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Make it a Beer Vacation in 2014

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
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on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 in January 2014 Editions

Do you need to get away? Are you tired of vacationing in the same place year after year?  If you answered yes to these questions, maybe your first resolution for the New Year should be to plan something new, fun and completely different - so, why not take a beer vacation?  A beer vacation can take you to some never before visited place like Belgium with its unending variety of beer styles, or it might be an adventure closer to home visiting local microbreweries within a day or weekend’s drive.  In either case, the options for a beer vacation are almost limitless.

Vacations are tonic for the soul.  They provide us a mental break from the everyday routine of life. They refresh and recharge us so that we return more energetic and renewed about our lives and our jobs. They can be used as learning experiences or simply as a way to relax. The nice thing about taking a beer vacation is you can do it with family, with friends or all by yourself.  The only rule is there is no rule.

If vacations are meant to fun, then a beer vacation should be a hoot and a really cool thing to do. There are new places to visit and new things to see along the way, while having the opportunity to stop and savor new unfamiliar brews.  And, as beer drinking is a social event, meeting new people may turn out to be the most fun and rewarding part of all. 

Some years ago, noted author and political commentator William F. Buckley Jr. was asked by his father about the destination of his next vacation.  The younger Buckley replied in his book “Airborne”, “I don’t have time to take a vacation.”  His father averred, “….A busy man never has a good time to take a vacation; he must just take one!”  And with that advice, Buckley began a trans - Atlantic voyage in his sailboat.

LOCAL BEER ADVENTURES

Fortunately, you don’t need to cross the ocean in a sailboat to have a good adventure.  An entertaining microbrewery adventure is never more than an hour away no matter where you live in Maryland as there are more than two dozen microbreweries and brewpubs located throughout the state.  Most of them are concentrated in geographic pockets in Central Maryland, Baltimore and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

A great place to obtain information about our local breweries is by visiting the Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM) website www.Marylandbeer.com.  The Association lists its twenty-six members.  In addition to a list of members, the site provides links to their websites and a geographic map showing their location. Also, the individual websites provide information about beer tours and tastings. 

AMERICA’S FAVORITE BEER CITIES 

Travel & Leisure magazine in a recent article named its choices of America’s 20 best beer cities. Although the article is based solely on the opinion of its writers, it does provide an interesting bucket list of some great breweries to visit. The magazine’s top five choices are:

Portland, Oregon 

Widmer Brothers, Bridgeport, Deschutes
and Hopworks breweries.

Denver 

Home to many microbrewers
including Great Divide, Wynkoop
and the Great American Beer Festival

Portland, Maine 

Shipyard, DG Geary, Allagash
and Sebago breweries

Seattle, Washington 

Pyramid, Elysian and Fremont

Kansas City, Missouri

Boulevard, McCoy’s Public House,

75th Street Brewery and Gordon Biersch

If you don’t venture out on your own, private companies offer guided beer tours for purchase in each of these famed beer cities.

An American Luxury Beer Vacation

If you desire a more opulent beer vacation experience, several specialty inns across the country provide a memorable on property beer experience.  One such location is the Lodge at Woodloch located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono region. This spa uses beer in several of it treatments as well offering its own Palo Sano brew along with brews from the Dogfish Brewery in neighboring Delaware.

Other interesting east coast beer retreat locations include:  Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, and Trapp Family Lodge in Stow, Vermont.  This inn is owned by the von Trapp family. The innkeepers host “Sound of Music” reunions and feature their own Trapp Lagers.  In Norwich, Vermont, the Norwich Inn/Jasper Murdock Alehouse has been a traveler’s destination since 1797.  More recently, a microbrewery was added to the Inn in 1993, and Jasper Murdoch ales were born.  Luxury locations featuring local craft beer are not limited to the east coast but can be found from Texas, to Wisconsin, to Wyoming and the west coast.

Go Big - Go European

Clearly, you won’t go wrong if you venture across the Atlantic to Western Europe to visit some of the many hundreds of breweries located there. Belgium is a particularly good place to begin your journey and add to your beer education.  Belgium arguably produces more beer styles than any other country.  Brussels is a must visit destination and an inviting place to begin your Belgian beer education is in one of the outdoor cafes located in the Grand Plaza, which is home to the original beer guild, and also contains the home office of ABInBev. Whether your tastes run to beer brewed in open vats with wild yeast flowing in through open brewery windows, or to a Trappist made dubble or tripel made with candi sugar to soften the alcohol taste; you will not be disappointed.

Organized Beer Tours

Your beer vacation can last for a week or more simply for a long weekend.  No doubt seeing new sights and visiting new breweries will provide you with lots of new stories to share with your friends when you return home.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys letting someone else plan the details of your vacation, prepackaged, pre-planned beer vacations are available for purchase both here in the U.S and in Europe. 

A new US company called beertoursusa.com promises to deliver its customers a memorable beer chasing and tasting experience.  They arrange beer tours for upwards of 35 people at a time.  Guests travel by motor coach to some of the countries best microbreweries.  For tour information, the company may be reached at 1-855-FUN ON TAP (1-855-386-6682).

Would you rather take a beer trip to Europe?   Beertrips.com is there to help make your journey a memorable one.  Your traveling companions may be singles, newlyweds, novice beer drinkers who want to do something different or well experienced brewmasters seeking a new palate sensation. BelgianBeerMe.com (BMM) is a tour company that focuses exclusively on beer.  It has 14 trips planned to Belgium in 2014.  They will also arrange beer trips to Prague so you can sample Czechoslovakia’s original pilsner beer.

BonBeer.com is another tour company that takes beer-focused guests on it’s company owned barge trips through Holland, Belgium and France.  It plans to add beer tours to Germany and Italy next year.  No more than twenty two guests travel together at one time so each guest can enjoy gourmet dining on board or stop along the way to experience local restaurants as well.  Beer cruises are typically run for one week but weekend beer tours are available as well.

Make it a beer vacation in 2014

Vacations are the perfect way to unwind, unplug and get away from the daily routine. They are stress relievers and leave us feeling refreshed and recharged.  Whether it’s going on an exotic vacation to Belgium or traveling the local highway for an afternoon or weekend away from work, vacations are important for our physical and mental well- being.  

As you head into a new year, consider a resolution to expand your horizons and plan a different kind of trip.  Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a full blown vacation, a beer trip is guaranteed to give you a new perspective on the place you visit and just like any good brew, will have you wanting more.

Also, If you do take a beer vacation in 2014, please let me know. I would love to hear about it.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!

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Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper Marlboro, MD. In addition to his journalistic duties for The Beverage Journal, Al is currently an Adjunct Business Instructor at Anne Arundel Community College.

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