By Lee Salawitch
Visiting a brewery is a great way to learn about what goes into your favorite beverage, and not just the ingredients. Many brewery tours are conducted by people directly involved in the beer’s production, perhaps a brewery owner or head brewer, and these folks can provide great insight into the history, corporate culture, and passion that comprise the finished product.
Having visited dozens and dozens of breweries in various states and even a few in foreign countries, I still learn something new on every tour. So, I offer some helpful brewery tour “do’s and don’ts” for The Brew Club! Feel free to add your own suggestions for a great brewery tour in the comments!
Do call ahead or check the brewery webpage for tour times/dates and for reservations.
Do be courteous and cancel your reservation if your plans change.
Don’t be surprised if tours are unavailable or if there is a wait on weekends, especially on holiday weekends. Brewery tours are very popular!
Do be polite and refrain from conversation when the representative is talking. The production floor is not a gallery, space can be tight, and there may be machinery noise in the background.
Do respect the fact that the person next to you may find the tour utterly captivating. Don’t admit it if you don’t. While each brewery tour is different, the same basic information is conveyed. Wort and mash tuns can be fascinating to some of us and not so to others!
Do realize that the person speaking may not be an actual tour guide. Public speaking may not be his or her forte’. Making beer, however, probably is!
Do ask intelligent questions. The person conducting the tour may love beer as much as you do, perhaps even more, and may wish to add individual experience and share knowledge gained via time spent in the industry. Staff members conducting tours at craft breweries often add very personal touches.
Do ask before taking photographs, especially if employees are present.
Do wear closed-toe shoes, do expect to find water on the floor, and do expect to walk and climb stairs.
Do expect temperature variances and dress accordingly.
If the tour allows children, Don’t bring children unless they are well behaved and able to stand patiently and listen for 30-45 minutes.
Do check if soda is produced and/or offered for kids and non-drinkers/designated drivers. (I’d take the Sprechers Brewery tour again just for their great root beer! Okay, for that and also for the Black Bavarian.) There’s nothing worse for a child than watching other people enjoy something the child is denied without he or she receiving a comparable age-appropriate product.
Do tour local breweries. Beer is produced in hundreds of cities across the country, not just in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Golden, Colorado.
Do consider beer tourism. I haven’t visited St. Louis or Golden (or Denver, Fort Collins, Asheville, and numerous other beer cities) yet, but *will* include a brewery tour or tours when traveling there.
Do respect the sampling policy.
Don’t treat the sampling room like an open bar at your best friend’s wedding.
Do purchase the beers you enjoy. Some breweries have retail outlets offering fresh beer by the bottle, case, or growler.
Do enjoy a meal or snack while there. In order to sell beer to the public, some states require breweries to include dining rooms. Many chefs use local ingredients and even beer in their recipes.
Don’t steal the glasses if they are not included in the tour price! Some breweries have gift shops (as well as the above mentioned retail outlets).
Most importantly: Do enjoy the tour responsibly and Don’t drive impaired.
What about you? Would you add anything to our Brewery Tour “do’s and don’ts” list based on your experiences?