Craft Beer Travelers Top 5 of 2021

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Well, 2021 was a strange year. Maybe even stranger than 2020. Strange and stressful, yes, but also strange as in different for us in the way that we traveled. For the first time living on the road, we felt more like locals than travelers, and, strangely enough, it was quite marvelous! Don’t get us wrong. We still visited an insane amount of outstanding and innovative breweries, told many fantastical stories, camped at and explored diverse and wondrous lands, all while drinking copious amounts of brilliant liquids surrounded by many absolutely wonderful friends. We’ve got a lot to share with you from 2021, and we’ve done our best to narrow it down to five of the best of all the things. Check out our Craft Beer Travelers Top 5 of 2021.

April and Ken Austin Texas I love brew so much
Your craft beer travelers…April and Ken in their element.

Use This Top 5 List as a Resource

When compiling the list for 2020, I was bitching and moaning about all the money we spent at breweries and restaurants. This year, writing about 2021, we still spent a lot of bucks; however, I’m not bitching about it as much. It’s what we love to do. We love coming into a new (or familiar) town or city and seeking out the local breweries, eateries, hangouts, and trails. We love sitting at the bar chatting with anyone sitting next to us.

So, as I stated in both 2019 and last year’s Top 5 list, “We are stoked, and we want to inspire you to follow your dreams. 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 entertaining, informative and helpful when planning your 2022 craft beer lifestyle.

Top 5 Favorite Numbers of 2021

Lucky numbers, unlucky numbers, too many numbers, not enough numbers. Numbers play a part in our lives whether we like it or not, so we decided to list some significant numbers for us. These change every year, as they should, and maybe our mileage and gas dollars should be on here, but we’re terrible at tracking those.

Symbols as Numbers best of Number 2021 mural Ajo Arizona
Numbers have meanings – mural in Ajo, Arizona
  • 2 states – Not a big number, but as we have been on the road for almost four years now, visiting only two new states is OK. We’ve slowed down. Stayed in places longer. Gone back to visit states we’ve been to before. This year, while we did visit nine states, only two of those were new to us: North Dakota and Minnesota. The other seven: Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Texas, we’ve been to before, but hey, when you’re traveling, you count them all again. This leaves us with four to go to get them all: Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Alaska.
  • 5 months – Another small number, but with huge significance to us. We spent five months in one place: Bigfork, Montana! It was awesome, and we may even end up back there again. In our travels, we play a game called, Could we live here? Bigfork is one of those places that we answer yes to. So spending five months in one place while workamping at Flathead Lake Resort on Flathead Lake with wonderful people was an experience we wouldn’t trade for anything. We made lifelong friends, felt like locals, and know we are always welcomed back there.
  • 20 trails in 3 states – Oh, that number looks so sad. But in reality, it’s a good number. We spent a good deal of time getting to know many trail systems in Montana and riding the same ones again and again. Same with those in Colorado and Arizona. And while we have been slacking on updating our YouTube channel and Bikin’ Bits podcast episodes with MTB trails, we’ve still got plenty of resources and inspiration for you to get started.
  • 20 camp spots – From 100 to 65 to 25 over the past three years, our traveling has definitely transitioned into a much slower pace. Mostly because we had a paying gig that required us to stay in one place, but still, we slowed waaaaay down. We did still camp the same as we usually do, even for the five months spent in Montana. While we weren’t boondocking there, we were in a beautiful campground, with full hookups, but still, it was in the woods. The others consisted of boondocking in scenic places, camping in campgrounds, some moochdocking, and parking lot camping. But what was unique, because we were “living” in one place in Montana for five months, is that we actually took the car camping without the RV and went backpacking. We are now open to doing more of that. The remoteness of backpacking and truly getting away from it all is strange for us, but strange doesn’t mean bad.
  • 125 breweries, taprooms, and more – Even though we were stationary for five months out of the year, we still traveled to many, many, many breweries. Around 100 of them actually. The other 25 were beer bars, dive bars, wineries, and distilleries. This is what we love, and this is what we provide for you, our readers. We visit the breweries and then guide you to where to go.

