“What,” you might be asking yourself, “is an entry about something touristy doing on this idealistic, go-your-own-way-man, individualistic travel/alcohol review blog?” Not a bad question, because it certainly belies our travel philosophy to join a traditional alcohol tour. But they do have their merits!
I consider a ‘traditional’ alcohol tour one where you pay an outfitter a fee and they arrange transport to and fro alcohol locales, along with tastings at those locales. There are dozens of these in most mega-wine areas (such as South Australia and Napa Valley), and there is an increasing trend for them to cover urban locales and breweries/brewpubs. My first outfitter alcohol tour was around Adelaide, and it was delightful (if not as fun because this was in my pre-Susan days). Our first brew tour, offered by Asheville Brews Cruise, was mad- they gave us pint after pint of incredibly delicious beer- and we have been back twice.
Alcohol tours are enormously helpful if you are travelling solo and want to imbibe more than a small tasting sip of each beer/wine/spirit. They provide transportation, so you have no worries about driving afterwards. If you lack a car (as I did in Adelaide), they are essential to reach wineries and some out-of-town breweries. Some tours use bicycles for the mode of transportation, though we haven’t tried bicycles ourselves.
Tour outfitters often give you a backstage pass at each destination. Brews Cruise will show you into the brewing operation and give you a chance to talk with a staff member, check out equipment, and learn more about beer. Tours offer a broader range of samples than might be offered to most customers, and a guide will walk you through what you are tasting- how it was made, what flavors they were aiming for, and any special ingredients included. This is a boon to those with any social anxiety, as you can learn about the drink without having to poke your nose into things. For those without social anxiety, or for those with alcohol-mitigated social anxiety, it’s great to enjoy the camaraderie of being around other people with similar levels of enthusiasm!
One major drawback of an outfitter tour is that they require money (typically more than if you paid tasting fees at each winery/brewery). In our experience, tours provide a lot of wine/beer, so you get a great bang for your buck. The other drawback is you can’t plan your itinerary exactly how you want, and the tour may not be available when you are. In Asheville, NC, we love going to Pisgah, Highland, and Asheville Brewing Company, but Brews Cruise no longer offers this particular combination. No worries- we go on our own!
Even if this isn’t entirely your thing, it might be worth trying once or twice, especially if you’re new to an area and want to try a lot of breweries/wineries and don’t want to have to drive yourself. After that first time or two, you can always go it on your own.
-Erik & Susan