All posts by Kevin Holsapple

The author of Prime Passages is Kevin Holsapple. Currently living in northern New Mexico, Kevin has traveled extensively over the years and aspires to do alot more of that in the coming years. Now semi-retired, Kevin's working life included management of a destination tourism activity, community development work, advising and training small businesses, operating recreational tours, and even operating a beer hall.

A Multi-day Trek on the Wicklow Way

Location in Ireland – detailed map of inset area below

On the eastern coast of Ireland stretching south from Dublin are the Wicklow Mountains (Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin in the Irish), the largest mountain range in the country.  Rising from the Irish Sea to a highest altitude of just over 3000 feet (925 m),  these are largely granite mountains shaped by the effects of the last ice age.  The mountains are covered intermittently by heath, bog, pine, and deciduous forest.  These mountains have been inhabited since prehistoric times yet remain sparsely inhabited to this day.  This is the setting of the Wicklow Way.

The Wicklow Way (Slí Cualann Nua in the Irish) was Ireland’s first National Trail and extends for about 81 miles (131 km) between Marlay Park in the southern outskirts of Dublin and the village of Clonegal to the south.

Trek Planning

Wicklow Way Route Map
Wicklow Way Route Map – click for interactive Google Map

In planning my multi-day trek, I had several considerations including reliance on public transit services, my bias toward frugality, my desire to carry a very light load, and my interest in sampling some nice beers along the way whenever that proved practical.   I planned for five days of walking at about 12 miles per day and targeted lodging locations accordingly.  There are a few hostels along the way but I quickly found out that despite planning many months in advance, the hostels at Glendalough and Knockree were already fully booked — I was told that even though I was hiking in off-season (March) that these hostels tend to be used for school outings during that time of year.  I was able to book the private hostel near Roundwood and the other nights I used country B&B’s and on one night, an Air BnB.  The link I gave above to the Wicklow Way has a variety of good logistical information but it did not seem to be comprehensive — I found additional options that they didn’t cover.

Public transportation was also a bit of a puzzle to figure out.  I settled on taking an afternoon commuter train south from Dublin to Rathdrum.  I booked two nights at nearby Glenmalure where my landlady Maura had agreed to pick me up at the Rathdrum rail station and to give me a ride the next morning south to where I would begin my trek at Aughrim.  One other challenge was that I could not find a place to stay for my budget along the route near Knockree.  I was able to improvise by finding a country bus line that came reasonably close to the hike route that brought me to/from the coastal town of Bray (there is a brewery in Bray!) where I stayed at an Air BnB.  Once I reached the end of my hike at Marlay Park, I caught a Dublin Bus from there to a nearby Luas tram station to get to my accommodations in the city.

Traveling light for me meant an oversize daypack, fast dry clothing layers, minimalist toiletry kit, my Chromebook, camera, water, and rain gear.  Food did not turn out to be a problem.  Breakfast came along with the accommodations and I would carry away a piece of fruit and maybe a roll for lunch.  All of the places I stayed the night were close enough to a pub or two for dinner and finding a beer or two to try.

Backpacking may provide an option for those who don’t mind carrying a heavier load.  There are three rudimentary huts called “bothies” along the way that can be used as shelter and there are camping options for other nights.  The bothies are stewarded by a group called Mountain Meitheal and are constructed with three sides, a pitched roof and a raised platform which can sleep four or five people.

Following are notes from each day of the trek along with photo galleries.  Click on any photo to see it larger and to open a scrollable slide show

Aughrim to Glenmalure (via Iron Bridge)

The rain would come and go on the days I was on the trail and it had come when I set out from Aughrim.  Aughrim is just off the Wicklow Way, but my plan was to visit a country brewery near there and then follow a side route to pick up the main route at a place called Iron Bridge.  Doing this meant missing a section of the main route between Clonegal and Iron Bridge.

Acton’s Country Pub & Brewery, within a small resort called Macreddin village offers an organic stout and lager. While described online in several places I had seen as a microbrewery, the beers are in fact contract brewed by White Gypsy brewery in Templemore.

Glenmalure Lodge is part of a small grouping of buildings in a remote valley and is both a lodging place and the place for lunch or dinner.  I was staying at Coolalingo B&B but I enjoyed the warm fire, dinner, and a couple of pints there after a day of wet walking.

