Cruising the Hoppy Highway
RV Travelers Driven to Craft Beer
All of these hop-inspired nomads quickly learned the joys and benefits of bending elbows in local tasting rooms.
“We like to say it is our visitor center,” Devine says. “We can pull up in any city, find the brewery, go sit at the bar, talk to the locals and find all the best spots around town and sometimes the best spots just outside of town. We’ve gotten so many great travel tips and discovered places we otherwise would never have known about.”
RVers and beer geeks each claim their own culture, with its particular language and personalities. RVers might sit around the communal campfire at the park trading stories about adventures and destinations or bragging about the latest upgrade to their rig, whereas beer geeks gather in the tasting room to chat about their latest beer finds or new homebrews, and brag about how they were first in line at a rare bottle release.
“I would say both lifestyles give us an identity in the other,” Devine says. “To our RV friends, we are known as ‘the craft beer people.’ To our craft beer friends, we are known as ‘the travelers.’ ”
Statistics are elusive on those who exist in both cultures. A Google search turns up scattered tales of folks who do both, whether it’s just for a weeklong adventure to a particularly craft-beer-rich destination or during a full- or part-time journey.
Sometimes, breweries have used RVs and travel trailers as part of their promotions.
Great Northern Brewing, the Whitefish, MT, makers of Black Star lager and other beers, launched the “Great American Road Trip” in 2010, sending a host and a film crew on a 6,000-mile trip through the Northwest with a 1965 Airstream trailer to film 12 stories about “people that embody the authentic, the spirit and backbone of Black Star,” according to its website. That trailer has since made other journeys, including to the floor of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
In the summer of 2012, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. hit the road from Chippewa Falls, WI, with a customized Airstream to mark the brewery’s 145th anniversary with stops across the country. Various members of the Leinenkugel family joined the road trip along the way to pour samples and interact with fans.
More often, though, it’s the RVer that goes to the brewery, and that can sometimes present logistical challenges.
The Willmores and the Boones both pull vehicles behind their motor homes: a Mini Cooper and a Ford Focus station wagon, respectively. Devine and Scarpello depend on their bicycles, public transportation or an occasional rental car to navigate roads not designed for an unwieldy RV.
But sometimes they try.
“Brooklyn Brewery was a bit of a hassle because we drove our RV into Brooklyn,” Devine says. “Going to Brewery Ommegang confronted us with a couple of low clearances that made us sweat a bit.”
Preferably, they would all like to drive their rigs directly to a brewery parking lot, because they often find that owners will let them park overnight, meaning they’ll just be a few steps from home and won’t need to worry so much about overconsumption or taking turns being the designated driver.
“There are very few breweries that don’t want us to park at their location,” Ben Willmore said.
He cites the Rogue Ales brewery in Oregon as being very welcoming, as well as Stone, where they had their earthquake experience.
The lifestyle conditions them to expect the unexpected.
Gerard Walen writes about beer travel as editor of the online magazine Road Trips for Beer. He is founder and editor of BeerInFlorida.com, and his beer writings have been published in other online and print media.