A recap of Craft Beer Breweries visited on our “Consolation Corona-cation” USA road trip in 2020
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A road trip
In the year of 2020, there were so many up and down moments including cancelling and rescheduling a very anticipated trip overseas to Italy. My husband and I try to go to Europe at least once a year if we can make it work and lets just say after everything we had already been through with the Corona pandemic, we really just needed a change of scenery! We weren’t ready to get on a plane yet, but we had some vacation time to burn and lets just say that we were watching (ahem binging) wayyyyyy too much Beach Front Bargain Hunt. So, alas we decided to take a completely random road trip to hit up some craft beer breweries that have been on our list and make our way out to the ocean on the east coast.
Planning for a road trip
As we started to plan for a road trip it had been years since both of us had gone on a legit road trip. If I said we didn’t learn a lot about what to do and what not to do, I would be lying! We learned a lot about the top tips for an enjoyable road trip. This road trip we had a few too many long driving days stacked next to each other. One of the most important things in having an enjoyable road trip is driving for a bit, stopping and doing some things then driving some more so it doesn’t feel like you’re in the car for-ev-errr!
Disclaimer: some parts of the route were completely influenced by breweries. But, hey it was a brewery road trip so that makes complete sense! Otherwise, there would be a lot more straightforward routes that could be taken. But, we were in the business of checking out the brews in the not so popular spots. (And some popular spots too!)
We set out on our adventure after a full day of work road tripping to Eau Claire, Wisconsin for the night. From our house in the north western Minneapolis suburbs it took just under 2 hours to travel there. Once we arrived, we headed to a few breweries to have some drinks that evening. Details listed below in the specific brewery sections.
Eau Claire, WI through Madison, WI to Columbus, Indiana
We spent the night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and woke up the next day to make the trek to Columbus, Indiana. Why Columbus, Indiana? You guessed it! a bucket list brewery I’ve always wanted to visit! I’ll get into details about the breweries we visited later on.
Columbus, Indiana to Virginia Beach
This was a hike! In other words, it was a very long driving segment. I don’t recommend it when you’re planning a brewery road trip to have very long driving days. But, after it was over Virginia Beach was one of the places we spent a majority of our time in. So, we had a break from driving days. Aside from brewery hopping we enjoyed some great food, golfed and took our dog to the beach. He had only ever been to lakes in Minnesota and he actually really loved the ocean. (Which I was so surprised by!)
Virginia Beach to OBX (Outer Banks of North Carolina)
This segment of our trip wasn’t a very far drive and it was 100 percent fueled by binge watching entirely too much beach front bargain hunt during the early 2020 lockdown in the United States. We decided to stay in Kill Devil Hills, NC but also considered staying in Nags Head.
Kill Devil Hills OBX to Asheville, North Carolina
The drive from the OBX to Asheville wasn’t too bad. Especially after spending a few days on the beaches we were really excited to get to Asheville one of the best craft beer cities in the United States!
Asheville, North Carolina to Decorah, Iowa
After spending a few days in Asheville and hopping to our fair share of breweries. (I mean it literally is a brewery road trip so I don’t know what you expect?) More on the breweries soon. (I promise!) We were ready to head back. I really wish we would have spent some time in Knoxville or Pigeon Forge area but we can always return! I really would like to go back to Asheville as I feel like we barely scratched the surface. But, when I really like a destination I usually always want to return.
From Asheville, we made a pit stop in Nashville which has one of my favorite breweries. The tap room wasn’t reopened yet so it was strictly a curbside beer pickup situation. The last time I was in Nashville I visited multiple locations.
Decorah, Iowa to Rochester, Minnesota
Honestly, Decorah was all for specific breweries. Surprise, surprise right? I mean it was 2020 and we had been cooped up at home for so long so we were truly making the number of breweries we visited on this trip worth our while!
After our time in Decorah we headed to our last stop of Rochester, MN which is only a little under a two hour drive from home. But, since we were going to breweries we stayed one night before heading back the next morning.
The most important part: The Breweries
Eau Claire, Wisconsin: Lazy Monk Brewery
This is what I like to consider a “bonus” brewery. We were on our way to our main brewery we wanted to go to and we stopped in here. They were very hospitable and it had such a German beer hall vibe it was a really fun place!
