“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?”
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.
As 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.