Sun-Mon, Oct 14-15: Dusseldorf
Tues-Wed, Oct 16-17, Köln
Thurs, Oct 18, Kelheim
Fri-Sun, Oct 19-21, Bamberg and Franconia
Mon-Wed, Oct 22-24, Munich
Thu-Fri, Oct 25-26,Plzeň (Pilsen)
Sat, Oct 27 České Budějovice (Budweis)
Sun-Tues, Oct 28-30, Prague
Wed, Oct 31, Milan
Thu, Nov 1, Piozzo (near Birrificio Baladin)
Fri, Nov 2, Busseto (near Birrificio Del Ducato)
Sat, Nov 3, Fidenza (near Birra Toccalmatto)
Sun, Nov 4, Tradate (near Il Birrificio di Como)
Those are the places I'll be laying my head; with travel, I'll be spending less time in some of them than it looks (I really only have a day in Plzeň, for example, and two in Prague).
Last year I focused very heavily on scheduled brewery tours (I averaged one a day). It's going to be a bit more leisurely this year--14 scheduled tours in 22 days. I am looking forward to every stop on the tour, but there are three places that I expect will hugely deepen my understanding of the beer world. Franconia (#3 on the map) is a region studded with small brewpubs that Americans have never heard of (unless they read certain blogs). I am especially keen to try ungespundet bier--German cask ale.
In Prague, I will rendezvous with the best guide the city has--the man who literally wrote the book on Prague's beer. (My copy is already in the suitcase.) Max is going to give me an insider's view, one that will be hugely useful when I sit down to write about světlý ležák and tmavé vycepni.
Finally, Italy is on the cutting edge of European craft brewing--an edge that cuts further south every year--and it will be fascinating to see what they're up to. Spontaneous fermentation, chestnuts, and gastronomic beers are apparently in the offing, but I'll tromp around and see for myself.
I will try to post on the various other social media--Twitter, my Beer Bible Tumblr page--but I'll use this blog as my first line of communication. Keep reading--
Postscript. Last year I toted a bunch of beer with me so that, when I came to the end of a tour, I could make an offering from the homeland. I wanted the brewers to know how much I appreciated their time and effort. This year, I've serendipitously scheduled the trip during fresh hop season, and I'll be taking some Deschutes Hop Trip and Killers (Red and Green) from Double Mountain--among other non-fresh-hop beers. It pleases me greatly to think of spreading this bounty. And of course, the space I clear out by emptying the suitcase of beer is ideal for replenishing.