“You’re going to drive 6-7 hours just to go to a brewery? Are you serious? What’s the point of that?”
I recently faced some version of that question from a couple of different people recently. The answer was almost always the same: “yeah we are, you just don’t understand. It’s not like going to a regular brewery.” Truthfully, the answer is far more deep than simply driving a bunch of hours to go visit a brewery. The breweries in question in this example were The Alchemist and Treehouse Brewing (both of which were probably worth a drive of twice the distance honestly). The trip was about far more than going to get some beers that I have wanted to try.
The trip got my fiancee and I out of New Jersey for a few days and let us see some beautiful parts of both Vermont and Massachusetts; towns that truthfully we would never have visited otherwise. Waterbury, Vermont or Monson, Massachusetts don’t often come up when vacation planning. In Vermont, we got to see downtown Stowe without a blanket of snow, had some fantastic pizza at the Blue Stone, some good food and beers at Prohibition Pig, and some local beers at the Reservoir. Of course the main reason for the trip was The Alchemist and their highly sought after beer: Heady Topper. We left NJ at 3am to make sure we would arrive in Vermont with plenty of time to line up for our mixed cases of Heady Topper, Crusher, and Focal Banger, with great success. If you haven’t been to the Alchemist, the smell is amazing; the aroma of hops is everywhere. We met great people in line, and this was the first time my fiancee started to realize that there was a bigger beer community out there that she had no idea even existed. People all around us were talking beer; the smells, the flavors, beers we have to seek out, breweries we have to visit next time we do this kind of thing, it was fantastic.
Leaving The Alchemist, we happened upon Stowe Cider and walked in as they opened. The future misses is a much bigger cider fan than I am but these ciders were awesome. We did a couple of flights and left with a bunch of different ciders from a place we 100% would never have known about or gone to without the Alchemist.
In Massachusetts, the destination was Tree House Brewing and the goal was leaving with Julius, their flagship IPA. We lined up in an even bigger line than the one at The Alchemist, but had a similar experience. People all around us fully immersed in the beer world; talking breweries, beers, flavors, aromas, etc. Unfortunately, no Julius, but we did leave with Green, Eureka, and Very Hazy, which I knew nothing about. People around me were very excited that Very Hazy was one of the beers available which, in turn, built my excitement and I couldn’t wait to try it. Treehouse was awesome but the the Massachusetts part of the trip also allowed us to drop in on good friends that we rarely see and spend some time with them and their new baby. A very successful trip; no Julius, but all that means is there is another trip to Monson, Massachusetts in my near future.
So what’s the point of this long, wordy story? It’s the experiences more than the actual breweries. My fiancee, who is not a beer person and would rather spend days off heading to beaches rather than breweries, got into the trip, calling it our beer quest. I watched her stand in The Alchemist critiquing Heady Topper and deciding that Focal Banger was better. We met interesting people and got to spend time with friends on the back-end of the trip. My phone frequently went off from people asking what we were getting and how much and if we could bring beers back. When we were back in New Jersey we sat around a table with a group of friends trying all the beers we brought back and talking about them. I got to see how happy it made people that I brought beers back for them, and had texts talking about the beers for days after as they tried them. We had stories from our trip to tell and experiences we won’t forget. That’s why we were traveling 6-7 hours to go to a brewery. But, not everybody will understand all of that; these experiences aren’t for them…they aren’t for everybody, and that’s ok. For those people the answer is much more simple, “yeah we are, you just don’t understand.”