Do You Care if You Can’t Tour Your Favorite Brewery?

With the news of Victory Brewing closing their doors to behind the scenes brewery tours, it got me to thinking about the tours I’ve been on.  Now I’m one of the lucky people that have been able to actually tour Victory Brewing, so take what I say with however big a grain of salt you wish.  The Victory tour Jim and I took was last April and it was fun and interesting.  Since that time I have been on several other tours and you know what?…They’re boring!…

That’s right it is a bunch of pipes and vats doing what they do, lots of silver tanks and wet floors.  Really the most interesting thing that has ever happened was getting to take a hit out of the bottling tank.  I had a chance to do that at Victory and had some amazing Prima Pils and Citra hopped ale, and once on this last trip to Laughing Dog, they had a tank of Rocket Dog Rye IPA and that was a real treat.  But that was the high spot.   One other place of note on the tours I’ve taken is the Hop Freezer at Victory.  I want to live in there!  But I’m pretty sure Bill would kick out squatters so that isn’t gonna happen.

Otherwise, that is it.  What is most important is the beer that is made by the brewery.  Sure, it is interesting to see where your beer is made, but it certainly isn’t mandatory, and really I have the overwhelming sense that once you’ve seen a brewery, you’ve pretty much seen them all.  They all do the same thing, whether it is Lost Abbey or Miller.  The process is the same, only the quality is different.  And the quality is what counts.

So I guess I don’t mind that Victory has to close down tours, because once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.  They are pretty much all the same, just a matter of scale, whether you are brewing out of your garage or in a 100,000 square foot industrial building.  So if you have a burning desire to see a brewery, by all means go to a small one locally, or if you have the opportunity to get to Victory before July 1, go (the hop Freezer is worth the trip alone).  If you can’t get to Victory go to another brewery.  Pretty soon you will see they are all the same.  And actually boring.  The good part is what comes out of the tap!

-Don

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26 Comments on “Do You Care if You Can’t Tour Your Favorite Brewery?”

  1. June 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Question: Can still drink their beers?

    If so, I don’t give a shit. Also, I hear the AB tour in STL is pretty cool.

    • Don
      June 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

      I’ve actually seen the AB brewery on TV, and I thing the coolest part of it is the copper kettles. Other than that it is the same old same old. and yes, of course you can still drink the beers that is the whole point. Funny thing was when Jim and I were at GABF last year, we went to Great Divide brewery and had to walk through the brewery to get to the outdoor seating. All I really wanted was the beer.

  2. June 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I took the Miller tour in Milwaukee, which was pretty cool (seeing beer being brewed on such a scale is impressive, even if the cans are full of corn).

    Beyond that, all the other brewery stuff I’ve done is as a fancy-pants blogger (or potential TV host), and those were good times, especially because I could do stuff that regular folks couldn’t (climbing into the brew kettle at Victory comes to mind).

    I think civilian beer tours are kind of boring to be honest – give me a cool brewpub and some unique small-scale brews and it’s worth the trip IMO.

    • Don
      June 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      My thought exactly. The bigs will always have their tours because they are set up for it with platforms etc. But other than that as long as I can have the beer and maybe a sandwich or some chips, I’m golden.

  3. June 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    ooh, forgot to add that New Glarus is probably worth the tour – I hear it’s very, very cool and quite unique. Other than that, keep your pipes and pour me a beer!!

  4. June 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I love brewery tours! I cannot really articulate why, either. Something about the magic of being behind the scenes, watching something average and industrial become something worth blogging about and sharing with friends. It is beer at its most intimate. Ive been on 7 brewery tours, ranging from the behemoth New Belgium to the 5bbl garage of Strange Brewing Co. Yet, I still have a desire to see more. But hands down, the best tours are the ones that include free samples!

    • Don
      June 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      Hmmm…Interesting perspective. I totally agree about the free samples too. When Jim and I were at Victory we had a camera crew with us and they were handing us free beer for two days. It was awesome! But what I really liked was the beer. The tours all tend to run together after that.

