If you’re looking for an epic camping road trip, we have it all lined up for you. Camping and a Craft Beer tour, what could be better than that?! Some of the best breweries in the country are right here in the Midwest, along with some spectacular camping locations. If you’re looking in to a camping road trip this summer, why not add some excitement and make it a craft beer camping road trip. Whether you follow our trail from east to west or create your own route, these breweries are all a must see. After reading this, if you don’t instantly want to pack up your camping gear and head out, there might be something wrong with you.
The Midwest Craft Beer Camping Trip: East To West
1. Cleveland, Ohio: Great Lakes Brewing Company / Toledo East KOA
Great Lakes Brewing Company
Great Lakes Brewing Company, in Cleveland is a great place to kick off our road trip. For over 25 years Great Lakes Brewing has been pumping out exceptional beers in their downtown Cleveland location. You are not able to take a tour of the brewery itself but the brewpub is a site to see. Watch brewers make pub exclusive beers from the brewhouse room or grab a bite to eat downstairs in the “rathskeller” complete with stone walls, brick floors, fermentation tanks, and a wooden bar. One of their most popular beers is the Elliot Ness Amber Lager, but since you there in person we would highly recommend one of their pub exclusive beers such as The Doppelrock or Holy Moses White Ale.
Toledo East KOA
The Toledo East KOA is a great place to make camp that first night. It offers a quiet atmosphere amidst shady trees with a picnic table and campfire ring at every site. This could be a good place to keep the tent in the car and test out one of their camping cabins housing either 4 or 6 people. The cabins are nestled amongst the trees and come equipped with a patio, picnic table, BBQ grill and fire ring with a bench. If you do want to tent camp, they have two different areas, the first with water and electric and the second has no hook ups, but you also want have any RV’s next to you. It is a little bit of a jaunt from Cleveland but is on your way to the next brewery.
2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Founders Brewing Co. / East Lake Camping
Founders Brewing Co.
This is a great next stop on your craft beer camping road trip if you like complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, and tons of flavor. That is what Founders Brewing Co. is all about and they are one of the best in the business. The Founders Taproom is a staple in the Grand Rapids community with a laid back atmosphere, live music and unique specialty beers. The taproom overlooks the brewery, but if that isn’t enough you can tour the facility on Saturdays at 11:15 or 11:45 am or Tuesdays at 5:30 pm, so plan your trip accordingly. The Breakfast Stout is a favorite of many, but if you have the chance to try a one off brew in the taproom such as a barrel aged IPA or imperial stout, take that opportunity.
East Lake Camping
About halfway between Founders Brewing Co and your next craft beer stop is East Lake Camping. It is a great campground, filled with fun activities, a lake and shaded campsites. The campground is a perfect place to spend the afternoon and night. They have a fantastic beach to sit and relax and a little fishing pond if you wanted to throw a line out from the dock. The campsites are very spacious, some are wooded, while others are more open. A lot of people bring RV’s but there is an area for tenting. The only weekend you’d want to avoid is the Birthday Bash. There is no alcohol allowed and lets face it you’re on a craft beer road trip, that probably won’t work.
Bell’s Brewery started as a home brewing supply shop where Larry, the founder, would brew up 15 gallon soup kettle batches of beer. It has now grown to be one of the top breweries in the country and a must stop on our craft beer tour. Bell’s does offer tours at their Comstock Brewery and their original brewery. The original brewery also hosts the Eccentric Cafe, home to a unique offering of craft beer, live music, entertainment, and delicious food. At any given time they can have 20 different Bell’s beers on tap. Some are best sellers like their Two Hearted Ale while others are small batch, one-off runs such as Bull In A China Shop. If it fits your plans, go on a night where there is live music in “The Back Room”, its a great music venue.
Waffle Farm Campground
Waffle Farm Campground is located on a chain of seven lakes with great offerings such as boat rentals, a beach, fishing and water front campsites. Plan to get to the campground early, rent a boat and hit the water for some quality fishing time. The Large Mouth Bass are abundant. You also have some great options for where you want to camp between water front sites, primitive tent sites or off-lake sites. All the sites are affordable, but we’d suggest making reservations ahead of time. It’s not to far from Bell’s Brewery and puts you on the right path toward the next brewery stop.
4. Indianapolis, Indiana: Sun King Brewing Co. / Casey KOA
Sun King Brewing Co.
