they only brew real ale. The publican there is someone that I worked with at a biotech company, but he made the transition to embracing a passion professionally. If you get out there, let Ted know that Graham sends him all the best.

    I’d also like to thank the guys at Night Shift for publishing my post and for creating some really awesome beers.

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