Glenmalure to Glendalough

There is a scenic descent to the lakes at Glendalough that takes you past photogenic ruins of St. Kevin’s monastery.  Near the ruins is a place called  Casey’s Bar & Bistro in the hotel there.   There is another warm and welcoming fireplace there and they were serving excellent brews from Wicklow Brewery in nearby (if you have a car) Red Cross.  Just past Glendalough I found B&B accommodation at the Laragh Mountain View Lodge near the town of Laragh.  Shay and Kerry were excellent hosts.

Legend has it that Hollywood, California takes its name from the much older village of Hollywood in Ireland.  Coincidentally, if you have seen the movie Braveheart, you’ll have a good sense of what the surrounding countryside looks like along this part of the route.  Much of Braveheart was filmed here with this part of Ireland standing in for Scotland.

Glendalough to Roundwood

Lus Mor near Roundwood provided hostel-like accommodation that served my needs well.  A couple of miles hike on country roads brought me to Roundwood proper where I found food and drink at the Coach House and the Roundwood Inn.  Luckily, one of the other patrons stopped for me in their car as I was hiking back up the hill to Lus Mor in the dark and rain after dinner and took me to the inn.

Roundwood to Knockree (Bray)

The walk in the fog up over a high peak called Djouce was both beautiful and surreal.  Eventually, a descent leads toward views of Powerscourt Waterfall the tallest in Ireland at 397 feet (121 m).  I was unable to find affordable lodging near the route so I hiked to a bus stop and caught a bus into Bray where I stayed at an Air BnB.  Bray is home to the Wicklow Wolf Brewery (sadly it was closed during my visit), a Porterhouse Brewery pub location, and a  venerable drinking spot called The Harbour Bar (once called the “Best Bar in the World” by Lonely Planet).

Curtlestown to Marlay Park, Dublin

The last leg features scenic, wide open country the blends increasingly with farm meadows and fields.  Once back in Dublin, it was not difficult to find a nice beer — read all about that in my story called Beery Dublin.

Photo Credits: Acton’s Pub, A. Fanti, Claire Lam, David O’Kelly, Nell Pilgrim, Mark Broderick, M Conway, Liviu Bunta, Thiego Azevedo, Paul Gartland, The Harbour Bar, Daniel Byrne

 

 

 

 

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Texas Six Pack

Texas Six PackEvents are a common tactic in the marketing arsenal of craft breweries and they come in alot of different shapes and sizes.   An Eventbrite survey found that after a beer event, 99% of participants will recommend the brand to a friend and half will buy beer on the spot.  Festivals, tastings, knitting, sewing, yoga, painting, movie, sports watching, crawls, games, takeovers, story time, music, comedy, trivia, and cook-offs are just some of the many themes used for events.  Fitness is another kind of theme that I find mildly ironic, although I like to pair my beer explorations with walking, hiking, or bicycling whenever I can.   I’ve never done so in conjunction with a brewery event though.  An opportunity came when visiting friends in Houston — they invited me to take part in a fun run that is part of a brewery run series that gets them out to visit craft breweries across the southeast of their state.

It’s a pleasant, early-spring Saturday morning in southeast Texas and cars are piling in to a dirt lot next to the Middleton Brewing Company.  Some people are stretching backs and legs using their bumpers as footholds.  Others pin bibs displaying entry numbers to each others shirts.  Still others make their way through the dust and weeds toward the brewery where a five kilometer fun run through the surrounding hills will soon be starting.  The reason for the gathering is one of the installments of the Texas Six Pack, a fun run series that takes participants to craft breweries throughout southeastern Texas.

The “six pack” is really a series of eight fun runs but participants need only to complete six of the eight in order to complete the six pack.  The Middleton event in March was the first of the series that runs for the rest of the year to December.  Each event has a different host brewery and town and each donates a portion of proceeds to a local charity in the town where it is held.  The registration cost per event is $30 but there is a break when you register for the whole series ($210 for eight events).  Participants receive a commemorative t-shirt, pint glass, and coupons for four half pints of beer at each event and can earn an additional medal and commemorative t-shirt for completing the six pack.

