So you want to be an alcohol tourist? Who wouldn’t! Built-in travel destinations en route, convenient distances between ‘attractions’, a cultural and flavor experience unparalleled except in expensive guided tours! Becoming an alcohol tourist is fairly simple, but here are helpful guidelines to success:
1) Be Flexible
In our opinion, this is a good rule for travel in general. Some of our best finds have been when we couldn’t get into the winery we intended to see, so ended up at a wonderful little local winery. Maybe you arrived after the brewery tour started (or couldn’t find it in the first place- thanks Highland Brewery). Maybe you got up too late to hit your original destination. Don’t worry. Try to ask yourself, “Okay, so what’s next?” As much as possible, we follow the homebrewer’s mantra: Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Home Brew (RDWHAHB).
2) Identify a Destination
This is the key to successful alcohol tourism, and Google Maps is there to make it possible! Pull up a map of where you are now and type in ‘brewpub’, ‘brewery’, ‘winery’, or ‘distillery’. Pan out or around- you may need to refresh your search if you pan a long distance from where you started. We usually start with ‘brewpub’ and then repeat with other terms. Click on a balloon and see if it’s a destination which piques your interest. NB: This works great in the US, NZ, Oz, Erie, and UK- other countries we haven’t tried.
Our second method to identify a destination is to find local tourism guides or maps relating to beer, wine, and/or spirits. For example, there’s Tennesse’s Whiskey Trail, NZ Beer Destinations: South Island, and Tasmania’s Breweries and Distilleries.3) Be Responsible
If you are driving yourself to breweries or wineries and imbibing, there is no question you are endangering yourself and others. We solve this by travelling together- Susan does more sampling and I drive. When we stop for lunch at a brewpub, we always make sure to get food with a sampling flight (or tasting flight, or sampler platter- so many designations!). We only get a tasting flight and don’t order pints for consumption- lunch is all about tasting. At wineries, don’t be afraid to dump it! Susan and I will often split a single taster at wineries instead of each having our own- it cuts down on consumption and cost and they usually provide plenty of wine for you to appreciate flavors. If you are driving yourself, take snacks if you are visiting wineries, have small sips, and have a little break- maybe with a nice book and a pleasant winery view- before hitting the road again.
4) Have Interest in the Experience
This usually goes without saying for travel blogs, but it bears repeating here. Be interested in the experience and savor it- don’t only try to hit as many wineries or breweries as possible in a day. Try to learn a bit about the product- sample different varietals and compare them with ones back home (Tassie cellar door Pinot Noirs have become distinctly more tannic in recent years). Try to learn about more than 300 styles of beer. Become educated in four regions of Scotland which generate Scotch, and try to taste differences. Compare how American, Canadian, and Irish whiskey differ from each other at distilleries. Alcohol tourism gives you a destination, but having an interest in the subject will keep you engaged and learning about local culture.
5) Find a Nearby Place to Stay
Again using Google Maps, once you have identified your brewpub of choice (or winery, if you can afford pricey dinners there), find a nearby place to stay. We try to stay within walking distance of our final daily brewpub so we can have a few more drinks beyond our typical tasting flight. Center Google Maps on your final alcohol destination and type in “motel”, “hotel”, “hostel”, etc. in the search bar at the top. You can use the ‘Get Directions’ button and then click the little walking man icon to find out how far you will end up walking. If you can’t find anything close but want to go to a brewpub, check on getting a growler from the brewpub- we did this regularly in Colorado and simply enjoyed part of a growler back in our hotel room!
6) Wander Around
Susan and I are big fans of walking, and most breweries, brewpubs, and distilleries we have found within the US are located in cool downtown areas worth exploring. Hit the street and wander in to shops. This can give you a great sense of place- from cool and hip to rural and laid back. Most wineries are located away from business areas, but there still can be pleasant walks from the cellar door.
Above all, have fun with your travel experience. Realize that how you travel differs from anyone else, and it’s OK to do your own thing. But alcohol tourism really is awesome.