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.

Burlington Bike & Beers

Biking and Beers Along the Burlington Bike Path

Burlington Biking Route
Biking route – click on image for interactive route map

Burlington, Vermont is a pleasant small college town (University of Vermont) situated along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.  It is the principal city of Vermont even though its population is only about 40,000  people.   The place has a number of notables.  Burlington “felt the Bern” long before the rest of the country as former Burlington mayor and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hails from here — Bernie Weisse, a “slightly sour and forward-thinking ale” by Zero Gravity Brewing commemorates the connection.  Burlington is also the birthplace of Ted Bundy (I didn’t see any beers cleverly named for him).  Ben & Jerry started their notable ice cream careers here in the late 1970’s although they have moved down the lakeshore since.

Lake Champlain stretches for 125 miles North to South and is 12 miles across at its widest — only the five Great Lakes are bigger in the USA.  Legend has it that the deep lake harbors a Loch Ness-like monster whose sightings stretch back to the 1600’s and Samuel de Champlain for whom the lake is named.  The monster is described as a “water-dinosaur-looking creature with a serpentine neck, small head, long tail, humped back, and flippered limbs” and is called “Champ” by the locals.  Sounds fishy to me.

Magic Hat #9 Not Quite Pale Ale
Magic Hat #9 Not Quite Pale Ale

The Burlington Bike Path is a rail-trail that uses about 14 miles of the former route of the Central Vermont Railway which ran along the Lake Champlain shoreline between Montreal and New London, CT.   This segment was called the Island Line as, up until about 1960, it served several islands to the north of Burlington across a long causeway.  There was a swing bridge in the northern part of the causeway that has been demolished — a bike ferry service now makes up for the missing bridge.  Most of the route features picturesque lake views and park-like stretches.  For my ride, I improvised a route through a short stretch on city streets through the South part in order to connect up to Magic Hat Brewery which was my furthest south destination — ugly but it did the job.

World's Tallest Filing Cabinet
World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet

Curiosities along the way included the Burlington Earth Clock, a stonehenge-like sundial and my favorite, the world’s tallest filing cabinet.  The cabinet is 38 drawers high — said to be a drawer for the bureaucratic paperwork from each year of a 38 year battle to get a roadway built from downtown Burlington to Interstate 89 to the south.  The roadway was never built.

The route is very walkable (runnable) as well as being bikeable.  There are seven breweries along the route including Magic Hat to the south; Switchback, Queen City, and Zero Gravity south of the downtown; Foam and Vermont Pub & Brewery downtown; and Simple Roots north of the downtown.

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Lakeside Biking

Beers Along the Way

For more stories about biking for beers, CLICK THIS LINK.

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What is Beer Hiking?

Albstadt HikeWhen I tell people about my blogging hobby, it’s not uncommon to hear the response, “What is beer hiking?”  For me, hiking is about so much more than exercise – or a walk in the woods – or getting from point A to point B. It’s really more about the sum of all of the sensory experiences along the way – sights, smells, sounds, textures can all be savored in small bits and connected to the memory of a hike. Newness or familiarity can be another aspect of the memory – a novel experience tends to be memorable although the familiar can also generate a comfortable, warm memory.

I find that adding a beer into the mix, whether during or after the hike adds yet another layer of sensory experience that isn’t naturally there on a hike.   Beer adds its own set of sights, smells, texture, and tastes.  Often a beer hike also increases prospects for interesting cultural experiences.  That might mean tasting the local style of brew, listening to the music, observing local characters and local customs, and talking both with travelers and locals over a beer.

For me, a beer hike can take many different forms.  There is the simple ‘enjoy a beer after the hike’.  Another form is the ‘carry beer with on the hike and stop in a beautiful place to enjoy it” approach.  Another approach is to research and complete hikes where there are breweries or other interesting beer-drinking venues along the route.  This last approach (my personal favorite) can either be out in the wild or countryside, or it can take the form of an ‘urban beer hike’ or walk.

There really aren’t any rules other than to be safe and have fun.  There is considerable opportunity for creativity in planning the route or hike … and beer always tastes better to me in conjunction with a beer hike.

The best beer in the world is the one you have after a nice hike

Stories and images about beer hikes are a prominent part of Prime Passages and I’m also doing some beer bike rides from time-to-time.  Have a look at some of the stories here.  Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to invent your own beer hikes.   If you do and you want to share your beer hiking experiences with others, there is a public Facebook group called Lovers of Beer, Hiking, and Travel that exists for just that purpose.

