By Emily Hutto
If you were planning on skipping vacation this year due to a lack of funds, think again, because we’ve plotted and planned and driven up and down the West Coast researching the best budget-friendly travel details for your next beer trip. Sure, gas can be expensive—not to mention lodging—but with so many affordable places to eat, drink, play, and stay on the West Coast, you might even spend less on the road than at home.
This spring, check out Beer West’s top picks for traveling the West Coast beer scene on a budget. No need to break the bank on expensive souvenirs or fine dining, just stick to the basics.
We can’t guarantee that you’ll sleep like a baby, but we can tell you where to find low-budget beds and bunks. You’ll be so busy exploring that you’ll hardly spend any time snoozing anyway. The cheapest, most adventurous suggestion we have is to pitch a tent. Campgrounds usually cost less than $20 a night, and dreaming under the stars ain’t half bad. If sleeping on the ground makes you squirm or if the weather is less than agreeable, post up at a hostel, which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just for international travelers and post-grad Europe treks. These welcoming, albeit bare-bones, accommodations are actually excellent resources for local attractions, and ideal places to meet fellow travelers. And lastly, “couch surfing” isn’t just an expression, it’s also an international service that links bed-seekers with comfy lodging (register for an account at couchsurfing.org). So, surf the couches of new and old friends and relatives along the way, just be sure to leave them some good beer in return.
Any road trip vehicle should be packed with gear for surfing, body boarding, skateboarding, disc golfing, hiking, and biking, of course. That’s the beauty of the great outdoors: it’s almost always free to explore. And it’s stunning—the natural surroundings are sure to keep you busy, even if you’re not into extreme sports. In a city, one of the best (and cheapest) ways to familiarize yourself is by simply walking around. Go window shopping, meander the marketplaces, and be on the lookout for parks and museums between pints.
Even on a budget, beer is, of course, a staple of any successful pilgrimage—especially on the West Coast, where the brews alone could keep you traveling for months. Breweries usually offer cheap and sometimes free tastings with their tours, and many craft beer venues have happy hours so wallet-friendly that you’ll wonder how they stay in business. Flights of beer are a budget-savvy way to taste a variety of brews, and don’t forget to pack your car with empty growlers; inexpensive fills allow you to take the best beer to your next destination.
Fine dining is so last year. As the food scene goes mobile, the plates are getting cheaper and much more accessible. No, we’re not talking dollar-menu fast food in the burgers-and-fries sense. The recent food truck phenomenon that has exploded in Portland, Oregon is catching fire in other West Coast cities, and best of all, street food gets you out and about in new cities. If you prefer to dine indoors, plan for happy hours and opt to split entrées, because it’s tough to travel with leftovers.
Designated Driver Approved (D)
Road trips and beer don’t seem to go together, unless you have a designated driver. And for the sake of everyone’s sanity, do your friends a favor and rotate daily driving duties. Many locations on our map include a designated driver stamp of approval, but if you can’t stand leaving a brewery without a taste, grab your growler for a fill. Open container fines certainly aren’t in your budget, though, so keep them sealed until you reach your final destination that day.
D Street Noshery
It’s tough to decide on a mobile feast in Portland, where the current food cart count is pushing 600. There’s only one hub of sizzling trucks, though, where you can find craft beer on tap year-round. The Captured By Porches beer bus at southeast Division Street’s D-Street Noshery is smack in the middle of some of the best and most eclectic eats in town: Korean-style sweet chili tacos from Koi Fusion, gourmet mac and cheese (like mango bacon blue cheese) from Herb’s Mac n’ Cheese, and savory-stuffed cones (like Cajun chicken and dumpling) from Awesome Cone.
Stand in line with a mason jar of Invasive Species IPA amidst the mouthwatering aromas of Thai chicken wings at neighboring Whiskey Soda Lounge (where you can also order beer slushies) and from across the street at well-known northern Thai restaurant Pok Pok. During the summer concert series in the Noshery parking lot, save room for an individual-sized seasonal delicacy at The Pie Spot. Enough steam left for one more destination? Head west on Division to BeerMongers bottle shop to purchase a 22-ounce flip-cap bottle of Captured By Porches to refill at the Noshery beer bus.
Washington to California
Sure, driving Highway 101 instead of Interstate 5 takes more time, which equates to more mileage, which isn’t exactly the inexpensive choice; but with all of the pennies you’re pinching elsewhere, taking the classic El Camino Real will be time and money well spent. Drive alongside white sand and rocky cliffs, shop local surf joints, slurp clam chowder at mom-and-pop seafood joints, or make your own picnic from one of the coast’s fresh seafood stands. You’ll pass everything from booming metropolis cities to sleepy surf towns. The coastline offers a host of affordable activities—like surfing, hiking and fishing—ideal for driving breaks, and ample opportunities for camping during multi-day stays.
