Cheers to That!
Vacationers are influenced by many different factors and attractions when choosing their final destination. Why not draw visitors to your location with beer?
“Beercations” have soared in popularity in recent years because of the craft beer craze that has taken the country by storm. These vacations are all about trying new craft beers and touring breweries local to the area. “There is something special about learning where something that we use, eat or drink on a daily basis comes to be,” says Peter Rait, owner of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro in Boston. “The connections we make are what everyone searches for and what life is all about.”
Becoming a beercation destination has been the dream of Harpoon Brewery’s founders since they began operations nearly 30 years ago. “We are a brewery that was founded in 1986 by two college buddies who decided they would rather be in the beer world than do anything else,” says Bill Leahy, sales execution manager at Harpoon Brewery in Boston.
After college, founders Dan Kenary and Rich Doyle traveled to Europe where their interest in craft beer really took off. They noticed during their travels that the European mindset on beer was so much different from the United States at the time. There was a whole beer culture centered on breweries producing superior products, Leahy says.
“It is an identity for these places,” he adds. “People go to the butcher for meat, the baker for their bread and the brewery for their beer. There is this one brewery in Europe where at any given time only four monks know the full recipe of the beer produced. It has been a secret recipe for centuries. It’s an admirable thing.”
Based on this European model, Harpoon Brewery strives to continue to be the pride of Boston and attract beercationers from all over the world. “Beercations are growing in popularity,” Leahy says. “Napa is a wine destination and you go there to do that. There are places in the United States that are beer destinations and Boston is starting to grow to that.”
There are many attractions that make Boston an amazing place to visit – the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park and the home of Paul Revere. Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro and Harpoon Brewery, however, want to offer visitors a new way to experience the city while seizing the opportunity to co-host a beercation. “There’s no reason for a vacation to not be oriented towards beverages,” Rait says. “When you apply a theme to something it’s more motivating. Beer is the right angle in Boston.”
Visitors can escape to Boston to take advantage of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro and Harpoon Brewery’s first-ever Beercation package. Attendees will take a tour of Harpoon Brewery and enjoy a three-course beer dinner prepared by Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro Chef Lucas Sousa. Guests will start their Beercation by checking into a luxurious queen quest room for a one-night stay and enjoy two Harpoon Beers as they take in the view of Charles Street below.
After settling in, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro will arrange a tour of Harpoon Brewery, which is located in Boston’s Seaport District. The tour will take guests through the process of brewing and canning Harpoon, and eventually lead to a tasting of freshly brewed Harpoon and UFO beers. “They give a great tour and the location on the water front makes it an added bonus,” Rait notes. “They are beer makers and fun people.”
Harpoon Brewery was one of the first to move into the vacant industrial area of the Seaport District, which had gone unused for the past decade. “There has been big development surrounding the brewery,” Leahy says. “We were by ourselves, but now we are connected to south Boston and the downtown area by way of foot traffic. Our biggest advertisement is getting people down to see an active brewery, touring the facility and tasting the beer.”
Leahy says Harpoon Brewery’s goal is to help turn south Boston into a beercation destination for years to come. “We like being a thing of pride for the city of Boston,” he adds. “I’m excited to get going with Beacon Hills on the Beercation package.”
Although this is the first year Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro and Harpoon Brewery are offering a Beercation package, both Rait and Leahy are optimistic it will be successful. “What we know, in fact, is that we always learn every day,” Rait says. “We think we have a sense of what people will enjoy. I know people will enjoy the Beercation package when they do it.”
Harpoon Brewery also hopes the Beercation package is well received. Boston is becoming a great beer destination because of the larger and older companies located there like Sam Adams and Harpoon, but also because of its start-ups and nano-breweries, Leahy says. “If the beercation is about what’s available at the destination, you can go to Boston and hit all these different types of breweries,” he adds. “This is a good thing for craft brewers as a whole.”
1. Harpoon Brewery
2. Moody tongue
3. Victor Tangos
4. High Hops Brewery
5. Wicked week brewing
6. Highland Park Brewery
7. Fargo Brewing Co.
8. American Brewing Co.
Taste the Love
Brewers are not focused on farm-to-glass beer because it is the popular thing to do. The trend has exploded in the industry because brewers have found that using ingredients grown right outside their doors results in a much better product, and the end-result is the only thing that matters.
