beer column

Summer is finally here, and there’s no better time for a BC road-trip!

Some of my vacations come about because of beer, and some fit beer in along the way.  With breweries popping up around every corner, it is easy to include stopping in to check out the vibe and sample the wares any time I find myself travelling.  If a locale has a large concentration of breweries, I’ll visit based on that alone - and discover the other wonderful things it has to offer along the way.

I know not everyone is as craft beer obsessed as my friends and I are, but if you like beer, even a little, it is really easy to include brewery stops on your vacation – or to use visiting breweries as an excuse to take a vacation!

It’s easy!  You don’t even need a travel agent!  If your vacation destination is in BC, there is a great planning tool available online – the BC Ale Trail.  It is a website that offers sample itineraries for self-guided tours in many areas around the Province.  The itineraries include craft breweries, pubs, restaurants, cafes, outdoor activities, sight-seeing and accommodations.  It can be a one-stop shop if you want to follow the itinerary to the letter, or you can use the Ale Trail suggestions to add to your own vacation plans.  And if you don’t have a destination in mind yet, the Ale Trail can inspire you!

The BC Ale Trail launched last year and is adding 6 new ale trails this summer.  If your travels will take you outside of BC, there are other ale trails to follow, such as the Inland Northwest Ale Trail in Spokane, Washington, the Oregon North Coast Beer Trail, and a series of Portland Ale Trails by neighbourhood.

Many breweries are struggling to keep up with local demand so they’re not able to send their beers to the Vancouver market – if you want to try those beers, you have to travel to the tasting room or local pub!  And by doing so, you’ll be supporting the local economy.

Similar to wine tasting, visiting a brewery is a more rounded introduction to the product than simply picking it up from a liquor store.  You get to meet the people who make the beer, you get to see where the beers are made, you get to soak up the unique ambiance of the tasting room, all things you just can’t get any other way.  Often tasting rooms will have experimental beers to try as well – these are beers that are only available at the brewery.

Tasting rooms are also a great place to meet people.  A stop, whether for a quick one or an afternoon of tasting, can be a great resource for finding out about special events being held nearby, where the best food is in town, soaking up some local history, and getting directions to that secret swimming hole.  Becoming part of the community, even for a short time, adds to the tourist experience.
Tasting rooms allow children, so there’s no worry about what to do with the family when the adults want their turn to choose an activity.  And most tasting rooms offer growler fills, so you can take beer to go too.  Which is very handy if the brewery is on your way from point A to point B – taking beer to go means that the driver gets to taste too!

Beer festivals make a great inducement for a vacation or weekend away.  You can find calendars of beer festivals on the BC Ale Trail website, the What’s Brewing website, and the Brewer’sGuild website.  Better than sticking a pin in the map to choose where to go, finding a beer festival can be the starting point of a great road trip.  Already going somewhere?  Check to see if there just happens to be a beer event going on nearby – ‘tis the season, so the odds are good that there will be something happening!

And if all else fails, find yourself a patio to sit on and enjoy the summer weather while it’s here!

Beer Picks:

I’ve chosen some beers from across the Province’s stops on the BC Ale Trail, that are available in the Lower Mainland, for this week’s picks:

Nelson Brewing Company’s Happy Camper Summer Ale – This is an organic, light pale ale with a tropical aroma and crisp malty body.  Dry-hopped with Rakua hops from New Zealand, for tropical notes of peach, pineapple and mango.  At 4.2% it is a great way to refresh yourself in the hot weather!  Available in six packs of cans at provincial and specialty liquor stores.

Nanaimo’s Longwood Steam Punk Dunkelweizen – This is a dark wheat ale, but don’t be scared to have it in the hot weather – it is light bodied and crisp!  Made with 35% Canadian wheat, which combines with their house ale yeast for a fruity and clean palate.  5%.  Available in tall cans at provincial liquor stores.

Penticton’s Bad Tattoo Los Muertos Cerveza Negra – It is a silver medal winner at the Canadian Brewing Awards!  It is a dark lager made with a mix of Pilsner, Crystal and Munich malts.  Reminiscent of a German Bock, but with a Mexican twist.  Crisp and refreshing.  5%.  Available in six packs of bottles at provincial liquor stores.


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