Now the second largest brewery in Indiana, the guys at Sun King Brewing, are always brewing up specialty batches that they serve in their tasting room. With the tickets and tokens you receive when entering the room you are able to sample their three year round beers as well as seasonal or specialty beers they have on tap. If you’re looking to do some tasting (not just purchasing) make sure you visit on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. You can also tour Sun King on Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays beginning at 2 and running on the hour. Making great year round brews like the Wee Mac is something they strive for but their specialty beers like the Bitter Druid is something they do exceptionally well and where they really shine.
The Casey KOA is a smaller campground, located right off the highway, and offering shaded sites with beautiful views of the sunrise/sunset. If you’re looking to hit the water you can rent a boat at the campground and head off for a day relaxing or fishing. If you’d rather stay put, you can take a dip in the pool, play volleyball or basketball all within the campground. If you’re up for another night of tent camping, they have some great sites with a fire ring and grill. If you’d rather live the life of luxury, rent a one room camper cabin that can sleep up to four. The Casey KOA is just a little ways out of Indianapolis and located on your way to the next brewery.
4 Hands Brewing Co., Schlafly, and Perennial Artisan Ales
Since you’ll be traveling through St. Louis on the way to the next brewery, you may want to take a pit stop at one of these awesome breweries in the St. Louis area. 4 Hands Brewing Co. – The quality of 4 Hands barrel-aged brews is impeccable, and each brings something unique to the table. Schlafly – A staple in the St. Louis craft beer scene with around 50 different styles of beer on tap. Perennial Artisan Ales – Comprised mostly of Belgian and American craft styles, they do like to mix it up by adding fruit, spices or even tea to their brews.
Kan-Do Kampground, Hanson Hill Campground, and Lazy Day Campground
If you decide you don’t want to head all the way to Kansas City, here are some great campgrounds near the St. Louis area. Kan-Do Kampground – Over 35 acres with primitive to premium campsites and a pond for swimming or fishing. Hanson Hill Campground – Has 40 great tenting sites along with RV sites, a swimming pool and pond for fishing. Lazy Day Campground – Shaded campsites for tents and an RV area. Sites can be close to the swimming pool or pond.
Started in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Co is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. The 600,000 barrel facility has sure come along ways since its owners 6,000 barrel plan! Boulevard is known for the full flavor, and distinctive character in their beers. Although they don’t have a taproom, we highly recommend taking a tour of the facility. They offer 3 different types from the free public tour to the smokestack and unfiltered tour, all including samples of their great beer, of course! All of Boulevard’s ales are bottle conditioned, and worth tasting. From the most popular Unfiltered Wheat to a Bourbon Barrel Quad from their Smokestack Series.
Camp Branch Campground
Camp Branch Campground is located north of Kansas City, on Smithville Lake. The 362 site campground has great sites for both tent and RV campers with several including electrical hook-ups. The campground offers a great beach for relaxing, along with a Frisbee golf course not far from the campground in Little Platte Park. Many of the campsites are located along the shoreline with easy access to walking trails. Although it is a little spendy, if you want to get on the water you can rent a fishing boat or pontoon at the Camp Branch Marina. The campground is in the perfect location as you make your way to the next brewery.
6. Des Moines, Iowa: Exile Brewing Company / Rock Creek State Park
Exile Brewing Company
Exile Brewing Company, owned by R.J. Tursi, is a newcomer on the craft beer scene making full-flavored, easy-drinking, lagers and ales. Located in the old Fitch Soap Company warehouse from the 20’s, Exile Brewing has completely transformed the space in to a brewery, beer hall and restaurant. If you’re looking to grab a drink and maybe a small bite head to the Beer Hall, it’s housed between the brew house and fermentation room with clear views of the brewing process. If you want to sit down and have a good meal, and we mean a GOOD meal then head to the dining area. Exile Brewing is known for their European style brews with American flair such as their Betty, a honey lager. We also love their seasonal Dark Chocolate Cherry Wheat.
Rock Creek State Park
Rock Creek State Park is one of central Iowa’s camping hotspots. They have a large campground bordering Rock Creek Lake. With 200 campsites, half with electrical, they can easily fit tents, RV’s and pop up campers. This would be an easy place to spend the afternoon and evening with great hiking trails, a beach, fishing from the shoreline and wildlife viewing. There are quite a few sites very close to the water, you can try to nab one of them. Only about half of the sites in the campground are reserveable ahead of time. Rock Creek State Park is a beautiful area to spend the night with plenty of trees and grass.