I’m not aware of a similar series in my home state, but I wondered how common this kind of program might be throughout the country.  A Google search identified similar running series’ in thirteen states: ColoradoDelaware, IllinoisIndianaMinnesotaMontana,
southern New Hampshire & northern Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, TexasWashington, and Wisconsin.  In addition, I spotted a couple of multi-state series, Craft Brew Races (six races around the country each with a beer festival with multiple breweries represented) and Great American Brewery Runs (a series of nine races in the eastern U.S.)  A common denominator is that all of these are set up by running event organizations in cooperation with breweries rather than being run by the breweries themselves.  At the Middleton Brewing Company, it was clear that the race organization was handling all of the race logistics, the registration and timing of the participants, emceeing, and the post-race awards activity.  The brewery was able to focus on what I’m sure they cared most about — serving up good beers and hosting the participants after the race.

Out on the course, most people seemed to be running but some were walking and others were combining the two methods.  Participants wore a small plastic chip attached to a shoelace that registered their starting and finish times when they crossed an electronic sensor mat at the start/finish line.  An elapsed time was computed for each participant and medals were awarded based on age groupings and gender.  Unclaimed awards were then distributed by random drawing giving even people like me a chance to carry away a medal.

A good crowd stayed around after the event using up their beer coupons and socializing.  To sum up, people get some exercise, reward themselves for their effort with a beer or two, catch up with friends and acquaintances, help raise some money for a local cause, and have a chance to explore a locale that they may not know much about or wouldn’t otherwise have visited.

For my friends and I, the event also provided a centerpiece activity for a bit of brewery touring in Houston, Austin, and points between as we made our way to and from the event.  Following are galleries of captioned images from the event at Middleton Brewing Company as well as from some of our brewery touring in southeast Texas.  Click on any image to see it larger and to open a scroll-able slideshow of all images.

Texas Six Pack Fun Run

A Brief Survey of Some Southeast Texas Breweries

Attending the event provided a great reason for a roadtrip to visit breweries in the region and tour some favorite spots of my hosts, Kurt & Liz.  Here are some impressions from some of the places we visited along the way:

St. Arnold Brewing Company in Houston is housed in a cool old brick building that they have adapted into a brewery and beer hall with some real old world character.  Sadly, I hear that the beer hall is going to be retired to special event use when they complete a new building on the site next door.  Very nice spring bock here.  8th Wonder Brewery in Houston takes its name from the tagline for Houston’s Astrodome.  It resides in an industrial area in a funky old warehouse and features WonderLand, a huge outdoor seating and event area.  Sigma Brewing Company in Houston resides in a warehouse building in a gentrifying part of the city and is near a stop on the light rail line.   A slick, modern taproom opens to the brewery floor where there is, of all things, a wrestling ring.  Sigma hosts wrestling events of various kinds as well as serving a nice porter.  The character of these three places is somewhat signaled by the variety of the company cars parked in their lots.

Axelrad Beer Garden in Houston is not a brewery but it serves an impressive selection of beers.  It is as close to the spirit of a Bavarian beer garden as I experienced on this trip although it certainly has its own Texas vibe.  The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company in Austin has a laid back feel and a nice Helles they call Hell Yes.  Jester King Brewery is out in the country on beautiful acreage west of Austin in what appear to be retrofitted farm buildings.   This is a farmhouse brewery in the traditional European caste.   Further west at Dripping Springs is Twisted X Brewing Company.  Had a nice Vienna Lager on the open porch of their tasting room.

After staying the night at the college town of San Marcos and doing the 5K Fun Run, we had a breakfast diversion for Exxon Tacos — I’m told it is a favorite stop for some students and alumni of Texas State University.  Nice breakfast while watching people fill up.  Heading back to Houston we made a stop at the Spoetzl Brewery and their tasting room in Shiner, TX.  Being a weekend, we were limited to tasting but it would be fun to go back on a tour day.

Platypus Brewery in Houston has an Australian motif and attitude.  Had a very nice coffee porter with a very nice Sunday breakfast on their patio.  Holler Brewing Company in Houston is fronted by a small, modern taproom in an office/industrial area.  Several of their offerings sounded intriguing so I went for a flight and wasn’t disappointed.  I could go back and spend more time with their ESB among others.  I couldn’t tell where the heights were by looking around, but when we got to Eureka Heights Brew Co. there was a full blown neighborhood party in progress.  The taproom is in a big, open industrial space and the party was spilling out through roll-up doors into the parking lot..  Tried an interesting milk stout made with cayenne pepper and cinnamon in addition to more traditional ingredients.

