Yes, I am the kind of parent that brings their kids on a brewery tour and I didn’t do it just for the free beer. In fact, I skipped the samples all together which might make you wonder why I even bothered to go at all.
When I was planning family activities for our spring break vacation in Colorado, touring a beer factory wasn’t on my list of things to do until I realized that the Denver area is the home to the third largest single site brewery in the United States, ranks third for the most craft breweries in the nation, and has been said to be a beer-lover’s dream destination. A free beer factory tour was not only something to do to learn more about the state we were visiting but I knew it could also be a learning experience for my kids and a way for me to create conversations about alcohol.
Whether you’re traveling or close to home, a family-friendly brewery could be a great way to spend an afternoon learning about the science of beer making while modeling responsible consumption for your children if you choose to imbibe. Here are some things to know before you go and a list of things to learn from your visit.
6 Questions to Ask to Find a Family Friendly Brewery Tour
All About Beer Magazine reports about The Rise of Family-Friendly Breweries but it’s not enough to just go. Take some time to do your research. Besides knowing the hours the brewery is open, it’s important to know if it is family-friendly. Ask:
- If they give tours, what ages are allowed on tours since some places will only offer tours to kids above a certain age.
- What are the hours that kids can visit the brewery since some have hours after which kids aren’t allowed in the tasting room.
- Are there non-alcoholic beverages available? Certain breweries offer complimentary soda and juice while you’re sampling.
- Is food available for purchase? Food not only helps your body absorb alcohol but new and novel snack foods keeps tummies full and spirits high so you can enjoy your outing.
- What isn’t allowed at the brewery? Some breweries only permit you to bring in your wallet, phone, and car keys and won’t allow purses or diaper bags inside the manufacturing facility. This can make visiting with kids tricky unless you’re allowed to go out to your car to retrieve items after your tour.
- How long does the tour take? While some breweries offer self-guided options that allow you to pace yourself according to the attention span of your little ones, others might be guided and require you to stick it out from start to finish for safety reasons.
Google, use Yelp, ask fellow beer-loving parents, or pick up the phone and call the brewery to get the inside scoop on visiting with kids so you can know what you’re getting into before you go so you’re not confronted by any surprises. Also be sure to designate a designated driver. It’s always important to know your limits and designate a driver so your family gets home safely.
8 Things Tweens and Teens Can Learn from a Brewery Tour
History and Entrepreneurship
Every brewery has a history whether it’s a century old or a hip new craft beer spot in the neighborhood. The big breweries that are household names have a fascinating history of being started by immigrants who invested their savings in their entrepreneurial venture and newer spots aren’t that different in the stories of how they started. Tweens and teens can learn some great lessons about entrepreneurship and maybe even ask some questions about what it’s truly like to run a business.
Local Geography and Agriculture
Perhaps there’s something about the region that makes the beer brewed there special. Teach your kids about local geography via locally sourced ingredients like hops, barley, or the addition of fruit that give it that distinctive taste. For example, beer brewed in Colorado is made with spring water that comes from the Rocky Mountains. While kids can’t taste the difference that clear Rocky Mountain spring water makes, they’ll impress their friends with their beer knowledge when they’re legally able to drink!
Economics and Math
Beer is big business. Visit The Brewers Association to see state craft beer sales and production statistics from 2015 to see how your state stacks up to others.
It’s a great lesson in economic impact and statistics when you compare your state to a neighboring one or one you’re visiting!
While it might seem like magic to take water, grains, yeast, and hops and turn it into beer, it’s really pure science. From fermentation, how temperature and time affect the taste of beer, chemistry involved in balancing sweetness with bitter, and the quality control lab, there are many examples of science to be found within any brewery you visit.
Lessons in responsibility are plentiful when you visit a brewery with kids and chances are your visit will spark a conversation about drinking. Since you are the leading influence on your child’s decision to drink, or not drink, seize the teachable moment to answer their questions as they come up.
Here are some questions your kids might ask while you’re on your tour and some tips on how to answer them:
- Why can’t I drink until I’m 21? Up until the age of 21, your brain is still developing and consuming alcohol hurts developing brains and bodies.
- What does beer taste like? I won’t break the law by giving you a sip but you can smell it. What do you think it smells like? Does it smell like anything you recognize? How do you think it might taste?
- Can I have a beer? No. The brewery asked me to show ID to prove that I was over 21. They won’t serve you a beer without proper identification that shows you’re over 21 but you can have soda or juice.
- Why do people act differently when they drink? Alcohol affects the nervous system and slows down your ability to think, speak, and act.
What else might kids ask? It’s always hard to know but it’s important that you get the facts so you can answer their questions in a timely manner.
I rely on resources from Responsibility.org when talking to my kids. Age appropriate resources for all ages (elementary school through college ages) and years of proven success empowering kids to say yes to a healthy lifestyle and no to underage drinking makes this my first stop for factual information about why underage drinking is bad. My kids are the perfect age for Ask, Listen, Learn resources that provide effective strategies and tools to make conversations with ages 9-14 easier. I love the new digital resources provide factual information about what the brain does, what alcohol does to it, and what that does to you. Available free on YouTube, the seven short videos How Alcohol Affects Your Developing Brain videos are perfect for my kids to watch individually or as a series as often as they want. They’re also really great for classroom use too!
Finally, model responsibility while you sample fresh beers following your tour. Children of all ages are keen observers of the things going on around them and since they look to us to set an example, it’s important to model responsible consumption. Do this by:
- Knowing your limit. Different factors affect your blood-alcohol concentration – and the free Virtual Bar App from iTunes and Google Play can help you better understand how the food you eat, water you drink, and other variables, like gender, affects your BAC and give you a sense of how long it takes your BAC to return to 0.00.
- Consuming food and water with your beverage. Show your kids that it’s important to not drink on an empty stomach by enjoying food with your drink and staying hydrated with water.
- Make a plan to get home safely. Let your kids know that you’ve designated a driver either in your group or plan to call a car to pick you up to. This demonstrates how seriously you take your family’s safety when it comes to alcohol which is not only reassuring, but models the kind of responsible behavior you expect for them when they can legally drink.
Once you’re home, continue the conversation. Talking about alcohol and underage drinking isn’t a one and done conversation and chances are your brewery tour will spark some questions. Prompt kids by asking what part of the tour they liked best, what they noticed in the tasting room, etc. immediately after to let them know you’re open to talking about alcohol with them. Since questions are likely to come up when you least expect them, Tips for Parents on Underage Drinking from Responsibility.org can provide you with the information you need so you’re ready to have a conversation at any time. I also like the Start a Conversation page for age appropriate tips on talking about responsibility with your kid, teen, and your college student.
I work as an Educational Programs Consultant for Responsibility.org and am a member of their Educational Advisory Board. I was not compensated or required to write this post. All opinions are my own and our spring break trip was personally paid for.