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What are we going to do? Road trip.

Ok, so you know where to find good beer in Western New York.  You know what brands are available and what beers you like from each brand.  You’ve got a guy at your local good bottle shop that calls you when something rare and delicious comes in.  But you find you’re going on a trip and don’t know a thing about the beer scene in the city you’re going to. How do you start beer hunting in a totally new city?

The Swans. They like craft beer, right?

I’m taking two road trips in September.  One is beer centric – Boston for The Beer Advocate Night of the Funk/Belgian Beer fest.  The other is to Asbury Park, NJ for the All Tomorrow’s Parties Don’t Look Back music festival.  I don’t know either city, and while the fact that I’m heading to Boston for a beer fest is going to make it easy to find good beer on that trip the last time I went to an All Tomorrow’s Parties event my selection was limited to Bud, Heineken and maybe Coors.  I’m not concerned about finding good beer in and around Asbury Park though.  Why?  Because I’ve got this thing you might have heard of: the Internet.

 

There is a stupid amount of info out there on locating good beer.  First things first, take a look at Ratebeer’s places section and Beer Advocate’s Beer Fly.  They’re both going to help you find the best spots wherever you’re going.  Ratebeer’s places section doesn’t show me anything for Asbury Park but their regional grouping shows me places to check out in nearby towns.  Beer Fly does provide a few hits – one of which is right down the street from my hotel so I’ll be sure to check it out between sets.

In addition to the two big websites there are a ton of smartphone apps out there that work on crowdsourced data.  I’ve got Ratebeer Places, Beer Cloud and Beer Map on my iPod.  One particularly cool feature of these apps is the ability to perform a proximity search, easily allowing you to find places of interest within a certain distance of your current location.  Each of these apps gives slightly different results based on their user contributed data.  You might find that Beer Cloud is useful in the Northeast, Beer Map in the Midwest and Ratebeer places on the West Coast.  No app is going to be the absolute “best” – but for the most part these apps are free, so it doesn’t hurt to load up your smartphone before heading out on your trip.  Ethan has an Android phone and uses Beer Cloud pretty exclusively in terms of apps.  There are others Android apps out there – take a look around the marketplace and see what you can find!

CBW poses for a pre-road trip snapshot. R to L: Dave, Matt, Ethan, Dan, Greg, Chris, Rudy

 

When you’re planning your trip don’t forget the towns & cities you’ll be passing on the way to your destination.  Brewpubs are a great place to stretch your legs after a few hours on the road & they’re sure to offer beers you’ve never encountered before.  Popping into a bottle shop in a town you’ve never been to before might yield you some really cool beer you’ve been trying to find for months, or something you’ve never heard of before that will become a new favorite.

Good beer places are, to make a sweeping generalization, real places.  These aren’t going to be cookie cutter, touristy businesses in cookie cutter, touristy areas.  Spending a little time seeking out these places is going to help you find good people, good food, and of course, good beer.  Happy hunting!