Guest post: Planning a Beercation
By Genevieve Shuler of The Hops Honey
For many of us who love craft beer, there’s a desire to go to deep into the belly of the beast … to get up close and personal … to see just where it is that the magic happens. For some of us solo travelers it’s simply a matter of picking which state or region to visit; for others it’s lucking out by having a spouse who’s sympathetic to our need to make a pilgrimage to our favorite brewery. Either way, planning a road trip for beer – a Brewcation, if you will – can be a lot of fun! I recently spent nine days driving around the great, green state of Vermont visiting local breweries and brewpubs, and I hope that what I learned during the planning, as well as the trip itself, can be of some help to you as you plan your next beer-centric vacation!
While these suggestions are based on a full nine days of vacation, they can just as easily apply to a day or a weekend trip … whether you’re planning to hit up eight breweries, or just one.
Once you’ve determined how long your trip is and whether beer is the main focus of your trip or merely a fun add-on, it’s time to buckle down and start doing some research.
If you’ve got the flexibility to start from scratch, check out the Brewers Association website, where you can browse by state to get some inspiration for a region or state you might potentially like to visit. Most states also have their own individual Brewers Association websites that offer a wealth of information on how to get the most out of visiting their local breweries and brewpubs. A quick Google search should bring them right up.
Map It Out
One of the first things I did was to plot out all the breweries/brewpubs on a map of the state to see which were close together (to be done on the same day) & to plot out a logical travel route to avoid having to double-back. It’s also super helpful to know how long it will take you to drive from one stop to the next.
Remember to check the route to see if there’s a more scenic option as well as what fun sites might be worth checking out along the way!
Check each brewery/brewpub website to see when it’s open and when its normal public tours and tasting rooms are offered/open. Also check its events sections to see if there are any going on while you’re in town. If there are, this may lead you to reconfigure your travel plans to accommodate such an event.
This happened to me and I’m so glad that I had noticed the event. The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont, an event called “The Art of Fermentation” while I was planning to be in Vermont, and the decision to attend the event really shaped the timing of the rest of my trip. It would also be a super shame to miss out on a beer dinner, now wouldn’t it?
Contact the Brewery
Send an e-mail explaining your vacation and love of the suds and ask if they would be able to accommodate a private tour. Be friendly, express interest, make it personal and acknowledge the fact that you’re asking a favor of them. It’s helpful to give them a specific date and time you’d like to visit as a starting point for a discussion.
Will you be writing about the visit? If so, let them know that up front in the e-mail & include a link to your website or blog.
Here’s an example of the e-mails I was sending to breweries to introduce myself and ask for a tour & interview:
I hope that all is well with the Long Trail Brewing family up in Bridgewater Corners!
My name is Genevieve and I write a blog about beer called The Hops Honey. I live in New York City, but I’m going to be spending a week in Wilmington, VT from March 28-April 6th, and I would love to come up and visit the Long Trail Brewery and take a tour if possible.
Having read through your ECOBrew website, I am extremely interested in chatting with someone about all of the efforts Long Trail Brewing has made towards impacting the environment as little as possible. I have been fortunate enough to take a number of brewery tours both on the east and west coasts, and I would love to see how a brewery’s operations might look different when environmentally-friendly practices have been put in place.
I was hoping that it might be possible to come for a visit sometime mid-morning on Wednesday, March 31st. I greatly appreciate your consideration and your letting me know if this is a request that you can accommodate!
Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Do Your Research
Do some basic, background research on the breweries and their beer. When I went to Vermont I was really interested in the eco-friendly practices in place at the various breweries, so I made sure to look at the relevant information available on each website. Showing up at Long Trail with some knowledge of their ECOBrew website was extremely helpful as it saved a lot of time and gave me a great starting point from which to ask questions.
The Big Day!
Be on time and prepared. The craft beer community is incredibly supportive in general, and brewers and owners tend to be very aware and appreciative of all that us beer geeks, connoisseurs and bloggers can do to spread the word about their brewery. All the same, they’re giving up a part of their day to spend with you, so be respectful of that by showing up on time (or giving a call if you’re running late!), being prepared and above all … being excited! You’re at a brewery, how can it get any better? Be sure that your camera is charged, and it’s a great courtesy to ask if it’s OK to take pictures as you go around!
Here are some basic do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when planning your trip!
- Check out the smaller, lesser-known breweries & brewpubs – they’re often true hidden gems! I took home a GREAT growler of Trout River Brewing Co.’s triple … who’da thunk it?
- Check the events area of each brewery’s website to make sure you don’t miss out on a great educational event or beer dinner.
- Overestimate how long it will take you to drive from one brewery/town to another.
- Keep a bag of pretzels in the car to snack on as you drive between brewery visits.
- Take lots of pictures.
- Buy yourself some souvenirs … glassware is my favorite! It’s super fun, once you’re back at home, to be able to have a brewery’s beer out of its own glass.
- Follow-up with your hosts after you visit and be sure to thank them for their time and hospitality
- Drink and drive. Seriously, designate a sober driver, find public transportation, or rely on your own steam to get around (that would be your feet!).
- Forget to hydrate! Water is your friend, my friend.
- Go overboard on the tastings … a small sample is all you really need to get a good idea of the brew… and you’ll likely have lots of beers you’ll want to try.
- Do what I did and wait months to put up postings on your visit! #fail
One of the best parts about going on a Brewcation that has nothing to do with the breweries, brewpubs or vacation logistics … is the people! Craft beer geeks LOVE getting the chance to meet their fellow suds-lovers from out of town, so be sure to reach out and let people know you’re invading their neck of the woods. Twitter is obviously great for this, as you can just put it out to the Twitterverse that you’re coming to town and would love to meet up for a pint.
In that spirit … if your next road trip for beer lands you in NYC, be sure to let me know… I’d love to meet you out for a beer!