Malin Norman: For unexpected discoveries, go on a beer pilgrimage
By Malin Norman
A new year means new opportunities for beer travel. Many a beer geek has read prestigious beer guides and travelled to classic beer destinations in search of iconic brews, such as Westvleteren in Belgium, Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic, and Guinness in Ireland.
Another must is Munich, home to Oktoberfest. I haven’t been to the festival, but I have visited the renowned beer hall Hofbräuhaus as well as Weihenstephan, which is said to be the oldest brewery in the world. But the monastery brewery Andechs, southwest of the city, was more memorable. I enjoyed the 45-minute hike up the hill to work up a thirst and greedily devoured my dark lager and massive pretzel on the brewery’s terrace. Admiring the view of the valley below, as if on cue a rainbow appeared – it was quite divine.
Like life itself, beer travel offers ups and downs. One disappointing beer destination was the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. With its well-designed “experience”, guided tours and tastings, selection of crowded bars, and dare I say museum shop, it felt more like something created by Disney than a brewery. But I don’t regret going, learning about one of the world’s most loved beers is part of the beer journey.
In contrast, an unexpected surprise was Fuller’s Brewery in London. I was late for the booked tour but was kindly invited to tag along with a curious school class instead. After the kids had left, the guide brought me to the brewery’s bar onsite for an exclusive tasting of beers fresh from the tap. “Go on, just tell me what you’d like to try,” she exclaimed and smiled broadly. What a treat!
Going on a beer pilgrimage, abroad or in your hometown, is a chance to discover that famous brewery or stumble upon an unknown gem. And to meet other beer nerds from near or far, who made it to the same destination.
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