If you’re a fan of frosty pints, you’re not alone. Walk into any pub or beer store and you’ll find a selection of styles and flavours that goes far beyond what was available in the old days. Remember? The days when the entire beer selection was limited to little more than a half-dozen watery lagers that were the colour and flavour of the Yellow Pages?
But if you love beer and you love travel, consider combining both on your next holiday. The destinations are as endless as the varieties of brews.
If you don’t want to commit an entire holiday to beer and ale, you can still add a visit to a brewery or festival as part of your itinerary.
The city of Pilsen is the birthplace of pilsner, a variety first brewed in this hop-growing region of Eastern Europe in the mid-1800s. Pilsner Urquell was the first brand of pilsner and is now available worldwide. Tours of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery are offered in English four times a day, seven days a week. If you want to learn about the history of beer, don’t miss the Brewery Museum. If you’re in Pilsen during the early summer, you can take in Pilsner Fest, a two day beer festival.
It’s hard to throw a stone and not hit a brewery in Belgium. Across this small country brewers and breweries are crafting some of the best beers and ales on the planet – at least 450 varieties. Don’t believe me? Check out the Belgium Beer Map and prepare to be amazed (and thirsty). It lists everything from huge multi-nationals to Trappist monasteries (there are 6). The Belgium Tourist office has an excellent website for beer lovers that breaks it all down and helps you plan your own itinerary.
Guinness is one of the most recognizable brands on earth and for good reason. The worldwide popularity of their stout isn’t surprising given that it’s been exported from the Emerald Isle since 1769. If you find yourself in Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse is a must-see. While it’s not really a brewery tour, you’ll learn everything there is to know about Guinness – including pouring the perfect pint.
If you want the full meal deal, there are several companies that offer tours of Europe’s sudsier regions. These trips aren’t just about enjoying fine beers and ales – they’re an educational journey where you learn about the different styles, their history and how they’re brewed. At the same time you’ll visit historic cities and towns and enjoy local food.
BeerTrips.com offers a dizzying array of tours year round. A couple of examples:
Their Great Beers of Belgium tour is marketed as a “best-of-beer-heaven trip takes in as many classic Belgian styles and producers as we can fit into 10 days.” Transportation through the country is by both private bus and rail. The tour stops in Antwerp, Brugge and Brussels and the varieties include Lambics, Trappists, Saisons and Flemmish Browns. The tour runs October 4-14 and costs $2895 (double).
Looking for a tour that includes more than just Belgium? “The ABCDs of Beer” may be just the ticket. Running October 17-27 ($2895), this tour includes Amsterdam, Brussels and Cologne and Dusseldorf in Germany. The tour focuses on the different styles of beers in each city as well as the cities themselves.
Beer tours are a very good way to indulge both your love of travel and your love of beer. With so many varieties from so many regions, it’s hard to take a wrong turn.