Finding Your Beer Tour

no party hereWhen you visit a city for the first time, how do you find the best local beers, breweries and pubs? If you don’t drink craft beer, but the relatives coming for Christmas are into it big time, what how you going to entertain them? Do you immediately search Yelp or Trip Advisor? Do you check out apps like Beers in Sac(ramento)? Maybe you have a friend or colleague who knows the town and can give you hot tips.

What about taking a beer tour?

No way, you say. I’m no party girl. We’re not twenty-something frat boys. My buddies and I are renting a car. My husband and I like to walk between bars.

But not so fast. These days, there’s so much good beer out there that even when you know your options, narrowing them down to a few really great places can be overwhelming. The last thing you want to do is walk into the first pub you see and spend seven or eight dollars on a mediocre beer. Online searches can get time-consuming, and that San Diego bar the IT guy at your workplace really liked last summer might be 20 miles from your hotel or not your idea of enjoyable.

Chicago Brew BusMost major American cities and some surprisingly small ones offer tours. The trick is finding the tour that’s right for you and your companions. The most obvious reason for a tour is that you can drink and not worry about driving, especially nice when you’re in an unfamiliar city. And if you’re in downtown Chicago where it’s raining or snowing, you’ll congratulate yourself on your choice when the Chicago Brew Bus picks you up at the door of one pub and drops you at the door of the next. Plus, you don’t have to find parking or pay through the nose for it.

Tour guides typically give you the scoop on more than just the beer scene. A good guide can talk local history as well as she can lead participants through proper beer tastings. Often, tour groups get to go through a pub’s brewery at times when it isn’t open to the general public. You might be allowed into the pub before opening hours and get to chat with the brewer while you sip his beers.

Banjos Billy's

Banjo Billy’s Bus Tours

If you’re not the extrovert who makes instant friends, a private tour with extended family, coworkers or others you already know can be entertaining. It’s a great opportunity for team-building and getting to know acquaintances better. For people who work in the craft beer and allied industries, optional pre- and post-conference brewery tours are almost di rigueur.

Motor City Brew ToursNowadays, beer tour transportation includes buses, bikes, electric shuttles and boats. While lots of buses offer quality sound systems and music of your choice, Banjo Billy’s chauffeurs you around Denver to the tune of—what else?—banjo music. You can pedal your way between destinations on a 14-person bike with Amazing Pub Cycle in Asheville, North Carolina or with PubCycle in Bend, Oregon. Weather permitting, Motor City Brew Tours offers individual bikes and a guide to lead you to Detroit breweries. Urban Oysters’ Brewed in Brooklyn walking tour shows you pre-Prohibition breweries that are still standing. Their Craft Beer Harbor sail, which allows children, takes you around the New York Harbor in a replica clipper ship.

Urban Oyster's replica clipper ship

Urban Oyster’s replica clipper ship

Whether you’re planning a vacation, tacking a free day on to a business trip or bonding with your workmates, it’s worth your time to check out brewery tour options and exactly what you get for your money. More on the  topic next week when I write about the Portland, Oregon tour my husband and I ended up on over Thanksgiving weekend.

*Note: all images purloined from the Internet.


  1. I thought that you made a good point about how going on a beer tour would be a good way to explore my options and narrow them down to a few great places. It seems like a good beer tour would help me find some great places that sell the best local beer. I’ve been meaning to find a good brewery and pub in town that I can start going to now that I’ve moved to a new city, so I should check out local tours. Thanks for posting this!

    • Leslie Patino says:

      Hi Judy, there was actually a woman on our Brewvana tour who had moved to Portland a few weeks earlier, and she was doing just what you suggested. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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