As A Brewer, What Do You Look For in a First Visit?

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Photo Cred: Ian Steele

This question, and many similar to it, are posed to myself and my colleagues on a near-constant basis. Generally speaking, by the way, brewers can be really hard to shut up once we’ve started talking, but if you catch us in the middle of a work shift and have lots of questions, you can expect the response to be a bit more gruff. But I digress.

Going on four years as a commercial brewer, I have had plenty of opportunity to work a gargantuan amount of beer festivals, and have been fortunate enough to visit breweries all around the country. These breweries range from tiny farmhouse operations all the way up to Dogfish Head, whose brewery in Delaware is truly a sight to behold. At first, I couldn’t get enough of the experimental stuff- super fruity IPAs of all kinds, honey ales, chocolate stouts, peanut butter stouts, you name it- I wanted it. Over time, however, beer burnout can really get on top of you.

To this day, if I walk into a brewery and see something truly unique that I’ve never seen personally, I’ll be hard pressed to ignore it, even if it’s only a 1oz sample. Having honed my craft and palate over my professional journey, however, I’m now looking out for the basics. I want to taste the styles that paved the way for us today. Give me a good old Pilsner, an amber ale, or a straightforward, clear IPA. This is how I judge the average brewery. I want to know that you can do the proof-in-the-pudding styles, with the four ingredients outlined in the reinheitsgebot. Prove yourself with all the adjuncts stripped away, and you’ve got my approval. (Believe me, I too am reading my words and thinking “who the hell asked you anyway?” The answer is lots of people, but I should note that I’m just a bum, so take what I say with a grain of salt and form your own evaluative techniques).

That’s just the beer though. It’s hard to find a unique atmosphere and even harder to decorate sometimes- but all these things are secondary for me. If you couldn’t get a great location but your beer is fantastic, I’m totally cool with that. No patio, great beer? Fine. The moral of this story is that beer is the truth- our guiding light in turbulent times, a warm embrace from an old, old friend. I know there’s no shortage of local support in the Fueled Fam, but if you find yourself wondering if you should spend that extra ten dollar bill in your pocket on a nice local craft beverage, the answer is a more concrete yes right now than it has ever been before.