Fun is Served: Vail’s Food and Brew Tours
Explore local establishments and get insider information in a tasting whirlwind
With so many opportunities for outdoor activities during the Vail summer, people no doubt need good food and drink to fuel their adventures. And now, with culinary tours and craft beer tours gaining popularity, food itself can be the adventure. Whether you’re a bona fide foodie or someone who simply loves to try new things, Vail Valley Food Tours and Vail Brew Tours give you two more ways to explore local history and culture this summer.
Organized culinary and beverage tours, including pub crawls, have cropped up more within the past decade in cities with obvious appeal such as Paris, New York and Dublin. But tours have also developed in smaller cities where inspired operators have found ways to share the local flavor.
Matt Timmerman, owner and founder of Vail Valley Food Tours, sees food as an essential part of connecting people with a place. “Food evokes powerful memories, and travelers will often remember the tastes and smells of a place they visit,” he says. “Even for locals, a meal is the most common thing that brings people together.”
Timmerman got the idea to start Vail Valley Food Tours after going on a food tour while vacationing with his wife in Charleston, South Carolina, which has become famous for its low-country cuisine. With river guiding and culinary experience, Timmerman saw the opportunity to start a food tour in Vail as an adventure that no one else had yet embraced.
The Vail fine dining scene has developed alongside Vail’s growth as a resort destination, making Vail Village perfectly suited for his tour that provides tastings from some of its best — and most interesting — restaurants. Now in his third year operating Vail Valley Food Tours, Timmerman has seen how dining with others becomes an event that’s social, spirited and fun.
In addition to running the logistics of his business, Timmerman is also a tour guide, leading guests on Vail walking tours spiced with gourmet food, history and art. With a lot of enthusiasm and local knowledge, Timmerman keeps the tour interesting and fun along the way. His stories unfold easily and satiate curiosity about topics that range from personal anecdotes of restaurant chefs and Vail’s founding fathers to 10th Mountain Division history and the meaning behind art in public places.
Each 3-hour food tour begins at noon and includes tastings at five restaurants as well as at one specialty food shop. The list of restaurants includes long-time Vail notables such as La Bottega and Alpenrose as well as newbies like Bōl, which is known as much for its innovative American cuisine as for its bowling lanes. La Tour, Terra Bistro, Up the Creek, The Blü Cow Cafe and Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory round out the list.
Guests can view a tour calendar and purchase tickets in advance on the Vail Valley Food Tours website, and then all participants meet at Terra Bistro, the tour’s first tasting location. While private tours can be arranged, there’s an exciting social dynamic that happens when a group of strangers gather together around a shared love of food and drink. Within one or two stops, people are chatting amongst themselves, sharing interests, and generally bonding over some really good food.
After a sweet ending at Alpenrose that includes tastings from the restaurant’s house-made pastries, guests still have enough time in the day to revisit shops they discovered on the way or take a scenic hike along Gore Creek. With Timmerman as a knowledgeable guide, guests also often discover a restaurant on the tour that they want to visit during their stay, even if it wasn’t included in that day’s tasting.
As food tour guests disperse, Timmerman moves on to his afternoon brew tours, guiding guests on a local driving tour that includes stops at three of the four craft breweries in the Vail Valley. Colorado is well known for its beer and microbrew culture, and brew tours are a fun way for visitors to get a taste of how that trend has developed locally while having the assurance of a safe ride home.
Also capitalizing on interest in the local brew scene, Vail Brew Tours began operating in the winter of 2016 with tours to area breweries that can accommodate groups of up to 40 guests, making this outing a great way to celebrate a bhirthday, bachelor or bachelorette party, or any other special event. Vail Brew Tours was founded by Greg Kelchner, who has a long history in the local guiding industry as the owner of Timberline Tours, a Vail Valley whitewater rafting and jeep tour outfitter.
The simple purpose of exploring local food and drink drives interest in Vail Valley Food Tours and Vail Brew Tours, but guests will certainly walk away from these tours with a lot more than a full stomach. Local culture, history, and art all show up on the plate. Plus, as Timmerman says, “No matter how you look at it, walking around Vail and stopping to eat and drink with a great group of people is just fun in itself.”