With so many different beverage choices on the market these days, you might be wondering: what’s the difference? Craft beers, wines and spirits may look the same as what you’ve tasted before, but their flavors, ingredients, and handcrafted origins set them apart from their mass produced cousins. So let’s discuss a few of the things that make visiting craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries a tasting adventure. Local ingredients. The wineries, breweries, and distilleries that produce craft beverages usually grow the grapes and grains used to make them, and the results are unique in many ways. Regional conditions impact the way the grapes and grains grow, imparting unique flavors to each establishment’s lineup. For example, vineyards just miles apart can grow the same variety of grapes with different results due to soil composition, weather conditions, proximity to water and, most importantly, temperature. Wineries in the Thousand Islands region and the North Country grow Northern Cold Climate grapes. These hybrids, developed by the University of Minnesota, are descendants of familiar grapes like pinot noir and merlot, but with their own special characteristics that set them apart, including the ability to survive temperatures that dip down to 40 degrees below zero. Handcrafted by passionate, knowledgeable experts. Craft beverages, varied as they may be, generally have one thing in common: the care that goes into their creation. They’re called ‘craft’ beverages for a reason. Each batch is lovingly created by brew masters, winemakers, and master distillers who have made it their business and their passion to craft the perfect beverage. The process is a mixture of artistry and chemistry, and not only is each establishment unique, but each of their creations stands apart from their others. The best part, aside from enjoying the finished product, is learning firsthand about that process from the staff at each establishment. You might spend some time with the distiller, winemaker or brew master on a tour, or in the tasting room. The tasting room staff is also trained in the nuances of the drink in your hand, how it got that way, and why it matters. This kind of attention makes your experience fun and memorable. Variety. Fruity or floral, sweet or tart, oaked or unoaked? Perhaps the most significant thing that sets craft beverages apart is the sheer variety of flavors and types. Reach for a glass of wine and you’ll find your options range from red to white to rose, from light and sparkling to deep, dark reds. You can choose from brews with straw-like hues, opt for something heavier on the hops, or savor the flavor of a mellow, malty, toasty stout. At a distillery, savor something strong like handcrafted whiskey, gin, or moonshine, or sip sweet liqueurs infused with flavors of raspberry or rhubarb. Not only do these options make it easy to find something for everyone to enjoy, they add an extra element of excitement to the tasting process—it’s fun finding a new favorite beverage!
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