In Search of Beer Travel Tips
If there is anything I love as much as I love beer, it is traveling. My wife and I try to go on at least one trip every year, and more often than not that trip takes us outside the US. Wherever we go, though, whether it is Australia, somewhere in Europe, or a quick jaunt over to California, a pattern always emerges: we travel to eat and drink. And no matter where we wind up, be it a rural tourist town in eastern Europe or a capital city in New Zealand, there is always one thing that can be counted on. I will find a brewery.
It doesn’t matter if I’m looking or not. Some we actively seek out (as was the case when we went four hours out of our way to visit the Schlenkerla brewery in Bamberg). Some we just stumble upon (like Theresienbrau in Innsbruck, a small tourist town I didn’t bother looking into because I never thought they’d have one). But, no matter where you’re going, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered based solely on personal experience.
Drink Local. This may seem obvious, but many people abroad find themselves gravitating to the familiar in foreign locales. None of the restaurants look good? Screw it, let’s go to McDonald’s. Don’t know if you’ll like the beer they have on offer? Hey, check it out under “Imports”—Budweiser! Please, avoid this mindset. Don’t even ironically drink American beer abroad, because you’re going to get home and realize all the different options you missed out on while you were Instagramming the picture of you drinking a Miller in Europe. Even if you don’t get a super rare craft beer option, stick to local. You may be surprised to know the Guinness in Ireland is unlike anything you’ll get in the states. The only thing close to an exception I’ve come to for this rule is when we were in Vienna and happened upon a microbrewery that had licensed the recipe for Victory’s Hop Devil. This is simply filed under “interesting experience.”
Drink as much as you can. Don’t get this confused—this is NOT a license to get wastey-pants and embarrass Americans more than we already are. What I mean by this is diversify. Whenever we go to a brewery or brewpub I’ve never been to, the choice is automatic: get the sampler. If I decide I like something and have the time (and constitution), I’ll order a pint of whatever it is, but I want to experience as much of a new brewery as possible, especially if there’s a very good chance I’ll never be getting back to it. For example, even though we were in Bamberg solely to go to Schlenkerla, I still went to other breweries and got samplers. This was cutting into the volume of my all-time favorite beer, but I still had to try all the other places out (though we DID go to Schlenkerla twice).
Have a plan, but leave time to explore. Especially if you go to a big beer-drinking city, you’re going to want to be able to maximize your time. When we went to California over the summer, you bet your sweet ass I had a day planned out when we went to Bear Republic, Russian River, and Lagunitas. It didn’t necessarily turn out as we’d hoped, but we made it. On the same note, though, when my wife and I spent an afternoon wandering around Petaluma, we stumbled upon Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery, which meant another sampler in my pocket. It wasn’t a very good one, but at least now I know.
Observe local drinking customs. Please don’t make yourself look like an ass by not knowing what you’re doing. Even if it’s something as simple as looking someone in the eyes when you say “Prost” in Germany (seven years of bad sex if you don’t), or something as respectful as never drinking before your elders in Korea, always stay on the ball and try not to offend anyone. There are plenty of lists of local drinking customs around the world. Be sure to look up wherever you are going and familiarize yourself with the way they do things.
When traveling, going to larger brewery and getting something they only serve in-house, or finding an unheard-of microbrewery can both be equally satisfying. To wrap these tips up into a easily-digestible package, try as much variety as you can without making an ass of yourself and giving your fellow countrymen a bad name. It’s as simple as that. And whether you’re traveling for food, beer, wine, or just to see some historic monuments, just do it. Just travel. Get out and explore the world. It’s makes the world that much smaller, brings everyone closer, and truly makes you a better person. Enjoy it.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled? What is your favorite travel beer experience?