The Session #93: Beer Travel

The SessionThis past Friday was the first one of November, and for timely beer bloggers everywhere (which I am not in recent months, at least as far as getting these posts out on time), it was the collaborative beer blogging day for The Session. This month’s Session was hosted by Brian at The Roaming Pint and he conjured up the topic of Beer Travel to chew on:

In Session #29, Beer by Bart asked writers to tell him about their favorite beer trips to which he got some great responses of personal favorites and general tips for certain cities.

So as not to tread over old ground my question is going to focus on the “why” more than the “what”. So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?

The idea was to respond to one or more of those posed questions, and of course to stimulate thought. To my mind, the first of those questions is the most important.

Why is it important for us to visit the place where our beers are made?

I think the answer is simple: to better understand and appreciate the beer. The discussion is a bit more complex.

There’s something to be said for the “fresh factor” of drinking beer from the source, though visiting a brewery is not always a guarantee that the beer you drink will be particularly fresh—I’ve had my share of stale beers “from the source,” as we all have I’m sure. It certainly doesn’t hurt: if you visit Russian River Brewing and they’ve just tapped a brand-new keg of Pliny the Elder, then it doesn’t get any better than that! But I really don’t consider how fresh the beer is when I’m beer traveling. For me I’m excited to explore new breweries, and new beers, and (as a writer) new stories.

When you experience the story of the brewery—a story that is presented in myriad ways, whether you take a brewery tour, or meet the brewers themselves, or see what part of town it’s in, or how it’s decorated, or any number of other little things—it can give you much more context and appreciation of the beer they brew. Much more than you will experience drinking a bottle of their beer from hundreds or even thousands of miles away or just reading their website. It’s like the difference between visiting an amusement park and only reading about it—it is something you simply have no context for until you visit and go on the rides.

I’m not gonna lie, not every brewery and beer is a winner, and I’ve occasionally been disappointed with one or both after visiting. We all have. To use my amusement park analogy, maybe it’s like being on the ride where that one weak-stomached kid pukes all over the place, or where you wait in line half an hour for the one ride you really wanted to go on only to have them close it just before you get there.

But even in those cases visiting can be instructional, or enlightening. I’d rather have a great “bad beer” story to tell friends over good beer, or learn that doing X and Y to a beer might sound like a great idea but really isn’t which might be something that helps another brewer at another brewery sometime.

All these sound like lofty goals and ideals, it’s true. The other real reason we should travel for beer is quite simple: it’s fun.