The International Herald Tribune has nice article today on what it refers to as “brewery hopping”, or what we all know as “a Pilgrimage” (i.e., visiting craft breweries and tasting the beer).
From the article:
Although beer lacks a major destination such as Napa Valley in California, many beer aficionados are taking vacations that are more like extended beer runs, visiting the nation’s many craft breweries, brewpubs and beer festivals.
I take issue with the first part of that quote. “Napa Valley” isn’t the only wine producing region in the country, it’s not even the best (Sonoma is much better IMHO) — it’s just the most heavily marketed. Beer has lots of great regions — Portland, the Great Lakes, Northern California (including Sonoma), and my favorite (because it’s home) — San Diego.
Real beer lovers, of course, know this, but because these regions don’t engage in all that fancy marketing stuff, “regular people” don’t. Molly and I haven’t taken a roadtrip and visited anywhere near the number of breweries we’d like to (work, kids, school, and life always seem to interfere), but hanging around the San Diego brew scene, we’ve met a lot (and I mean A LOT) of people who are doing just that. A conversation with Beer Pilgrims usually goes something like this:
ME: “So, are you from San Diego?”
PILGRIM: “No, we’re from (insert state/country here).”
ME: “Ah, so out here on vacation. So what have you had a chance to do so far? The zoo? Wild Animal Park? The beach? Sea World, Mountains? Desert? Mexico?”
PILGRIM: “No, none of that.”
ME: “So what then?”
PILGRIM: “We’ve done Karl Strauss, Ballast Point, Pizza Port – Solana Beach and Carlsbad, Green Flash, Oceanside Ale Works and Lost Abbey. Tomorrow we’re doing Stone, AleSmith, Lightning and San Diego Brewing. Then we’ll go over to Alpine.”
I think San Diego beer tourism is terrific. For basically the cost of one day at a place like Sea World, you get to see pretty much the entire county — from the city to the beaches, over to the mountains and the desert just beyond. Plus you get to sample a ton of absolutely fantastic beers, meet a lot of interesting (and never pretentious or irritating) people, and generally have a great time.
It’s something I think every true beer lover has to do at least once.
Maybe it’s time breweries, brewpubs, restaurants and beer aficionados got together and started doing some marketing to the masses to promote beer tourism in their region(s) the way Napa, Sonoma, et al do. Some classy travel campaigns could go a long way toward eliminating the “lower class” impression the public has of beer and beer drinkers. (Heck, if the wine guys can make it respectable to drink a $2 bottle of wine, we should be able to make it respectable to drink a $9 bottle of beer.)
You can read the full International Herald Tribune article right here.
(They’ve also got a list and links to a number of breweries and brew festivals around the country.)