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Top 5 Favorite Stout Life Stories of 2021

We’ve really gotten into creating craft beer guides for cities and regions, so it makes sense that the majority of our favorite stories for 2021 are beer and biking guides. We are always looking to make things easier for you, especially when it comes to beer and adventuring.

Brian - Tucson - Pinky Up  Best of 2021
A Tour of Tucson’s Best Breweries was one of our favorite stories for 2021.
  • Texas Destination Breweries: Unsurpassed Craft Beer and Slow Living – Texas Hill Country destination breweries focus on slow living, exceptional beer, and handcrafted food. See which ones you should visit today, and make a plan for other destination breweries. These places are more than just breweries, they are a destination.
  • What is Slab City Really Like? – Slab City is not officially a town. However, it can be found on a map and is most definitely a community. What’s it really like visiting the Last Free Place on Earth? We struggled putting words to this place. If you’ve ever visited, I imagine you may have struggled, too.
  • A Tour of Bend Oregon’s Best Breweries – With streets that seem to end at one brewery or food truck or another, this is the place to go for adventurous beer and mountain bike lovers. We spent three weeks here, and easily could have spent more. Maybe we could live here.
  • A Tour of Tucson’s Best Breweries – We’ve got a tour of Tucson’s best breweries for you. You’ll now know where to go when you visit Tucson for your own Tucson brewery tour. And believe us, there’s a lot here to explore, including mountain (desert) bike trails. Tucson is surprising. If you’ve never thought of spending time here, it’s worth a trip.
  • Craft Beer and Mountain Biking Pairings 101 – Looking for some fun MTB riding skills and tips and a group to ride with? How about some organized beer tastings and brewery tours after the bike ride? Come ride and drink with us. You may regret it (you won’t) but you’ll never forget it!
  • Honorable Mentions
    • The Craft Beer Canning Line: From Tank to Can to Belly – If you’ve ever wondered what a canning day is like with Living a Stout Life, it’s not just another canning day. It’s a beautiful process getting the beer into a can so you can enjoy the deliciousness that is beer. Plus, it’s just a fun video.
    • How Do I Safely Get to Rocky Point, Mexico? – During a time when the world is trying to figure a lot of shit out, Mexico is still the place to be, and we put together a few pointers for your beach day just across the border. Everyone thought the border was closed, and we wanted to show people that it wasn’t while also mentioning that it’s not quite the scary place the some seem to think it is.
    • Ultimate Guide to Overnight Camping at Ski Resorts and Where to Drink the Beer Afterwards – Traveling and RVing isn’t always about running away from winter. Sometimes it’s about finding it. We did all the work for you. Now you just need to find your skis (or boards). We’ll be in Salida this winter. Where will you be?

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Top 5 Favorite Podcasts of 2021

We talk a lot about saying hi to strangers, and that’s basically what we do on our podcasts. And very quickly the people we chat with transition from strangers to friends. That’s what we bring to you on our podcast episodes…friends around a good beer.

