Craft Beer Travelers Top 5 of 2019

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As I sit here on the beach in Mazatlan reflecting over the recent holiday season and the past year, I am impressed with all of what we have accomplished in 2019. Granted, we still are not rolling in money, but that was never the goal.

A while ago, in fact many years ago, when our boys were young (they are now 21 and 29) and we had succeeded in helping them build their own lives, we talked about making travel a more consistent component of our lives, with a long term goal living in other countries. Recently, I had an Under the Tuscan Sun (a good movie about living in Italy – you should watch it) kind of moment when I had realized that we had made these goals – these dreams – our reality. We have been traveling for 18 months now and have spent the last two months living in Mexico.

And to put the cherry on top, just after Thanksgiving, we landed our first paying gig as actual content creators in the brewing industry.

Use this Top 5 List as a Resource

We are stoked, and we want to inspire you to follow your dreams – even if those dreams have nothing to do with travel, biking, beer, adventures – not sure why you are reading this blog if they don’t, but happy you are here!

Whatever your dreams may be, do something every day to work towards them. Maybe next year you’ll be writing your top 5.

We hope you find this list informative and helpful when planning your 2020 craft beer adventures.

Top 5 Favorite Numbers of 2019

  • 19 states – Considering we hit 30 states in 2018 in six months, this number seems low, but really, when you think about it – 19 states (including two in Mexico) that’s nothing to be ashamed about.
  • 21 weeks – We spent 21 weeks in Colorado spread throughout the year. When we first started traveling we thought we’d come back to Colorado annually. We absolutely love traveling and home is where we park it, but home is also always Colorado. Our annual trip to Colorado is more like every 3-4 months. We do what we want.
  • 53 rides in 12 states– With most of these rides being on actual mountain biking trails, many were not, but they all count because they were all an adventure. Riding on beaches, OHV trails, highways, dirt roads, and mountain biking trails, each and every one was a way to get closer to nature and the places we called home at that time.
  • 100 camp spots – I thought we slowed down a lot this year, but according to this stat, not so much. Most of these were free and in the mountains or on a beach, some not free cuz it was cold and we wanted to be warm, others cuz we wanted the additional security in Baja. A few were with family moochdocking or in their house, and a few in parking lots, most loved, some not. (Check out our post for more on finding the best camping spot.)
  • 117 breweries and taprooms – This could be a lot more. We must confess, we do not track our numbers well, so take this one with a grain of salt (or malts). I’m not even trying to count the different beers this year. Can you imagine that number?

Top 5 Favorite Cities of 2019

  • Whitefish, Montana – This quaint little northern Montana town has it all: mountain biking, one of our favorite breweries (Bonsai), camping, a gorgeous lake, snowboarding, hiking trails, and more. It’s just enough of a touristy town to be intriguing but not enough to be overwhelming. If only it wasn’t 100 degrees below zero in the winter, we might just move here.
  • Missoula, Montana – Similar in its quaintness to Whitefish, it is a bit larger, offering more breweries, restaurants, biking, hiking, but still has that Montana small town feel. We spent almost a week here with friends and can’t wait to go back.
  • Austin, Texas – This was on our list last year, too. This year we visited in April when spring flowers were blooming, brews still brewing, and music still playing. There’s so much to see and do in this city, it will probably make our list again in 2020 since we will be there for the BeerNow Conference in August. Hopefully the summer heat won’t ruin our vision of this vibrant city. (For a detailed guide of visiting Austin, click here.)
  • Prescott, Arizona – With its old town western feel, both desert and mountainous terrain, several breweries, including Lazy G, and its infamous Whiskey Row, this Arizona town will keep you kicking. Oh did I mention the mountain biking? There’s miles upon miles of trails close enough to town, you can ride straight from the trails to the breweries.
  • Steamboat Springs, Colorado – We love to travel, but we also love our home state of Colorado, and Steamboat Springs is an iconic representation of a Colorado mountain town. Breweries, like Storm Peak, snowboarding, biking, river tubing, everything Colorado. This could be one of the best places on Earth. Hmm…we could live here.
  • Honorable Mention: Mazatlan, Sinaloa, MX – While we didn’t travel here in our RV, we did stay here for a week over Christmas with our Mexican family. Visiting several times over the past 20 years, we feel quite at home here, especially while chilling at Lety’s Beach Restaurant on la Isla de la Piedra with a bucket full of Coronas.