With all of that said, beer hiking can certainly be a different thing for different people, though.  So I queried some fellow beer hikers for their perspectives (below) and I hope that readers will contribute their own perspectives as well by commenting on this post.

Beerwanderer

Rich Carbonara, the Beerwanderer is an American ex-pat living in the Munich area.  He leads hikes in Bavaria and is the author of the soon-to-be-published book, Beer Hiking Bavaria.

Rich CarbonaraHow do you define “beer hiking”?

Beer hiking is any combination of the two you can come up with but for me, it’s using your feet to get to breweries you can’t really get to any other way (well, if you don’t have a car, can’t drive in the country you’re living in, or know better than to drink and drive).

What would you say is the best beer hike you’ve ever experienced and what, in your mind, made it the best?

The best beer hike is always the next one, the one you haven’t done yet. For sure design and relative ease, it’s tough to beat the Fünf Seidla Steig in central Bavaria.

Melinda Collings

Melinda authors Crafted Adventure – a blog featuring beer, adventure, and community.

How do you define “beer hiking”?

A beer hike is anytime you get outside hiking and bring along a beer. Pretty simple, right? It can be a mile or ten, as long as you take a few minutes to sit back enjoying nature with a cold beverage in hand!

What would you say is the best beer hike you’ve ever experienced and what, in your mind, made it the best?

The best beer hike I’ve experienced was Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Not only did we have a beautiful view, but I got to share the experience of a friend’s first beer hike! That’s what really makes a beer hike, sharing with friends.

Beers at the Bottom

Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood author Beers At The Bottom – a blog exploring the natural relationship between the craft beer community and outdoor recreation.  Based in western Washington state, they have written and published a book called Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest.

Brandon and RachelHow do you define “beer hiking”?

Simply a day of hiking that ends at a brewery. When pairing trails and breweries we take it a step further, seeking out breweries that have a link to the outdoors community and surrounding environment. Take Kulshan Brewing in our hometown of Bellingham, WA, for example. Named after the local volcano (Koma Kulshan, or Mount Baker) Kulshan Brewing incorporates outdoorsy elements into its taprooms and beer names. We’re quite lucky that so many breweries in the PNW have an outdoor focus, creating taproom spaces that often feel like an extension of the trail. You feel comfortable raising a pint there — even in your grubby hiking clothes!

What would you say is the best beer hike you’ve ever experienced and what, in your mind, made it the best?

There are far too many to pick just one, so we featured 50 favorites in our guidebook, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest. We’ll give you a fave from each region. In British Columbia, we enjoyed spending 3 days on the Sunshine Coast Trail, ending our time with a beer from Townsite Brewing in Powell River. In Oregon, we loved the untamed coastline of Cape Perpetua, and finishing the day off with wild farmhouse ales from Yachats Brewing. And we are absolutely spoiled here in Washington for beer hikes. One of our local favorites is pairing the hike to Winchester Mountain Lookout (or just about any trail along Mount Baker Highway) with beers and pizza at The North Fork Brewery. Order the nitro ESB or one of their excellent sours!

Tempest in a Tankard

Franz Hofer authors Tempest in a Tankard – a blog featuring stories about beer and beer culture.  Based in central Oklahoma, Franz is currently working on a book entitled Beerscapes of Germany: Where Tradition Meets Innovation.

Franz HoferHow do you define “beer hiking”?

For folks who haven’t heard yet, beer hiking is a thing. But what is this thing we call beer hiking? On the surface of it, you combine beer with hiking. Pretty simple. But it’s actually more than just tossing a few cans of beer into your rucksack and hitting the trail. Rather, beer hiking encourages hikers and walkers to explore the beer or beer establishments of a particular place as part of the journey. For some, that might mean going on a road trip, finding a trail in relative proximity to a brewery or taproom, and tucking into a few pints at the end of the excursion. For others, beer hiking involves searching out trails where there’s a brewery (or two), either along the way, or at the end of the hike.

What would you say is the best beer hike you’ve ever experienced and what, in your mind, made it the best?