Eau Claire, Wisconsin: The Brewing Projekt
The main reason why we chose to stop in Eau Claire to kick off our 2020 brewery road trip was to make the trek to The Brewing Projekt. Living in the Twin Cities, we have access to these beers in many liquor stores and they have come to be some of our favorites to try out. But, it always hits a little different actually have the beers you’re fond of in the tap room. I’m sure our experience was a little different given there were a lot of covid restrictions still. But, we were super happy to have taken a good chunk of time off and be at one of our bucket list breweries that the trip was really centered around. Cheers to that! My favorite beers they put out definitely are their Resist Milkshake IPA’s, Puff Tart, Puff Tart XL variants.
Columbus, Indiana: 450N Brewing
450 North Brewing Company really was one of the first breweries to make beers in the smoothie sour style. (Which I’m very much a fan of!) I feel like this brewery is a common stop on any brewery road trip. Because, the other kicker is they’re literally out in the middle of nowhere and do not distribute their beers at all. Because of these facts, the beers have become a hot commodity in the craft beer community. If you’re lucky enough to know someone that had access to their releases or if you could go to the taproom that’s the only way you could try out this brewery.
We ended up eating dinner here and having a few beers. It was a pretty relaxing vibe out on the patio while staring across the road at literal corn fields.
Virginia Beach, Virginia: Vibrant Shore Brewing Company
Virginia Beach was one of our longer stops during our brewery road trip. So naturally, we fit in some brews! This brewery was a pit stop in between the beach front where we spent most of our day and our hotel. It was nice to stop here to have a few brews while in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach, Virginia: Young Veterans Brewery Company
We stopped here after playing a round of golf. It was a smaller more intimate taproom and most of the clientele was locals. Compared to a lot of the places we went closer to Virginia Beach, that wasn’t always the case.
Virginia Beach, Virginia: New Realm Brewing
This was another brewery we visited post golf round. Their restaurant, beer and space were all amazing. There was a large outdoor area including plenty of space inside at tables as well as the bar.
Virginia Beach, Virginia: Commonwealth Brewing Company
This brewery really wasn’t on my radar until a friend of mine from a beer group realized I was in Virginia Beach. She recommended it highly so I knew we had to check it out. It ended up being our favorite brewery in Virginia Beach that we visited. Sometimes, the best plans are the last minute reccs you decide to jump on!
Norfolk, Virginia: The Veil
I had heard such great things about this brewery, although the location we visited was a second location for The Veil, the beer and food we had was worth the trek. We sat in an outdoor space as it’s dog friendly. At the time their menu was an elevated version of some Taco Bell favorites. (I had an amazing fancy crunchwrap supreme.) Their tap list was also equally amazing. It was a perfect late afternoon and evening although it was somewhat out of our way from where we were staying in Virginia Beach.
OBX, North Carolina: Weeping Radish Farm Brewery
Although we stayed for several days in the OBX on our brewery road trip there aren’t as many craft beer spots to hit up here. But while we were enroute to the Outer Banks, we stopped at the oldest micro brewery in North Carolina, Weeping Radish Farm Brewery. They have outdoor space and indoor where you can enjoy pub food and their German inspired brews.
Asheville, North Carolina: Wicked Weed
After leaving the outer banks, we spent what wasn’t long enough in Asheville, North Carolina. We definitely made it worth our time and went to a few too many breweries. But, I regret nothing! It actually really made me want to go back for an extended trip.
The name Wicked Weed was inspired by a quote from Henry the VIII “Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed”. They really had a lot of different beers to choose from on the tap list. We had many flights and also enjoyed lunch there. The patio area where we were seated was well covered from the sun and dog friendly. Barkley our little brewery pup loved his time there.
Asheville, North Carolina: Wicked Weed Funkatorium
Located close to the original Wicked Weed brew pub is the funkatorium. Truly, the name is not lying their sours are very funky! If that’s your thing you will absolutely enjoy this brewery. But, if you’re into more sweet and fruit forward sour beers I would skip this stop. Again, their space for both indoor and outdoor seating was amazing and they also offered food. The outdoor areas again, the same as the brew pub were dog friendly.
Asheville, North Carolina: Catawaba
We visited the location in the south slope of Asheville. (Many breweries are located in this area of the city.) They had many mainstays on their tap list at the time, however I was the most bummed out that they didn’t have one of their peanut butter jelly time brown ale’s available. They always do the different variants switching up the jelly flavor. Hopefully the next time I visit they’ll have it.
