The Session #93: Beer travel...

With this post I join my first Session (or Beer Blogging Friday), an initiative born in March 2007 on Appellation Beer's blog, by Stan Hieronymus. As you all may know, it all consists on a beer blogger hosting an event in which all the others are called to post about some specific topic, the first friday of each month. The current call is kindly hosted by Brian and Maria, from The Roaming Pint, and  invites us to talk about Beer Travel.

Before giving an answer to the various questions laid out by the organisers, I'd like to make a terminological specification. Unfortunately, the availability of cash and time prevents me from travelling as much as I'd like to. Moreover, I'm a happily married man, and Mrs. Birraire is a lovely lady who just tolerates and seems to have a certain degree of liking for beer (i.e. she's far from being a beer geek... thankfully). Accordingly, I haven't had neither the opportunity nor the guts to plan a Beer Trip stricto sensu. Still, I've always tried to make the most out of every trip by giving room to some special beer hints.

Along these lines, seeking the beer part when travelling has allowed me to know more about the history and reality of beer consumption in each country I've visited. Some of them are famous for its time-honoured tradition, so I've been able to contrast in first person whatever I've read about them. Some other places are quite unknown and I would have rarely got to learn about them further than a quick read of its short section on a Michael Jackson book. I can happily say that these stranger countries have led me to the discovery of fascinating things about beer: sometimes just as good as some from the former group.

Apart from the beer itself, it is important to add up the cultural immersion derived from visiting places which are seldom frequented by someone who's not local. Visiting bars and pubs allows to better empathise with people from other places. This way one can learn more about their habits and history, their thoughts and beliefs. And of course about the social logic behind the styles of beer and the doses. Take Barcelona, for example. Beer drinking customs can easily be explained by climate, while new beer trends tell lots about how its citizens are always open to new stuff. Furthermore, about brewers, you could easily conclude that our new beer outlook is not even in its teens, as some replace their lack of skill and experience with hops and alcohol.

Beer from source: more to it than just freshness.
But let's stick to the topic at hand. During my last trip, for instance, I visited more than twenty different pubs in Wales (the series on this link). This meant that I could fabulously complement a trip of nature and castles with the pleasant experience of sharing chats and views with the regulars. I also ate an awful lot of delicious plates of local grub and explored musical tastes and preferences. While, of course, I had the great opportunity to live once more the enjoyment of having one pint after another of those properly sessionable cask ales that the Britons are so lucky to have.

Drinking local is always better: not only it is more likely that you get a carefully maintained beverage, but it also enables you to learn and live more complete experiences on your travels. In many countries, looking for the beery part of a trip means avoiding the crowds, leaving the touristic path. Along this alternative way you can get to know neighbourhoods, towns and natural spots that you would have otherwise missed. No, we are not special because we like beer; it is the same if you like motorbikes, painting, needlework or mussels. To pursue your own interests, and not those pre-cooked on travel guides, is something worth it.

BFM: pleasure for the nostrils.
In this regard, I've had one of my last grateful experiences in Switzerland. We drew our planning specifically to include a visit to one of my top breweries: Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes. Besides drinking a couple or ten glasses of this sublime Swiss beer in its most pure state of maintenance we could also talk at length with one of the culprits, and explore the facilities at our own pace. And yes, my nose went multi-orgasmic in the astonishing barrel room on the picture. But let's not forget the extra tracks: we also visited the wild nature of the Canton du Jura and a nice little village like Saignelégier, where we attended a horse-riding competition and ate in a tiny cosy restaurant where they treated us like family (the good branch, I mean).

I think I have answered most of the key points suggested by Brian and Maria so far. I just want to add that the beery part of a trip has nothing to do with pilgrimage or paying respect, for me. I guess I'm not the faithful kind. Still, it is part of something I decisively believe in: knowledge, continuous learning; to get steeped in other people's knowledge, culture and wisdom. Here's one of the main reasons why I drink beer.

Salut i birra!


  1. Thanks for participating in our Session! I love the importance that cultural influence plays in your beer travels. Even in the USA we find that cultures and customs vary vastly from state to state and that finding the local drinking establishment will expose you the core of that community. It will definitely take you off the beaten (touristy) path and that is fine with us!

    1. That's something that I want to explore myself next time I cross the Atlantic. The US are sometimes seen as a whole cultural block. I'd love to share a couple of pints with people from all across the country and enrich myself with their knowledge and experiences. Cheers Brian!


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