There was a time not long ago when it seemed like the secret to owning a successful brewery was simply to start a brewery. The rest would take care of itself.
Those days are long gone, unfortunately. The reality now is that while many of our local craft breweries are growing and thriving, we are finally seeing what the brewery saturation point could be.
It started with Rivertown Brewing announcing its closure in February. A few months later he brought the news of Rebel Mettle’s death. And recently, the Rolling Mill Brewing Company of Middletown announced that its last day of operation will be September 30th.
Success in the craft beer sector cannot be taken for granted. If we want to keep Queen City’s craft beer scene alive, we need to support it.
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And there are many ways to support craft beer, from buying a pint at a local restaurant to picking up a six-pack at your local bottle shop. But the best way to support craft beer is to go straight to the source to get it.
I guess most craft beer fans have visited their favorite breweries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people out there who consider themselves hardcore craft people who have never set foot in one. So, whether you’re a hobby novice, a casual fan, or a craft beer drinker who just doesn’t go out much, here are some tips for making your first visit to a brewery a success.
1. Check the brewery’s website and social media.
I like to know if my scheduled visit coincides with special events. Whether it’s a quiz night, a talk show recording, or just discounts on certain beers, it’s worth knowing for sure what’s going on. It is also useful to know if the intended destination serves separate food and, if so, the kitchen hours. The brewery tavern is often open much longer than the kitchen, so plan accordingly.
2. Drink it with your eyes.
Each brewery is unique, each with its own characteristics and weaknesses. If you don’t take a quick tour, how are you going to know about that patio area at the back of the building? Will you miss seeing a sweet mural? Get answers to those burning questions. If nothing else, the path to the bathroom is worth knowing.
3. Take a flight.
We are conditioned to buy beer by a pint when sitting in a bar, but the bar inside a brewery is a completely different animal. You will have some choices to make and trying to have a pint of everything is neither healthy nor wise. The best way to make sure you experience everything you want to try is to take a flight. Most flights come with four or five beers of your choice served in 4-ounce tasters.
4. Chat with the brewer.
Most of the brewers are just fans of the craft brewery who have decided to take their relationship with the place to the next level. Ask them what beers they like, upcoming releases they’re excited about, and anything else that intrigues you. As long as they’re not too busy, most brewers are only too happy to talk about beer and almost always have a fun story or two to share if you ask the right questions.
5. Check your beers on Untappd.
I think it’s a good idea to check the beers on Untappd when you are at the brewery because it helps everyone. You can document what you felt during your visit and you can refer to the old check-ins on your return. The brewery gets some exposure to your Untappd friends. And if you include location information when checking in beers, there’s a chance your check-ins will show up in the brewery’s video menu tabs. Could there be an easier way to get on TV?
6. Purchase merchandise.
I love the logos of the breweries. Put one on a hat or hoodie and I’ll wear that thing until the threads come apart. And if you have a dedicated beer fridge at home, be sure to get some stickers for it.
7. Get some takeaway beers.
The brewery is undoubtedly the best place to buy beer. You’ll find bottles and cans in breweries that will never make it to supermarket shelves, and most places can send you home with a growler or crowler (which I prefer) of whatever they have on tap. The best part: the brewery doesn’t have to split profits with a retailer or distributor. They keep everything, which keeps the lights on.