Treasure Maps for #Beer!

Fall approaches and summer draws to an end.  Children and young adults return to their respective shools and campuses, and most family vacations have been completed until the holidays.  The end of summer leaves us to look back on trips we took, both this year and in year’s past.  And, undoubtedly, we think of the trips we should have taken, and make half-hearted promises to ourselves to “do it next year.”  There is a romanticism with the road trip in America.  From Kerouac and Hunter S. to recent celluloid documentation such as “Dumb and Dumber,” “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” and the aptly named film “Road Trip,” people fall in love (albeit briefly) with the thought of packing up and packing in for an adventure anywhere away from home.  For most, it is much more reasonable to fall into the ease of a book or movie, as it provides the comfort of staying at home.  Let’s face it, as a nation, we are lazy at best.  Why travel across the country to an amusement park when you can rent “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and laugh at the hijinks and hilarity.  Why venture into the wilderness and nature of a small New England town when you can sit back and read “Walden” in chunks and pieces, at your leisure, of course.

Well, I’ll tell you why, dammit…because you are missing out!  And missing out on experiences that you can not truly grasp without a bit of an adventure.  I’m not recommending you drop acid and drive through the desert to fully experience “Fear and Loathing…,” my suggestions err more on the legal, safe, and reasonably close (geographically) side.

I’m sure most of you have put together the gist of this entry, this being a beer blog and all, whilst the first two paragraphs rant about road tripping.  You guessed it…a beer-themed road trip.  What could be better?  I bet some smart-ass said “Not getting a DUI,” or something along those lines.  Don’t worry, we’ll cover that, too.

All states have tourism boards of some sort.  Many of these organizations have taken notice of the continuing growth of the craft beer movement, likely because of the increased revenue they provide the state, or maybe more aptly due to the fact that they drink like fish to get through their job each day.  Regardless, microbreweries draw people, both local and tourists.  Locals frequent their favorite watering holes, and distant beer aficionados, the rabid animals that they are, will commonly travel great lengths in pursuit of the next tasty pint.  This has led some states to creating challenges for the beer drinkers who don’t mind a little journeying, with rewards on top of those inherit in the trip and challenge alone.

Maine currently has what’s called the “Maine Beer Trail,” which consists of 25 stops around the state at local breweries.  At each stop, all you need to collect is an initial from one of the staff to verify your visit.  Once you have 5 breweries checked off, you can redeem your pass for a baseball hat.  10 breweries gets you a t-shirt, and for you folks with completion anxiety as bad as my own, completing all 25 breweries scores you a nondescript prize pack of Maine Beer Gear.  Again, as stated before, the journey truly gives more than the end results, but prizes are always fun, too.  Breweries in the Maine contest range from Eliot to Bar Harbor, and as far north as The Forks on the Kennebec River.

In Vermont, they offer the Beer Passport.  This is a card (or downloadable and printable form) that you take with you in your travels to get stamped at each of the 24 breweries involved.  That number is always growing, as not too long ago the passport only had 17 breweries pictured.  There are similar perks to completing the passport, including a bottle opener for 4 stamps, a t-shirt for 10 stops, and a similarly mysterious collector’s set of VT beer gear for all 24 establishments.

New Hampshire has a less formal club, of sorts, named “Views and Brews,” which runs more on the honor system.  The challenge (http://viewsandbrews.com/nh/) cites 10 of the state’s breweries that have hiking trails and/or summits very close by.  The object is to visit the brewery and complete one of the local hikes, all within a 48 hour period.  Complete at least 7 on the list and you receive a “Views and Brews” patch.  They have similar hiking/beer programs in New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, and Delaware, with plans to extend into Canada at some point.  This gives you a bit of a healthy spin on the entire journey.

Your adventures can remain in your home state, or stretch from every corner of the country.  You could even go the international route, for that matter.  The trip can be whatever you make it, and if the in-state tour is not up to your liking, get creative with it.  Map out a road trip of breweries with colors in the name, or animals, or cities that have professional sports teams.  No matter what you decide, make this trip memorable.  Stay in some of the cities you visit (this will help you avoid the DUI) and explore the cultural landmarks and history of the city…beer can be an educational adjunct, you know.  Take lots of pictures, and keep those taste buds on point.  Travel safe, strength in numbers, and as always, drink educated my friends.

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