“All I ever wanted to do was grow a beard, brew beer, and have fun,” says Jeremy Tofte the co-founder of Jackson Hole’s award-winning Melvin Brewing. “Maybe that’s why I live in a van.”
Two decades ago Tofte arrived in Jackson Hole with a few bucks in his pocket and the goal to spend the winter snowboarding the famous slopes surrounding the town. To survive he bounced from job to job before opening his own Thai restaurant in 2000. The fact that he really did not know much about cooking Thai food did not stop him; he bought a few cookbooks and taught himself.
Six years later, he sold the restaurant. It was a success but he had grown tired of fighting the local government over his attempts to open a nano-brewery in the back of his restaurant. “I was sick of not being able to get good beer in town. We had to drive to Colorado to restock the fridge,” says Tofte.
With the proceeds from his sale, he took to the road spending the next two years chasing surf and summer in New Zealand, Australia, and Indonesia. When the new owners of his restaurant failed, leaving the business shuttered, the landlord called him and asked him if he would want to come back to reopen it.
Determined to open his brewery this time, he went over the town of Jackson Hole’s head — he got federal and state approval before applying. When he reopened Thai Me Up as a brewery and restaurant in 2009, he had a tiny 20-gallon system installed.
“The craft beer movement was slower arriving to Jackson, most of the locals thought we were nuts,” says Tofte. “But I did not care, I knew our brews were good.” Three years later, in their first Great American Beer Festival, they won three medals, then another three years later in 2015 they were named the best Small Brewer in the country at the GABF. Investors offered money and they started to plan on opening a larger brewery. Their Melvin IPA and 2×4 Double IPA are recognized as some of the top beers in the country.
But right as things were getting good, Tofte decided it was time for a change. “The real estate market in Jackson sucks. It’s so damn expensive,” says Tofte. “So I decided to stop renting and move into a bus.” As the face of an expanding Melvin Brewing, his constant presence on the road helped to seal the deal for him.
His first mobile home was a converted ski patrol bus. It was good, but also a pain to drive around, and guzzled gas. In February of 2016, he moved into his newest home, a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. The 4×4 van is part adventure platform, part office, part base camp, and pure party.
There are surfboards on the roof rack next to an array of solar panels, and the Thule lockbox holds his snowboards. Under the raised bed inside are his three bikes — mountain, road, and city — and the rack on the rear holds his KTM motorcycle for commuting into town. Inside he has a full kitchen, flat screen TV, PlayStation, thumping sound system, and enough beer to be the most popular guy at the campground.
“I wake up and make some breakfast, log on using a jet pack, knock out some work before heading out for some fun,” says Tofte. “We only sell our beer in places where you can either mountain bike, surf, or snowboard, so I am never far from another adventure.”
For almost thirty months straight he has been continuously cycling between Wyoming, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. He says he would not change a thing; he loves being on the road. “Every single day I meet new people and have new experiences. Why change that?” says Tofte. “We are all going to die one day, that’s a fact. We should have fun, be nice, and live our adventures.”
Melvin beer will soon be arriving in California, with plans to head east sometime soon.
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