Everybody has some muse for travel. Whether that be a desire to get away from whatever your daily life is or a desire to see a specific place or event. For me, it’s breweries. And car shows. Whenever we go a-wanderin’, we’re looking for whatever breweries are in the area. This is not for the purposes of overindulging in their products, but there is something in the breweries besides the beer that appeals to my wife and I. No, it’s not the peanuts, either.
Breweries are magical places to us. First of all, the patrons share my passion for great beer. My wife is not much of a fan of beer, but she does appreciate a few varieties and does like ciders. But we’ve found that breweries almost always have terrific food, as a start. As some travel writers say, people tend to travel on their stomachs and Peggy and definitely do that.
We’ve had incredible barbecue, wonderful burgers and macaroni and cheese that would be worthy of a segment on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. All of this at microbreweries. Oh, and the pretzels and beer cheese at Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California are worth an entire vacation trip just for that. Trust me.
Of course you don’t want to discount discovering a great beer. I don’t know of any microbreweries that aren’t really proud of their products such that you can get small samples of their beer to see which is your favorite. This is another way to try out the local products and we’ve found some wonderful beer discoveries this way as well.
For example, down in Vista, CA (nearish to San Diego) there’s a brewery called Belching Beaver which brews up a Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Now as much as I love peanut butter and stout beer, the description of this one did nothing for me. In fact, a friend sent me on the mission to pick this up and I didn’t pick any up for myself. Sounded horrible, frankly. But never miss an opportunity to try something new. This wonderful, somewhat chocolatey and definitely peanut buttery beer is now in my top five beers and I will never turn down a chance for some of this.
My top five beers change from time to time and, presently, there aren’t five in that list only because one of the breweries that brewed two of my favorites changed hands and they don’t have as many beers that suit my palate. That’s one of the nifty things about beer - there are so many different styles of beer and then variations on how that beer is brewed that there is truly something for almost everyone.
In some ways this would classify me as a beer snob - one of those annoying folks who poo poos Coors and Budweiser products for their fillers and ingredients that aren’t part of the German Beer Purity Law of 1516. But I have to admit that, while riding on a garden tractor - or racing a garden tractor - copious amounts of Coors Light may have been involved. And Germany’s Reinheitsgebot makes no mention of yeast which is a critical ingredient in beer production - the olden days folks just figured it was some sort of magic in their cellars. Nope. That was the yeast, mein freuinden. Incidentally the Reinheitsgebot was passed on my birthday, although many years before I was born.
Another of my favorite beers is Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout. This is a wonderful, also somewhat chocolatey but just rich beer that is great for taking your time with on a winter’s day. They suggest pairing it with things like sliders and caramelized onions. Check. Or a beer float with vanilla ice cream. Check.
Two of my favorites come from one brewery - Kelsey Creek Brewing Company right in my own home town. They have a black IPA and a red IPA that just have a rich, wonderful and slightly malty flavor. I do have to admit I'm not as much of a hop head as some who appreciate microbrews but I'll also happily enjoy a sour Belgian and I love Hefeweitzen, a German-style wheat beer that almost has a bit of banana in its flavor. One good example of this that's also a favorite is Paulaner, which comes from Germany.
Oh, so what’s in the breweries besides beer and food that makes them so worth the visits? The people! As local guides I’ve found the people on adjacent bar stools enjoying the same experience as I are marvelous tour guides. They’ve pointed us in all sorts of great directions to incredible travel finds. There’s something magical about being perched atop a barstool that brings people closer together (maybe it’s the beer) and they’re people of like mind and interest so their suggestions are spot on.
If nothing else, the conversation is fun and occasionally you get to tour a brewery on your honeymoon. I have a very patient wife.
Whatever your travel muse make sure to find it and make as much time for goofing off as humanly possible. This one-way journey is meant to be enjoyed responsibly like a good beer or whatever you enjoy. Since there are millions of excuses to enjoy these United States the only mistake is not coming up with your own and hitting the great open road.
Written by Anthony B. Barthel