Beer tourism is not a very established segment of the travel market and active beer tourism even less so. We are hoping to change that.
Beer tourism does exist. Search for the term on Google – in quotes – and you will get over 34,000 results. For the most part, I would identify beer tourism as what happens when someone visits another city or country and decides to seek out a local brewery in that area. The beer tourism is sort of tangential to the travel already taking place.
One step up in the beer tourism ladder is when someone plans a vacation centered around visiting breweries. A further step up from that is when a company organizes a beer tour to an area, in which participants visit a number of breweries. Tours like this do exist – Belgium is a popular destination.
Farthest up the ladder and a miniscule portion of a small segment of the travel industry is active beer tourism. Naturally, this is the concept of beer travel that we at Zephyr Adventures like.
We recently completed our first-ever active beer tour, a six-day hiking and biking tour in the region around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and it was a big success. In fact, we were pleased before we even arrived as the tour was sold out at 20 participants, with a waiting list.
The basic concept is this: Pick a beautiful area of the world, engage in fun activities during the day, and visit a brewery to learn about and taste great beers during the late afternoon and evening. On this tour, we did three hikes and three bike rides on the six-day trip. The highlight of hiking was probably the three-mile walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, an incredible natural wonder that one participant thought was more interesting than the more popular Grand Canyon in Arizona.
On the biking side, it was a toss-up. Some people loved the single-track mountain biking on Lone Peak Ranch near Big Sky; others preferred the flat paved path through Grand Tetons National Park; and still others preferred the 12-mile ride on cruiser bikes – all downhill – from 11,000 feet at the top of the Beartooth Pass on a National Scenic Byway to Red Lodge.
Of course, we have run many trips in the Yellowstone area and knew the activities would be good. What we didn’t know, but probably should have guessed, was how much fun the brewery visits would be. We ate a five-course beer pairing dinner with Red Lodge Ales in Red Lodge; had a beer flavor profile session by head brewer Kevin Bolen at Grand Teton Brewing in Idaho; and participated in the Montana Brewers Festival in Bozeman. Everyone loved the beer aspect of the tour.
I spoke to my parents on the phone yesterday. They are past the age of cruising down the Beartooth Pass on a bicycle. Nevertheless, when I told them about our new active beer tour in Yellowstone, they said “Now that sounds like a tour we would like to do!”
In the end, the combination of being in a beautiful location, enjoying fun activities, and rewarding yourself with brewery visits and excellent beer was a winning combination. Join us in 2012, when we’ll have another Yellowstone and Grand Teton Multisport Beer Adventure (this time including white water rafting) and a new Colorado Hike, Bike, & Beer Tour.