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Brewery Tours

Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

5 out of 5 Pints

In the world of Brewery Tours this one is the Disneyland of Breweries. 10 Euros gets you three glasses of fresh Heineken (which regrettably is not the best beer ever but its still beer), a wander through Heineken Brand History, a look at the brewing process (and the best raw sample you will get, its the sweet juice pre-fermentation, none of those raw hops you get at the Sam Adams Brewery), a 4-D experience of the brewing process (with you as the beer), fun interactive media (a Heineken Music Video Starring you or Design your own Heineken Bottle), and finally beer in a nice Heineken green themed lounge. A great tour if you should ever find yourself in Amsterdam. 10 euros well spent, and one up on all the American Breweries, you get to send an E-Card instead of a postcard (smart on their part too, e-cards don’t require postage).

Red Hook Brewery, Portsmouth, NH

2 out of 5 Pints

Tours run every hour and only cost a $1 donation, and while this is a small fee that should set small expectations, I was kind of disappointed with the Red Hook Tour. The Tour Guide was enormously grumpy, and kept yelling at our crowd for talking. Granted we were there for a birthday party, and only one third of the tour goers, but still, like everyone else we were there to drink beer, and be merry. Mr. Red Hook was having none of that, and I am pretty sure he was hopped up on some suspicious looking bathtub gin that he carried around in an old Dasani bottle. Despite a brief tour (Synopsis, here are our barrels, here are our kegs, the end), we did get to try 4 different beers, that I never would have tried otherwise. I had only ever had Red Hook ESB before the tour and didn’t take to it, but the Blonde Golden Ale was pretty good. We also got to try the Longhammer IPA and the Late Harvest Autumn Ale. I am partial to Shipyard when it comes to fall beers, but it was pretty good. Grill Boy also tried a Limited Release Ice Beer, that was like 13%, not too bad, not too good. All in all, if you want some free beer, this is a good tour, if you want to learn about the process of brewing beer, go elsewhere.

Sam Adams Brewery, Boston, MA

4 out of 5 Pints

Today’s Brewery Review will be brought to you by Grill Boy and the number 4.

**If you are a fan of brevity you should never read a Grill Boy entry….and for that matter why the hell would you be reading blogs anyways!!

As we all know the spirit of Massachusetts is the spirit of America, ( for those of you unaware that terrible song is not original to Family Guy, it was a very awkward by the tourism something or other of Mass back in some time when I was not around or did not have enough cognitive abilities to notice such things….which means I was a baby not drunk).

Well with the spirit firmly established we should note WHY there is a spirit and that spirit is Samuel Adams, ALWAYS a good decision.  Samuel Adams is a delicious delicious experience that I am proud to say the very first beer I ever bought was a Sam Adams Boston Lager.  If you are reading this blog and are unaware of the fact that Grill Boy is very proud and determined about his New England heritage consider yourself dutifully now informed.  With this heritage comes a deep passion and commitment to New England craft beers and thus a deep love for Sam Adams.  In fact the spirit of Massachusetts and New England historically rests much upon the shoulders of delicious beer.  For instance I spent a summer in college working for the Peterborough Historical Society and scouring probate records, which meant I had too read wills from dead colonials all over New Hampshire to see what they owned, and go figure a lot of them owned 60 – 70 lbs kettles.  Of course I had no idea what this meant at the time so I did some research and I found out that they were used for brewing beer.  I also picked up a tid bit about the Mayflower and why they landed in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, BEER.  As the story goes from what I found out, that the crew needed to ration enough beer for the trip back to Holland after they tossed off the pilgrims, there are some flaws with this story I think but when I go back for another Masters I will be sure to relate all historical events to beer.

Indeed, so on to the Sam Adams tour itself.  I have now been on the tour four times and it really is quite good for various reasons that I feel need a top ten list.

# 1 – The tour guides are drunk all day and must have a pint in their hands at all times

#2 – They make fun of Coors and Budwiser constantly without ever saying their names, this is no doubt a skill the drunker you get, AKA the longer into your shift you are.

#3 – I once saw Jim Koch in the barrell room being the Brewmaster Wizard that he is.

#4 – They tell you not to eat the hops…..I always do.

#5 – The brewery is the test facility for the whole company so it is nice and small and not the main manufacturing plant which means that there is a real personal feel to it all.

