When 42% of Americans say they prefer beer to wine or liquor – and it’s the third-most popular beverage after water and tea – it makes perfect sense that many hospitality companies from the airport to the destination to the spa, have jumped on the beer wagon, seeking ways to set themselves apart.
“Beer tourism is definitely a new phenomenon,” says Allan Wright, owner of Taste Vacations and organizer of the annual Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference. “Compared to wine tourism, which has been established for many decades, traveling for beer has really only become popular in the last five years or so.”
Flying high with beer
Many travelers are beginning their beer-centric travel on the runway. BrewDog Airlines, for example, lifted off in February between London and the brewery’s home base in Columbus, Ohio. The brewery has taken the extra step of crafting limited-edition beer that adapts particularly well to the high-altitude issues of smell sensitivity and taste reduction – a helpful feature during the in-flight beer tastings.
Some airports aren’t waiting for BrewDog to venture their way. The Squatters Airport Pub in the Salt Lake City International Airport is open year-round from 6 a.m. to midnight with a vast beer menu from the city’s first brew pub, Squatters Pub Brewery. For a while, Pittsburgh International Airport hosted the popup Voodoo Brewery pub, bringing a sense of place far beyond the city-labeled swag to the airport and to passengers who can’t leave the airport during layovers.
Drink without driving
Tours abound around the world for those with a taste for hops. Hospitality companies have tapped their local markets with trips as simple as “party bikes,” such as Minneapolis, Minn.'s multi-seat Pedal Pubs that requires all riders to pedal from pub to pub while a guide handles serving beverages aboard.
Taste Vacations offers tours designed for small groups in Belgium, Colorado and North Carolina, creating multi-day vacations for private and public groups, including lodging, guides, meals and brewery visits—all centered around beer.
“There are many aspects to beer tourism. On a basic level, beer tourism can simply mean going out of one's way to visit a local brewery when traveling for work or pleasure,” Wright says. “Slightly more complex is to actually plan a vacation to a city or region known for its beer, such as Asheville, N.C., or Belgium, and incorporate brewery visits into your travels.”
The trend also extends beyond destinations widely known for beer, and therefore to those beyond the typical craft beer demographic, Wright says.
“While craft beer drinkers tend to skew younger, tourists (those with the money and time to travel) traditionally skew older. So we are actually seeing that beer tourism can include people from across the spectrum,” Wright says.
In Florence, Italy, Curious Appetite’s private artisan Italian craft beer tasting, which includes beers featuring ingredients like saffron, chestnuts, flowers and more -- offers a customizable experience that teaches guests about Italian beer-making techniques and lets them meet producers.
Of course, the highlight of beer-imbibing worldwide is Oktoberfest in Germany. Every year, for one week, more than 6 million people unite in Munich to celebrate life and an array of beer – nearly 2 million gallons of it in 18 days in 2017. Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying’s rooms come with complimentary Ayringer beer, and the property has a brewery as well as a tavern and garden. The Landhotel Beverland has beds in wooden barrels, beer saunas and 62 themed rooms spanning the Middle Ages to “Star Wars.”
Chill at either end of the day
Beer is reputed to be good for the skin, which explains why Prague’s Beer Spa has a handful of soothing options. Guests can lounge in handmade, royal oak whirlpool tubs filled with hops, brewer’s yeast and malt, which are said to open the pores, boost skin regeneration, ease fatigue and stimulate metabolism. The spa treatment – during which guests can drink as much light and dark Krusovice beer as they wish -- is followed by a wheat straw bed for relaxation, with a finale of a warm fireplace and homemade beer bread.
Edgewater Hotel on the shores of Lake Mendota in Wisconsin offers the New Glarus Brewing Co. Serendipity Massage, which is “inspired by the tasty fruit beer Serendipity and uses a specialized Cranberry Seed and Apple essential oil,” Kristen Kuchar writes, while the scrub used for its Door County Brewing Co. Silurian Stout Body Treatment features shea butter, sugar and Arabica bean extract.
Beer isn’t just for cold-weather locations. The Signature Beer Treatment at The Atlantic Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., opens with a citrus beer body exfoliation and body wrap. Beer scalp and hair treatments are on the menu too.
With more consumers interested in beer-related travels, the trend has grown to a point where it is having an effect on economics, says Taste Vacations’ Wright, adding that cities like Portland, Ore., and Denver, Colo., see surges of beer tourists for major festivals that can draw tens of thousands of visitors.
“When a brewery is positioned in a non-tourist location, such as a closed-after-hours business district or an area in need of economic revitalization, beer tourism can positively effect an entire community,” Wright says. “Most breweries in the United States are small and reliant on tap room sales; beer tourism can provide a huge impact on a brewery's bottom line.”
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