  5. June 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I’ve been on several tours and while it’s true that they all are very similar, there are a few differences both in scale and method that keep me interested. Plus, they are often free and include samples at the end. What’s not to like?

    I went on the tour at Stone last month and was blown away by both the size and extreme cleanliness of the facility. The most memorable part of the tour, however, was when our guide broke the door to the hop freezer and nearly had a panic attack. Me and a couple other guys on the tour quickly helped him fix it and save the hops (and possibly his job) from certain doom. It made me feel like a true American hero!

    • Don
      June 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      Duly noted…If I go to Stone for the tour bring my tools! Of course free beer is great and worth suffering through the tour, but many don’t have that reward at the end, and I’d rather take that time sampling their brews than looking at shiny tanks. Maybe its a me thing.

  6. Andrew S.
    June 23, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    What is more of an impact to me is that the Tour Guide at Victory, my friend and neighbor Tracy, was laid off because of this. So lets all wish her luck in the future.

    • Don
      June 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      Absolutely Andrew. I had no Idea that it meant someone was let go. Mostly the tours I’ve been on have been by volunteers or in the case of victory we had an entourage because of the film crew. So, I’m pretty sure Tracy wasn’t even there. Really sorry to hear that. I hope she finds something else real soon.

  7. June 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    The best tours I’ve been on are on weekdays, when the brewery is actually working. A few years ago I went on a weekday to Allagash tour. Not only were my wife and I and only people on the tour, we had to don a hard hats and protective glasses. Likewise seeing a bottling line at work is always impressive. Quiet weekend tours I’ve given up on.

    Either way I’d much rather a tasting room or pub to a tour.

    • Don
      June 24, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      That is true Night Owl. I would have loved it if Victory was actually in operation when Jim and I went, but the problem was that they were in the middle of a planned shut down for maintenance and cleaning, so there was very little actually in operation while we were there. I would imagine to see their bottling line in operation would have been very interesting.

  8. The Wookie
    June 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Touring the brewery is like finding out there is no Santa Claus. I like to imagine that, behind the closed doors of the brewery, my beer is made by Oompa Loompas and other mythical creatures. When you tour the brewery you find out your beer is made by some guy named Earl and the health department makes him wear a hairnet over his beard after that the magic is gone.

    • Don
      June 24, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      That is an interesting perspective Wookie, keep the fantasy alive. I wonder if at Victory instead of having the Goose that laid the golden egg, the have the Monkey that threw the golden poop?

  9. David T
    June 24, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    I think I’ve toured a whole three breweries: Miller-Coors and Avery when I was visiting Colorado, and Great Lakes in my local Cleveland. All three were different, largely because of their huge/small/medium sizes. That being said all were interesting and different, and whenever I’m near a brewery on a trip in the future, I will try to visit it. Each takes a different approach to brewing and tours, and each is unique. I haven’t been to a lot, but have been fascinated at each one so far, not bored. I hope others that currently offer tours will continue to do so and those that don’t will consider starting them- IMO it costs the brewery little and gives a great perspective/special bonus to fans. I like Victory’s beers and if I were in the area would love a tour… oh well. I hope they’ll consider re-starting them at some point in the future.

    • Don
      June 24, 2011 at 9:01 am #

      You know it is interesting Dave, and you made me think about something I hadn’t before. Tours are part of the brewing heritage in the US. I remember when I was a kid (I’m talking like 8 years old) my Aunt Dorothy worked at the Pabst Brewery in downtown Milwaukee. I remember her talking about tours and how people got free beer at the end of the tour etc. At that point minors were allowed on the tours too. I think that might have been my first ever brewery tour, but I only vaguely remember walking through the place. I don’t even think Jim was born yet, or he was just an infant and not with us. Anyway, I wonder how much Victory is actually breaking with the brewers tradition by not allowing tours anymore.

