In April, Departures reported on a number of virtual California winery tours and online tasting sessions, designed to keep wine-lovers engaged while, as article author Shana Clarke put it, "the COVID-19 pandemic has hit 'pause' on any wine country vacations."
Distilleries and breweries, both in America and abroad, have gotten in on the game too, creating online tours of their own in varying styles and formats. These digital tastes of lager, gin, tequila, and more are worth enjoying even as the facilities themselves begin to reopen for in-person visits.
The small-batch Kentucky bourbon distillery Maker's Mark uses interlinked Instagram stories to romance its brand. The distillery's general manager, master distiller, education and drinks program manager, chef, head of innovation, and "environmental champion" appear in folksy ask-me-anything episodes, discussing everything from grilling to bird calls to quarantine-specific cocktail recipes.
The Glenturret might be the oldest distillery in Scotland, but it takes an up-to-date approach to its online tour. Using a Matterport 3D platform, it gives visitors a 360º look inside the place, allowing them to proceed at their own pace. There's also a measurement tool (in case you'd like to know, say, how wide the mash tun is) and both a floor-plan and a "dollhouse" view to aid navigation. Inset along the way are mini-videos explaining various aspects of the whisky's production. The tour is VR compatible.
The 11-year-old London-based gin specialist Sipsmith hosted a real-time virtual tour on June 25, and plans future ones, to be announced via its social media platforms (@sipsmith). Meanwhile, there's a lively three-and-a-half-minute introduction to the operation on YouTube — the main attraction of which is the sheer ebullience with which co-founder Sam Galsworthy and Master Distiller Jared Brown tell the Sipsmith story. At one point, the magnificently maned and bearded Brown introduces the stills, Constance, Prudence, and Patience, the last so-named "because for we could only afford the bottom half for a couple of years, so she had to be patient before she could become a full still."
The virtual tour offered by Novo Fogo, a leading producer of cachaça—the sugarcane-based spirit the distillery calls "rum's older Brazilian cousin"—is the least elaborate of these. A straightforward spot, running just over two minutes, it focuses on the verdant local landscape and the company's environmental concerns, with just a brief section on the production process. It definitely merits a look, though, as an introduction to this delicious alcohol, little-known outside Brazil, and an evocative glance at a beautiful part of the world.
The Patrón logo is a bee, supposedly because bees buzz around the agave plants from which tequila is made. The brand's virtual tour of what the website Mezcalistas.com calls "The perfectly manicured Disneyland that Patrón uses to define its tequila" is conducted from a bee's-eye view, showing idealized scenes of every stage of the production process. For a more immersive experience, the tour may be watched with an Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard VR viewer — and for a touch of the meta, there's also a video about how the main video was made.
From its home in the New York City borough that has become America's ultimate hipster haven, Brooklyn Brewery offers a lively, deftly fashioned mini-documentary, narrated by brewmaster Garrett Oliver, about the conception and development of this emblematic beer brand. With a music track by Brooklyn hip hop producer DJ Spinna and others, the video traces the beginnings of the enterprise back to co-founder Steve K. Hindy's days as a homebrewing foreign correspondent in the alcohol-free Middle East.
You'll find approximately two six-packs' worth of virtual tours on The Maine Brew Bus site. Half-hour live Instagram broadcasts from various breweries have been suspended, but 11 Instagram stories from craft producers around the state are archived, and add up to a vivid, unpretentious portrait of the Pine Tree State's suds scene.
Speaking of unpretentious, Jess Flynn, the tasting room manager for Australia's Stone & Wood, is engaging and accessible as she shows us around the brewery, explaining how how beer is made. The tour's three segments, adding up to just over half an hour, are full of clowning, fluffs, and asides, and remind us that beer is, after all, supposed to be fun.