By Chris Mah
Updated February 20, 2015
© Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Anyone who is passionate about beer understands that every beer carries the people, places and experiences associated with it. Beer is about more than what’s in your glass; it’s also about what’s in your memory. If you’re like us, you’ve probably got a short (or maybe long) list of beer-related adventures you’d like to turn into memories. Here are six things worth putting on your beer bucket list.

1. Catching a white whale. Yes, we do think beer can sometimes taste better if it takes extra effort to get it. In order to get the Alchemist’s Heady Topper you need to travel to its home state of Vermont. Cigar City’s Hunahpu Imperial Stout requires a ticket purchase, and Russian River’s Pliny the Younger practically takes you on a scavenger hunt around California bars to track down a draft. But once you get your hands on one, it’s all worth it.

2. A beer pilgrimage to Belgium. Westvleteren’s famous monastery gets a lot of the headlines, but there are countless other reasons to make a beer pilgrimage to Belgium, such as Cantillon (a brewery synonymous with pitch-perfect wild lambic beers) and the beautiful grounds of Brasserie de Rochefort. On a related note, not that you’d ever need another reason to want to work for Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company, but according to their website, employees who reach their five-year anniversary with the company are rewarded with a trip to Belgium,

3. Attend Dark Lord Day. What began as a single-day release of 3 Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout has grown into a full-fledged beer festival. For one day every April, the Munster, Indiana, brewery celebrates with a huge party full of food, beer and metal music. Only a group sales ticket gives you access to actually purchase Dark Lord (and even then, there is a strict per-person bottle limit), and these generally sell out in a single day. But there are additional Willy Wonka-style golden tickets that allow a few lucky winners to purchase rare, barrel-aged variants of Dark Lord. Of course, even those who won’t bring home a bottle can still enjoy beers from guest breweries from every corner of the globe and a good day of beer geek camaraderie.

4. Be a happy camper at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp. Sierra Nevada has blazed a trail for smaller breweries, and a big part of how they’ve done it is through unparalleled collaboration with and education of small, independent brewers. Each summer, the brewery selects 24 winners from a video application contest to attend a two-day beer camp and brew beer alongside Sierra Nevada brewers at their Chico, California, facility. The recent opening of their North Carolina facility means more winners than previous years, but even those who don’t get selected can still enjoy the end product: a 12-pack featuring the best beers brewed during camp.

5. Brave the Great American Beer Festival. Yes, it’s crowded and expensive, and your palate might be wrecked within the first hour thanks to the sheer quantity of powerful brew on hand, but witnessing GABF in all its hop-scented, sticky-floored glory is something every beer lover must do at least once.

6. Quit your 9-to-5 desk job and open your own brewery. We know you already have the name of your brewery and your first five beers picked out. We know you’ve discussed the idea at length with fellow beer lovers and homebrewers over a third or fourth pint. With more than a brewery per day opening in the US, now is as good a time as ever to check that final box off your beer bucket list.