Jason Moore Nepal Best of 2021 podcast
One of our favorite podcast episodes of 2021 – Jason Moore
  • Nomad to Expat to Family Man: Jason Moore Pivots on His Terms – We’ve long been fans of fellow podcaster, Jason Moore of Zero to Travel and Location Indie, so when we got the chance to have him on our podcast, we jumped. His nomadic life took him to many places and back again. Now a family man, he still lives life on his terms (along with his family, of course.) And yes, he’s also a craft beer lover.
  • Global Beer, Wine, and Spirits Storyteller and Traveler Extraordinaire – Meet Jeff Bradford from the Beer, Wine & Spirits Channel. Jeff has made a living traveling the world in search of the stories behind the drinks he loves. Join us as we chat about travel, culture, relationships, funding dreams, and loving life. I can’t wait to start traveling overseas…a lot, and living there…everywhere.
  • We All Have a Little Bit of Dog in Us – Love to travel? Love your dogs even more? This is the RV dog life with two people who love beer, traveling, and their dogs, Alaska and Smoky Joe. We’ve got stories and tips on both beer and traveling with your fury best mates. Tom and Ely are pretty cool, too.
  • When Beer Runs in Your Blood You Open a Beer Museum – When you love beer, Montana, art, and history, there’s only one thing you can do. Open a Montana beer museum, like Steve “Bubs” Lozar did. Beer and storytelling go hand in hand, and Bubs has many stories to tell, and he’s good at telling those stories.
  • How to Adventure…No Matter the Adventure – Heading out on a backpacking trip, we realized that some people just need a little encouragement to follow their dreams. We also realized some people think they’re too old to adventure. Recorded in Jewel Basin Wilderness next to a remote mountain lake, we debunk that myth for you.
  • Honorable Mentions
    • Old Dominick Distillery: Bringing the Past Into the Future – As a distiller for Old Dominick, not only is Alex crafting age-old, traditional spirits, she’s innovating within those traditions and building relationships every step of the way.
    • TRI-21 Project: A Recipe for Down Syndrome Awareness – Griffin Claw Brewing Co in Michigan focuses on all things craft as well as community. This is their story of a worldwide open-ended beer collaboration created to raise awareness for individuals with Down syndrome. This is a personal story, meaningful, heartfelt, and proves that beer is about more than beer – like we always say.
    • MotoSonora’s Craft Beer Oasis: A Life Built From Travel & Beer – Traveling in 2010 to South Africa with trucks and rooftop tents and talking about beer and overlanding around campfires, two brothers, Jeremy and Jeff, crafted the idea for a brewery. A mere ten years later, MotoSonora Brewing Company was born. This is their story. And this is one of our favorite Tucson breweries.

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Top 5 Favorite Breweries of 2021

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 or not, it’s usually because of the people. That being said, when we chose our favorites for 2021, they encompassed great people, but also had to have top notch beer and ambiance. Keep in mind, tomorrow our favorites could be completely different. This year, too, we did our best to pick breweries that haven’t made our list yet, even from previous years.

