Whether for a long weekend, a two week trek, or just a quick stopover, there's really only one thing a beer lover must know when visiting a new place: where’s the beer at? Sure, planning a trip entirely around beer can get a tad obsessive -- but there can also be a method to the madness!
Take our advice and follow these steps to most efficiently plan the beer vacation of your dreams:
Step 1: Choose a Vacation Spot
Selecting a beer-friendly destination isn’t as much of a challenge as it was a few years ago, back when the beer scene was focused in a few areas like San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Denver, Vermont, and Asheville. These days, one can find fun beer stuff to do pretty much anywhere -- so even if you need to visit family in Columbus, Indianapolis, or Shreveport, you’ll have research (i.e. drinking) to do.
This also applies to work trips: heading to Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles? You could check out Right Proper Brewing Company, Threes Brewing, or Monkish Brewing Co., respectively. Your typical beer nerd (if not traveling for work or with family) will often plan a trip around either a beer event, or an area with a maximum density of quality breweries and beer bars. Or, just a cool vacation spot like San Francisco, Portland (Maine), or New Orleans.
If you’re looking for international shenanigans, there are the beer culture capitals of Belgium, Germany, and the UK to dive into. Each has vibrant beer communities in nearly every city, which makes traveling in any of these countries lots of fun. But there are also pockets of wine-focused cities like Paris, Milan, Italy's Lombardy region, or the Catalonia region of Spain, for example, that have emerging and unique beer scenes. Needless to say, in addition to offering great beer and wine, these areas are also known for their amazing food. And the rich culture ain’t a bad bonus, either.
credits:"Lars Plougmann / Flickr" width:800 align:center
Step 2: Research Hotels
An itinerary should incorporate lodging, meals, and transportation. But perhaps more importantly: where to purchase and taste beer. Which is where Google Maps comes in handy: Search your chosen city for hotels and breweries or beer bars and investigate where these venues overlap. (It helps to have two different maps in side-by-side tabs to compare.)
Staying in a hotel or Airbnb near several breweries and beer bars is one factor to consider. But it’s also important to think about access to public transportation, walking proximity, and whether or not the rooms in your lodging of choice have refrigerators to chill beers. And you might as well see if the restaurants, sights, and museums you want to check out are nearby, too.
One sound strategy is to book a room at one of the increasing number of hotels that are owned by or partner with breweries -- or have simply figured out how to cater to beer nerds. The Rogue Bed & Beer Inn on the Oregon coast in Newport offers rooms over the Rogue Ale Public House, and the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware features 16 rooms, shuttle service to the Dogfish Head brewery, and access to VIP tours.
In 2018, Stone Brewing will open the country’s largest brewery hotel with 99 rooms in Escondido, CA. Scotland-based BrewDog is also planning on opening a 50-room “DogHouse” attached to its new sour beer facility in Ohio. (Perhaps it’ll have some of these amenities.) Such hotels might take out much of the fun of beercation planning, but they can also provide a very low-stress and easy way to find a nice place to sleep and drink beer.
Step 3: Make a List and Prioritize
Now that you’ve got a destination and a hotel, it’s time to select the breweries you want to visit. Be careful: here's where things can get overwhelming. Go back to your map of brewery points, plug in your lodging location, and do some poking around online to see what breweries and bars offer the beer styles and vibes you’re looking for. Then rank them in order of preference.
Ranking is important, because you likely won’t be able to go to all the breweries and beer bars you want to. Remember, you're on vacation; not running a grueling, endless beer-fueled marathon. (That is, unless your vacation actually consists of running in a beer-fueled 26.2 mile race...which, frankly, sounds horrible.) Especially if you’re traveling with someone who’s not as obsessed with beer, trying to cram every beer-related spot into your visit can be stressful and overindulgent, leading to rough mornings after -- none of which is any fun on a vacation.
Bank on no more than two to four breweries or beer bars per day, depending on how close they are to one another -- and if you can incorporate meals at one or two of them. And make sure to enjoy some non-beer related activities, too! They can actually be fun and interesting, and will make each beer in between taste that much better.
Step 4: Bringing it Home
You might want to bring back beers to enjoy at home or share with friends. Since you can’t fly with liquids in carry-on luggage, you'll need to pack them in your checked bags. For this, I recommend investing in a hard shell suitcase in a carry-on size (if it’s full-size and you load it up with bottles and cans, the heavy load will likely exceed the luggage weight limit.) You can pack bubble wrap in your suitcase, but I advise simply using your clothes (clean or dirty!) to pad and buffer the beer. I also like flying Southwest because there’s no charge to check bags. And if you'd like to dive deeper into this particular topic, here are some other great tips for traveling with beer.
Now you've got a clear plan: research, prioritize, and prepare to bring home some delicious liquid souvenirs. And don't forget to do some non-beer stuff in between! (If only a little.)