Last stop for this trip, but not the least was Brash Brewing Company which we found down an alleyway in a gritty industrial space.  The vibe was “don’t give a shit what anyone says” garage brewery but the folks were totally nice and I enjoyed a nice APA to finish the tour.

Whirlwind I know, but it leaves me thirsting to try it again and go a bit more in-depth with several of the places.  Maybe I’ll have to try my feet at another run.

Photo Credit: J. Ostendorf, Eric Woelker, Juan Acievedo

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Beery Dublin

The Dublin beer scene conjures up visions of dark pubs and darker beers and conversations with people that you can only kind of understand.  Yes, I encountered some dark pub interiors and with Guinness Stout everywhere the dark beer part of things was well covered.  I didn’t run into much of the stereotypical Irish brogue though which was fine with me although when It is encountered, there is kind of a charm to it.  Coming to Dublin from England where there is a very vibrant small brewery scene, I was curious to see if I would find anything similar in Dublin.  As it happens, there is a good bit of craft brew activity, but nothing on the scale of what I experienced in England.

click on image to open interactive Google map

While there was no where near the diversity of beers and breweries, there was plenty of interesting places to visit and beers to try.  Certainly my stein was more than half full.  Add to that the fun of walking around in a photogenic, ancient city and learning a bit of the broader story of Dublin and I would rate it A+ as a destination for the beer tourist.

I tried to visit as many breweries and craft beer venues in Dublin and the area as I could identify as interesting based both on talking to lots of people about what they recommended as well as by doing web research.  Lacking a car, I focused on venues that were reachable by public transportation (tram, bus, train) and walking.  Google maps is a useful tool for inventorying the places to visit, and clicking on the map image above will lead you to an interactive map that has embedded links to the various venues websites.

Some wee but fun and tasty spots …

sampling at P. Macs
sampling at P. Macs

There is no shortage of pubs, bars, and other small beer venues in Dublin.  In order to not be swamped by all of the possibilities, I tried to spend some time gathering recommendations from kindred souls who enjoy good beers, craft beers, and one-of-a-kind beer culture experiences.  Many regrets for all the great beer spots that I missed out on this time around, but I was not disappointed by what I did find.

Five Lamps Brewery was a fun stop.  Although they are not set up to receive drop-in visits (I didn’t know that before I went there), master brewer William Harvey was gracious to show me around and share some samples of their fine products.  I asked where the brewery got its name, and as I understand it “do you know the five lamps?” is an old-time Dublin expression that can be asked in a situation where someone is perceived as being a jerk.  Whether they answer yes, no, or are silent the resulting instruction is the same — ““go hang your bollocks off them.”  So asking someone whether they know the five lamps is kind of like telling a jerk where they can go.

Lager from Open Gate

J.B. Sweetman and Porterhouse are brew pubs that brew and serve their own ranges.  The Beer Market is a taproom operated by Galway Bay Brewery (located on the other side of Ireland) that serves their range.  P. Macs and 57 The Headline are notable craft beer bars/pubs that serve a variety of craft choices from both near and far.  I found them both to be very friendly places with knowledgeable beer tenders.  L. Mulligan Grocer is kind of in its own category.  I’d call it a restaurant/pub that features excellent food with local ingredients as well as a good range of Irish craft beers.

The Open Gate Brewery is also a unique place along the way.  This is Guinness’ experimental brewery where they craft all kinds of different beers.  I think the idea is that every once in a while one of these may turn into something to market in the larger marketplace, but most of these will never be served outside of the Open Gate taproom.  This is not a drop-by pub or taproom — it is only visited on Thursdays through Sundays and requires an admission ticket that can be purchased online.

The following gallery has images from wanderings between the smaller venue beer visits in Dublin — click on any image to open a larger view and slide show.

… and then there is Guinness

On the far, far other end of the spectrum is Guinness, the massive enterprise that has been a fixture in Dublin since 1759.  The main public face of Guinness is known as the Guinness Storehouse — a giant old brick warehouse that has been converted into a slick museum and visitor center.  In the building, visitors proceed up through seven floors of exhibits, interactive experiences, and tasting stations culminating in arrival at a penthouse bar with close to a 360 degree view high above the city.  Although there are tasting opportunities for everyone, a premium ticket gets you admission to an additional small group tasting experience along the way.