  10. June 24, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Wow, this is a dream come true for people who are true beer lovers. Getting to visit the factory of their favorite beer brand is something not every beer drinker can see happening to them!But for those to whom it happens! That’s really a piece of luck!

    • Don
      June 24, 2011 at 9:03 am #

      I guess. It would be interesting to know how many people in general have toured breweries. Seems like Breweries and Fish Hatcheries have a long standing tradition of giving tours. I’m surprised Victory didn’t just limit tours to the times when the bottling line in particular (lots of moving parts there) wasn’t in operation. Would seem to make some sense.

  11. ScottG
    June 24, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I do care. The best tours include the history of the brewery and brewing in their area, some insight into how the brewery does product development and the new brews they’re coming up with, samples of their brews (naturally), and some humor on the part of the guide.

    One of the best tours I had was in Bury St. Edmund’s, England where I went to Greene King. The company has been brewing there since the late 1700s and the tour included the opportunity to go up on the roof and take in the spectacular view of the surrounding town and countryside. Even better, at the end in their tasting room, the tour guide let us pull our own samples which was a 4 oz taster each of all 13-14 beers they brew. Not bad for 5 quid, but eat before hand and bring a DD. And there was a really good pub across the street to eat at after.

    A plus for the brewery, it gives me a reason to pick their beer off the shelf when there are an increasingly larger number of breweries doing really good work. I spend a nominal fee (or better yet no fee) to get to try their product and I don’t worry about buying a six-pack of something I find out tastes like old bog water filtered through a used jock-strap.

    • Don
      June 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

      Good points all Scott. I’m wondering if more breweries might go to a video format or some sort of internet based “virtual tour” for their tours and then have a tap room to sample product? It would be safer and limit liability, which I think is driving all of this right now.

  12. johnking82
    June 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    all tours are pretty much the same, to me only two things matter:
    1. Is the person giving the tour really know what the hell they are talking about and are they funny? If so, good.
    2. Free beer at the end.

  13. June 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Hmmm … like Jim, the only tours I’ve been on have been as a twitter personality, with a head brewer and just me or me and a few other people. And also like Jim, I’ve been able to do things civilians don’t get to do. Last week I was at Odell Brewing tasting Friek straight out of the oak barrels and popping caps off of what was coming of the bottling line to “test for quality” with head brewer Joe Mohrfeld … pretty effing cool.

    Like others have said, I think it depends on the person giving the tour. Yes, the basics of how a brewery works is basically the same. And boring after a few explanations. But when someone starts telling about the history of the brewery, the passion behind what they make and how they make it, and the inspiration and brewing details behind individual beers—particularly specialty beers. And they convey it in way that shows they really care about what they’re doing. It gets pretty interesting to me. Especially if I’m impressed by the beer the brewery makes.

    It’s not deal breaker. But if someone wants to give me a personal tour of Russian River, The Bruery, Great Divide, Avery, etc. Count me in.

    • Don
      June 27, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      We’re happy to provide a forum Chad for the “Beer Poet” to solicit brewery tours! 😉 No, I hear you, and it is cool when you get the opportunity to actually speak with the brewers themselves. I guess my thought was that if all you get is a weekend tour guide, then I can live without it. That said as a “personality” you will probably still get to tour places that are otherwise off limits to the general public…you know the rabble that sits in the pub. 🙂

      • June 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

        Ha! Solicit I will. I highly recommend it, too. To anyone. If you’re on twitter or facebook, and have a brewery you like and tweet or post about, and they tweet or post back—ask for tour. You never know what kind of special treatment you might get! Breweries are cool like that.

        FYI, Don. I brought back some ungettables from Fort Collins. After I sort through my back-to-work to-dos. We should set up some times to taste some good beer.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hop Press: Mountain » Goin’ on Tour! - November 11, 2011

    […] need to admit something right off the bat: ever since I read a little opinion post over at The Beer & Whiskey Brothers about not giving two flips that Victory Brewing stopped […]

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