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Day Trip: Brewery Tours

Spring is here and it’s time to shake off those many months of hibernation and venture out into the world once again. Between all those April showers and May flowers, this season is the perfect time to head to a brewery and take a tour.

Closed-toed shoes are recommended as you be standing, walking, and possibly climbing stairs.

What should I bring?

Friends, cash/credit or debit card, a growler for a fill-up of your favorite beer, and your ability to listen and learn. It is usually not recommended (and in some cases not allowed) that people bring their children on a tour; check with the brewery directly if you have questions regarding toting your young ones along. As well, sometimes dogs are allowed on the premises, but will not be allowed on a tour, but again, check with the particular brewery ahead of time.

What should I wear?

Dress for the weather of the day. Parts of the brewery that you’re touring may not be heated, or air-conditioned, as well, you might even have to walk outside for portions. Layers are good. In addition, please remember that you’re in not only a place of business, but also a “factory” of sorts. Closed-toed shoes are recommended as you be standing, walking, and possibly climbing stairs. If you, or a member of your party, has physical limitations, tour guides are most willing to accommodate.

Should I plan ahead?

Yes. Many breweries only offer tours of their facilities at certain dates and times.
Others you may have to specially request, including making reservations, and sometimes breweries do not offer any tours at all. It’s best to do your research —the internet is all you need, or a phone call if you like to rock it old school— before showing up in expectation that you’re going to get a tour upon arrival. There are things that need to be factored in. Tours are limited based on time (plan on the tour being approximately one hour from start to finish) and the amount of people allowed. Some tours don’t have any limitation on group sizes, but this depends on the size of the brewery. The amount of persons on average walking through the brewery on a tour reaches it’s threshold of approximately 20 persons at one time. In addition, there may be only a few sessions
during an afternoon, so plan to arrive early. Some breweries also charge per person for a tour. Usually it’s only a few bucks, but you’re able to get samples, tastings, and/or even a souvenir glass at the end. If you’re looking to get a large group of people together for a fun outing (i.e. College group, extended family fun, bachelor and bachelorette parties) you’ll want to make sure the brewery can accommodate all y’all, and it never hurts to ask for a private tour.

What should I expect?

When you arrive, most likely you’ll be part of a larger group. If there is payment required, you’ll do that first. You will have a tour guide who might be an intern, hired staff, or possibly even the brewer or owner of the brewery themselves. The folks taking you on tour will be exceptionally knowledgeable and will normally cover the history of the brewery, the elements used in brewing, the brewing process, the different types of beers brewed, the final results, the bottling/canning process, and distribution. You’ll see (and sometimes even get to touch and taste) the grains used, and view the pipes, tanks, equipment, storage, labs, and lines used in each and every step of brewing. Many times people are actually working while you’re touring too, so you’ll actually get to see the brewery in action. It’s best not to touch any equipment unless you ask or the guide states so. As well, you’re expected to stay with the group and not wander off on your own. It’s always okay (and readily welcomed!) to ask questions during the tour and there are no stupid questions because every brewery has different steps to their brewing processes. At the conclusion of the tour, your tour guide will direct you to your beer tastings.


What else is there to do at the brewery?

Besides having a pint or two and socializing, many places offer complimentary pretzels and popcorn to snack on all the way up to a full kitchen with an extensive pub-fare menu and plenty of seating. There might also be a food truck available in the parking lot of the brewery on any given day. Sometimes there are cards and board games, a fire-pit and patio, and even live music. Every brewery is unique in their offerings. There will also be all sorts of merchandise from T-shirts and koozies to glasses and coasters for sale. Purchases of beer in bottles, cans, growlers and/or crowlers are usually available as well.

What if I’m being dragged to a brewery against my will and I hate beer?

Well, for one, try a sample or two, or a flight – you never know what might be palatable. Secondly, it’s still a good time and at the very least, informational and educational. Thirdly, there may be other offerings of cider and/or wine. Many breweries nowadays wish to cater to everyone, even when some of their patrons are not particularly fond of beer.

Most of the breweries in the greater CNY area have brewery tours available. Some particularly great ones to check out include the Saranac F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica, Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, Red Hawk Brewing on Onondaga Hill in Syracuse, and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown. Each is unique in their offerings and tour styles and it is highly recommend and encouraged to visit a few to see the similarities and differences of each.

Cheers!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!