Last year, I heard about Brews Travelers 365, two guys from Texas who were taking a year to travel the U.S and visit 365 breweries in 365 days. I was simultaneously fascinated and jealous — what a cool idea! Beer + road trip + a year off of work? I could deal with that. Brandon Wurtz and Michael Roberts successfully completed their journey in 2014 and more than doubled their goal by visiting an astounding 789 breweries. They documented their travels on their website and social media so fans could live vicariously through them and see all the awesome breweries our country has to offer.
I’m thrilled to share this interview with Brandon and Michael from Brews Travelers 365 today. They were so gracious to answer my questions and share their story.
So, you guys pretty much lived my dream for a year! I’d love to hear about your planning process for your journey. How much time was there between the first time you discussed the idea and the first day of your year-long journey?
Michael: On Christmas Day of 2012, we got together and talked about the idea of doing this. We were both immediately 100% into it. It was exactly a year from the time we initially talked about it and the time we made our list [of breweries to visit]. During all of 2013, we were saving up and mapping out breweries to get a general idea of how many breweries were in each state.
I read an interview in which you said that this was your version of the typical “backpacking through Europe” trip that most college grads take.
Brandon: We thought we would have to wait to retirement to do this, but we just went for it.
Michael: Yeah, we were both just about to turn 30 and so the timing was right.
How did you determine all the brewery stops?
Michael: The planning happened as we went. We knew how many breweries in each state we wanted to go to—for instance, in Louisiana we knew we wanted to go to 5—so we’d talk to people in each state when we got there and decide which ones to visit. We were originally sticking to one brewery a day but realized we were missing a few. So some were deemed “bonus stops.”
Brandon: Yeah, we had a few in mind. We talked to people we would meet at bars to get opinions. On a whim, we ended up going to lots of breweries that had just opened, so plenty of stuff was brand new. Our goal was to find spots that didn’t have nationally0distributed beer.
Michael: Right. We did have some big names on our list, though, like The Bruery, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada. We knew we wanted to go to those.
How did you save for your trip?!
Michael: I was working in the corporate world before the trip. I moved in with a roommate and we didn’t have cable so out went my cable bill, and before we left, I sold my car. We bought a minivan and split payments throughout year we were gone, then we sold it when we got back. Overall, it was about cutting costs and not going out as much.
Brandon: I already had a fair amount of savings and am more frugal.
Michael: We were extremely frugal during the trip as well. We very rarely paid for a place to stay; we usually stayed with someone we met or family friends, or we would park at Walmart in the van – whatever we could do to cut costs.
And I assume you were pretty sparse in the things you packed, too?
Brandon: We each brought a duffel bag with about two weeks’ worth of clothes. We were fortunate enough to find laundry. We tried to travel lightly.
Michael: I’m pretty sure there was a month I was wearing the same pair of jeans! Luckily we were given a lot of brewery t-shirts, so I’d say our wardrobe nearly quadrupled. Aside from clothes, we traveled with beer coolers and some camping gear.
It seems like you had meetings scheduled with several breweries you visited. Did you contact each brewery before you visited, or just a select few?
Brandon: We did contact the ones that were on our one-stop-a-day list. We tried to give them a week’s heads-up either by email or phone–that was time consuming. Sometimes we didn’t have wifi so we posted up at the library. Nearly everybody was responsive and welcoming. At one brewery—Jackie O’s in Athens, Ohio—we hung out with the owner and brewer all day!
We saw a tight knit community that was developing here in Dallas, where we’re from, and we wanted to see if it was the same all across the country. We found that every area has that type of community around their local breweries.
Did you notice any beer trends in different regions of the country?
Michael: If we were at a brewery out in the boonies, they’d have at least one sessionable beer to appeal to the MillerCoors crowd. Cream ales are big in the East. The South likes sessionable ales. Up north, it’s lagers. There’s definitely a clear distinction between East and West. Site note: overall, we noticed that there are a lot more brewers working on barrel-aged and sours beer.
I’m so glad you got to visit some of my favorite San Diego area breweries: Alpine Beer Co., Ballast Point, Fall Brewing, Societe, Mother Earth… What was your impression of our craft beer scene?
Brandon: I was impressed with the number of breweries and the quality. What surprised me was that it’s still growing so fast. You’d think it would be slowing down, but it’s not. We spent more time in San Diego County than we did anywhere else.
Michael: I loved Stone, and Ballast Point’s new location is beautiful–lots of their experimental beers are on point. I also liked Toolbox and Council; those new, smaller breweries are doing great stuff.
Okay, I have to ask this… When you spend an entire year with someone, you learn a lot about them. What would you each say is the other’s worst habit?
Michael: We both snore! Brandon actually snores really loudly, but I’m a hard sleeper so it didn’t bother me as much. I’m a spitter, too, but I don’t know if that bothers him. I also threw out a lot of awesome, awful puns.
Brandon: We really didn’t discover anything new. I mean, I’m a smart ass and cynical, but that’s a known fact. I will say that the longer we were on the road, the less we had to talk about—which was fine for me, because I’m a little more introverted. It was exhausting meeting so many new people every day for me, so it was nice to get back on the road and be in silence.
I know you’ve been home for several months now. Do you have any plans to go back on the road?
Michael: I definitely want to do it again. Not on the same scale because it was draining emotionally—it drained my entire body and core and mind—but I want to take 3 months and do it in Europe or somewhere else. I want to continue beer traveling for the rest of my life.
Brandon: Yeah, it would be a little too much to try to do again. I’d love to continue traveling and visiting new places while checking out the beer culture, though. Right now, it’s back to reality—we both came back to no work and depleted savings. We’ve had to readjust to the real world. Of course, we’re both working at breweries now.
Michael: It’s exhausting work, but I’ve never been happier.