I used to travel quite a bit for work, probably as much as 40% of my year at one point. Plenty of people do much, much more than that, but it seemed like a ton back then. It was during that time, armed with an Amex Platinum and a generous expense account, that I broadened so much of my tastes, sampling tons of different cuisines, learning to enjoy and differentiate wines, developing a love for Scotch, etc. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite developed a LOVE of beer, and so I look back on a lot of those trips as huge missed opportunities to try beers and breweries that I can only dream about visiting now. That said, so much of that development of interest in things OTHER than beer have helped me become a much better connoisseur now, and I’m so thankful for that experience.
Now, I’m settled down, married, kids, predictable 8 to 4:30 schedule (with the day job, at least), and my opportunities to travel are fewer, usually about twice a year for three or four days at a time. So when I get the chance, there is real joy in planning the trips to maximize my new beer intake. A week in Tampa allowed for indulgence in Cigar City and Funky Buddha offerings. And I set a personal record in Asheville for most breweries visited without ever needing a cab or car (clearly, I haven’t made it to Portland yet). My most disappointing cancellation was for a fully mapped and planned trip to San Diego, another beer mecca.
My next scheduled trip is a few months away, and with time to plan, there a few resources I like to use to get the necessary information:
- Beer Advocate (BeerAdvocate.com): In addition to ratings and info for an incredible number of beers, the site also has a fantastic Places Directory. If you’re trying to figure out the breweries in a state, you can look at that level, or you can drill down to any city that has a listed place (brewery, bar, restaurant, stores) in it, and look at the various options there. And for larger cities and/or major beer towns, they have specialized “Beer Guides” that are bit more tailored.
- Trip Advisor (TripAdvisor.com): Not as beer-centric, but the restaurant listings for a well-traveled town are pretty reliable. I love to eat good food, with or without accompanying beer, and this is always a great starting point for planning our dinner spots. It’s also a great cross-reference with the places you may find on Beer Advocate or other sites, to see if you get that magical combo of great eats and drinks.
- TV Food Maps (tvfoodmaps.com): This is the same principle as TripAdvisor, but from a different angle. Even if you can’t stand Guy Fieri’s frosted locks, you know the food on Triple D and other Food Network (and similar network) shows looks amazing. This is a great resource to find restaurants at your destination that have been featured, and then cross reference with Trip Advisor and Beer Advocate for maximization.
- Untappd: This is a great app for checking in the beers you drink, seeing what others think of it, and finding places in your area to try excellent brews. It works a little better once you’re actually at the destination, when you can search for local check-ins and places using location services.
These are just a few resources among many, but very useful in planning your next beer-cation, or at least finding a distraction from that boring conference.