7-9. Monroe – New Glarus – Middleton, Wisconsin: Minhas Craft Brewery, New Glarus Brewing, Capital Brewery / Madison KOA
Located all on the same highway, it’s a no brainer to hit all three of these breweries on your way up to Madison, where you can spend the night.
Minhas Craft Brewery
Minhas has a long history brewing beer, dating back to 1845. It has seen a lot of changes over the years and was purchased in 2006 and has been producing, today’s style of craft beers since then. Minhas is the second oldest brewery in the nation providing a fantastic tour. For $10, you’ll go behind the scenes with bottomless samples and will take home 4 bottles of craft beer, 1 bottle of Blumer Root Beer and a branded beer sampler glass. Tours are offered 7 days a week, at varying times. If you’re a beer geek, which we’re guessing you are, the brewery is also home to the nations largest “World Of Beer Memorabilia” museum. WYou’ll be able to sample brews such as Lazy Mutt, their Farmhouse Ale and a classic pilsner in the 1845 Pils.
New Glarus Brewing
The small New Glarus Brewing Company, certainly makes some tasty beers. Made with 100% natural ingredients, they produce world class, handcrafted beers in small town Wisconsin. This is probably the smallest brewery on tour, but they offer a great tasting room where you can purchase pints or flights of 3. They also offer self guided tours every day of the week along with a hard hat tour, which is more of an inside view of the brewery. These tours take place on Fridays at 1:00 p.m., lasting 3 hours with a few different stops and a beer and cheese tasting. They make some truly great beers, like their popular Spotted Cow or a seasonal brew such as the Snowshoe Ale.
Founded in 1984, Capital Brewery has been pumping out handcrafted beers for the beer loving Midwest. If you are there just to enjoy some of Capital’s fine beers, head out to the Bier Garten a great patio area to enjoy one of the many Capital Brewery taps, guest brewery taps and even wine. If the weather is not cooperating you can move in to the Bier Stube, a cozy room with seating for quite a few people. You can catch a 30-45 minute tour on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday, times vary so check their calendar and make a reservation. With a variety of year round beers such as the Wisconsin Amber, or a seasonal brew like the Maibock, you’ll be sure to find one (or many) you like!
Madison is a great town to visit and the Madison KOA, will be the perfect spot to relax for the evening. There are plenty of yard games and activities to keep you busy. You can also take a dip in the pool or relax by the campfire. There is a nice little area for tent campers, with some shade on the grassy sites. If you’re trying to stay somewhat connected to the world the tent sites even have WiFi. The Madison KOA is a good stopping point for your day that was full of 3 brewery stops!
10-11. St. Paul, Minnesota: Summit Brewing Company / Baker Park Reserve Campground
Summit Brewing Company
Summit Brewing Company, started in 1986 and has come a long way, currently thriving as one of the largest breweries in the Midwest. Their beers are stimulating, complex and rich in character from their year round staples to special releases. The 90 minute tour of the Summit Brewery is fantastic, but you have to make a reservation and they fill up quickly. Tours are offered Tuesdays and Thursday-Saturday, they graciously end with a sampling of their brews. If you don’t catch a tour, check out the Beer Hall, open Fridays and Saturdays from 4-9 p.m. At the Beer Hall, they offer their year round brews like their Extra Pale Ale or you can grab an only on draught, Oatmeal Stout. They even offer a nightly new brew.
Surly Brewing Co.
Surly Brewing Co. started as a single homebrewing kit and turned in to one of the most popular breweries in Minnesota. Owner, Omar Ansari, makes daring, hop forward and full of flavor brews. In their tap room, Surly serves up year round, seasonal and specialty beers. Open Wednesday-Friday from 3-9 pm and Saturday from 12-9 p.m. the taproom has a great rotation of food trucks for your dining pleasure and tours run on Saturdays at 1:00, 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Some of Surly’s beers, are so popular like Darkness, that it sells out in a matter of hours. Visiting the tap room you will have the opportunity to try popular beers such as Furious and rotating specialty beers like Pentagram.
Baker Campground is located inside Baker Park Reserve on Lake Independence. The campground has over 200 sites for the RV or tent camper. They offer sites with or without electrical hookups, and shower and restroom facilities are nearby. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table and fire ring. There are some great water based activities to take part in at Baker Campground with a fishing pier and an abundant fish population, plus an adjacent beach with plenty of shoreline to relax. If you’re looking to hit the water you can rent a canoe, kayak, paddle boat or stand up paddle board from the park reserve. Surrounded by trees and spacious campsites, Baker Campground is a great place to spend the night.
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