I don’t travel as much as I should.
It’s hard, what with two jobs and a family, to head to Vermont or the west coast or Colorado. It’s actually been almost two years since my last trip anywhere (St. Maarten excluded), and in that time the craft beer scene has exploded, grown and matured.
Finding the time
Right, the predictable “wah, I have no time” crap I complain about constantly. Joke’s on you, though! Sort of.
The problem I run into frequently is that I am the only beer lover in my family in a given situation. My mom and some male in-laws* are as well, but no one else, and that’s fine! Nobody has to like anything. The result, though, is that I don’t feel right touring a brewery a day (or more!).
I’ve settled on a happy medium. I allow myself one beer venture per trip, so I can have fun and be edified but not completely bore the people I’m with. Brewpubs are excellent for this, because while I nerd out about beer (Cambridge Brewing Company has a gruit) everyone else eats dinner like we would have anyway.
Finding the beer
Here’s my problem: I’ve got one shot. I need to make it count.
I’m heading to the DC area in the near future**. It’s been two years since I was there, and in that time my options have increased exponentially. If I can only see one thing, what should it be?
There are a few ways to go about finding places to visit. If it’s a major metropolitan area, chances are there’s a BeerAdvocate guide sorted by rank. Keep in mind that “better” isn’t necessarily better, and so you shouldn’t limit yourself to the top two or three places. Explore.
There’s also your good friend the search engine. Personally, I’m partial to DuckDuckGo on account of the tracking thing but really, brewery|brewpub +city-name will do you well (or you could get fancy and try ~brewery +city-name)***. The caveat here is that the brewery best at SEO is not necessarily the brewery best at making beer (he says, eyeing the Google results his brewery should be higher in).
Google Maps is an option too, albeit one I’ve never used. I talked to Alex about this, as he’s traveled much more than I have, and he told me he’s searched th’ ol’ Maps before, as have a few out-of-town customers who have stopped into the brewery. (An extreme caveat here about verifying addresses: Google Maps said we were on Delavan for a while, and searching for Buffalo ReUse will still take you to The Foundry)
There’s also the old standard of word of mouth. Alex has taken trips specifically for certain breweries (and the steady stream of Heady Topper coming into the city indicates he isn’t the only one). Ask your friends. Post in the Buffalo Beer Geeks, or the Beer Goddesses, or another beer lover’s group or homebrew club. Think of the breweries you like and where they’re based. That’s how I took my trip to Flying Dog back in 2009: it’s literally five minutes off the road from DC back to Buffalo.
Finding the balance
There are 5-10 breweries, bars and brewpubs I’d love to visit in DC. I’m going to go to one. I’m limited by no one else liking beer, by not wanting to make a family trip about beer, by needing a kid’s menu (ChurchKey looks great, but there is nothing there for a 4 year old).
And that’s fine. If I go to one new beer spot per vacation, I’m still expanding my horizons. So, allow me to end on the predictable but important advice to do what thou wilt and be happy with whatever happens.
Soon: dispatches from DC.
* I’m not trying to make statements about gender roles; it’s just how it’s shaken out. Well, my sister in law discovered she likes Liefmans Fruitesse but then she drinks it with ice and I lose control of my motor functions and start flailing about wildly in despair. (to be fair, she’s also become fond of Witte and Rusty Chain)
** Yes, I am one of those people who doesn’t say exactly when they’re out of town on the internet so nobody robs me. I have an extensive collection of pint glasses worth tens of dollars!
*** brewery|brewpub is brewery or brewpub, +city-name requires city-name be present and ~brewery is “words like brewery”