Ireland – Dublin

Alcohol Tourism Belgian Beer Atlanta Aiport“Belgian Beer” said the auspicious sign immediately outside our gate in the International terminal of the Atlanta Airport.  A pint of Rare Vos later, we were set to begin the journey to Ireland.

We had both been to Ireland once alone and once with each other, for our 1 year anniversary.  This trip would mark our 6 year anniversary, 5 years since our last journey to Ireland.  On our last trip, we had a hard time finding breweries or brewpubs not associated with a major, large brewer like Guinness. Guinness was our first favorite beer, so we didn’t miss our beloved craft beer too much.  Wine seems to be unmade on this island, and the distilleries often did not have tours.  Let’s see if time has improved Ireland’s alcohol tourism prospects.

Our first pints, in the Clontarf Castle Hotel’s Knight’s Bar pub, had to be Guinness and a cider, though they didn’t have Bulmers on tap.  The next day saw us start at Grogans Castle Lounge.  We had heard about the pub from Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap, who hailed it as a great place for a chat.  That night, and the next time we tried it Saturday afternoon, it was crowded to the point just beyond standing-room-only.  Maybe if you arrived at 10am you could get a spot to have a chat.  After that was JW Sweetman’s in downtown Dublin.  We had been to Sweetman’s previous incarnation, Messr Maguire’s, on our last trip and were delighted to score the same quiet, tucked away spot to have our drinks and meal.  Their Irish Red Ale was a bit hoppy for that style- more like an American Red.  The Weiss was our favourite, with a nice banana aroma and a wonderful creamy mouthfeel.

Alcohol Tourism Against the Grain DublinThe next day saw us in what can simply be described as a Wonder of the World- a pub on a college campus.  Maybe they have these outside of the South, but I cannot imagine the outcry if any Southern university were to put a pub on campus.  The Clubhouse at UCD was surprisingly lively, as the quiet and comfy lounge was closed.  Still, the concept is sound- let’s get on this one, America.

Our last alcohol stop was Against the Grain, an outlet of the Galway Bay brewing company.  Their beer was delightful- the milk stout and the wee heavy were absolute stand outs.  We managed to find an off-license (liquor store) which featured several dozen Irish craft beers.  We selected Kinnegar’s porter, Bo Bristle’s stout, Jack Cody’s Samhain, and Dan Kelley’s cider.  Each was quite impressive, rivalling the best American craft beers for their adherence to style and pleasant mouthfeel.  This bodes well for Ireland’s alcohol touring prospects this trip.

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Blue Ridge Adventures

Last week, we went up to the Blue Ridge mountains in north Georgia with our friends.  We go to the cabins regularly.  Most of our time is usually spent relaxing, hot tub-ing, and drinking with our friends in the cabin.  There are decent wine offerings in north Georgia, but we don’t like paying for tastings (although we’re happy to buy a bottle if they waive the tasting fee).  Until recently, there were no decent beer offerings in north Georgia.  Fortunately, the times have changed.

The first beer-related enterprise we became aware of was Blue Ridge Brewery.  We went in relatively soon after it opened and were disappointed that it was a nice restaurant without their own beers.  They intended to get a license to become a brewpub, but year after year passed with no apparent progress.  Now, however, it seems like they are finally up and running.  Sadly, we didn’t learn this until after the rest of our adventures.  But it will now be on our short list to investigate.

Our first stop of the day was Grumpy Old Men Brewing.  Their motto is great, “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it.  If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.”  The ambiaBlueRidgeGrumpyOldMen1nce was quite pleasant- mellow and friendly, and they had coloring books and pencils set out!  Like all Georgia breweries, they had to sell us the glass and then we could have tasting gratis.  With three IPAs on draft, it wasn’t exactly our favourite lineup, but they did have a nice seasonal milk stout.  It was a very down-to-earth comfy place we would definitely recommend.

A short stroll across town took us to Fannin Brewing Company.  The 1205151731inside area was not very cozy- it seemed designed as an outdoor sitting area type tasting room.  Their beer lineup, though, was amazing.  Almost each beer they had on tap was excellent, and they had a couple which we could not get enough of- the Hivekicker Wheat Wine and the Chocolate Rye Porter.  Sadly, we arrived late, but will definitely plan a repeat visit next time.

