I’m a firm believer that when you travel, you should try not just the local food, but also the local brew. So more often than not, when I’m visiting somewhere new, there are two questions I ask myself:
What do they drink here?
Is there a tour that’ll give me a taste of it?
Save your “usual” for home, and when you’re away, try to be not just an adventurous spirit, but adventurous with your spirits. Or beers. Or wines. And while you’re at it, why not take a tour so you learn the origins of whatever that local tipple might be?
Here are seven places in Europe where you can do just that.
What could one possibly drink in Dublin, eh? Well it can only be the black stuff. They say Guinness tastes better in Ireland -apparently it doesn’t travel. And the only way to test that theory is to do just that – taste it.
A visit to the Guinness Storehouse will give you the opportunity to learn all about the famed stout; it’s actually a really great stop to make on any Dublin sightseeing itinerary. And then you can top it all off by drinking a pint on the top floor of a building that’s shaped like one. Bliss. The view over the city is pretty special, too.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
The lovely smell of sherry fills the streets in Jerez – I kid you not. I visited my sister there when she was resident in the city a few times, and one of my little secret past-times was sniffing out bodegas (I’m only half joking)!
Honestly, though, you might think you know sherry, but odds are you don’t and taking a tour of one of Jerez’s many bodegas will educate you and help you find the sherry that’s right for your taste. Mine? Well, I like a crisp, chilled super-dry fino. It takes me right back to sunny Spain in a sip.
If you want to follow in my footsteps, head to the House of Sandeman.
When in Bruges, I think you’d essentially be committing a crime if you didn’t indulge in some Belgian Beer. But why not go a bit further? Head over to De Halve Maan and tour a local brewery.
Learn why those famous fruity Belgian beers came to be, as well as a bit about what the beer making processes are, in case you fancy yourself as a bit of a future brewer. Or, you know, just drink the samples and giggle along with the rather witty delivery of the tour – our guide was as dry as they come and personally, I found her a right good laugh.
Plus, the photo opportunities in a city as pretty as Bruges are endless once you get up on the roof.
Porto’s famous export, port wine, is undoubtedly the key to any successful Christmas cheeseboard. But have you ever really considered it as more than just the proverbial icing on your cranberry studded Wensleydale? No? Well then get thee to Porto.
Much like sherry, there’s more to port than meets the eye. And let me tell you, mixed with Prosecco in a cocktail, your trusty tawny port is downright delicious. Throw in a Portuguese sunset and it all becomes nothing short of glorious.
You can enjoy the full port experience in any one of a number of wine cellars, but we hit the House of Sandeman because it just made sense seeing as I’d already developed a liking for Sandeman sherry. Oh yes, and because I got to have my photo taken whilst wearing a cloak.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Have you ever heard of Genever? Neither had I. I reckon it sounds a bit like the name of a spy, but it’s actually the name of a traditional Dutch juniper based spirit (I think the Belgians make it too. They’re good at booze those Belgians, aren’t they?).
Think of it as the godmother to our beloved gin and you’ll get the vibe. But for the real lowdown, head to the House of Bols (famous for making the stuff) where you’ll also get the chance to input your taste preferences in order for the bartenders to mix up your perfect Genever bassed cocktail. Genius.
Now, I’m no whisky drinker, but I’ll try anything within reason. And let’s be honest, the first taste of anything alcoholic is usually vile. First beer you ever tried? Come on, you know full well that what now tastes like nectar from the gods was once a nasty assault on your taste buds. And so I’ll keep trying with whisky (not every day, obvs). If only because my grandad was rather partial to a drop.
Anyhow – a good way to get into anything is through a bit of education, so if you want to know why a single malt is so called, or how whisky gets its lovely rich colour, head to the Scotch Whisky Experience.
Now you can go wine tasting the world over, but Greece might not be the first place that springs to mind, which is exactly why you should try it. Local wine is a big deal on those gorgeous Greek Islands, so why not visit a vineyard?
We did just that in Kos at Hatziemmanouil, a family run winery, a couple of years ago with a wine lesson and tasting session, just a hop skip and a jump from the beach (well, about 10 minutes drive). It was a perfect way to spend a shady couple of hours away from the blazing summer sun.
And we had a right laugh when we saw a police car pull up, only to see the two fine examples of the local constabulary sit down for a glass of the chilled stuff. Greek life, eh? Can’t beat it.
So would you take any of these tours? And do you have any suggestions for future travels? Let me know in the comments!