There are exhibits about the brewing plant and process, company history, marketing and branding campaigns, and more.  Everyone who wants to gets the chance to learn to make the perfect pour and docents (drinker docents?) in an ultra-modern looking tasting room take groups through the ingredients, aromas, and tastes that make their flagship stout special.  Fog infused with the aromas and beer esters of beer ingredients rise out of multiple pots in this room.

It’s slick, it’s touristy, it’s crowded, but I wouldn’t miss it on a beer-themed visit to Dublin.  With plenty of craft choices to try, I have to admit that this was the only place I treated to myself to a Guinness Stout during my time in the city.

A nicely done 2.5 minute video of the perfect pour at the Guinness Storehouse by Dave at theplanetD.com

Craft Breweries in Ireland

Source: Irish Craft Brewers Association
microbreweries per million
Source: Irish Craft Brewers Association

I never heard a compelling explanation about why there weren’t more craft breweries in Dublin, so I went looking for some background at The Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland — the Irish Craft Brewers Association.  It turns out that although small in numbers, craft breweries are well dispersed throughout the country geographically.  As is the case in various jurisdictions in the U.S., taxation and regulatory issues tend to be significant barriers to entry and success for small breweries.  There are about 75 craft breweries in Ireland with another 25 or 30 “brand owners”, or breweries that fulfill demand for private label brands.  Very few craft breweries have on-site visitor facilities at their breweries although most would like to have this.  Craft beer has about a 2.3% market share by volume domestically (U.S. comparison 12.3%).  I would welcome and love reader comments providing more and better perspective on craft brewing in Ireland and Dublin.

Photo Credits: J. Baruela, M. Eskandari, L. Tozzetto, P. Martin, A. Palomino, J.F. Blanchette

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Wandering Summer Wine Country

Summerwine cast members quaffing a cool one
Last of the Summer Wine cast members quaffing a cool one

In West Yorkshire in the foothills of the Pennines is the Holme Valley — home base for the world’s longest-running sitcom.  When it ended in 2010, ‘Last of the Summer Wine‘ had been on the BBC for a record 31 years and 295 episodes.   The “sit” involved old geezers who had never really grown up exploring the beautiful countryside and dreaming up mini-adventures not usually undertaken by people their age.  In a way, I can relate.

Location Map
Location of Holmfirth and Huddersfield

The filming of the show was a fixture of life for decades in and around the village of Holmfirth and included locations in nearby towns and villages like Meltham, Marsden and Huddersfield.  I planted myself in the area for several days to explore the gorgeous rolling countryside and a bit of the beer culture found in local breweries and pubs.  I don’t think I am anywhere near as funny or old or interesting as those Summer Wine guys, but somehow I felt something in common.

Huddersfield

Huddersfield is the city that serves as a hub for the area.  A university town situated on a hilly landscape, it is a major train stop on the TransPennine Express line connecting Manchester with Leeds.

The King's Head
The King (not Elvis . . . the other one)

Exiting the train station I immediately encountered one of the most memorable pub signs I can think of at the King’s Head – in the square at the station.  The King’s Head is a pretty common name for a pub all over the world (Google it if you don’t believe me) but when you see it, the illustration is usually of the head of a puffy, pasty, white guy in a powdered wig.  This King’s Head has a modern take that I surely appreciated.  Huddersfield had numerous interesting pub signs that caught my eye and prompted a stop for a cool one.  As an aside, pub signs are a whole interesting topic in of themselves as they can be markers to centuries of local history.  For a fun, short article on this read A History of Britain in Its Pub Signs.

Huddersfield proved to be a pleasant city to wander around in.  There is a mix of distinguished architecture and there is vibrant street life in the pedestrian zones.  And oh yeah, let’s not forget the breweries and beer venues.  Magic Rock Brewing struck me as kind of a hipster place with a large variety of both cask and kegged options.  Mallinsons has their public face in a tap room in the center called The CornerSummer Wine Brewery is on the route between Huddersfield and Holmfirth so I used the bus to visit.  Another nice craft beer venue I found near the city center was a place called The Grove – this is a friendly pub that is renowned for their large selection of beer options.

Following are some images from wandering in Huddersfield.  Click on any image to enlarge it and to open a scroll-able slideshow.