Top 5 Favorite Camp Spots of 2019

  • Fidel’s El Pabellon (Nueva Odisea, BC, Mexico) – We spent almost three weeks at Fidels’s just south of San Quintin, enjoying the small village of Nueva Odisea where we got to practice our Spanish with the locals, wandering miles upon miles of sandy beaches with thousands of sand dollars, watching stunning sunsets every night, eating fresh lobster, sea bass, and clams, and meeting people from all over the world. (Be sure to read our Baja Beer and Travel Journal posts as they come out.)
  • Rutherford Beach (Creole, LA) – While this was not the pristine white sand beach we were hoping for, it turned out to be one of our favorite spots. Meeting several other full-timers here, we spent almost two weeks camped literally right on the sand, with the waves right outside our door…for free. With miles of beach to explore via hikes and biking and canals with gators just down the road, along with campfires and conversations, this place, while no frills, was perfection in all of its imperfections. I even had to carry a dead gator down the beach to get rid of the stench. How could it not be one of our favorite spots?
  • Cedar Glades (Hot Springs, AR) – Located about three miles outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas and the famous Bathhouse Row, and Superior Bathhouse Brewery, this spot offered evergreens and mountain biking trails right outside our door. A bit chilly when we were there in February, we still took full advantage of the more than 400 acres of trails.
  • Slab City (Niland, CA) – We skipped out on Joshua Tree (about two hours north of Slab City) to check out Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus. Still not quite formulating my words for this place to their full potential (article coming soon), the best I got for you is this: If you stay here, embrace the community. It is both beautiful and ugly in its societal insanity. For all its quirkiness and trash (there is a lot of trash), it is a place to contemplate and to build perspective, to realize that not everyone fits the mold we build for society. Don’t just come for the photographic possibilities (of that there are many), but come for the community that has arisen from the desert.
  • Lake Guntersville State Park (Lake Guntersville, AL) – Yep, an actual RV park, with full hookups, and showers, even a lodge. There were also mountain biking trails, hiking trails, a lake, and more importantly, our peeps. This place is home to the RV Entrepreneur Summit, and last year we found our tribe here. This year we’re going back again in March and can’t wait for the comforts of a place we can almost call home.
  • Honorable Mentions – Staying at 100 places, it’s friggin difficult to choose only five favorite spots, so here are a few honorable mentions, cuz we do what we want.

Top 5 Favorite Stout Life Stories of 2019

  • How to Find Great Craft Breweries Wherever You Are – It’s been 18 months now of traveling and seeking out breweries with great stories. We figured we should share some advice.
  • Make Malt Sexy – The Next Revolution in Craft Beer? – Beer isn’t always about drinking the beer, it’s about knowing what makes your beer good and where that good shit comes from. Credit the brewers, yes, but the ingredients count, too.
  • Like Bourbon and Beer, Life is Meant to Be Enjoyed – Life is meant to be savored now, not later. This story reflects how a craft lifestyle really isn’t about the bourbon or the beer, it’s about the people and the life you live now.
  • Through the Lens of a Craft Beer Geek – There’s just something magically, wonderfully, insane about the Great American Beer Festival, and this short video highlights the excitement that surrounds one of the largest beer festivals in the world.
  • Brewing an Adventurous Life – It’s not every day you get to interview a former student. This story isn’t about the beer as much as it is about the teenager who grew up to become an inspirational teacher both in the outdoor education arena as well as in the craft beer industry.

Top 5 Favorite Breweries of 2019

Our most commonly asked question is, “What’s your favorite brewery?” We never really know how to answer that; we have so many. We do know, though, that when we come across a brewery that we love, favorite it not, it’s usually because of the people. That being said, when we chose our favorites for 2019, they encompassed great people, but also had to have topnotch beer and ambiance. Keep in mind, tomorrow our favorites could be completely different.

