Musings about the openness of European breweries

Many large breweries on the continent remain frustratingly innaccessible. Want to visit Samuel Smith’s in the U.K. or Chimay in Belgium? So would I, but alas these iconic breweries along with many others do not open their doors to outsiders for tours nor do they host onsite taprooms. There are exceptions of course, although those that do allow visitors often require reservations in advance or finding an infrequently scheduled group tour. Only a very few European breweries have an open door policy, and many that do like Cantillon in Brussels are very small family run affairs. During this last visit to Europe I noted little had changed with regard to the approach many European breweries take with regard to visitors, although I couldn’t help thinking their attitude will shift over time. Its easy to imagine that in the not too distant past breweries were simply regarded by many as large factories creating regional commodties. People that drank beer made by these often huge enterprises were likely not interested in how the product was made, as alternatives beyond what was produced and distributed within their region were probably limited. In places like the U.K. the tiedhouse system also played a part in the general dynamics impacting demand for alternative brands. But today people are focusing on locally made food and drink even when confrtonted by an expanding selection of imports. Nowhere is this more apparent that within the U.S. where small breweries are growing at the fastest rate in our nation’s short history. Today the small brewer has to garner support locally in order to survive and hopefully thrive. A taproom supplies small breweries with a much needed revenue stream that can be expanded over time. Hosting tours and operating a tap room promotes brand recognition, but it also provides fertile ground for creating lifelong consumers of those brands and brand proponents. To see this dynamic in action visit Saint Arnold in Houston or go on one of their sponsored pub crawls. Although large European breweries are slow to change, it seems likely they too will eventually realize the benefits to allowing more visitors in the not too distant future. Until then I will channel another religious zealot and keep knocking on their doors.

About Brother Spargealot

Cloistered with a bubbly personality.
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