Holmfirth to Holmbridge Country Hike & Breweries

Click for interactive map of hike route
Click for interactive map of hike route

What would a good beer be without a nice hike to precede it?  My hosts suggested a walk from Holmfirth up over the ridge between the Ribble and Holme valleys to the village of Holmbridge where there is a country brewery.  It was a great walk with huge views over grassy meadows to the west and the Pennines on the horizon.  The Bridge turned out to be a pleasant country pub with good beer that they brew on site.  I think they get alot of walkers and bicyclists — a stage of the Tour de France came through here not too many years ago.  From Holmfirth, it is a short bus ride down the Holme Valley back into Holmfirth.

Holmfirth was my base for my time in the area, and it turned out to be well-suited with good bus connections, all the services I needed, and some interesting beer options.  I had made contact with a fellow Couchsurfer who lives in Holmfirth, Andrew, who kindly took me around on a bit of a pub crawl to orient me to the town.  A pub and wine bar called The Brambles offers a couple of nice house brews made for them by the nearby Empire Brewing Company.  A cozy brew pub called the Nook brews their own range of beers on site.  And a hipstery bar called Gonzo offers a nice variety of craft beers from near and far.  All of these places are within a few steps of each other in the village center.  Holmfirth is also famous for a longstanding event venue called the Picturedrome which attracts performances by a variety of well known performers.

Following are some images from the hike and pub crawl.  Click on any image to enlarge it and to open a scroll-able slideshow.

Primepassages focuses on stories about travels involving hiking, trails, and beer.  For more stories related to the one you just read, click here.

Photo Credits: The Bridge, The Nook, Holmfirth Events, The Grove

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Albuquerque Brewery Run (or Bike or Walk)

Albuquerque location in the U.S.

The idea of an Albuquerque Beer Run came to me when I was learning about bike routes in Albuquerque and I put what I was learning together with something I already knew — Albuquerque has a whole bunch of fine craft breweries.  I am usually more of a hiker and it is standard operating procedure for me to map

Multi-Purpose Trails and Breweries
Multi-Purpose Trails and Breweries – click to open in Google Maps

breweries onto the routes and trails that I plan to hike.  In fact, the route/trail I choose often has an interesting brewery (or two, or three, …) somewhere along the way.  When planning to do some biking in Albuquerque, I learned that there are more than 143 miles of multi-purpose trails available for biking, running, hiking, horsing, and more.  It seemed a natural to me to overlay a map of these routes with a map of the 40+ breweries and brewery tap rooms in the metro area to see where I might want to bike.

Albuquerque Beer Run/Walk/Bike in Google Maps
Albuquerque Beer Run/Walk/Bike – click to open in Google Maps

A particularly appealing loop route popped out at me right away that I have dubbed the “Albuquerque Beer Run.”  This route could be interesting to runners, but I think it also could interest urban hikers, and I think it may be of the most interest to bicyclers.  I was excited to discover that along or in close proximity to this route that there are 19 breweries and brewery taprooms including some that I think of as being among the best the city has to offer.  The route is a loop of about twenty-two and a half miles of which 18 miles (blue on the map) are on paved, multi-purpose trails that rarely come into contact with automobile traffic.  The remaining 4.5 miles (purple on the map) are on city streets that are generally bicycle routes.  The route uses sections of four trails including Rio Grande Bosque Trail,  Paseo del Norte Trail, North Diversion Channel Trail, and Embudo Channel Trail.

By the city’s definition, the multi-purpose trails are paved surface trails that are separated from vehicular traffic.  Where they cross streets they generally offer an underpass or a bridge, although there are a couple of street grade crossings to be made on the Albuquerque Beer Run route.  I encountered many people on bikes, runners, and walkers and these uses seemed very compatible given the physical characteristics of the trails.

Redfin.com houses for sale
Houses for Sale in neighborhoods close to the route – click to open Redfin.com

Something I noticed along the way is that the route passes through many residential neighborhoods.  Some of them are well established while others seem quite new or are under construction.  I found myself thinking that these could be great places to call home given the trail amenities.  I took a look at my go-to real estate information site, www.redfin.com and it confirmed for me that the Albuquerque Beer Run route passes through very active residential real estate areas.