Asheville, North Carolina: Burial
I don’t even know where to start in talking about Burial. This was one of the breweries that I was looking forward to visiting the most and it was everything and more. We started out one of our days here and the tap list had soooooo many delicious pastry imperial stout bangers. Sadly, I was semi responsible and didn’t get to try them all because it would have made for a realllly long day! We also ate lunch here and the food was amazing as well. Their outdoor space is really quirky and eclectic.
It would be tough, but if I had to choose only one brewery in Asheville to return to the next time we go, it would 500% be Burial.
Asheville, North Carolina: Hi-Wire
Despite their colorful and fun aesthetic, this taproom experience was one of the breweries we didn’t stay at too long while in Asheville. There was limited seating available due to COVID restrictions so we actually spent more time waiting in line to get a table and snag a few tasters than we actually did enjoying said brews. They have many different locations in the USA so, I’d personally skip it while in Asheville if I were you. There are a lot better spots to hit up (in my opinion!)
Asheville, North Carolina: Bhramari
The beers here were good and it was so busy! We waited awhile and then finally got a table out on the patio. We were extremely unlucky to have an uncovered table and then it started raining. Just given that fact we didn’t stay here super long as we were really uncomfortable. But, the beers I had before it starting down pouring were definitely enjoyable.
Asheville, North Carolina: DSSOLVR
This brewery when we visited was newer so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But, we really enjoyed both their space and the beers that they offered on tap. The beer that really surprised me the most was a fruited sour beer that also had chocolate flavor to it. It really reminded me of my absolute favorite brewery in the midwest. I definitely will be returning the next time I’m in Asheville, that’s for sure!
Stopping at Southern Grist really was just a stop. At the time none of their taprooms were open but since it’s one of my favorite breweries, we had to stop to get some curbside goodies to bring home! You can read more about beer and things to do in Nashville here.
Decorah, Iowa: Toppling Goliath
Toppling Goliath is another Midwest banger brewery that we just hadn’t made the time to visit. So, on the way back home of course we made the stop. We’re able to get some of TG’s brews in the Twin Cities but some are only available from the brewery. My absolute favorite that I tried was their Cherry Fandango. We also ate here and the food was definitely tasty as well.
Decorah, Iowa: Pulpit Rock
Since we were in Decorah, we had to also check out Pulpit Rock. I’ll be honest I was somewhat disappointed in the beers that they had available at the time. That coupled with the fact that we had bees pretty much swarming us on the patio I’m not in a rush to go back! I have had some beers friends have gotten from Pulpit Rock and I really enjoyed them so it may have just been the luck of the draw. I always try to keep that in mind when visiting new breweries because so many places always have rotating availability of beers. I still really want to try the muffin man beer they offer!
Rochester, Minnesota: Forager
This definitely is a restaurant and brewery destination in Rochester. So, naturally we ate lunch here….I mean are you even a little surprised? Somewhat similar to Pulpit Rock, I had had some amazing release takeaway beers by Forager in the past. I mean think thick delicious smoothie sours with literal vanilla bean flecks visible in the beer. Swoooon! But, these beers typically are release only and only on tap close to the release date. Given that we visited not close to one of these releases their tap list was only so so at the time (in my opinion.) But, it’s definitely a great place to stop if you’re in Rochester.
Rochester, Minnesota: Little Thistle
Little Thistle has such a great indoor/outdoor space. They refer to the outdoor space as their outdoor beer garden. At the time we visited they had a pumpkin flavored latte (PSL) inspired beer that was an imperial stout. So of course that was right up my alley! The name was even better, Live Laugh Ugg making a jab at those basic B’s that love their PSL’s, fall foilage and Ugg boots. But i mean if the Ugg boot fits you might as well own it and have a pint, am I right?
We drove over 48 hours, 3,000 miles, passed through 10 states and hit up 20 Breweries to round out our very first brewery road trip!
Brewery Road Trip Best Practices
If you’re planning on going on a road trip where the focus is breweries, be very thoughtful about it. For example, if you’re planning on going to a brewery or two do not get in the car and continue your road trip. Make that destination where you are staying for the night and be responsible, take a taxi or uber/lyft (mobile rideshare app) to and from your accommodation. I cannot stress this enough!
Brewery Road trip & beyond: Beer Travel
Where ever I travel, it’s my goal to drink local. Taste the local craft beer (and sometimes local wineries/craft cocktails.) I have more articles on Beer & Travel listed below:
Where are you going on your next brewery road trip? I know I have several breweries that I am definitely willing to travel for! Of course, I’ll write all about it so stay tuned and be sure to follow my blog and accounts on social media.