Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Touring the Brewery

I never really know what to make of brewery tours. Sure, when I work at Starr Hill, I do the occasional tour of the facility and wax lyrical about the process of brewing beer, but I must admit there are few breweries that I would absolutely want to tour.

In ten years living in Prague I didn't go on the brewery tour at Plzeň, at the time I didn't see the need - I did however enjoy their wares in the brewery pub. When we went to Ireland back in 2008, I felt no urge to go to St James' Gate, though I enjoyed pints of Guinness in Dublin, Galway and points in between. The closest I got to a brewery tour before moving to the States was sitting in the brewery bar at U Medvídků while they were at work creating their magnificent Oldgott Barrique. I have of course had the pleasure of seeing up close and personal the workings of the Devils Backbone brewhouse, with its decoction kettle and various other bits and bobs.

This whole train of thought came about because a friend asked me what breweries in the world I would really like to visit, in terms of looking that their process and equipment rather than just going to a tasting room or pub to drink their beers - something I do thoroughly enjoy, especially when the tasting toom is as nicely set up as Williamsburg Alewerks. So without further ado....

1. Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, England

From what I understand, Hook Norton is one of the few, if not the only, remaining tower brewery in the United Kingdom. A tower brewery used gravity to move through the brewing process, so basically you start at the top of the building and work your way down. The brewery also has a 19th century steam engine, and I love steam engines. It also helps that Hook Norton make several of my favourite beers, including their Double Stout.

2. Kout na Šumavě, Czech Republic

I know I bang on about how much I love their beers, and so what better reason to go and see the old buildings that house the production of some of the world's best beers (I was going to say just lager, but I think they are better than many an ale as well - hence people who deride lager are idiots in my world - here endeth the lesson). Part of me would also love to see where my good friend Evan put his foot through the floor without spilling a drop.

Just a couple there, where would love to go?


  1. There isn't a Guinness brewery tour. There's a visitor's centre and a slightly more involved press tour, but you don't get to see the cans of liquid hop extract and roast barley concentrate being opened unless you work there.

    I'd love to see more of the lambic breweries in Belgium.

  2. The two best tours I can recall were Speakeasy and of course Cantillon. Both were in your face. You had to dodge dangerous objects and beer spillage etc.

  3. Beer Nut: Be in Pajottenland on May 1 for the Tour de Geuze and you can see five lambic breweries in one day. And someone else will do the driving.

    Off the top of my head, I'd like to tour Fuller's for all that gyling and blending.

  4. I was looking at flights before the ink was dry on your blog post, Joe.

  5. Cantillon don't eaxctly have a tour. You pay your money (not much!) and they point you in the general direction of the entrance. From then on you are on your own. Health and safety is clearly not considered important (or at all as far as I could tell). So watch your head, shins, and any sticking out parts of your body.

    I particularly enjoyed tasting the beer spewing out of the top of the stainless tanks and trying to decide what it was (kriek and framboise I think). And factor in some time to standat the bar or sit by the shop and enjoy a few beers. Recommended.

  6. I loved the Pilsner Urquell tour and Cantillon is amazing to look around.

    More than any other brewery I'd really love to tour Budweiser in St Louis - I'm fascinated by the scale of it. I'm with Joe on wanting to look around Fuller's too.

    Of course, there are many more breweries I'd just like to hang out in and wander around!

  7. Mentaldental, you get a proper guided tour if you go on an open brewday.

  8. Hanging out and wandering around breweries is definitely something I enjoy doing - especially during a brewday, the buzz of activity, the smells, ah the much more interesting that looking at lifeless lumps of stainless steel.

  9. Beer Nut, I wasn't complaining! I enjoyed wandering around working out how everything was used. I loved the special roof tiles with open vents in them to left the microbes in (and bars to keep the birds out!).


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