Best Damn Beer Road Trip: Route 66

This is the first installment in a series of beer-soaked road trips.
What better way to kick off Paste Drink’s “Best Damn Beer Road Trips” than with a drive along the legendary Route 66? That 2,500-mile long ribbon of highway stretching from Illinois to California still looms large in the American imagination, regardless of the half-century that’s passed since the interstate system gutted the fabled road.
Or maybe “regardless” is the wrong word. Maybe it’s because the interstate killed Route 66 that we adore it. That highway remains frozen in time, a coral pink, big-finned, neon bug forever trapped in “hep cat” amber, daddy-o.
Route 66 crossed eight states, which means we get 8 chances to sample local brews. Steal the keys to Daddy’s Caddy, put on your Wayfarers, and let’s do this thing.
Californiaphoto via Bonaventure/Facebook
Route 66 T-bones into the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California. Yep: You can dip your toes in the ocean before you drop the top (the car’s or your’s; hey, I don’t judge) and head east. But before you go, head to downtown L.A.’s Bonaventure Brewing Company for one of their tasty brews. Get the Shandy, a blend of Bonaventure’s blonde ale and lemonade.
Arizonaphoto via Black Bridge/Facebook
The drive across the desert is brutal. You’re probably rethinking that whole “top down” thing right about now, aren’t you? The good news is this: beer awaits you in Kingman, Arizona. Check out Black Bridge Brewery, where local mad genius Tim Schritter turns hops into heaven. B3 even offers barley wine. How cool is that?
New MexicoPhoto via Santa Fe Brewing/Facebook
The Santa Fe Brewing Company is the place to stop on the New Mexico leg of your drive. These guys have been in business over 25 years and have about 20 beers in their line-up. Try to time your trip for a Saturday, when Santa Fe Brewing releases experimental small batches of beer brewed with guest home brewers.
Texasphoto via Big Texan
Step away from the Lone Star. Look, there’s nothing wrong PBR’s cowboy cousin, but we’re on a road trip here. Where’s your sense of adventure? If you want some unique Route 66 flavor, you have to stop at Amarillo’s Big Texan and take on the 72 oz. steak challenge. Not only can you get a baby-sized brick of meat at this landmark, but The Big Texan also brews its own “Real Texas beers.” Yee-haw!
Oklahomaphoto via Brick Town
You’re all set for beer in Oklahoma City, home of a half dozen breweries, but let’s take a break. Time to stop at a brewpub and stretch our legs, and Bricktown Brewery has been getting it done for over 20 years. And how’s this for cool: Their flagship location is a former candy factory. No word on their Oompa Loompa hiring policies.
Route 66 only spanned 11 miles in Kansas. None of the towns along that short spur claim a microbrewery, so we’re going to have to cheat a little bit. Lawrence’s Free State Brewing Company offers ten different beers, and it’s also the former home of Beat legend William Burroughs. Lawrence, I mean, not the brewery. Cut me some slack: I’ve been drinking since Santa Monica.
Missouriphoto via Springfield Brewing/Facebook
Pop quiz: What evil did Springfield, Missouri unleash upon the world? If you said “the drive-thru window,” go to the front of the line. Red’s Giant Hamburg gets credit for the greasy fingerprints all over your plush interior and the French fries beneath your seat, and then there’s the damage to your car, too. Put down your milkshake and step into Springfield Brewing Company for a local pilsner.
Illinoisphoto via Revolution/Facebook
Made it! We’ve crossed 2,541 miles since leaving Santa Monica, and now we’re at the end of the road. Route 66 stops at Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, so now you can re-dip those toes in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. I checked with my good buddy Arman, a bartender at Chicago’s Continental Lounge, and he says the brewpub to hit is Revolution Brewing. You’ll get no argument from us: Revolution’s Anti-Hero made our list of favorite IPAs.
It’s been a fun ride, and you’re pretty okay as travel companions go. What say next time we steal a canoe and a cooler and hit the Lewis and Clark trail?

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