Cruising the Hoppy Highway
RV Travelers Driven to Craft Beer
A good guide can make all the difference, though. Devine points to the creative and humorous antics of Bob Lorber, who leads the weekend tours at Cigar City Brewing, as an example. Lorber cracks corny jokes and pulls pranks on visitors during his tours, and he’ll wear any funny hat a customer brings in while conducting the tour. But he knows his beer.
“An entertaining tour guide can make a one-room nanobrewery seem like a wonderland, while a stiff-but-knowledgeable guide can make a 10-minute tour seem to last an hour,” Devine says.
After visiting so many breweries, certain extra senses develop. For the Willmores, they can discern the quality of a brewery shortly after entering.
“We seem to be able to tell if a brewery is going to be good just by listening to the sounds, breathing in the smells and talking about our ‘gut feelings’ about a place,” Ben Willmore says. “We’re amazed at how often those ideas prove to be true.”
Devine says he and Scarpello can quickly determine if beer is the primary focus of a brewpub.
“We are pretty good at sizing up whether we are going to a brewery that focuses on beer or focuses on other stuff, like food, entertainment or ambience and also happens to make beer,” he says.
Though brewery visits remain a big part of the nomadic craft beer life, sooner or later the aficionado feels the call of the wort and wants to make his or her own. But even a standard 5-gallon batch of brew becomes unwieldy when you live in a home with the floor space and storage capacity of an average modern kitchen. As with many conundrums of the full-time RV lifestyle, the solution is to think small.
That’s what both Devine and the Boones did to scratch the homebrew itch.
In Gary Boone’s case, it involved dry malt extract, hops and a fermenter jury-rigged from a 4-liter Carlo Rossi wine bottle. Devine used a 1-gallon brewing kit supplied by Brooklyn Home Brew Shop, which required an all-grain brewing process.
In both cases, the beer turned out better than the brewer expected, despite concerns about temperature control and vibration. Coincidentally, both brewed their batches while on extended stays in Florida.
Of course, living in close quarters presents challenges.
Polk, the RV expert, says couples considering becoming full-timers need to realize that they will spend a lot of time together in a very small environment.
“That’s an important consideration,” he says. “Sometimes you need to walk away and get some space. You’re downsizing from a 2,500-square-foot house to a 400-square-foot RV. You’ve got to be able to be with each other in that same space over a long period of time.”
A shared love for craft beer helps keep the couples’ relationships relatively drama-free.
“Sure we get on each other’s nerves,” Gary Boone says. “But we ask ourselves a Joel Osteen question—‘Is it worth losing our joy?’—and it never is.”
Osteen is a Houston-based minister and author with a wide following, but Boone is just as comfortable paraphrasing craft beer guru Charlie Papazian. “After arriving and setting up in our new location, we ‘Relax, Don’t Worry and Have a Homebrew (or Microbrew),’” he says.
Scarpello credits the complementary nature of her “short temper and fiery Italian nature” and Devine’s being a “very patient man.”
“That, and a steady supply of beer,” she says.
Karen Willmore says she and her husband “never really bug each other.”
“The RV is big enough to allow for personal space,” she says. “For example, one of us could go and read or nap in the closed bedroom while the other works and listens to music in the front. We’re both very laid-back and easy-going, so that probably helps us get along really well. We don’t do drama.”
Not to mention, she says, that they each favor the same styles of beers: hoppy IPAs, Belgian tripels and quads, and barley wines.
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.