Philipsburg Brewing Montana Best of 2021 breweries
Philipsburg Brewing – one of our favorite breweries of 2021
  • Philipsburg Brewing Company (Philipsburg, MT) – This small town brewery epitomizes everything we love about Montana and its people. Housed in a historic bank building with a second location where they create unique brews and host live music events, Philipsburg is welcoming, cozy, and a place we can’t wait to go back to.
  • Tres Litros Beer Company (Salida, CO) – One of the newest breweries in Salida, Colorado, where every brewery is great, Tres Litros has a lot to live up to, and live up to it, they do. Their beers are top of the game. The ambiance is ski and bike town cool. And they have definitely made it difficult when it comes to deciding which brewery to go to when visiting the Salida area.
  • Roughhouse Brewing (San Marcos, TX) – Located just outside of Austin, this destination brewery focuses on saisons and unique brews (think cave-aged) and deserves a visit for the ambiance alone. But, their beers, oh their wonderful beers!
  • Vista Brewing (Driftwood, TX) – Similar to Roughhouse, Vista is also just outside of Austin, located on a farm and definitely a destination brewery. For their quality, flavorful, and innovative beers, but also for their spacious gorgeous land, and farm to table food.
  • Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company (Libby, MT) – On a quick car camping trip, we came across the small town of Libby, and with the small town came a local brewery. Montana vibes, solid beers, community-driven, and a patio worthy of the Montana sunshine make for an unforgettable Montana camping experience. Maybe it doesn’t quite fit cowboy country, but they also serve Mediterranean style plates, here. Gets my vote.
  • Honorable Mentions (some breweries, some not) – Really, you want us to only choose five? Nope! Here are a few honorable mentions including a couple that aren’t breweries but we would be off our rocker if we didn’t list them as one of our favorites in 2021.
    • LazyG Brewhouse (Prescott, AZ) – Ok, truthfully we didn’t make it to LazyG in 2021, it was the end of December, 2020 when we were last there, and if we can make it happen this time around, we will be there again in 2022. But I have been meaning to put LazyG on our favorites for the past couple of years, and for reasons unknown to me (yes, I am the writer) I haven’t done so. So, before I don’t do it again, LazyG is one of our favorites for their food, their RV park style brewpub, and of course, their solid beers. But more importantly, their people. We are always welcomed in like family, and you will be, too.
    • Jade Mountain Brewing Co (Aurora, CO) – Jade Mountain may be a bit crazy in that it is another new brewery in the Denver Metro area, but their unique take on their beers will be their saving grace. Located in a nondescript script mall in Aurora, their beer is definitely not. Its beginnings started in a small tea house in the South of China, and their blending of beer and culture continue on in Colorado.
    • The Nellie E. Saloon Desert Bar (Parker, AZ) – We know, we know, The Desert Bar isn’t a brewery. In fact, they serve some of the best worst beers, ever. However, they have to be listed in our favorites because the place is so unique. Operated solely on solar, located literally in the middle of nowhere in the desert, only open on weekends during the winter months, this place is a bar paradise. Watch our video to see more.
    • The Raven (Woods Bay, MT) – Again, we know, not a brewery. But this was our local love while in Bigfork for five months. It is right on the lake. We paddleboarded and kayaked there. We jumped off the dock. We boated there. We ate and drank in our swimsuits. We knew the peeps. We did yoga on the patio. We ate a lot of Greek tacos and sweet potato fries (some of the best ever). We drank a lot of margaritas. And of course, we drank beer. They do have a decent selection of local craft beer. They are only open in the summer months, so make this a summer stop on your itinerary.

Top 5 Favorite Standing Colorado Breweries

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! Also, these are our standing favorites. Anyone want to try and bump somebody out? You’ve gotta lot of work to do in order to do so. Either that, or go out of business, which, unfortunately, is what happened to Next Stop Brew Co (on the list from 2020). We had to choose another, and while the fifth spot isn’t technically a brewery, they are one of return-to-again-and-again places, with a phenomenal beer list.

Strange Craft Strange With Brew Team
Brewing beer with friends for CCD at Strange Craft Beer Company.
  • Guanella Pass Brewery (Georgetown and Empire, CO) – These quaint little mountain towns, both just off of I-70 and close to the front range, not only have 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. Plus, with a name like Strange Craft (which seems to be the theme of this past year), you can’t go wrong.
  • Jake’s Brew Bar (Littleton, CO) – One of the best beer bars on the planet. From the moment you walk into this place on Main Street in suburban Littleton, you’ll feel home. It’s cozy taproom is stock full of pillows on the benches, plenty of chairs to cozy up to the bar with, and some of the best taps in the nation. With food trucks out back to accompany the backyard patio, complete with fire pit, this is a place that if you visit once, you’ll know you’ll be back again.

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Top 5 Favorite Mountain Biking Trails of 2021

We didn’t ride anywhere near enough this past year, but we still managed to find some new and favorite trails.

