If you take the time and pay a fee to tour a brewery, chances are you’re pretty into beer. We asked 10 brewers across the country how breweries can show their appreciation for visiting devotees.
From insider access to samples aplenty, here is everything that separates a good brewery tour from a great one.
“A knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic tour guide. You can give people an unforgettable tour of an outhouse factory if you make it relatable and do it with energy and passion.”— Victor Novak, Brewmaster, Golden Road Brewing
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“The guide!”— Emily Byrne, Brewer, Schlafly
“Knowledgeable people make a big difference — but fun, engaging, insightful, and passionate people take it to the next level. Being able to get as close to the brewery is great. Drinking from tanks, meeting brewers, fun facts, and feeling the brewery as you walk through it are great. It should be a little special because a brewery should appreciate the dedicated people who are now making breweries part of their lives on a bigger level. Historically, breweries were important parts of every community they were in and we are certainly seeing that again as breweries become meeting places and social anchors. So those who want to take it up a notch and get the deep dive that a good tour offers should come away feeling like it was worth it to the point where they feel even more connected to the beers and brewery they admire. They will tell their friends about it, and probably the world using some sort of social media or review site. So don’t screw it up.” — Jared Jankoski, Brewmaster, Goose Island Beer Co.
“It’s all about the guides: engaging, passionate, and knowledgeable. The tour guide should be in the brewery enough to know that the halls were designed wide enough for full pallets of pumpkin puree to move through and other insider details that you only get at the brewery. All access and an in-process beer sample are great, when permitted.” — Josh Waldman, Head Brewer, Elysian Brewing
“A great brewery tour is made when the staff is enthusiastic about showing off all the cool things they have and teaching you about the process. For me, it’s less about the process and more about the cool toys each brewery has and how they might do things a little different than we do… Obviously, a super-cool layout and high-end brewing equipment pique my interest, but someone who loves giving tours and is happy to show off what they do is the best part.” — Josh French, Production Brewmaster, Devils Backbone Brewing Company
“There are three keys to a great tour. First, a knowledgeable tour guide who knows the history of the brewery, knows about beer, and respects the industry by conveying their message without bad-mouthing other brewers. Second, an opportunity to get up close to the actual equipment, not just seeing it on a video screen or behind a glass window. Third, an opportunity to sample some of their beers along the way.” — Dan Jansen, Brewmaster and Director of Operations, Blue Point Brewing
“Making people feel like an insider is an important element to the perfect brewery tour. Being a brewmaster, I get to see behind the scenes, and I think the average brewery visitor wants that same feeling: That’s why they are on the tour. A kickass tour will include a knowledgeable guide who will let you get into the action, while observing safety. And of course you want people to taste what they are learning about, so samples are needed. I like the tours where there are pit stops dedicated to tasting a couple beers along the way… Finally, always set expectations, especially as it relates to tour duration. A good tour can vary in length, going anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours, but you need to let folks know what they are getting into before kicking off the tour because expectations are everything. And if you lean towards a longer tour, it’s important to break it up with tastings along the way.”— Eric Warner, Brewmaster, Karbach Brewing
“Hands down, it’s the guide. I’m willing to overlook the ‘worts’ and all (ha!) if I’m not only being informed, but entertained. Enthusiasm and knowledge trump all. But free beer is always a plus.” — Andy Ingram, Co-Founder and Head Brewer, Four Peaks Brewing
“A great tour starts out with excitement, from the guests and the tour guides. I’m a big fan of interactive tours. It’s a great way to show off a brewery’s inside knowledge, and showcase what really makes them stand out.” — Andrew Burman, Co-Founder, Other Half
“A great brewery tour consists of three main elements: tour guide, ambiance, and beer. The tour guide needs to love what they do, as well as be approachable and easy-going. Scripted tours are too stuffy and come off as disingenuous… The layout of the brewery is a huge factor. It does not have to be high tech by any means, just interesting and unique. There should be multiple stops throughout the tour for the group to gather and learn about the brewing process. It’s important to have an area that you’d want to hang out and crack a few fresh beers after the tour, too.” — Jimmy Seifrit, Brewmaster, 10 Barrel Brewing
“A great brewery tour is always in the details for me. I’m constantly on the lookout for those little Easter eggs hidden in each brewery I visit that make me want to ask a question. Whether it’s the classic rubber chicken or a velvet painting of Tom Selleck, à la Burial Beer Co., if it looks like it doesn’t belong, chances are the brewers had a good time putting it there.” — Jen Currier, Lead Blender, Wicked Weed Brewing