In 2010, Brian Devine and his girlfriend Maria Scarpello went out for a beer. Almost four years later, they’re still in the midst of that beer run. The couple has been traveling around the United States for years, living in an R.V. and visiting hundreds of breweries in the process. You can follow their journey at The Roaming Pint. We talk with Devine about American beer trends, real Canadian beer, naming your R.V. Stanley, and the key to living the good life on the road (hint: it involves a 27” TV with a Wii).
Paste: Where are you from?
Brian Devine: I grew up in Olathe, Kansas before moving to Lawrence for college. My girlfriend Maria Scarpello grew up in Omaha before moving to Lawrence as well for school. That’s where we met as freshman and have been hanging out ever since. We now claim Lawrence as our hometown even though we don’t have a stationary residence.
Paste: What made you take this epic beer journey, and what keeps you going four years later?
B.D. The trip was the result of multiple factors and one turning point that brought them all together. We had both backpacked through Europe during school, and after a while we realized we had visited more European countries than U.S. states. Growing up in the Midwest we had seen very little of our own country and had always wanted to “backpack” the U.S., visiting far flung family and our friends who had moved away from Kansas to new exotic locales.
The turning point came when we had a March Madness watch party for our beloved Kansas Jayhawk basketball team and invited a friend of ours who mentioned he was thinking about getting an R.V. and a national parks pass and taking a couple months off to tour the country. Maria loved this idea, and it was ultimately the only thing that would comfort her that night when we lost an early round game despite the fact that we were supposed to make a big run to the Final Four. Obama even picked us to win.
A month later we had an R.V. and three months later we were on the road. Originally the idea was to travel for six months and maybe find a new place to settle down. However, a couple weeks into the trip it became apparent that we had no desire to settle down and that we could in fact do this indefinitely.
The beer aspect only came later. We were both craft beer fans before we left but had no plans of going on a national brewery tour. As fate would have it the first state we hit up was Colorado. We decided to visit a brewery and talked to the bartender about the area and he gave us a list of things we should check out and where to grab a beer afterwards. It was like a visitors center that served beer and didn’t feed you the standard touristy stuff.
By the time we left Colorado, we were 20 breweries in and figured it was a good way to acquaint our selves with unfamiliar areas…which was pretty much every place we would visit.
Paste: Tell us about Stanley.
B.D. Stanley is a 1999 Ford Jayco Designer. He is a 29’ Class C R.V. We found him one day when a detour to softball practice took us out of our way and he was just sitting in a corner lot with a For Sale sign in the back window. He had 40,000 miles on him at the times and was mechanically sound, but the inside was trashed and stank of cigarettes.
Over the next month we gutted the whole interior and started anew by painting it all white, putting down cushioned vinyl in place of the shag carpet and installing a 27” flat screen with four terabytes of movies and a Wii hooked up to it.
Since we sleep above the cab we decided to take out the bed in the back to make more of an office area. We have all the common amenities of a house such as an oven/range, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, bathroom and shower.
Stanley now has 88,000 miles on him, and has been to 40 states and two Canadian provinces.
Paste: So you’ve almost traveled through the entire lower 48—do you find big differences in the beer scene as you travel from region to region?
B.D. Definitely. Each pocket of America has its own little beer culture. You’ll find microcosms of beer styles and philosophies even within a region. The beer tends to be a reflection of the community and culture.
The West Coast is naturally obsessed with hops while the South has a fondness for unique local ingredients. The New England area seems more malty and the Midwest actually gets pretty experimental because the press doesn’t cover beer in the Midwest as much, so they have to stand out somehow.
Paste: Have you crossed the borders into foreign soil yet?
B.D. We haven’t been to Mexico yet and to be honest haven’t heard much about the beer there. We have been to Canada and I can say that they have an emerging beer scene that I think will be on par with beer in the states in four to five years.
Paste: Are you working as you travel?
B.D. Yes indeed. Many people assume that visiting breweries and drinking beer is our full time job, but it’s actually more of a hobby and a way to learn about the new cities we visit.
Maria works full-time for WooThemes (Wordpress theme company), which is based in Cape Town, South Africa, but most of its 38 employees are distributed throughout the world.
I am an independent graphic designer that designs and creates websites, logos, and info-graphics. I work with breweries and beer related projects whenever I can.
Paste: Have you uncovered any discernible trends as you’ve traveled? What will we all be drinking next year?
B.D. Well, everyone in beer industry seems to think sessionable beers (beers will low ABV meaning you can have several without getting wasted) will be the next big trend, but I haven’t seen it yet and wonder if it will ever really catch on in a big way. Sours, wild fermentation, and barrel aging beers are real big right now and I don’t really see that tailing off soon. ??
I would say the big trend I have seen as we travel is the large number of new breweries that open up with a focus on a particular style or aspect of beer. I.e breweries that only make red beers, Saisons, Belgian style, or use wild yeasts. I think this partially due to the need to differentiate from the growing number of competitors and it also lets the brewer completely explore that realm and become a niche expert.
Paste: On the flip side of that coin, is there anything you’re tired of drinking at this point?
B.D. To be honest, I’ll try just about anything. There are styles that I don’t prefer, such as hefeweizens and wheat beers, but I will give them a chance if it is something the brewery is known for. I will usually try a sour beer if they have one, but I know that many people doing sours don’t have a committed program to it, and they can end up creating a sub par beer.
Paste: Do you have a favorite brewery, city or state? Is anyone out there just knocking it out of the park?
B.D. We get this question a lot and people are always surprised to learn that our favorite brewery is our home town brewery Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas. I wrote a whole post about this awhile back, but I strongly feel that the best brewery is the one you are most closely tied to. That is the place where you have the strongest memories and the closest relationships. For us, beer is only part of the equation. The experience is also a large determinate of our impression.
That being said, there are some breweries making some really good beers right now: Nebraska Brewing Co (Papillion, Nebraska), NoDa Brewing (Charlotte, North Carolina), Prairie Artisan Ales (Tulsa, Oklahoma), and Cigar City (Tampa, Florida). ??
A hidden gem of a beer city is Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were really impressed with the three breweries we visited there and had never heard anyone really boast about it.
Paste: Years after you started this journey, what’s left to see in the beer world? Where are you dying to visit?
B.D. The current landscape of craft beer expansion is growing faster than we can visit. We have been to 376 breweries in our time on the road and there are close to 3,000 breweries in the U.S. with many more in the works so we will always have new places to visit.
Our wish list is heavily populated by breweries in states we haven’t been to yet. Breweries like Bell’s, New Holland, 3 Floyds, and Founders are sure hits once we finally get to the Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
Will you travel until the wheels fall off of Stanley, or do you have an end date in mind?
B.D. We used to say that “the fun runs out when the funds run out” when we were on our short term plan. Now we are financial stable and it is more of a question of “when will we stop enjoying it.” We don’t travel because we feel obligated. We do it for the love of new experiences and meeting new people. We have way more friends now then when we were stationary. ??
Stanley has held up pretty well, so we are trying to see how far we can take him. It is actually becoming increasingly more likely that our U.S. road trip will end when we go overseas to do the same thing.