With the rapid growth of the craft beer movement over the past few years and accompanying proliferation of new brewing companies, breweries are popping up all over the place in this country. Even a cultural wasteland like the state of Indiana has a significant number of great local breweries you can find. And almost all these places are more than willing to open up their doors to the public and show everyone around on a tour of their humble brewery.
The actual tour of the facility is pretty much the same no matter what brewery you go to, especially the smaller craft ones. There’s only so many ways to tell people what the four main ingredients in beer are and show off the machinery used to package and label each bottle and can, even if the tour guide is funny. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty informative and interesting, especially if you’re just hearing it for the first time, but otherwise it’s pretty repetitive. The big breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Miller are better for this because you get to hear about the company’s long, deep history and see some of their cool marketing and advertising memorabilia from the past.
But you and I both know that’s not the reason we’re going on these tours. We do not give that much of a shit about the purity of the stream that these places source their water from, nor are we going to retain all that information about the brewing process so we can go home and try to do it ourselves in the garage. No, we are there first and foremost to sample some of that delicious product.
There is no better bang for your drinking buck than going on a brewery tour. For the most part, they’re relatively inexpensive and they usually let you sample a pretty solid amount of good beer. And these aren’t sissy light beers, either. I’m talking 6.0% ABV and over sockdolagers that pack a serious punch. Fair warning, you will absolutely be leaving that tour with at a buzz at the very least. If you go to a place where they give you tickets to redeem for drinks, you can very easily finagle more than your allotted amount from others who wastefully don’t use all theirs. This will allow you to get thoroughly blotto, and for a lot cheaper than if you had gone to a bar.
Other than the (sometimes generous) distribution of beers, the other factors that distinguish each tour apart from each other are the types of beer available and the manner in which they serve them. Some places might serve a drink that’s exclusive to either the area or the tour itself, which gives it some local flair. The bigger macrobreweries don’t always have the best or widest selection, but their tours are also free so I won’t complain about free beers and neither should you.
A lot of places are starting to build taphouses, which are basically bars that only serve their own beers, attached to or located near the brewery for everyone to come try their expansive selection. Once you’re done with your free ones you can continue drinking at full price, which is still fine because honestly, what better way to spend your day than by trying out some great new beers? My personal favorite was at the Samuel Adams tour, where they held the sampling in a beer hall where everyone sits down at these long Hogwarts tables and passes down pitchers of various beers to pour in their own glasses. It had a real Oktoberfest feel to it. It was also notable because at least a third of the people on it were Massholes who looked and acted like they came straight out of an SNL sketch.
Let’s give a shoutout to distillery and winery tours too. I’ve never been on either one of those (I’m more of a beer man myself, nor have I had the opportunity) but based on what others have told me, both really pipe it up too. I know I’m Kentucky they have the Bourbon Trail where you go to a bunch of distilleries as part of one big tour, and Northern California obviously has Napa Valley for wine. Those also sound like a rowdy time, but in a more sophisticated, classy kind of way. So while bars are fun to go to and it’s nice to relax with a few drinks at home on the couch, mix it up and go straight to the source of whatever drink you’re feeling this weekend. .