Faux Pas?

Imagine a wine bar, populated by the usual patrons.  Stan reviews the long list of pinot noir, cabernet franc, traminette, and tempranillo local wines.  He ultimately orders a glass of Almaden jug white Zinfandel. He enjoys it, but is it appropriate?

Rogue Alcohol TourismWe have been to many breweries and brewpubs which, somewhat inexplicably, offered mass-produced commercial beer.  The Rogue bar in San Francisco listed, “Bud Light, no joke.”  At Madison Brewing in Bennington, VT, we saw someone drinking a Sam Adams beer.  In contrast, Copper Creek in Athens offers only their beers, and, when asked for some mass-produced beer, explain that they offer only their own craft-brewed beer.

On one hand, this is similar to going to an Irish pub and ordering a taco.  The whole reason one goes to an Irish pub is for bangers and mash, fish and chips, or similar.  Why would you order a taco?  Go to a Mexican restaurant if that’s what you want.

On the other hand, I remember a quote from a brewpub owner at the Great American Beer Fest who said something like, I am in the brewpub business- which is to say, the restaurant business.  This suggests that brewpub owners are really selling food, with their beer as a draw as opposed to the focus.

So, craft brewers face a dilemma.  If they only offer Beer Sober Kids Alcohol Tourismtheir own beers, they risk turning off a large portion of customers who insist on mass produced beer.  If they offer mass-produced beer, they risk diluting the effect of their own efforts to spread delicious beer.  From the brewer’s perspective, we have no answers.  From the consumer’s perspective, we believe that customers should be there to consume the product that the brewer is producing.  So, drink the beer they make there!

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Friendly Alcohol Establishment Owners

“So, where are you guys from?” asked by the brewer at Sunken City, a usual opening line.  “What brings you here?” often follows.  After we briefly explain alcohol tourism, the proprietor perks up.  “Do you guys have a blog?”

Sunken City Alcohol Tourism

Sunken City’s Beer Lineup

One of the best things about alcohol tourism is the opportunity to meet other people who are interested in what we’re interested in.  This is particularly true of the owner/brewer/vintner/etc. of the establishment.  We can talk beer or wine or mead all day long with another interested party.  One of the most interesting chats we had was with Roanoke Railhouse Brewing’s owner.

Most craft brewery owners and brewers come into the profession by way of brewing.  They did homebrewing, or did it professionally elsewhere before opening their own brewery, etc.  Railhouse Brewing’s owner was a marketing guy.  He told us the story of how he decided to open a brewery.  He was getting his tires changed and walked into the large back space of the tire company.  It had high ceilings, drains in the floor, commercial gas and electric, and he said this space needed a brewery.

His take on making beer is also unique.  He approaches it from the marketing end- what do people want to drink?  He shared an anecdote of when they did focus groups.  They gave everyone 8 beers, asked them to rate them 1-5, and also asked what their favourite domestic and imported beers are.  The focus group participants consistently claimed their favourite beers were ones like Dos Equis and Budweiser, but then rated those beers (when blinded to what beer they were drinking) consistently low.

Roanoke Railhouse Alcohol TourismAs a consequence, Railhouse makes some excellent beer.  Their IPA was one of the best we had on the trip- great malt backbone, a little fruitiness, and a mild bitterness which didn’t linger.  The owner shared that they aim to have a clean finish on all their beers.  Their stout, dunkel, and Belgian pale were all remarkably well crafted to the style as well as being extremely approachable and flavourful.  It is a combination that’s difficult to get, and Railway hit it on the head.

Next time you go to a winery or brewery, chat with the people there.  You never know what you’ll learn, or who you’ll meet.

Least Favourite New England Locales

We try not to be negative, but we do have opinions which we like to share.  We won’t say you shouldn’t visit these locations (well, except McNeills- it was horrible), just that we didn’t enjoy them as much as we had hoped we would.

Magic Hat Brewing, South Burlington VTMagic Hat Alcohol Tourism

Their hop-centered lineup was disappointing but unsurprising.  They did offer free tastings, which was nice.  The space was primarily a retail space, and their edginess we liked but it was a bit overblown.

Long Trail Brewing, Bridgewater Corners VT

This was a recommendation of a friend, so we had big expectations.  The beer was all hop-balanced and not to style.  The scenery was amazing- right on the river on an outdoor deck- and the food was fantastic.

McNeill’s Brewing, Brattleboro VT

Live Irish music, a cozy Irish pub, what’s not to like?  The service and beer were both atrocious, and we expect this business is not long for this world.

Rising Tide Brewing & Bunker Brewing, Portland ME

We’ve talked about these elsewhere– the beer is just not good and the ambiance was very uncomfortable.

Maine Beer Alcohol TourismMaine Beer Company, Freeport ME

Although contemporary, this place had a chill atmosphere we appreciated.  The ‘clever’ names they had for their beers made it difficult to order and determine the style.  Everything was over-hopped for the style, and only the stout was even drinkable.

Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem NC

The only place on our trip that charged a splitting fee.  Sharing meals is how we can afford these trips, so this was a major strike against.  Also, the beer wasn’t good- everything was too extreme in one direction or the other.

I’m sure there are many who would disagree with us, especially about Magic Hat and the Rising Tide/Bunker Brewing vibe.  That’s perfectly fine.  But we do encourage you to check out our favourite New England trip locales for a more likely positive experience.

Susan Notes Alcohol Tourism

Susan keeps all the notes about the drinks, food, and setting on our journeys.

Favourite New England Alcohol Locales

Alcohol Tourism Vermont Pub

In case you are ever in the neighborhood, these are the locations we would recommend you visit without question:

Vermont Pub, Burlington, VT

Although they didn’t fill our non-Vermont-Pub growler, the food was quite good, the vibe was quiet and comfortable, and the beer was outstanding and served at the proper temperature.

Alcohol Tourism Otter Creek

 

Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury VT

Another comfortable, quiet location.  Quite good food and interesting beers.  Not all of them were excellent, but the types of beers they had available were unique and worth trying.

 

 

Vermont Spirits Distilling, Hartford VT

Very pleasant host, impressively delicious spirits, and a free tasting (classy) make us huge fans.  A definite must.

Maine Mead Works, Portland ME

A free tasting of an impressive lineup, and probably the best mead we have ever tasted.  The tasting room can get a bit crowded, so go during down times.

Seadog Brewing, Topsham MEAlcohol Tourism Seadog Brewing

We were there during a quiet, down time, so your experience may vary.  All the beers were to style, the flavours complex without being overwhelming, and they were all very drinkable.  We got a seat by the window overlooking the river, adding to the great ambience.

Run of the Mill Brewery, Saco ME

Another place we hit during a down time, it has a nice pub feel.  The food was outstanding, the view spectacular, and the beer very much to style and British.  We could have had a pint of any of them.

Roanoke Railhouse Brewing, Roanoke VA

Although not in New England, the beer here was flavorful and clean and interesting and very much to style.  We wish we could have taken away a six pack of each of their beers.  No food available nearby, though, so eat before you come.

These are the highlights- we enjoyed so many locations on this trip.  You can see them all on our Google map of the journey here.