  • Ten Sleep Brewing Company (Ten Sleep, WY) – Nestled against the Big Horns in a town of about 200 people, this brewery was built in a barn and still has that small town rustic feel, complete with a dive bar to continue the fun after the brewery closes. Oh and a place to pitch a tent, right at the brewery. Now, that’s a no-brainer.
  • Bonsai Brewing Project (Whitefish, MT) – Graham, owner and brewer, is a genius when it comes to brewing. He loves to experiment with his brews, and he does it well. That combined with a stunning beer garden and handcrafted food, there’s not a better place to spend a summer evening in Montana. Now, here’s to hoping those Montana beer laws change soon and breweries can eventually stay open later than 8.
  • Imagine Nation (Missoula, MT) – With murals of change-makers donning the walls of this brewery and a vision to go beyond beer to enhance understanding, human connection, and community action, this brewery is must visit whenever you are near Missoula. You will feel at peace the second you walk in the door.
  • Barnstar Brewing Company (Prescott, AZ) – This brewery needs to be on a bucket list. Built on a family farm, you can even feed their horses while enjoying a beer. There are rocking chairs and seating areas strategically placed on porches and in quaint buildings throughout the property. It’s like you came to visit friends for a Sunday afternoon dinner complete with homemade chili. This is an all day affair because you simply won’t want to leave.
  • WanderLinger Brewing Company (Chattanooga, TN) – In the heart of Chattanooga, this brewery is host to an art gallery, live bands, and wonderful people. And the name says it all – wander in and linger often.
  • Honorable Mentions – Visiting over 100 breweries, really, you want us to only choose five? Nope – here are a few honorable mentions because, as I said before, we do what we want.
    • Bandit Brewing Company (Darby, MT) – Bandit Brewing encompasses Montana community and the outdoors. We haven’t visited their new location yet, but if it’s as welcoming as their old one, then life is grand.
    • WildWood Brewing – (Stevensville, MT) – With a unique brewing system, a cozy taproom, an expansive patio, and an owner that is dedicated to sustainability, Wildwood captures Montana’s soul perfectly.
    • Back Pew Brewing (Porter, TX) – Drinking beer in a church! Hell yeah! Converted from an old church and keeping the ambiance of that, along with an impressive back yard space with huge trees as shade and space for outdoor concerts, Bobby, owner and brewer kicks ass in this church, located just outside of Houston.

Top 5 Favorite Colorado Breweries of 2019

Home is Colorado, there’s no way in hell we can choose one brewery from Colorado; therefore, Colorado has its own category. You would think narrowing the choices down to one state would help…Nope!

  • Guanella Pass Brewery (Georgetown, CO) – This quaint little mountain town just off of I-70 and close to the front range, not only has great beer, but their beertenders are the absolute best. We say it often, breweries are about the people, and Guanella Pass has some of the best people on this planet.
  • Broken Compass Brewing (Breckenridge, CO) – Breckenridge, Colorado! Do I really have to say more? Fine! Using old ski lifts as chairs and views of the mountains, and with a coconut porter to die for, this place is home anytime we are in the mountains. Actually, we often make a trip to Breck, just for this brewery.
  • Woods Boss Brewing Company (Denver, CO) – Can’t get to the mountains today? Hit up Woods Boss instead. Crafted after the beauty of the mountains, the ambiance will draw you in, and the 15 some taps with some of the best beers in Denver will keep you there for hours. Plus, Jordan, the owner, is an actual woods boss.
  • Strange Craft Beer Company (Denver, CO) – Tim, owner, and OG in the Denver beer scene has created a unique space in the middle of an industrial neighborhood smack right next to I-25. While the neighborhood may not be inviting, the beer, the brewery, and the people, definitely are.
  • Next Stop Brew Co (Denver, CO) – Formerly known as Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project, this brewery is creative, unique, and is devoted to travel, in fact, bringing flavors from all over the world to its beer.

Top 5 Favorite Beer Events of 2019

  • Great American Beer Festival (Denver, CO) – We’ve been to GABF several times before, but never as credentialed media. Wow! What an event! We hosted our 1st ever Pre-GABF Incredibly Strange Stout Life Party where brewers and friends that we met from all over the country converged on Strange Craft Beer Company for a night of special releases and debauchery. From that to special beer tastings to exclusive interviews to special events, this was the event of the year. (Click here for your very own GABF survival guide.)
  • BeerNow Conference (Great Falls, MT) – We had no idea what to expect from this event. I mean, who knew? A beer conference for journalists? We talked earlier about finding our tribe at the RVE Conference. This was more of our tribe. From learning about marketing to beer and cheese pairings to meeting new contacts and friends and drinking so many wonderfully crafted beers all throughout Montana, and that’s not even all of it. We were invited to speak at the 2020 Conference!
  • RVE Craft Beer Meetup (Lake Guntersville State Park, AL) – This was our first ever craft beer meetup. With beers donated from Omaha Brewing in Georgia and Diamond Bear in Arkansas, we hosted about 30 people at our campsite and talked about tasting and enjoying different beers, even brewing one of our own beers as a giveaway. 2020’s RVE Meetup is going to be even better.
  • Utah Brewers Guild Collaboration Fest (Salt Lake City, UT) – This was our first ever media credentialed event, and while it definitely wasn’t GABF, the intimacy of it made it easier to talk to brewers and attendees alike. (Click here for some tips on enjoying your beerfests.)
  • Wild West Brewfest (Katy, TX) – On a whim, we entered a social media contest that was giving away a lot of beer, schwag, and four tickets to the local Beerfest. We won! Promptly inviting a couple of our friends that we had recently met at the RVE Summit who just happened to live in that area, we were off to Katy, Texas! Small, but fun, this beerfest definitely deserved a mention, mostly because we got to share it with friends.

