A Broken Compass and a Bold New Adventure

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When you’re considering a life on the road and you’re a beer geek, what could be more poetic than rolling up to a brewery called Broken Compass?

How about when said brewery is plopped down on the edge of Breckenridge, Colorado, and the epically picturesque Tenmile mountain range? Yeah, that’s about as poetic as it gets.

Test Driving an RV Life

And that’s exactly where my wife, April, and I found ourselves when we took RAIF, our 2003 24-foot BT Cruiser, out for a first test run through the Colorado mountains. A must-have on our hunt for our new full-time home on wheels was that it had to be spacious enough in which to live, but nimble enough to navigate the peaks that are home to many of our life’s passions.

Breckenridge was a perfect testing ground for us. We already knew the former mining town well from numerous snowboarding forays from our sticks and bricks home in Denver over the years. Taking the 80-plus miles of backroads into Breck, now a ski resort centric town, there was no doubt it would be a stern test to see if RAIF could handle mountain roads and if we could handle RAIF.

Getting Started with Broken Compass Brewing

We were fairly sure we had made the correct choice before we rolled into Broken Compass, but already being familiar with the brewery, there was no way we could pass without stopping. Broken Compass embodies the spirit of the RV Life into which we were deciding to leap.

Jason Ford - Broken Compass Brewing Owner

When Jason Ford launched Broken Compass in 2014, it was his way of recapturing what many of us are seeking by opting for a nomadic life in an RV: freedom.

“I had been a chemical engineer my entire career. I loved what I did, made a lot of cool things. And like a lot of people, I took a management position, and all of a sudden that creative outlet went away,” Ford explained.

“In management, you’re running people instead of creating the products anymore. I wanted to be able to create again.”

An avid home brewer with a hobby-job at a brewery in Denver, it dawned on Ford that opening a brewery could be a great opportunity to recapture the freedom he once felt at his engineering job. “Why not turn my passion into a living?”

That was the spark that eventually ignited Broken Compass Brewing, home to consistently great flagship beers like Coconut Porter and Chili Pepper Pale Ale, as well as weekly Wacky One-Off Wednesday small batches like Molé Stout, Chocolate Raspberry Porter, and Oaked Belgian Black Ale. Ford’s creative possibilities were now limitless.

The Enticement of Full-Time RV Living

April and I haven’t been particularly unhappy with our lives. We’ve raised two outstanding young men and have been fortunate enough to travel to numerous locations around the world. But we have long known that stepping away from our sticks and bricks home a couple times a year wasn’t going to cut it forever. 

Our youngest son is now in his second year of college, and that was our target to make a move. Initially, we thought we would seek to follow our passions by simply moving to the mountains, but more and more, we realized that only a portion of our passions lie in the mountains and trading one sticks and bricks home for another still hampered our primary passion: travel and discovery.

Downsizing was always a portion of the equation, so it finally dawned on us, why be tied down? Why not go mobile? Why not live in an RV?

As we did some research, we realized that there was a niche of other crazies out there already doing what we were contemplating, which led us to RAIF, which in turn led to our test run that landed in Breckenridge.

Broken Compass Brewing Crowd

Broken Compass Brewing has always made community a priority. When Ford decided upon the outskirts of Breckenridge to launch his brewery, he quickly realized that it wouldn’t simply be a place of business, it would fold into the fabric of the community that is woven through a mountain town.

“One of the unique things about Broken Compass is the community that surrounds us. It’s no secret that we are driven by tourism, but we are who we are because of the locals and how much they love us and the community that we’ve been able to create with them,” Ford said. 

“And that’s a niche that you can’t get in a lot of places. It’s hard to live in the mountains. It’s hard to be up here. People play hard and pay hard. They work their butts off and live life to the fullest. And to have that type of community, you don’t get that in a place like Denver, where I thought of starting this brewery to begin with, but you get in a place like this where everybody counts on everybody to make it work. The community we have… I can’t explain it. It’s stellar, wonderful, exemplary, all those words.”

Sound familiar? If you’ve spent any time around the RV community, it should.

Stout Life podcast with Broken Compass’s Burning Man Jason Ford

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Decision Made?

My wife and I hadn’t even hit the road full-time when we made our pilgrimage to Breck. In fact, we hadn’t even been 100-percent sure of the move at the time. 

We decided to stop at Broken Compass to contemplate our test drive into the high country with RAIF and plopped down next to another couple at one of the communal beetle-kill-pine tables in a taproom teeming with skiing paraphernalia.

Though Abby and Travis had been playing a card game, we soon fell into conversation.

Remember when I asked what could be more poetic than rolling up to a brewery called Broken Compass in a picturesque mountain town called Breckenridge? There was one way for it to be more poetic.

As we talked with Abby and Travis, stumbling upon our purpose for our little test run, their faces lit up. Somehow we stumbled across probably the only two people at Broken Compass that night – not that I have proof – who were already living full-time in a travel trailer in Northern Colorado.

We were already well on our way to deciding that we would hit the road full-time, working and living as nomads, but if we hadn’t, the poetry of the moment certainly tipped the scales. 

What better way to make a major life decision than over a fantastic pint of beer with new friends?

Reaching the Summit

Following our test run, we took RAIF on our first full-fledged outing to the RV Entrepreneur Summit created by nomadic superstars Heath and Alyssa Padgett. That is where we realized how much RV life and community intersects with the same ideals that we’ve always found appealing about mountain life and community. 

When April and I decided that we would live nomadically – eventually launching our business Living A Stout Life – we knew it would come with hardships. We knew that making a living on the road would at times be challenging. But we also knew that we didn’t want to continue plodding away on the traditional route of toiling our lives away to make more money and compile more stuff, occasionally stepping out into the vast expanse of the world.

It’s an attitude that we have encountered from the vast majority of nomads we’ve met. It’s an attitude that Ford had when he started his Broken Compass journey and one he embodies to this day.

“When we first started talking about starting up Broken Compass, we’re like, what’s the point? Why are we doing this? One thing that kept coming up was we’re doing this so we could have a good life in the mountains,” Ford said, adding that the plan isn’t to be the biggest brewery possible, but to continue to lead a life that he loves.

“We plan to stay small and stay crafty, and focus on the beer. Most importantly, the community that we have here, make the most of what we can be with the community, and that’s a circular loop that just makes everybody better.”

What a revelation that you could find your way with a Broken Compass.

(This article was originally published in #RV Magazine. #RV Magazine is digital, independent and focused on the latest RVs, trends and the needs of tech nomads, full-timers and van-lifers. It’s the magazine for people who never thought they’d buy an RV magazine.)


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Jon Bridges
5 years ago

Great article! It was great meeting you guys in Fredricksburg and we look forward to enjoying a pint (or two!) of some great craft beer out on the road! Good luck as you hit the road!

Ken Pishna
Ken Pishna
5 years ago
Reply to  Jon Bridges

Thanks Jon. Broken Compass has long been a favorite of ours and Ford is an awesome guy to talk to. Totally would fit into the RV community.

It was really great to meet you guys as well. We can’t wait to hit the road and start meeting up with you guys. Especially any time a pint or two is involved. LOL