“When you get the hops straight from the plant into the fermentation tank or wet hopping as it’s called, it results in an abundance of aromatics that you never knew hops could have,” says Matt Ragan, master barman at Victor Tangos in Dallas. “It’s exciting the focus on farm-to-table, farm-to-glass and farm-to-cocktail because it translates into something better. Especially with those wet hopping, it’s a completely different beer. You get so many nuances and things that it’s an abundance of flavors and aromatics. That is really exciting to get.”
Zach Weakland, head brewer and production manager at Windsor, Colo.-based High Hops Brewery says the farm-to-glass beer movement is “dear to our hearts” because farming is in his family’s blood. “I grew up on a little farm in Windsor and my mom grew up on a farm in Kansas,” he adds. “We get our eggs from chickens, our pork from the pigs and beef from the cattle we raise. Food comes from your backyard.”
When brewers grow their own hops, for example, Ragan says you can almost taste the craftsmanship and love put into every glass. “If you are growing it, planting it, cultivating it and caring for it from seed to the final product and then harvesting, malting, fermenting and bottling it – the amount of love and care that goes into that is extraordinary,” he says. “To me, you taste that love in the glass. It’s an intangible quality that transcends to brewing craftsmanship. It’s an art form.”
What makes the farm-to-glass movement even more unique is that seasonality of ingredients plays a major role. Hops have a short and specific harvest, which means there is a limited window for wet hopping. “It’s fun to have those things you can’t get all the time,” Ragan notes.
High Hops Brewery started as a hops farm and garden center in 2007 when there was a shortage of hops nationwide. The farm grew 32 varieties, but struggled to sell its whole leaf hops because a majority of brewers were using pellets. As time progressed, the Weakland family expanded its farm to 54 varieties on two-and-a-half acres and started its own brewing company – High Hops Brewery.
The brewery’s tasting room overlooks the hops farm and visitors are so close they can actually reach out and touch the plants from the patio. “Growing hops is like growing grapes, it absorbs the unique flavors from the soil it’s grown in,” Weakland explains. “Each region creates a unique flavor and because of that, our beers will be unique from anywhere else.”
The original brews of High Hops Brewery have crossed state lines into Texas where they are sold in Victor Tangos, a Dallas-based restaurant and bar that boasts one of the most eclectic, quirky beer lists in the city. “Our entire restaurant and bar is focused on sourcing as locally as possible,” Ragan says. “Regardless of whether it’s a trend or not, that’s the right way to do it. It’s just the way to do things because sourcing as local as possible and receiving products as quickly as possible after it comes out of the ground, the better a dish or drink will be.”
Named after the code name for a vodka tonic during Prohibition, Victor Tangos is intentionally a discrete location. “ It’s supposed to not give a clear identity of what the bar is,” Ragan explains. “We have a big wall door, no windows and our sign is covered by an awning, but it’s all intentionally like that. You find it when you find it.”
Along with High Hops Brewery, Victor Tangos partners with several local breweries and farms to find the highest-quality products and beers. Breweries around Dallas source as many local ingredients as possible, but hops are not one of them because of the extreme heat. “There are a lot of people who are sourcing as local as possible with what they put in their beers,” Ragan notes.
Attention to Detail
Moody Tongue in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood is one such brewery that focuses on locally sourcing its ingredients to create what it calls “culinary beer,” a style that forges a connection between brewing and cooking.
President and Brewmaster Jared Rouben is responsible for the creative and technical development of Moody Tongue’s portfolio of beers. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, the Culinary Institute of America in New York and the Siebel Diploma course in Chicago, where he is now an instructor.
Moody Tongue highlights flavors and aromatics that build upon popular beer styles using culinary techniques like steeping tea, baking chocolate, brewing coffee and brandying fruit. “It’s fun and still feels like cooking. Cooking is all about flavor and aromatics, why not take the same approach with beer?” Rouben asks. “Beer is our food and we make sure to source the very best ingredients to incorporate into the beers.”
“Moody Tongue” is a nickname for any guest with a discerning palate; one that has a standard of excellence to meet, Rouben notes. “We want to earn people’s trust and we are only as good as our last beer,” he says.