Top 5 Favorite Mountain Biking Trails of 2019

  • The Whitefish Trail and Whitefish Mountain Resort (Whitefish, MT) – What do you like to ride? In Whitefish, it doesn’t matter. They have everything. From trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort that quickly whisk you away to climbs that just might kill you to downhills where you are quite certain you now know how to fly. To trails in town, that magically take you from town to nature in mere seconds, with flowers and pine trees guiding you through the gentle climbs and mellow down hills. Then, when you have burned calories along with your legs, the beer and food here will not disappoint.
  • Prescott National Forest (Prescott, AZ) – We didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the trails available in Prescott. While this is mountain biking, it is also what we like to call desert biking. From cacti to pine trees to deer to tarantulas, these trails will keep you entertained for miles and the craft beer is mere minutes from the trails. So skip the shower after the ride, and hit the breweries instead. Nobody will mind your stink, because beer makes everything better.
  • Klondike Bluff Mountain Biking Trails (Moab, UT) – Ok, we all know Moab has some of the best mountain biking in the world, but this time we weren’t actually in Moab, we were camped just west of Arches and north of Moab on some BLM land with trails literally right outside our door and stars brilliantly lighting up the sky at night. Riding through the desert, over boulders, around boulders, with nobody else in sight…enough said. I want my bike back. (Click here to read about our stolen bikes.)
  • Cedar Glades Park (Hot Springs, AR) – This trail system is fairly new to the mountain biking scene, but it can definitely hold its own. With lodgepole pines as the perfect canopy, these trails offer hours of entertainment. And a plus, we camped right there, for free, and brewed beer, then went for a ride.
  • Bike Helena (Helena, MT) – While our biking time was cut short here because we had a tire blowout to fix, what we did ride was awesome! Some of the trails here are located right in the neighborhoods, easy to access but sometimes crowded. There are also many other choices from crazy uphill in the forests to mellow flat rides in the meadows. They even offer a free shuttle service, The Trail Rider Shuttle, from May through September for your biking and beer drinking ease.

Top 5 Favorite Apps of 2019

  • Trailforks – Recently coming across this app to assist in finding mountain biking trails, it has quickly become our favorite mountain biking app. We seem to find more trails on here that are not listed on MTB.
  • MTB Project – Usually our go to, we still rely on MTB Project to help us find mountain biking trails, but more and more we are using TrailForks instead.
  • iOverlander – We use many apps and tools, but iOverlander proved to be the most helpful this year, especially while traveling in Baja. This app has everything from wild camping spots to restaurants and more.
  • Campendium – This started out as our go to app, and while we still rely on Campendium for additional reviews of camping spots, we find ourselves using iOverlander more than any other camping app.
  • – Until we create our very own brewery finder, we’ll stick with the other expert – Their brewery finder map is as true-to-form as one can get in an ever-changing brewing industry. Focused on US breweries, I understand why there are no Mexican breweries on there, but that would be an awesome feature for the future!

Looking Ahead to 2020

After people ask us what our favorite brewery is, the next question is usually, “How long are you traveling?” Our answer? “Until we’re done.”

And we’re not done yet.

  • We landed our first paying gig as content creators and we can’t wait to see where that takes us.
  • We’ll be at the RVE Summit in Lake Guntersville, Alabama, in March for an entire month.
  • We’re heading to San Antonio in April for the CBC (the Craft Brewers Conference) for the first time ever.
  • And we’re presenting at the BeerNow Conference in Austin in August.
  • September is all about GABF in Denver (the Great American Beer Festival), so we are always excited to head home for that event.

Words of Wisdom for 2020

Be enough of a beer nerd to understand the beer you’re drinking, but not enough of one that makes you forget that good beer is actually about good people. In true Bourdain style…

“A bar is to go to get a little bit buzzed, and pleasantly derange the senses, and have a good time, and interact with other people, or make bad decisions, or feel bad about your life. It’s not to sit there fucking analyzing beer. It’s antithetical.”

Anthony Bourdain

Now, begone! Go out into the world, and be merciless with your kindness!

Kenny at Baja at Letys top 5 favorite worst beers 2019

Top 5 Favorite Worst Beers

P.S. Staying true to Bourdain, our top 5 favorite worst beers are: Bohemia, Corona, Tecate, Modelo, and Pacifico. We just spent the last two months in Mexico, what’d you expect? There’s always a time and a place for a good, cold, worst beer!

Cheers to 2020!

Click here to reminisce on our favorites from 2018.


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Debbie LaFleiche
3 years ago

Great article. I love seeing all the places you’ve been, adventures you’ve had and beer you drank.