A brewery tour is a holy grail of activities for the beer enthusiast. Stepping behind the scenes, you get to experience where the magic is made as the beer creation process unfolds before your very eyes. Then you get to sample your favorite beer as fresh as it ever will be coming right from the source of it all.Even people who are more or less apathetic about drinking beer can enjoy discovering the process behind making it. When I visited Denver, I chose to kill some time visiting Coors Brewery. Admittedly, my go-to beverage is a glass of wine. Before the brewery tour, I had enjoyed beer twice: once during the Superbowl and once on St. Patricks' Day in a famous Irish pub in Sydney Australia. Yet I found the tour engaging and fascinating. I do wish I had done a few things differently to better take advantage of the experience.
Ask for a Brewer to Give the Tour
A few breweries do allow you to request for a brewer to give the tour rather than the tour guide. Nothing against tour guides, but they are hired for their sociability and ability to memorize facts not their personal experience with brewing. A tour from a brewer can give you a more in-depth experience as they can answer more questions and provide more information. It never hurts to ask for a brewer to give the tour. The worst thing they can say is no.
Familiarize Yourself with the Beer Making Process
Yes, the point of a brewery tour is to learn more about how beer is made. So why spend time beforehand learning about the process? Because of the atmosphere of the tour.The rooms are loud and crowded. You spend more time than you think walking and walking and walking. Each room is sensory overload with tv screens flickering with animations, the giant machinery clanging, the many colorful plaques with trivia facts, the droning of the voice on your handset, screaming bored children, and so on. With so many things clamoring for your attention, it will not be long before the information goes in one ear and out the other. There are so many facts and steps and things to know that it all blurs together until you walk away realizing you forgot most of what you just learned. This is especially true if, like me, you knew very little about the process to start with.Spend a bit of time before the tour reading up on the beer making process. Get the basics down so you can enjoy the extra details and trivia facts on the tour, rather than lose it all in information overload. It also helps you avoid being caught off guard by things obvious in hindsight (like how ridiculously strong the brewery will smell).
Familiarize Yourself with the Brewery and its Products
All I knew about Coors Brewery is that they made Coors beer and it was located just outside of Denver. Each brewery has its origin story, one that may be more fascinating than you think. I enjoyed learning about its history, but since everything was new I felt mentally drained with all the facts before the tour even began. Read up on the backstory of the place. The more you know, the better questions you can ask during the tour. You can ask for elaboration on some trivia facts about the founder or how a set-back in the brewery's history affected the ultimate creation of a certain product.Before you go, drink up on their products. Remind yourself what beer in a can shipped across the United States and stored in a stockroom tastes like so you can compare it to the fresh taste of beer made there in the brewery.
Dress Appropriately for the Brewery
Wear comfortable closed toed shoes. You will likely be walking more than you realize and a lot of the tour is up and down stairs. There may also be moisture on the floor, which is uncomfortable when wearing sandals. Wearing layered clothes is a good idea as well. The temperature outside the brewery as well as inside the different areas varies widely, so having a light jacket to remove makes the experience more comfortable.
Ask Intelligent Questions
Isn't it the worst when you go home and think of all the great questions you should've asked? Reading up on the beer making process and the brewery will likely spark some great questions for you to ask. You can also ask if there are any new brews in the works. You may get some insider knowledge on a new development. You can ask how a certain brew came into existence. You may discover it was a fluke or it took 27 tries. Ask if the guide knows any disaster stories about things going wrong, maybe a crazy tour experience or a bad day at the brewery. Sometimes guides do not like leading with these stories as they could give a bad impression of the company. But if you ask...
Get Insider Suggestions for the Beer Tasting
At last! You have reached the best part of the tour: the sampling room. Here you get to savor beer as it was intended: fresh from the source while conversing with your group. Ask the guide what order they recommend trying the beers in to maximize the taste experience. You want to make the most of this opportunity, so get some suggestions. It usually is a long line up to the counter, so choose your beers carefully. Try what you want and get ready for the sweet taste of beer that came straight from the source.