OB Noodle House
San Diego, CA
Maybe you’re seeking some energy for the upcoming journey, or perhaps you’ve made it all the way down the West Coast to San Diego. Either way, you’re in need of a comforting meal and a craft beer that’s light on your belly and your wallet. Go to OB Noodle House, where piping hot bowls of pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and brimming three-foot chilled beer towers await. This darkened watering hole in Ocean Beach offers an extensive and affordable beer and saké menu. Also popular for their Asian fusion cuisine, Cambodian-born owner Steven Yeng really knows his food. For a light snack, dig into crispy egg rolls or fried dumplings. For a more substantial meal, order char-grilled pork Vermicelli noodles, or better yet take the pho challenge: finish two pounds of noodles, one-and-a-half pounds of meat, and a pint of Hemp Ale in 42 minutes and the $24.20 meal is on the house. OB Noodle House has a happy hour for every day that ends in ‘y’, and is known among San Diegans as one of the better tasting deals in town.
Seeking fellow travelers who also haven’t washed their clothes in weeks? Backpackers unite at the San Francisco Downtown Hostel, where you can share tales from the road over pints of Anchor, Lagunitas, Trumer, and Speakeasy beers. The hostel hosts free tastings on Tuesdays, and also offers free pub crawls guided by their knowledgeable staff. Find more craft beers with your new companions within walking distance at Bloodhound, Public House, and Paragon Restaurant and Bar. Just don’t sleep through free breakfast the next morning.
Birch Bay Hostel // Bellingham, WA (Z, S)
The deal: onsite campfire and bbq, and a weekly drum circle
Green Tortoise Hostel // Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA (Z, S, A)
The deal: free wifi, free breakfast, located across the street from Pike Place Market
Black Raven Brewing // Redmond, WA (B, S)
The deal: $6 sample flights
Redhook Brewery // Woodinville, WA (B, S)
The deal: $6 sample flights
Eugene Disc Golf Courses // Eugene (A)
The deal: 7 courses to choose from, and one on the way
Hop Haven // Portland, OR (B, S)
The deal: $5 22oz. bottles during happy hour
The Brooklyn // Seattle, WA (B, S)
The deal: $3 pints and $5 bites
Dragonfish Asian Cafe // Seattle, WA (B, S)
The deal: $1.95 sushi rolls and $3 pints
Sazerac // Seattle, WA (B, S)
The deal: $3 pints and $2 bites
Tony’s Darts Away // Burbank, CA (B, S)
The deal: build-your-own sausage for $7
Seaside International Hostel // Seaside, OR (Z, S, A)
The deal: $26 dorm beds, daily kayak and canoe rentals all under $50
Northwest Portland Hostel // Portland, OR (Z, DD, A)
The deal: $28 dorm beds and walking distance to the Brewery Blocks
Hawthorne International Hostel // Portand, OR (Z, DD, A)
The deal: $24 dorm beds, $5 discount for bicycle travelers
Eugene Whitaker International Hostels // Eugene, OR (Z, DD, A)
The deal: $28 dorm beds, $10 tents and free breakfast
The Ashland Hostel // Ashland, OR (Z)
The deal: $28 dorm beds and free wifi
Caldera Brewing Company // Ashland, OR (B, S)
The deal: $2.50 pints of Lawnmower Lager and $10 pitchers
Lithia Park // Ashland, OR (A)
The deal: 93 acres with a bandshell for public musical performances, tennis courts, winter ice skating, picnic tables, and hiking trails
Hop Valley Brewing // Springfield, OR (B, S)
The deal: You can see it from I-5
Morley Field disc golf course // San Diego (A)
The deal: $3 weekdays and $4 weekends
Orange Drive Hostel // Los Angeles, CA (Z, S)
The deal: $35 dorm beds, walking distance to the Hollywood sign
Lucky D’s Hostel // San Diego, CA (Z, S)
The deal: free dinner Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, free breakfast, and free pub crawls
Second Avenue and Pine Street food truck hub // Seattle, WA (S, A)
The deal: 9 food truck options
Muscle Beach // Santa Monica, CA (A)
The deal: free workout equipment, and a free show
Proof // Portland, OR (B, S)
The deal: $2.75 pints on Tuesdays
Terwilliger Hot Springs // Willamette National Forest, OR (A, B)
The deal: $5 park pass
Point Mugu State Park // Malibu, CA (A, B)
The deal: a 13,000 acre plot on the beach to explore
Cape Lookout State Park // Tilamook, OR (A, B)
The deal: $36 yurt, or even cheaper camping
Redwood National Parks // Humboldt, CA (A, B)
The deal: endless and iconic camping opportunities
Cama Beach State Park // Camano Island, WA (A, B)
The deal: historic waterfront bungalows
The Museum of Neon Art // Los Angeles, CA (A)
The deal: free, and flashy in a good way
The Cartoon Art Museum // San Francisco, CA (A)
The deal: This is the only museum of its kind in the United States.
Frye Art Museum // Seattle, WA (A)
The deal: free admission and parking
Seaside Historical Society Museum // Seaside, OR (A)
The deal: $3 admission