Have you ever thought to yourself, I really like visiting breweries and sampling really good beer right on site there. But, how do I go to more than one brewery and forgo not being able to drive after drinking at multiple beer-making establishments? Well, this is America and not only have we addressed those concerns, but we found a solution! You get a van with a designated driver, you load it up with some friends, acquaintances or total strangers and you go and do some learning and some drinking. Can I get a “USA! USA! USA!”?
As San Antonio’s craft-beer industry has exploded, so has the want, need and desire to explore what all these unique beers brewmasters are putting out on a regular basis. There was a void though on brewery tours here in town. Carlos and Jill Garcia, the owners of San Antonio Brewery Tours,
had done brewery tours of their own for years all over the country. They saw the void here in town and decided to turn their love of beer into a business.
“We normally do [brewery] tours when we go on vacation and we love craft beer,” explained Carlos. “Whenever we have people over, we enjoy showing them some of the breweries here in town. We decided there was a need for a brewery tour here in San Antonio, so we just went for it.”
How did it all start? How did the notion to actually turn a hobby/passion into a business come to fruition? The only way a great story could start — with a beer (or two).
“I think we actually decided after a drunken bike ride,” said Jill. “After a few beers, we started talking about it and this was two things we really loved. So, we decided, why not?”
It has taken several years for the Garcias to get San Antonio Brewery Tours off the ground. The City of San Antonio, naturally, had some questions for them that needed to be answered before they were given the green-light to start.
After addressing concerns from the Department of Transportation, and working out the details with their day jobs, they were finally ready to begin and tours started in December 2015 with a vision, a van and a dream.
“We kind of got in this at the right time here in San Antonio,” said Carlos. “There are a lot of great craft breweries around town and we are happy to promote them.”
Right now, the Garcias run three tours every Saturday of the month and one special Sunday tour once a month. The two “regular” tours are their Eastside Ride, which takes beer fans to Freetail Brewing Company's Taproom in Southtown, to the Alamo Beer Company, and The Granary ‘Cue & Brew (where the group stops for optional snacks as well as more brews); their second tour, Brews in the 'Burbs, takes passengers to Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, to Branchline Brewing Company and to Freetail Brewing Brewpub (again, where food is on the menu).
I was fortunate enough to recently take in the Sunday FUNDay New Braunfels Trip. About a dozen of us met up at Freetail's Brewpub where we went over the rules before heading out to our friendly German neighbor to the north. Our first stop was the Faust Hotel & Brewing Company, where we had a delicious lunch and a flight of some of their best beers (my favorite was the Altered States Altbier). I wasn't quite sure what to expect on this trip, but having the chance to break bread and break the ice with my fellow tourists over a few pints was a great way to start off the tour.
The second stop was the New Braunfels Brewing Company. Specializing in German-style sours, this was a truly unique outfit. The tour was very detailed on the art, craf, and science that this fledgling company has employed to get where they are. This brewery is putting out some truly out-of-the-box products (Have you tried pickle juice-inspired beer? If not, head out and try the NBBC's PKL FKR ASAP).
Our last stop was north of Landa Park at the Guadalupe Brewing Company. This was a great way to cap off the trip by lounging on their beer garden and throwing down some stouts and IPAs. Coconut Coca Stout is truly something that must be sampled to be believed — it was as if someone put dessert in a glass.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect on this tour and I'm admittedly not the most social of butterflies; however, at the end of the day, either due to the experience or being well-lubed by some great craft beer, I had made quite a few new friends.
Do yourself a favor, if you haven't gone on one of these tours, book yourself a trip. Beer and new friends will be had and made.