#6 – The brewery does not have a liquor license so they can not sell you beer, but they sure can give it to you for free.  This is supposed to be (3) small tasting glasses.  In reality it is much more because they just give the table you are at in the tasting room a pitcher and say enjoy….and enjoy I do!!

# 7 – The information is actually REALLY solid and Sam Adams as a company really cares about their customers and wants to help you enjoy their product, not just buy it and get drunk.  They will tell you on the tour how to do home brewing.

#8 – The perfect pint glass.  If you do not own one of these gems you need to.  This could have it’s own top ten list..but I will leave it to Sam Adams to tell you why its so good….click here

# 9 – You can mail out postcards ALL OVER THE WORLD from the brewery.  I wont lie my parents have gotten a fair number, as have Baker Girl’s parents all the way in the Netherlands.

#10 – Did I mention that you get FREE SAM ADAMS BEER!? …enough said…but I should also mention there is one of the first bars to serve Sam close by named Doyles’  and it has been featured in a lot of movies like 21 and The Departed, so you should check it out when you are checking out Sam Adams.

Now to be fair I should list some reasons why the tour is not a 5 out of 5.

– It is sort of short, while very informative and a great exploration no how to taste and enjoy the beer it really boils down to three stops where the tour guide give a little song and dance a each.

– The location is awkward – especially if you are going by way of public transportation, and if you are driving yourself the parking situation is pretty terrible as well.  It is in the middle of JP and if you take the T you have to hunt and search for the correct path to the brewery.

I think that pretty much describes the experience.  If you love beer and are in Boston you should check it out, really no reason not to beside that it is sort of our of the way.

Bend Brew Bus – Brewery Tour, Bend, Oregon

If and when you visit Bend, Oregon this is an absolute must!  Oregon is full of craft brewers and one of the best ways to experience as many as possible is with the Bend Brew Bus which is put on by Wanderlust Tours and is a fantastic deal.  You get to travel to four to six different micro / craft breweries and brew pubs, have a designated driver and taste lots of beer.  One of the first things to learn on any brewery tour is that clean water is of utmost importance, which is why there are so many in Bend, Oregon because of the Deschutes River is a crisp clear mountain snow river which makes amazing tasting beer.  The Deschutes River is smack in the middle of an old volcanic area so the lava rocks help filter the water.

The places that Baker Girl, Baker Girl’s Father and and Grill Boy checked out were the Deschutes Brewery, McMenamins, Good Life, and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company.

During Prohibition many breweries were driven into bankruptcy and the majority of breweries that remained were the large well known American staples, Budweiser, Miller and Coors. As beer drinkers across the country tired of the watery taste and lack of deep flavor in these commercial beers, many turned to home brewing as a way to get more variety in their favorite hoppy beverages. Eventually some of these homebrewers began producing on a larger scale, bottling, and soon hundreds of craft and microbreweries popped up across the country. Usually attached to these breweries are small pubs (brew pubs) where patrons can enjoy beer and tasty pub food.

Deschutes Brewery

4 out of 5 pints

The Deschutes Brewery is the largest craft brewery (note gigantic tank below)  in Central Oregon, and is actually ranked 5th in size among all US Craft Breweries, behind our friend Sam Adams. Founded in 1988 in downtown Bend, it has grown and expanded and continues to add onto its current facility near the Old Mill District in Bend.

The really neat thing about the Deschutes Brewery is the names of all the beers, they are related to Central Oregon themes/locations/hot spots. Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter are perhaps the most popular, along with some of their specialty seasonale and anniversary ales like Jubelale, Black Butte XXI and Green Lakes Organic Ale. I was a big fan of the Black Butte XXI, and at 11% alcohol, what’s not to love. Its got a great thick caramely quality to it and delicious hints of espresso and cocoa, again what’s not to love. I’m not normally a fan of super dark stout or porter like beers, but the sweetness of this one definitely will have me back for more as new editions come out. Although the Jubelale was not out as it is their winter seasonal, we did get to see all the artwork that has graced the labels of Jubelale for the past two decades. Every year they hold a competition with local artists to create a piece for the label, usually featuring a landscape of Central Oregon.

All in all 4 out of 5 pints for this tour. You get four samples, a “free” sampling glass (provided you have purse or cargo shorts pockets) and a good look at Sam Adams competition…if only they would start distributing beyond Minnesota!


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