It occurred to me recently that over the years in my travels I’ve made a number of detours to tour or visit breweries, wineries and distilleries so thought I would share as many as I can remember in no particular order.
Seattle has a thriving micro-brewery community but sadly from what I gather one casualty since my 2013 visit has been the small brewery that sprang up in a loading dock of the large landmark old Rainer Brewery, Emerald City Beer Company. Proximity to the link light rail from Seattle’s downtown to within a few blocks of the brewery, a Groupon and a thirst for something different were what lead me to this tiny brewery and enjoyed a flight of beers and casual conversation on a warm Fall afternoon. Shame about their demise as the Dottie Seattle Lager was made with locally grown barley and hops and was the best of the bunch.
One brewery that has thrived and survived is the Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle and at $5 the tours that are offered regularly are a bargain. The outside beer garden with beers, brats and communal picnic tables is an an enjoyable timeout on a warm afternoon.
Red Hook Sample byWw7021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Woodinville is also home to a number of excellent wineries so if wine is more your thing than beer there is lots to sample. A complete list of Woodinville Wine Country wineries is here.
Tokyo may not rank highly on the list of world beer capitals but visitors thirsty for good local beer in this sprawling megacity can take a small detour for a tour of the Museum of Yebisu Beer and learn a little more about the brand that traces its roots back to 1887 that is now owned by Japanese brewing giant Sapporo.
The Shibuya district of Ebisu takes its name from the brewery rather than vice versa as many assume. Admission to the museum is free however tours and sample pints in the “tasting salon” are at an extra cost. I wasn’t able to confirm an English-language tour opting instead to drop-in on a rainy afternoon to happily find that while no guided tours were offered in my preferred language visitors may walk through a short multi-lingual brand history with diagrams, photos and videos at their own pace. I wouldn’t forgo other important sights in and around Tokyo to visit this brewery however if you have an open hour in your schedule it’s worth a visit especially if your beer batteries are in serious need of recharging.
Elsewhere in Tokyo a nondescript downtown building is the site of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association consumer outlet, better known as Sake Plaza, and for a paltry ¥525 or CAD6 guests are able to sample five of the nation’s finest sake’s. Make no mistake this is no bar as the emphasis is on education rather than intoxication and a willing visitor is welcomed to sample some of the best hot and cold sake Japan has offer. The staff were very accommodating showing an English version of ‘the making of sake’ video as well as suggesting regional and seasonal specialties from an extensive list of choices.
The detour to Sake Plaza is small as it’s within of blocks of the Imperial Palace at the heart of Tokyo.
Brooklyn Brewery is located in the New York borough of the same name occupying former matzo factory that was converted in 1996 into a functional brewery that brews a pretty good beer.
The brewery’s signature Brooklyn Lager is an amber beer with a bit of a bitter taste but there are enough other varieties to suit any palate including some seasonal specialities. Small batch public tours are available but booking well in advance is recommended especially in the Spring through Fall higher season. One bit of trivia you can share after the tour is the brewery logo was designed by the same man who created the iconic “I Love New York” campaign, Milton Glaser.
Once an industrial maze of low-rise factories and warehouses this part of Brooklyn has undergone a massive transformation in the past decade with small shops, boutique hotels and upscale restaurants moving in so it’s well worth exploring on foot.
This Salzburg brewery was first recorded in the year Columbus embarked on his voyage to the New World, 1492, and the brand was already stipulated in Salzburg’s 1516 beer purity law so boasts a storied history few European beer brands can match. The Salzburg-based brewery offers a diversion if hometown celebrity Mozart just isn’t your thing.
Entrance to Stiefl Brauwelt by European Travelista is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.
Tours are offered regularly and I opted for “The Classic” which for EUR 10 is a decent value. As with other cities I wouldn’t skip some of Salzburg’s more important historical sights to visit the brewery but if you have an hour or two to kill there could be worse diversions than this brewery.
Beer is to Munich as wine is to France so if you find yourself in Munich at any time of year visit the Hofbräuhaus München as it truly is one of the city’s institutions. The three-storey beer hall is one of Munich’s oldest dating to 1589 and was founded as the brewery to the royal residence which was just around the corner from where today’s beer hall stands. Tours are offered except during Oktoberfest season but note advance registration is required.
Самая известная пивная Мюнхена by welcomeworld is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Heineken’s Amsterdam brewery was in operation for over a century before production was moved to the suburbs in 1988 but the historic facility was preserved and converted to a visitor center and brewery tour and is now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The Heineken Experience is open to visitors every day of the year and from morning until evening so finding an available tour is not a problem.
iFly TV: 150 years of Heineken Brewery by iflymagazine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The Heineken Experience is located almost within sight of the world famous Rijksmuseum and surrounding museum quarter so very convenient wand walkable as is the whole city center of Amsterdam.
While in Paris for a longer visit a few years ago I made a day trip to Reims and visit this ancient regional capital and its massive 700-year-old Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral as well as one of the champagne houses to sample some of the renown sparling wines. The day took me from the heights of the parapets between the twin spires of the gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage List site, to the depths of cool chalk caves beneath the house of Taittinger for a lesson on the liquid before lingering over a glass at the end of the guided tour.
The brand museum and interpretative centre that’s open to the public is one of the within Reims so is much easier to get to than others. No reservations are required for the EUR 16 guided tour but it does fill up so if you should have to wait until the next tour take a quick detour a few blocks away to the Abbey of Saint Remi, an 11th century abbey also UNESCO recognized.
Dublin is home to two worthy taste tours, the Old Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse, and more by coincidence than design I decided to visit both in the same day figuring a pleasant walk between the two would do me some good.
While the original Jameson distillery was founded on the site in Smithfield in 1780 Jameson’s moved its Irish whiskey production to another location in 1971 leaving this site unused and gutted by a major fire until an overhaul saw it reopen in 1997 as a visitors centre which now hosts up to 350,000 guests per year.
At the start of the tour when the guide greets participants seated in an amphitheatre before showing a short video and asks for volunteers for a taste test of Jameson’s against other whiskeys shoot up your hand as it means extra rations to sample later.
The triple distilled Jameson’s did taste smoother than the competition Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker but ever the polite Canadian I emptied all sample glasses nonetheless. Participants are given a certificate to commemorate their visit (rolled up in the small tube on the right of the above picture) and the 45 minute tour ends in the gift shop where souvenirs liquid and otherwise can be purchased. Admission is EUR 15 unless you have a valid Dublin Pass which affords free entry to pass holders.
While it may not have always been a straight line I made my way from Smithfield across the River Liffey to St. James Gate and the Guinness Storehouse which since 2000 has become the public face of the brewer that has crafted its one-of-a-kind beer from this brewery since 1759.
The public was allowed to tour the actual brewery until 1972 when health & safety concerns forced its closure. The current tour ends at the top of the building in an amazing circular space called the Gravity Bar with floor-to-ceiling windows which allows visitors to sip the dry stout while staring at some memorable views of Dublin.
Guiness Gravity Bar by John Pearce is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
I look forward to future visits to breweries, wineries and distilleries as they most often prove more interactive and engaging than a bushel of modern museums. In fact, I hear there a winery in Maui I just might have to seek out on my visit there.