If you think of drinking as something to be done on your couch or in a dive bar, you’re not a booze aficionado. But if you’re willing to hop on a plane to find out more about your favorite beer, wine or cocktail, you most certainly are. If that’s the case, these seven destinations around the world should all be on your list of places to visit. It make take a few years: They range from Wisconsin to Moscow to Amsterdam to the Swiss Alps. But they’re all worth the trip.
Despite the fact that Moore County, home to Lynchburg, has been a dry county ever since Prohibition, it’s home one of the top destinations for real booze lovers: the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
The basic tour is mostly outdoors, going from the “Rickyard” where charcoal for mellowing the whiskey comes from, to the limestone cave spring whose water is reserved for making Jack Daniel’s, to the vats in the Barrelhouse, built in 1938. For a nominal fee, you can tour the distillery itself and get a taste of the famous Old No. 7.
Heading anywhere but Russia to learn about vodka would be like heading to New York to learn about bourbon. The Vodka Museum, which recently moved to Moscow from St Petersburg, recounts the long (1,000 years plus) and storied history of the clear liquor.
In the 1920s, it served as currency in Siberia; front line soldiers in World War II were given daily rations of 100 grams to get them through the day, per Stalin’s order. The museum includes a tasting hall, with near daily tastings.
Back in the United States, the National Brewery Museum in Wisconsin is dedicated to preserving the products that accompany drinking more than telling the story of the drink. But if you like beer culture, it’s a great place, full of neon signs, old brewing equipment, posters and all kinds of bottles.
There’s even a cave used to keep beer cold before the advent of refrigeration, now used as a display area for all the other goodies.
Of course, Americans don’t have a monopoly on great beer. If you want to take your knowledge of the stuff to another level, climb high in the Alps to Monstein, 5,300 feet above sea level. No offense to Potosi, Wisonsin, but a great location adds a lot to an experience. Such is the case at the Monsteiner Brewery.
Forbes recommends the opportunity to taste nine beers (all made with mountain spring water). The brewery also has a shop offering bacon, cheese and bread- making your mountain experience delicious and complete.
Unlike the other destinations on the list, Amsterdam’s House of Bols isn’t dedicated to a specific type of alcohol. Rather, it’s devoted to the world of cocktails and bar tending, specifically to Bols brand vodkas, gins, genevers and liquers.
The highlight of the self-guided tour (for $15) is the Hall of Taste, where you can explore the boozy flavors and aromas. There are a lot of other things to do as well: a variety of cocktail workshops (bridal, springtime, culinary), cocktail catering, and martini cocktail parties.
Sometimes a tour of a museum isn’t enough to get to know a drink really well. If you’re willing to put in six days in the Kentucky countryside, book a ticket for mid-September and head to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, the “Bourbon Capital of the World”. In addition to a host of great bourbon testing, there’s a barrel making demonstration, a hot air balloon event, a mock bootlegging robbery of a train, and lots of music and food. If you can’t wait until the Fall, you can try making the 2012 official drink, selected at last year’s festival: the ”Strawberry Fields”.
As vodka is to Russia, wine is to France. Paris’ Wine Museum, across the river from the Eiffel Tower, is housed in an old limestone quarry. The cellars where the museum restaurant is located were once used by monks to store their wine. Since 1984, they have been owned by the “Conseil des Echansons de France” (Cup-Bearers of France Council), a group dedicated to promoting and appreciating French wines. Who better to run this museum?