Manager Walter Stallmann explaining process to tour group.
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15 Drinking Pilgrimages Worth Taking

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Manager Walter Stallmann explaining process to tour group.
Snap2Art_RF/istockphoto

Spirited Away

One of the best ways to stock your bar at home is by visiting where favorite spirits, wines, and beers are made. Not only will you have the chance to experience how a favorite booze is produced and enjoyed in its native habitat, but you'll return filled with stories about the sights, cultures, and people you met. From the best breweries, distilleries, and wineries in the U.S. worth visiting to far-flung locales from Scotland to South Africa and Italy to Japan, our recommendations for drinking pilgrimages include the world's largest beer festival, which just kicked off for the first time since 2019.


Related: Fascinating Legends Behind Famous Cocktails

Hofbraühaus Beer Hall, Munich, Germany
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Munich

Munich has been a beer drinker's mecca for centuries. It's where you can hoist steins of Helles, Dunkel, and Weissbier in beer halls and gardens, and, of course, during Oktoberfest, which is finally back after a two-year pandemic hiatus. They're so serious about beer here that there's even a 506-year-old German beer purity law that limits beer's ingredients to hops, barley, water, and yeast. And though you should visit iconic spots such as the Hofbraühaus beer hall and the Spaten brewery, be sure to check out new-school spots, including Giesinger-Bräu and Crew Republic.


Related: 20 Cheap Imported Beers Better Than Budweiser



The Macallan, Speyside, Scotland
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Speyside, Scotland

Scotland is home to five whisky regions (six if you count Islay as its own, as many do), each with its own distinctive characteristics like the terroir of wine. Though choosing just one destination is difficult, Speyside is a great place to start. This fertile valley of glens and rivers is home to nearly half of all Scotland's distilleries, including popular labels such as The Macallan and The Glenlivet, and is known for nutty and fruity scotches, some aged in sherry casks. The Balvenie Distillery tour offers a rare glimpse into every stage of whisky making, as well as some of the best drams in the country. Just be sure to make a reservation; weekday tours are limited to eight people.


Related: Bizarre Alcohol Laws From Around the World

Fall Brewing Company, San Diego
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San Diego

Fans of hop-heavy, West Coast-style IPAs — and craft beer in general — know San Diego is a bucket-list destination for exploring some of the world's best brews. With more than 130 craft breweries and counting, a short visit won't be enough, but beer tours and certain walkable neighborhoods do help. If you're on foot, the neighborhood of North Park is the best place to start; it has favorites such as Fall Brewing and North Park Beer


Related: Alcohol Brands Owned by Actors, Musicians and Other Celebs

Gate at Guinness Storehouse
Gate at Guinness Storehouse by Nico Kaiser (CC BY)

Dublin

Chances are a trip to Ireland was what sprang to mind first at the mention of drinking pilgrimages. The island nation offers a rich history of legendary places to imbibe among spectacular scenery, charming pubs, and cheerful company. While the green countryside has plenty to explore, Dublin is an excellent jumping-off point. The Guinness Storehouse offers an engaging, multistory tour culminating in a perfect pint with 360-degree views of Dublin. And though Jameson Whiskey is now made in County Cork, you can tour and taste at the original historic distillery on Bow Street. Dublin's Teeling Whiskey is also worth a visit, as are the Pearse Lyons Distillery and the JW Sweetman Craft Brewery.

Backpedal, Portland, OR
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Portland, Oregon

Lovers of craft beer, spirits, and wine — not to mention great food — should make it a point to visit Portland. There are more than 100 craft breweries in the metro area alone, many within walking distance from each other, including favorites such as Deschutes and Kells. Sample a wide range of spirits along the city's famed Distillery Row, which can be toured by pedicab, and save money on tasting fees by buying the Portland Distillery Passport. And just 100 miles southwest of Portland, you'll find the incredible vineyards of the scenic and laid-back Willamette Valley, known for excellent pinot noirs, which can be explored from underrated Salem.

Herradura Express, Jalisco, Mexico
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Jalisco, Mexico

Much more than just the cheap shots of your younger years, tequila — that is, good tequila — offers plenty of variety and refinement. And one of the best places to learn about the spirit made from blue agave is in its home state of Jalisco, where you can explore the Tequila Trail, a home to many of the best distilleries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can travel the agave-studded desert landscape by car to visit distilleries, such as the traditional Casa Siete Leguas, or guided trips, including the Herradura Express, with its train ride, distillery tour and tasting, lunch, and entertainment.

Barrel House Distilling Co., Lexington, KY
Kimberly J./Yelp

Lexington, Kentucky

Bourbon fans will want to carve out time to explore the historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Lexington is an excellent starting point for the trail, where you can tour and taste at favorite spots such as small-batch Barrel House Distilling and Town Branch, where you can sample bourbon and beer. From there you can continue on to sample other familiar names, such as the beautiful Woodford Reserve distillery, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses. It's also worth following the trail to Louisville to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, where you'll learn about the history of bourbon, Kentucky, and, of course, get top-notch samples.

