There has never been a better time to be a fan of craft beer. It is proliferating in a way that was unheard of just a quarter century ago. From the ashes of prohibition-era laws and regulations being relaxed, to the rising tide of beer-themed tourism, beer lovers throughout the USA and around the world have never been afforded the level of variety, quality, and quantity of craft beer as they are enjoying right now. The best part is, the numbers do not appear to be close to peaking yet! Craft beer continues to increase in overall sales and market share, and the number of new breweries opening remains on an upward trend.
But what does it really mean to be a "fan" of "craft beer"? Is there a difference between the lifelong drinker of mass-produced American lagers and the self-described "beer hunters" that visit a craft beer festival or pub crawl in a different town every weekend in search of their version of the "perfect pint?"
The same questions can be asked of the brewers themselves. If you have recently opened a new microbrewery or brewpub, what styles of beer are you focused on perfecting, and why? Are you simply trying to catch the wave of popularity that can come from the current state of the craft beer industry? Or is your goal more intimate than that? Are you striving to make that "perfect pint" for your customers, based upon a personal experience with a particular style you discovered in a far-off land?
It is important to emphasize something here. These questions do not have built-in "correct" answers. They are simply subjective conversation starters to fans of good beer, as well as those that are in the business of brewing it. Let's face it: if you grew up in the USA between the mid-1960's and the late 1980's, the beer of choice wasn't really a choice. All those mass-produced beers sold in 24-can cases for $3.99, pretty much tasted the same.
As people came to the realization that there had to be something else available, one of two options usually happened...they tried homebrewing (I tried it once, with my Dad. Results were mixed, meaning that what we created tasted nothing like beer, but did a tremendous job of removing the oil stains from the garage floor), or they went traveling. I was much better at this, and still am, again, thanks to my Dad. Having immigrated to the USA from England, Dad took us on many trips back to the UK when I was young, to visit his side of our family. As I reached legal-drinking age, I quickly discovered the joy of the classic pint of English Best Bitter, naturally cask-carbonated and served at a cool-but-not-ice-cold 50-54 degrees.
With these two groups evolving, two new entities started springing up in the late 80's: Microbreweries, as the homebrewers began to expand their efforts (usually because the people who weren't good at homebrewing asked the people that were to make some specifically for them, for which they would happily pay), and beer enthusiast groups, who went traveling in search of the beer they wanted to enjoy. Thanks to the internet, these two types have been growing almost exponentially ever since.
My goal, in starting Craft Beer Journeys, is to bring these groups together. Brewers of outstanding, craft brewed beer, and the groups of devout enthusiasts who seek those perfect pints, from the places that produce them, will have incredible, life-enhancing experiences through shared travel and passion for high-quality beer.
Now for those of you that are thinking, "Well, I know there are groups that do beer themed tours, I see them online all the time," I want to be clear. I am aware that other experts in the brewing arts have led quite a few tours of the beer meccas of the USA and Europe. I have had the fortune of meeting some of them over the past few months at several brewing and tourism conferences I have attended. While talking to these friendly, knowledgeable, supportive people (virtually all of them have given me advice and encouragement for this venture), a couple of themes emerged: first, that most of the people leading beer-themed tours are doing it on or at a local level, offering single-day or single-night local visits to breweries, brewpubs, and other venues to give their clients a "taste" of the beer of that particular city or region.
The longer, vacation-length tours (6-10 days, approximately), are usually put together as specially produced, one-time trips, by individuals or organizations who do it as part of a larger entity, meaning that the beer-themed vacation is not their true "specialty", but they will do it on-request in order to secure a client's group booking. Craft Beer Journeys is positioned to become a full-time provider of full-length vacations centered around the craft beer industry. The vision is simple: I want to help craft beer enthusiasts See the World through Beer! Craft brewers that fell in love with the styles of beer they now brew, can take groups of their most devoted fans to those legendary places where the styles were invented, or perfected, or both: England, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere. Through these shared travel experiences, craft brewers can increase the loyalty they enjoy amongst their devotees, turning them into raving fans in the process!
So, how do I answer those questions I posed earlier? Well, as I mentioned, I'm no expert in brewing. I'm a beer hunter, chasing those perfect pints across the USA, Canada, and Europe. I'm also a pub hunter, exploring those places where great beer is sold and poured. I love to engage in conversation with fellow craft beer lovers, locals, and brewers (The Irish pub word is Craic). This allows me to immerse myself in local culture and customs, and let's face it: the world could use a little more of that these days.
There has never been a better time to be a fan of craft beer, which is why there has never been a better time to See the World through Beer, with Craft Beer Journeys.