Beginning the first week of January, Brandon Wurtz and Michael Roberts will begin the biggest journey of their lives.
The two, who met in the drumline at Plano East more than a decade ago, are quitting their jobs, breaking their leases and buying a van to set out on a great American road trip. Dubbed the Brews Travelers, the duo will spend 2014 on the road on a quest to explore the depth of the country’s craft beer culture.
“In America, there are more than 2,400 breweries, and that number is growing every year,” Roberts said. “We are only going to be hitting a small fraction of those breweries, so this is only a starting point on our craft beer journey.”
Wurtz and Roberts have been active on the local brew scene for several years, volunteering at nearly all of the dozen-plus breweries in North Texas. Their positive experiences sparked their curiosity about what else was out there in the world of craft brewing.
“As we watched what has gone on here over the past few years, we have seen the craft beer community really develop,” Wurtz said. “We have met a lot of nice people who like to come together over a good beer, and we want to experience that all over the country.”
The idea for the road trip came to Roberts in late 2012 during a trip to San Antonio. Roberts, who was coming off a divorce and was tired of being stuck in a cubicle in the merchandising department of a large corporation, knew he needed to get away from it all. A few beers later, he convinced his old friend to tag along.
“I was in right away, even though I told him it was a terrible idea,” Wurtz said with a laugh. “I was kind of in the same boat as Michael in that I was ready for a life adventure.”
With a limited budget, hotels are not in the plans for the Brews Travelers. They plan on staying at campgrounds and on the couches of friends and people they meet on the trip, basically relying on the generosity of others. Even with limited funds and very little extra money to pay for unseen expenses such as car repairs, excitement for the trip is building.
“It is all pretty nerve-wracking, but I am equal parts excited and scared,” Wurtz said. “Just the sheer volume of thinking about the entire year and trying to find a place to crash every day, while making sure we have money to eat.
“I have always wanted to do something like backpack through Europe but never had the money or time since I went to college and then graduate school. Now is definitely the right time.”
The adventure begins with a tour at Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewing Company on Jan. 2 before Wurtz and Roberts travel to Austin, where they will spend nearly two weeks. From there, they will travel east along the Gulf Coast before heading north toward Maine. The journey continues east to west, wrapping up in California in December. When all is said and done, Wurtz and Roberts hope to hit 365 breweries, including at least two in each of the lower 48 states.
They will be using various forms of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a blog, to post stories from the road, interviews with brewers and beer reviews. These stories will form the backbone of both a documentary and a coffee table book to be released in 2015. Both products will be about more than beer. They will be about people living their version of the American dream, Roberts said.
“With 365 breweries, we can’t just talk about the beer-making process because that would get really repetitive,” he said. “We want to find the stories behind the brewers: Where did they come from? What did they do before they were brewers? Get into the side of brewing people don’t normally see. We are hoping these stories will get the general public to realize anyone can open a brewery; you just need motivation and a passion for the craft.”
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