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Oakes Weekly - April 14, 2005
Beerhunting on Non-Beer Trips
April 14, 2005
Written by Oakes
Sometimes when we travel, we do it for the beer. One does not merely say “Honey, we ought to spend our summer vacation in Brussels this year…the kids can hang out by that statue or something…” For most people, life just isn’t like that. The beer trip ends up being something specific you schedule outside of the summer vacations, honeymoons and holidays with the in-laws.
I recently undertook a trip to Toronto, for purposes that primarily were not beer-related. It used to be kind of rare to take such journeys, but I didn’t exactly go to Asia last year to beer hunt either so I’ve started to build up a bank of knowledge – a plan if you will – to help get the most beer out of non-beer-related trips. Having been leged, having had visitors whittle pub crawls down to dinner, having read the lamentations on the forums, I feel that there is a need for me to spread this knowledge. So for all you dragged-along-by-the-other-half, in-law-visiting, corporate-junket-taking types, I present my five-point-plan for getting the most beer out of non-beer trips.
1) Research. I cannot stress this enough. A quick post on the forums is not research. As soon as you know you’re going somewhere, start researching. Scour Ratebeer. Cross-reference Places and an Advanced Brewpub search. Get the brewspaper. If they have something listed that we don’t, it’s probably closed but that’s not always the case. So use the phone number they give you and find out for yourself. Email the local Ratebeerians and talk to them directly. They’re a lot more likely to roll out the red carpet if they know you’re coming and have some advanced notice to make plans.
2) Mapping. Get a map and make dots for each place so you know where they are in relation to one another. This may prove crucial. If you’re visiting a city with rapid transit, overlay that with your street map. Make sure you know where beer places are in relation to museums, monuments, hotels and uncle’s houses. Include lesser spots as well. If you’re going to Aunt Bea’s and the best store is on the other side of town, well, it’s good to know that there’s a shop with 100 beers just five minutes away. Even if it’s not the best, it beats sitting at the kitchen table listening to the in-laws gossiping their way through the family tree.
Most trips aren’t so tightly packed that you can’t spare an hour here or there. People need to put their feet up, or get something done early. This is an opportunity. With proper researching and mapping you’ll know that you can spend that unexpected free hour between the CN Tower and the Lion King around the corner at Smokeless Joe’s drinking Belgian ale. And don’t forget, if the “we should probably have dinner” line arises…
3) You must eat. You have limited time for beer hunting, right? So why are you eating at Uncle Abner’s favourite two-dollar steakhouse? He can eat there any time, and you have a better idea. Brewpubs sell food. Beer bars often do (find out ahead of time). Your needs are important, especially if you’re a tag-along. Stand up for yourself and insist that meals be had at the local brewpubs. If you’ve got kids, call ahead and make sure they’re allowed.
This goes for business trips, too. Unless the boss is some sort of sociopa…I mean teetotaler…go for it. Even if he doesn’t drink, they have root beers at most brewpubs these days, plus a full range of whatever it is that non-drinkers drink. There is no need to stop at Applebee’s when there is a perfectly good brewpub three blocks further. Some folks are lazy and don’t see it this way, but be insistent. After all, if you have a specific preference and they don’t, they’d be asses not to indulge you. Be the squeaky wheel if it comes to it.
4) Brewpubs sell alcohol. If socializing with alcohol is involved, be it with your brother-in-law or your co-workers, remember that brewpubs are an excellent source of social lubrication. They usually have a full range of other stuff to shut up the whiners, and a “starter” beer for the guy who insists on Coors Light. But what if he’s really insistent? Well, he’s a selfish wanker. But no worries, I have a plan. Start out with a couple rounds of tequila, you know, to get the party started. Numb the poor fool’s palate a bit so the house Blonde doesn’t trouble him so much, and you’ll still be able to taste that Quadrupel-Dry-Hopped-Imperial-IPA you’ve been dreaming about since you first did your research.
In short, if all your companions care about is getting loaded, they’ll be just as happy at a brewpub or beer bar as they will at Hooter’s. Make sure that a) they know this and b) that the reverse will not be true.
5) Set Aside Your Own Night. The last couple of tips involved situations where other people are involved. This doesn’t. Suppose you’re in town for a task, a concert or something else. You don’t have to worry about other people, but time will still be tight. This is why you did the research and mapping. You have an idea of where things are so you can ballpark how much you’ll be able to do in the time you’ve got.
The other side to this equation is the time…extend it. If you feel that you absolutely have to hit all four brewpubs in town, make more time for yourself. Skip the opening band. Book a later flight. Stay overnight. Leave early. Work with local Ratebeerians. No time for the big beer store run? No worries. Place an order with a local and have them drop it off for you for cash or trade. You’ll be rewarded for your organization and efficiency with great beers you might not otherwise have been able to procure.
If there are other people involved, you may just have to blow them off. Remember, it’s not about you indulging your beer hunting addiction. You’re meeting old friends. Ratebeerians, or the brewer you called last week when you were researching if the local brewpub was still going to have their Bourbon-Barrel Imperial Stout on tap when you arrived. What selfish family member/co-worker would deny you the right to visit an old friend?
Do not feel guilty or apologetic about any of this. Taking a bit of time for yourself is healthy. It’s not like at home where you can do this stuff some other day. You only have three days in town! You need a night to do your thing. Take it. If you absolutely have to make a sacrifice, make that sacrifice at home where you have time. Take the kids to soccer for a month…whatever…you crawled Philly.
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Do not feel guilty or apologetic about any of this. Taking a bit of time for yourself is healthy. It’s not like at home where you can do this stuff some other day.
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