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Local Toasts: Sampling Wine, Beer And Spirits

February 07, 2015

  • by
  • Peter Reese

Nearly every culture finds a way to practice alcohol alchemy. Start with grapes, grain or even native grasses and out drips something mystical (if not drinkable). The alert traveler spots chances to employ nose and tongue in pursuit of the profound using these five spirited suggestions.

1. Narrow Your Exploration: Rather than sipping your way across all of Chile’s wines or tipping back every Scotch casked in the Highlands, focus your looking glass. Reds under $10 U.S. Single malts aged 12 years or less from independent distillers. Double-IPAs brewed on-site. Fluency in a subcategory is more rewarding – and leads to return visits.

2. Mix Up A Group: Locals, international travelers and your group (even if you’re traveling solo) make it a vibrant, memorable experience. Use established criteria for evaluating the selected beverages (ala wine’s Robert Parker) or make up your own metrics. Blackest porter. Best white with fresh-caught fish tacos. The group’s favorite. Everyone has an opinion so connect over a wee dram or two with a shared pursuit.

3. Grab Labels With Your Smartphone: Take it from Active Junky; simply remembering a product’s name isn’t enough, in part because of differences in local versus export grades. In addition, having a visual record improves your ability to find the same – or comparable – back home. Tracking down a favorite and let others know elevates the adventure.

4. Google Favorites From The Field: Part of the process is bringing a new taste back home. Many U.S. liquor stores maintain databases of their offerings to let you check availability remotely. One recent Midwestern trip revealed a seasonal ale was distributed solely in Wisconsin so it was a “pack it or forget it” situation. Shipping to your home state must follow government regulations; don’t assume everything goes anywhere.

5. Know Where Danger Lies: Not simply a matter of quantity, there’s a quality and safety side to alcoholic beverages. Some may trigger allergic reactions based upon ingredients. Others, like some wines relished in Macedonia, are banned from U.S. import because they contain detectable levels of cyanide. Purity is important, recognizing high alcohol content doesn’t cover a multitude of sins. Now you’re ready to truly distill your experiences, getting the most from every toast.

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