MTB RAT trails Ridgway Colorado best of 2021
The gang from CCD on the RAT Trails in Ridgway, CO
  • Dry Creek Trails (Sedona, AZ) – Sedona is popular for its red rock vistas, and mountain biking here is one of the best ways to experience the beauty that is Sedona. With trails for all skill levels right off of Forest Road 525, popular for its many dispersed camping sites, this was easily one of our favorite mountain biking trails of 2021.
  • Glacier National Park (Montana) – Yes, we know, mountain biking in National Parks is almost nonexistent, but when you have a mountain bike, and it is May, and Going-to-the-Sun-Road (GTSR) is closed to vehicles, you mountain bike (on the paved road) Glacier National Park. It is an epic ride. One full of views and experiences you won’t get anywhere else. Yes, you can also ride a road bike or an e-bike, and you can rent these, too. You can also hike, but whatever you decide, if you’re anywhere near Glacier in the spring, you must bike GTSR.
  • Spencer Mountain (Whitefish, MT) – Located just outside of Whitefish, Montana, Spencer Mountain may not be long in miles, but holy shit, will you have a blast. With steeps, stairs, and features, your technical adventurous side will be well-fulfilled. Not that good? Neither are we, so there are also trails here that get your juices flowing without scaring the crap outta you.
  • Haskill Basin (Whitefish, MT) – About three miles from Bonsai Brewing Project (one of our favorite breweries, ever) in Whitefish, Montana, this mountain bike trail will most definitely have you earning your after-ride beers. Starting at Reservoir Trailhead, you’ll begin with some serious climbing for the first few miles, but it’s all worth it in the end when you get to fly back down. Want more trails? This trail system also leads you into Whitefish Mountain Resort’s summer bike trails.
  • RAT Trail System (Ridgway, CO) – Ridgway Area Trails aka the RAT trails, were our home trails for Camp Carpe Diem 2021 (mountain biking, beer, and photography) in Ouray and Ridgway, Colorado. Flowy, fun, scenic, and with just the right amount of technical thrown in, these trails make for perfect group or individual rides.

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Top 5 Favorite Camp Spots of 2021

There’s so many places to camp across the nation, each one filled with its own characteristics and wonders. But we’ve always been pulled to those that are off the beaten path, a bit. For the most part, this year was no different.

April and Kenny Crater Lake MT campsite best of 2021
Backpacking at Crater Lake in Montana gave us a remote and gorgeous campsite.
  • Pump Station Dispersed Camping (Arizona) – Just north of Tucson, this free camping site is in the desert with Saguaros keeping you company during the day and brilliant stars lighting up the night sky. It was the perfect place to start the New Year. So much so, that we found ourselves back here again this New Year, as well.
  • Levee Road Dispersed Camping (Arizona) – Meeting up with road friends led us down a 10 mile dirt road. But the long, slow drive on washboarded gravel was worth every book that came crashing down during the drive. Finding prime real estate with a sandy beach spot right on the Colorado River on the border of Arizona and California was a highlight of our time spent in Arizona. Paddleboarding, kayaking, beach campfires…who would have thought this was possible in Arizona? It is.
  • Crater Lake at Jewel Basin (Montana) – The Jewel Basin Wilderness area just outside of Glacier National Park is one of stunning scenery with its crystal clear lakes and mountain peaks. If you’re camping here, you’re not doing it with a vehicle. This is backpacking country and worth every mile it takes to get here. We hiked in five miles and found our own little oasis with nothing around us but the eagles (soaring high) and the bears that we (thankfully) never saw.
  • Bolivar Flats Beach Camping (Texas) – After a week spent brewery hopping in and out of Austin, a beach getaway proved to be wonderful medicine. Free camping, directly on the sand near Galveston, Texas, was exactly what we needed. There were miles of beach to explore, a starlit sky paired with a campfire and beer to keep us company at night, and waves lapping at our feet whenever we pleased.
  • Outback Montana RV Park and Campground (Montana) – Spending five months in one spot can be a pain in the ass or a spot akin to Heaven. It all depends on the place you get to call home while doing so. And while ownership has since changed from when we were there in 2021, Outback Montana proved to be a beautiful place to call home. A person could get use to a campground full of natural beauty, full hookups, shower houses, and easy access to Flathead Lake. We did, and it was akin to a spot, at least near, Heaven.

