This week, I invited Josh Christie, of the Brews and Books blog to be the first Guest blogger on Part Time Vagabond. Josh is a bookseller and beer afficionado, and blogs about two things he loves; you guessed it: brews and books. This week, Josh talks about finding great beers wherever you are in your travels.
When you’re traveling, it’s not just the new sights and sounds you’re taking in; it’s also incredibly unique tastes. Checking out locally brewed beer is a great way to celebrate the uniqueness of the place you’re visiting, not to mention a way to meet people and make some happy memories. If you’re traveling on a budget, visiting breweries, beer bars and “packies” are the way to get great beer and still save some cash. In case you’re a local or visiting Portland, I’ve included a couple of examples from the great state of Maine with each option. Prosit!
Brewery tours are by far the easiest and cheapest way to try loads of local suds. Most brewery tours consist of a bit of history about the brewing company, a look at their line of beers and brewing process, and a chance to sample all of their different recipes. Of course, the part-time vagabond benefits from the fact that most of these tours, along with the beer samples, are completely free. A number of breweries even have restaurants or pubs attached, so you can get some food and enjoy a full pint of one of the house beers on the cheap.
Here in Portland, a couple examples are the Shipyard and Allagash breweries, which offer free tours with samples multiple times daily. Gritty McDuff’s is another option, a popular brewpub visit for some food and drinks in the Old Port.
If you can’t make your way to a brewery for a tour, your next best place to sample local brews is a bar that specializes in beer. This is one area where an internet connection is your friend, because bar directories on sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate make it easy to find a good place to grab a few pints in almost any city. Key things to keep an eye open for are lots of locals on tap, an ability to get flights of beer, and specials. Combine these things and you’ll get to try beer from a number of breweries, even if you’re short on time and cash.
Portland is fiercely supportive of local breweries, so we’re lucky enough to have good, local beer on tap at most bars. A couple standouts for the cost-conscious traveler are the Great Lost Bear (flights of samples for only $1 a piece, plus cheap pints a few nights a week) and Three Dollar Deweys (sub-$3 pints of good craft beer for happy hour every day).
Packies and Bottle Shops
Finally, we come to buying bottles of local beer. While you miss out on the ambiance of a brewery or bar, buying at a package store or bottle shop is by far the most cost-effective way to get your hands on some beer. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a “discount” beverage store – usually a lovely warehouse of some sort. What you lose in looks and charm, you make up in savings on the brews. If you’re looking to save some cash or to bring some of the place you’re visiting home with you, this is the way to go.
If you’re traveling in Maine and want to bring something home, Downeast Beverage on Commercial Street in Portland has tons of local beer, as well as a great mix-a-six discount section. For the deepest discount in town, RSVP on Forest Avenue is the classic beverage warehouse, not much to look at but overflowing with inexpensive quality local brews.
So, be sure to take in some local beer on your next excursion. Even if you’re not taking a beer-centric vacation, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out some of the thousands of craft breweries you’ll find in your travels.
Josh Christie is a bookseller, beer-lover, blogger and all-around geek living in Portland, Maine. You can find his reviews, opinions and commentary at Brews + Books, and befriend him on Facebook and Twitter. If you need a beer or book recommendation, ask and you shall receive.