All in all, we are fairly impressed with the recent explosion of beer offerings in Blue Ridge.  North Carolina gets all the glory these days, but if you’re around, you should check out the north Georgia mountains.  It’s a great vacation spot, and now they have good beer!

6 Ways to Do Budget Alcohol Tourism

Travel in general is expensive.  Once you add the cost of alcohol and eating at brewpubs and similar establishments, it can be daunting.  We’re here to tell you it may not be as expensive as you fear.
1) Motel 6 and Super 8

We arrived at a Comfort Inn, price tag of $105/night.  After 10 AlcoholTourismMotel6minutes of driving, we found a very nice Motel 6, price tag of $60/night.  Since we were planning to stay two nights, we saved nearly $100 with just a few minutes of research.  We cannot stress enough- find affordable lodging.  If you are overseas, hostels are usually a good option.  Always always check the room before you commit, though.  We have encountered some budget accommodation which was definitely gross, but most of them are perfectly fine.  Our advice: avoid the fancy pants hotels.  Stay cheap.

2) Bring a friendAlcoholTourismAshevilleFriends

If you don’t have a significant other who loves alcohol touring, bring a friend!  Gas, lodging, and similar expenses can be split.  Also, very importantly, you have someone to finish off beer and wine tastings while you drive safely.  If you have a number of people you can be in a small space with for hours on end, pile your friends together for a tour!

3) Share meals

You plan to fill up on beer, right?  So why buy an entire meal for yourself?  Beer is filling- split a meal with your compatriots and fill up on delicious, tasty beer (or wine, or spirits).  We have done this for a couple of years and it dramatically reduces our costs.

4) Drink in

It is tempting to have a night out on the town with delicious beer, wine, spirits, etc.  As much as possible, though, get your booze to go.  Get a growler, buy some bottles of wine, and enjoy them back in your motel room.  You can still experience the pleasure of the drink you have purchased, for a substantially reduced cost.

5) Eat Out Less

We eat no more than two meals out a day, sometimes only one. AlcoholTourismEatIn If you stay at a motel that offers breakfast, take advantage of that and skip lunch.  If you plan to have lunch and dinner, don’t eat out for breakfast.  If you are staying in a hostel, shop at the grocery and cook your own food.  When you do eat out, takeways and fish and chip shops (overseas) and pizza and pubs (at home) provide good food for low cost.

6) Build Delicious Flights

Many places have set beer or wine tastings, which may include drinks you don’t enjoy.  Instead, try and build your own.  That won’t waste any beer or wine (our IPA taste glasses often remain mostly full) and will give you the best experience possible.

Alcohol touring, like any travel, has associated expenses.  Being smart with your money, travelling with friends, and keeping it simple will help to keep those expenses handle-able, so you can enjoy more alcohol locales!

Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis is dominated by sports facilities – a Indiana State That Worksstadium, fieldhouse, and baseball field exist within a half mile of eachother.  Indiana also seems to embrace the midwestern spirit of Working Hard.  Also, who knows anything about Indianapolis?  On the basis of these variables, I expected to find little other than Coors or Bud Light for beer.  Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the pubs of downtown.

As I walked through downtown, every fancy-ish restaurant was packed with people.  Businesspeople, people dressed up on dates, etc.  The restaurants were clearly swanky and not to my liking, so I assumed the brewpubs would be packed to the gills.  The brewpubs were the quietest places in all of downtown.  While this was good for me, it’s also a little sad- why are you people patronizing the swanky places and not the good beer places?!?

Loughmiller's Pub & EateryLoughmiller’s Pub and Eatery was a decently quiet Irish pub, although the sports had obviously invaded, as they have in many American Irish pubs.  The beer and food were both good, though, and rain poured outside while I refreshed myself en route to more beer greatness.

Taps and Dolls was virtually abandoned, and had a decent- if not stellar- beer lineup.  Tow Yard Brewing had two fellows at the bar and myself on a Saturday night.  It was weird.  The beer was too hop-centered for my taste, but the bartender was talkative and clearly interested in beer.

It’s difficult to say if I would recommend Indianapolis or not.  On the one hand, it was safe, Tow Yard Flighteasily walked, and had a decent selection of beer-focused establishments which were quiet.  On the other hand, it was eerily empty in those establishments and the beer was only passable- not exceptional.  Like Indiana itself, I support.

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!

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.