The Albuquerque Beer Run, although no one is promoting it as such, is arguably unique in the world for its combination of paved trail separated from auto traffic and the large number of craft breweries and brewery taprooms along its route.  I found similar length routes being promoted as “bike & beer” trails in the San Diego area and in Athens County, OH but neither of those offers anything near the diversity of craft beer options.   There seems to be significant awareness among locals as one after another brewery told me they are visited by lots of bikers.

That said, please be clear that I am in no way promoting stopping at too many breweries during any single ride.  I compiled the information for this article over the course of many different rides and visits to Albuquerque.  I would stop at just a place or two per ride and often would have a half pint versus a full one.  If a person lived along the route, s/he could ride this route once per month and it could take a year-and-a-half or more before hitting the same brewery twice.  Multiply that by eight or ten beer selections typically available at each place, and well, . . . .

The Ride (Run/Hike)

View across the Rio Grande
View across the Rio Grande

I started from where I was staying in downtown Albuquerque traveling west on Silver Avenue which, in this segment, is what the city calls a “bicycle boulevard” – a slower than normal speed limit applies on these.  This leads to Rio Grande Bosque Trail that follows the bosque along the Rio Grande River for many miles.  In New Mexico, a bosque is a Cottonwood tree forest in the floodplain of a stream or river.  As the trail parallels the bosque, I spotted a variety of wildlife and took advantage of opportunities to dip into the forest on one of many dirt paths.  Attractions along this stretch of the route include Tingley Beach, Albuquerque’s BioPark and aquarium, a spur of the I-40 trail that leads to Old Town,  the Rio Grande Nature Center, some outstanding views of the Sandia Mountains, and a pedestrian bridge over the Rio Grande (you cross to visit Boxing Bear Brewery).

Along the RouteIf you have the same sense of humor that I do, you could call this route a hydrologist’s wet dream.  Albuquerque’s history was as a fording spot along the Rio Grande and the area was a frequent victim of shallow flooding well into the twentieth century.  An extensive system of canals, levees, jetties, and jetty jacks are on full display for most of the route and have conquered the river.

The Paseo del Norte Trail is the east/west stretch (I was traveling east) at the top of the loop that follows along the busy thoroughfare.  It eventually intersects with the north-south North Diversion Channel Trail.  A nice amenity on this segment is the Journal Center Railrunner Station.  I haven’t figured it out, but a bike-friendly train route connecting the north end of the loop with Alvarado Station in the downtown on the south would seem to offer interesting route options.  On one trip, I chose to detour to the north on North Diversion Channel Trail up to Bosque Brewery — that adds an additional 5.5 miles onto the 22.5 mile loop.  This is also the way to the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and the International  Balloon Fiesta Park.  Biking is a great way to miss the traffic jams and parking hassles during the annual event.

samplerThe North Diversion Channel Trail is a straight-line, sun-baked stretch much of which is in the heart of commercial activity lining I-25.  A spur called Embudo Channel Trail provides a 1.3 mile round-trip detour to the Santa Fe Brewery taproom.  At the intersection with Indian School Road, the route leaves the trail and navigates bike routes on downtown streets to the Center.  It may seem a bit circuitous, but the route in the downtown has to find its way across railroad tracks and navigate a one-way street system.  Third Street is the southbound street and Second Street the northbound.  There are two clusters of breweries in the downtown.  The Brewery District is to the north and the Historic Route 66 District is a corridor through the city center.

Many thanks to Bill at the Bikesmith in Old Town and Philip Clelland of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation for answering some questions and to the excellent Albuquerque Bicycle Trail Guide

The Breweries

Albuquerque is a pretty good beer town and getting better all the time.  There are roughly 40 breweries in the Albuquerque MSA which has a population of 887,000.  That divides out to .45 breweries per 10,000 residents.  You can compare that to notable beer cities such as Portland, OR (.57), Denver (.47), Grand Rapids (.41), Seattle (.39), San Diego (.35), and Milwaukee (.30).  It is probably fair to say that Albuquerque is a bit overlooked in the discussion of craft beer urban hot beds.

The Albuquerque Beer Run route goes by (within a block or two) a large number of breweries or brewery taprooms, and the following galleries are images from stops along the way.  Hopefully the pictures and captions will speak for themselves.  It will take me several more rides to visit all of the breweries on route.  I’m looking forward to it.  Good sources for understanding the craft beer scene in Albuquerque and New Mexico are the New Mexico Brewer’s Guild and the blog called Dark Side Brew Crew