Gekkeikan Ōkura Sake Museum
Gekkeikan Ōkura Sake Museum by Alexander Schimmeck (None)

Kyoto, Japan

If you're a sushi fan looking to step up your sake game, put a trip to Kyoto on the agenda. Though Japan offers a wide variety of sake regions to explore, the historic Fushimi Sake District in southern Kyoto is an excellent place to begin. Here you'll find more than 40 sake breweries using the celebrated clean and soft water of Horikawa River's underground springs. Start with a visit to the popular Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, which offers a great historical primer and tastings of sake and plum wine. Beer enthusiasts should check out sake and beer brewery Kizakura Kappa Country and Kyoto Machiya Beer Brewery.

Bergerac, France
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Bergerac, France

Though you can't really go wrong no matter which wine region of France you venture to, Bergerac to the southwest of Paris offers spectacularly vibrant whites and full-bodied reds of similar caliber and for less money than its well-known neighbor Bordeaux. You can also find great organic and biodynamic wines, many made by women winemakers, such as Clos d'Yvigne. The region is also known for incredible food, including black truffles and foie gras, so consider looking into a wine and truffle tour. Look for charming and affordable B&Bs, such as Les Farcies du Pech.

Family holidays in Langhe region, Piedmont, Italy: Man choosing and tasting wine
ilbusca/istockphoto

Piedmont, Italy

Like France, Italy offers an abundance of incredible wine regions to explore, each offering distinctive varietals, spectacular scenery, and memorable food. But consider starting your exploration far north of Rome in the Piedmont region, known for some of Italy's most renowned red wines: Barbaresco and Barolo. In addition to sipping vintages from legendary producers such as the beautiful Fontanafredda estate and artisanal winemakers including Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno, consider a tour of Slow Food's La Banca del Vino (Wine Bank), designed to preserve Italy's wine heritage.

Habitation Clément, Martinique
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Sainte-Marie, Martinique

The Caribbean offers plenty of destinations for rum enthusiasts, but Martinique should be at the top of the list. The tiny island is home to more than a dozen distilleries and celebrated for its distinctive rhum agricole, which is distilled from pure sugar cane juice rather than molasses — as most other rums are — to provide a greater complexity and more natural flavors. Explore the Route des Rhums around the island and be sure to visit legendary distilleries such as the historic Habitation Clément, which includes a botanical park; small Neisson Distillery, the last exclusively family-owned producer; and Saint-James, which features a rum museum.

Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, Upstate New York
Christy R./Yelp

New York State

As action-packed as New York City is, upstate New York offers plenty worth exploring — especially when it comes to craft spirits, beer, and wine. A short train ride or drive from the city, the scenic Hudson Valley offers excellent producers, many of which use local ingredients, such as Tuthilltown Spirits and Brotherhood Winery, the oldest winery in the country. You can also explore the best of the region on the Hudson Valley Beer Trail tours. To the west, the Finger Lakes region offers more than 100 wineries, breweries, and distilleries to explore, including Five & 20 for spirits and beer, and Mazza Chautauqua Cellars for wine.

Beefeater Distillery, London, England
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London

Gin enthusiasts have a wealth of distilleries to explore throughout the U.K., each offering distinctive flavors thanks to local botanicals and production methods. London serves as an ideal jumping-off point for the region. The iconic Beefeater Distillery offers an inexpensive and informative tour and tasting; artisanal Sipsmith features the first copper-pot distillery to open in London since 1820; and The Distillery includes a distillery, gin museum, multiple bars, dining, and lodging. You'll also find plenty of excellent breweries, craft and traditional, worth visiting.

Vinehopper Route, Stellenbosch, South Africa
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Stellenbosch, South Africa

Stellenbosch, just to the east of Cape Town, is widely regarded as the Napa of South Africa when it comes to wine, featuring more than 150 producers beneath towering granite mountains. Within the region there are numerous sub-regions (also known as wards), each producing celebrated varieties, including Chenin, Cabernet, and Pinotage. The charming university town is a great launching point to explore the regions, and taking a half- or full-day tour with guides such as Vinehopper is a great way to sample much of what the Stellenbosch Wine Routes have to offer.

The Kavalan Distillery, Yuanshan Township, Taiwan
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Yuanshan Township, Taiwan

Though many people often associate whisk(e)y with places such as Scotland or Kentucky, several Asian producers have recently risen to prominence, including distilleries in Japan and Taiwan. Since opening in 2005 as the first whisky distillery in Taiwan, the Kavalan distillery an hour south of Taipei has grown to be a global favorite, winning hundreds of awards and even beating out Scotch stalwarts, and thanks to a tropical climate the aging process is much faster — often taking half the time to age than traditional production regions. Kavalan's free tours offer visitors the chance to see production methods, taste, and blend their own whisky, along with take optional tours of an orchid farm or a scenic hike.