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Build Your Quest

If you're not finding what you're looking for here, you can easily build your own quest.

Defining the parameters

The key to constructing a quest is to define the parameters for what objectives are included in your list.

Quests aren't lists of otherwise disconnected places that you want to visit. They follow a basic structure—a set of rules that govern which places are included and which aren't. They should be defined in a clear way, so that if you handed those rules to another person, they could construct the same exact list of objectives as you.

These are objective lists of, well, objectives. That means that sitting down and building a list of the "best coffee shops of Phoenix" isn't a quest, since "best" is highly subjective. However, designing a quest around the top-rated coffee shops on Yelp would be a quest. It's an objective list; all you have to do is . You could also choose to do a quest of all the coffee shops listed in a specific blog post entitled "The Best Coffee Shops of Phoenix." Why? Because it's a defined, objective list; it's either in that article or not.

See the difference?

What to think about in terms of parameters

Many first time questers don't spend much time considering which objectives should "count" and which ones shouldn't. Unfortunately, this often leads to problems later, so it's best to be clear on this from the start.

Things to consider:

  • Geographic scope - what are the geographic limits for what is included?
  • Ownership/managed by - are there any reasons to further narrow your list based on who owns or manages the location?
  • Setting - is there any aspect that should disqualify a location from counting?
  • Activity - is just showing up sufficient, or do you need to accomplish an activity while there?

An example

Let's walk through an example. One of my own first quests was visiting all of the craft breweries in Arizona. That's a pretty easy enough list to create, right? Well, not necessarily. There are actually a few more factors we have to look at.

First, what is defined as a craft brewery? I started with the member list from the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, figuring that it'd be a pretty solid list. But then I noticed that at least one "brewery" listed there was actually just a home brewer who worked out of his garage on the weekends. You couldn't drink it on his property because he didn't have the required permit. Hmm.

I also realized that not every brewery had paid the fee to become a Guild member, so they weren't listed on the website. Now, I could have just limited the quest to breweries that are members of the Guild and called it good, but that's not what I wanted. I also eventually realized that some places called themselves a brewery, but they actually paid another brewery to make it for them and they then sold it as their own. Hmm.

Ok, so some parameters were starting to emerge:

  • you must brew your own beer on site (no contract brewing)
  • patrons can drink that beer on site (so no home brewers or production breweries)

As I continued to pull together the list, I noticed another thing—national chain restaurants that met both of those above criteria, but didn't feel like "Arizona" breweries even though they were Guild members (think BJ's, Gordon Biersch, and Rock Bottom). There was also a single local location of a distant out-of-state brewery, which felt like just a grab for tourists in Scottsdale. Ok, so the brewery needed to be based in Arizona to count.

But what if it's sorta based here, but not locally owned? Well, that's a tougher one. Four Peaks Brewing, currently the oldest and largest craft brewery in Arizona, was bought out by bohemith AB InBev. It was definitely on the list prior to the purchase, but did it count anymore? It felt hard to leave it off; it's the most common local craft brewery on tap across the state.

There were also some local Mexican restaurants that technically brewed their own beer, but it was such an afterthought that their brews were buried on the drinks menu. It was basically for show; no one would call these locations "a brewery." This criteria would be a bit fuzzier than the others, but I needed a rule to weed out places like that.

  • it had to be homegrown in Arizona (Four Peaks, you're still in; Sorry, Bad Water, you don't count)
  • brewing beer had to be a major activity of the establishment (eg, another brewer would say they brewed beer)

We're on the home stretch—just three more issues for me to deal with.

The first is a big one: several of the breweries still on the list had multiple locations. Did I just need to visit one of the locations, or each of the locations? And some of those locations were not easy to get to—two of them were near airport gates behind security. I'd have to book a flight in the right terminal just to access them! Another brewery was only available to people when paired with an $180/plate dinner at a fancy local restaurant. That didn't seem right either.

  • visiting one location was enough to count
  • must be accessible to the general public

And finally, the last issue was also important one. I mean, surely I couldn't go to one of these breweries and count it even if I never actually drank any of their beer. I wouldn't put a minimum on how much I'd need to consume, but I needed to try at least some of it.

Why it's important

So those are the parameters I used for this quest. Now, truth be told, I didn't figure out all of these things before I started. I learned them along the way, the hard way, after I had wasted time and money visiting a dozen or so "false objectives" that I should have weeded out at the beginning. I went to the homebrewer's garage, only to be turned away. I ate bad Mexican food just to order the restaurant's bad corona clone. And so forth.

That's why I strongly recommend figuring out the "rules" before you really get started.

And in addition to saving yourself some trouble and expense, you'll also get a clearer sense of why you're doing your quest.

Had I started with these rules in place, I would have enjoyed the endeavor far more. I would have better appreciated the local business and craftsmanship angles, instead of just thinking of this as places to drink different beers.