Every good road trip starts with a theme. If you’re a fan of craft beer and cool small towns, brew up your next RV adventure to these three awesome brewery towns in the west. Each of these western craft beer destinations has scenery and vibe unlike anywhere else, and they’re all home to some of the tastiest craft beers in the country. Here are my three favorite beer town getaways with convenient RV camping.
My old hometown not only has several award-winning craft breweries but also lies in a region with such ideal summer weather that locals call it “The Santa Barbara of the North.” When everywhere else is baking in scorching hot temperatures, the cool, salty ocean breeze in Eureka and surrounding Humboldt County makes it one of the best brewery destinations in the west. Point your rig to Arcata, where RVs of any size can make Mad River Rapids RV Park home base. This oceanside resort is where we kicked off our full-time RVing adventures, and it makes a perfect spot to begin your North Coast brewery adventures. For the most authentic taste of Humboldt, add these three brewery destinations to your Humboldt County itinerary:
• Get a feel for the local lifestyle at Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, one of the U.S.’s first certified organic breweries and also founded by one of the first female brewmasters in the nation, Barbara Groom. Hang out and get to know locals in the downtown Eureka restaurant, then take a free Lost Coast Brewery tour just down the road.
• Roll south on US Highway 101 to Eel River Brewery in Fortuna. Situated more inland than Eureka, it’s where you’ll find sunnier skies and many RVers’ favorite Riverwalk RV Park and Campground, located within walking distance of the brewery’s award-winning certified organic beer. Grab a bite from the pub menu that features steaks and burgers made from the brewery’s ranch operation. They take “locally made” to an all-new level, by raising Black Angus beef cows on diets of organic sweet alfalfa and brewery malt grown on the Eel River Brewery’s land.
• Finally, pack your overnight bag and hop in your toad for a side trip to remote Shelter Cove. The road is long, rough and not ideal for RVs of most sizes. But the reward is worth the effort when you land at the Gyppo Ale Mill, a rugged little brewery perched on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean. It’s part of the upscale Inn of the Lost Coast and named in honor of the “Gyppos,” small-scale independent logging operations that once dotted Southern Humboldt redwood forests. This awesome little find captures the freewheelin’ spirit of one of the most self-reliant, rugged, and remote communities in the west. It’s truly a gem among western craft beer destinations.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Many great brewery towns of the west have excellent beers on tap, but I haven’t experienced any that offer as much flavor and fun for RVers as Fort Collins. Located one hour north of Denver (another great Colorado brewery metropolis), this mid-sized college town is about bikes, brews, dogs, and keepin’ it local. Over twenty breweries call Fort Collins home, each offering something unique to the Colorado craft beer scene. Set up a home base at any of Larimer County’s public campgrounds or private RV parks (they’re all great!). Then hop on your bicycle and roll through town on an epic off-street, multi-use trail system that takes visitors to dozens of stops on a DIY Fort Collins Brewery Tour. Space won’t allow me to include all of my favorites, so here are three must-visit brewery experiences:
• The venerable New Belgium Brewing Company. Founded in 1991 in Fort Collins, today it’s the fourth-largest craft brewery in the U.S. and industry leader in sustainability and social responsibility. Don’t miss a tour, complete with generous tastings and lively guides that entertain and educate.
• Jessup Farm Barrel House is another brewery you don’t want to miss. Known for blending beers with barrels used for wine, bourbon, and other specialty barrel-aged beers, the operation sits inside a 133-year-old, 3,000 square-foot restored barn on the 13-acre Jessup Farm Artisan Village.
• Go back to your college days at Colorado State University’s Ramskeller campus bar, where taps flow with beer brewed by students of the Fermentation Science and Technology Program. Ramskeller has a 264-gallon brewing system, making it the largest full-scale brewing operation on any college campus in the country. After beer tasting, stay at Loveland RV Resort in Fort Collins, also within striking distance of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Walla Walla, Washington
Native Americans called it the “land of many waters,” and today, Walla Walla’s breweries are the ultimate place to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. The unofficial capital of Washington wine country is home to more than 120 wineries, and now Walla Walla Valley breweries and distilleries are racking up awards and accolades too. Situated in the dry, eastern side of Washington, this energetic little college town has a strong localvore culinary scene that makes it a fun destination if you love experiences like farm-to-table meals, hand-crafted beer and, of course, world-famous winery hopping. Set up your base camp in the lush oasis at Lewis And Clark Trail State Park, or closer to town at independently owned RV parks. Then branch out to explore Walla Walla’s best breweries, including:
• Crossbuck Brewing, a must-do brewery experience in the historic Walla Walla train depot. Crafted almost entirely with local and statewide ingredients, Crossbuck beers are brewed onsite and draught beers are tapped fresh from the source in the taproom. House faves include Switcher Kölsch, Hazy Schmazy, and the NoPac IPA with nine additional rotating Crossbuck brews and guest beers for a total of 24 taps. Savor Crossbuck’s pub food menu or walk next door for an upscale localvore dining experience at the Walla Walla `Steakhouse.
• Do Walla Walla like a local at Burwood Brewing Company, where owners David and Jennifer Marshall welcome guests to kick back on the enormous patio, play trivia, nosh on lively food truck fare, and of course imbibe on a rotating selection of 14 beers all made on site.
• Hop on board for a Walla Walla Brews Cruise through one of the most exciting western craft beer destinations. The Valley is long and large, which means operations can be quite dispersed. These private brewery tours are the ideal way to experience Walla Walla breweries without worrying about a designated driver. You’ll go behind the scenes and have fun with like-minded folks in these small group brewery tours that can be customized to your desires. Stay at Columbia Sun RV Resort during your beer-tasting odyssey and enjoy the sports facilities, fitness center, pool, hot tub and rec room.
Local craft breweries and taprooms make great RV destinations because they’re a window into the community. Whether you visit Humboldt, Fort Collins, or Walla Walla, you will arrive as a stranger, but after a few rounds of great brews, food, and local conversation, you might never want to leave.