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Top 5 Favorite Beer Events of 2021

We live for beer. We write about beer. We love beer. So we must have a top 5 for beer experiences. And we do!

CCD 2021 Group Photo Ouray copy
Best beer & MTB (and photography) event ever – CCD! Join us this year in NC!
  • Camp Carpe Diem (CCD) – This was our first real foray into event planning, and we nailed it! We hope you might consider joining us for Camp Carpe Diem 2022 in North Carolina this year, October 20 – 23. We had so much fun bringing travelers together to mountain bike, hike, learn photography, and enjoy craft beer and breweries. We also teamed up with Strange Craft Beer Co. to brew a special beer for the event. And we can’t wait to do it again. Click here to sign up for the CCD newsletter so you don’t miss out on deadlines to register.
  • Beer Festivals – It was so nice to be back at beer festivals. We hit up three in 2021: Montana Brew Fest in Great Falls, Colorado Brewer’s Rendezvous in Salida, and the Great Bear Festival in Kalispell, Montana.
  • Brewtiful Weekend – Teaming up with Flathead Lake Resort in Montana, we hosted our first homebrew class. Holler if you want us to set up a class for you. We’d love to get together and brew.
  • Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) – I (April) did not get to go; however, Ken did, and he had a blast. Helping out at Malteurop Malting Company’s booth, Ken enjoyed himself immensely talking malts, beer, and business. We hope to both attend in Minneapolis this year in May. But, who knows what the world has in store for us.
  • Beer Now – Meeting up with fellow beer lovers, bloggers, journalists, and travelers is a highlight of Beer Now, a beer bloggers conference. Being held in Austin this past year, it was even better. A great city with great breweries and even greater people. What made it really special is that we were presenters on this past year’s agenda, giving lessons on how to bring travel into beer writing.
  • Honorable Mention
    • Barley Days – We were honored to be invited to attend Malteurop Malting Company’s Barley Days where we got to meet farmers, growers, brewers, and maltsters – all the people that create our favorite beverage – beer!

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Looking Ahead to 2022

Now that we’ve looked back on 2021, it’s time to look ahead to 2022! We opened the year with continued strangeness, and as long as that strangeness transitions into fun and weird strange and out of the what-the-hell and scary strange, well…bring on the Strange!

  • We’re back at it with Camp Carpe Diem 2022 (CCD). Our first CCD event in Ouray, Colorado, was a huge success. If you’re an RVer or traveler and love meeting new friends on the road, this is the event of the year! We also focus on mountain biking, craft beer, photography, hiking, and how to RV and travel. Sign up for the CCD newsletter now! Specific location and dates for CCD North Carolina 2022 will be announced soon.
  • We’re excited to continue our work with Malteurop Malting Company to help promote the malting and craft beer industry.
  • We’re excited to continue working one way or another with Flathead Lake Resort in Bigfork, Montana!
  • We’re hopefully heading to CBC (the Craft Brewers Conference) in Minneapolis this spring where maybe we will be the recipients of a Crushie Award from the Craft Beer Marketing Awards for Best Beer Podcast. One can hope. We did enter. So it is possible.

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Keep it strange!

A Few Words of Wisdom for 2022

There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.”

Edgar Allan Poe

“Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a Negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride.”

Anthony Bourdain


Previous Year’s Favorites

Check out our favorites from last year, as well as 2019 and 2018.

Sign up for our newsletter.

At the bottom of every Stout Life newsletter, you’ll find all the places we went for that week, including camping, MTB trails, breweries, dive bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and more. So if you want a friend’s advice on what to eat, where to drink, trails to ride, where to camp, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll get all that and more delivered straight to your inbox.

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Tips on how to find the best place to camp.

There’s so many places to stay overnight. Here’s our take on how to find some of the best places.

Tips on how to find the best breweries.

With so many breweries to choose from, how do you choose? We’ve got some tips for you on that plus an entire map of breweries paired up close to mountain biking trails.


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