To me, what sets the “best” beer treks apart is a combination of adventure, varied terrain and scenery, regional food, and, of course, stellar beer — the closer to the source, the better. Taken together, these elements should also provide some sort of window onto the local culture.  All of my beer treks have been memorable for some reason or other, but my favourite to date has been the granddaddy of Bavarian beer treks, the Fünf-Seidla Steig, or “five stein climb.” The number five refers to the number of breweries along this classic 18-km loop, which also gives you an idea of how much extra time you’ll need to budget in order to complete the journey in a day.

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Montana Beer History Deluxe

For the Love of Montana Beer Culture

Steve Lozar
Steve Lozar behind his grandfather’s bar
polsonlocation
Polson, MT location in USA

Steve Lozar is a one-man repository of Montana beer culture and history.  Not only that, he has collected and built an outstanding small museum showcasing 150 years of Montana beer and brewery history in space above his family’s business in Polson, Montana.  Steve is a classic example of a Renaissance man — he is an anthropologist who teaches at the local college, a prolific collector of breweriana, a former tribal councilor of the Salish Kootenai, and a businessman still involved with his family’s screen printing business.  His family history in Montana goes way back through both his Salish Kootenai roots and his great grandfather, Josef Lozar who immigrated from Slovenia in the 1880’s.

Museum Bar
The museum bar is both a historical artifact and a family heirloom

I made an appointment to visit with Steve at his museum not quite knowing what to expect.  I had met him briefly at a beer event in Kalispell earlier in the week and he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my coming to see him.  Entering the museum, I was blown away by an overwhelming explosion of colors and artifacts of all shapes and sizes that have been arranged in a visually interesting display.  Steve invited me to the museum bar where he poured us some beers.  He explained that the bar, tables, chairs, and some other architectural artifacts had been salvaged from his family’s saloon in Helena at the time that the building was being demolished.  The bar had to to be painstakingly reassembled — some parts of it were in splinters when he was able to recover it.  It is looking good and is quite functional nowadays.

old brewery
Library of Congress image

Steve grew up with beer culture as his family, from the time of his great-grandfather, was involved in the saloon business and with the now-defunct Kessler Brewery in Helena.  Steve likens the saloons of those days to the classic idea of the public house — places where people of all classes would rub elbows and talk about the news and issues of the day.  Pre-prohibition, there were as many as a couple of hundred breweries in Montana.  A big activity throughout the state was mining and the miners came from places with well-established beer cultures like Ireland and central-Europe.  Every town and camp of any size would have at least one brewery as transportation wasn’t that well developed yet to allow for broad distribution.  Prohibition pretty killed the industry (no breweries from that time survived) until the fairly recent emergence of craft breweries.  Nowadays Montana is once again approaching a hundred breweries in the state.

itsthewater
“It’s the Water”
High Life
turn-of-the-century High Life bottle from Capital Brewing in Helena
Pabst
The “B” on the hop flower commemorates the Best family

HighlanderSteve has some great stories to tell that he connects up with various artifacts as illustrations.  Some of them mingle Montana history with that of well-known brewers from far away like Olympia, Miller High Life, and Pabst or with national institutions like the New York Yankees.  Did you know that Olympia’s famous tagline, “it’s the water”, originated in Montana in 1906 and was eventually “migrated” to Washington state when the brewer relocated there?  Or that the “High Life” brand originated in Montana as a brand of Capital Brewing in Helena? The Kalispell Malting & Brewing Co. was operated by a member of the Best family  (Pabst in Milwaukee was operated by the Pabst and Best families), and PBR was once bottled in Troy, MT in some kind of tax avoidance scheme of the day.  Also, the distnctive font of the Highlander Beer logo (a Missoula beer)  connects to Ne York Yankee lore — the Yankees were once known as the New York Highlanders and their owner (a brewer himself) agreed to let the Garden City Brewery in Missoula use the Highlander marking once he renamed the team to the Yankees.  The Yankees continued to use the font though.

Steve’s interest in breweriana connects to his interested in commercial art and design.  That has always been (and continues to be) an aspect of the brewery business and how beer is marketed.  Steve showed me all kinds of posters and old-school swag that use creative and interesting artwork and design.  Bottle openers, hand fans, sewing kits, ashtrays, serving trays, matchbooks, ice picks, playing cards, lint brushes — you name it.  Steve showed me his favorite — a cardboard whistle that was intended to be used to summon your next beer — I could use one of those if anyone would pay attention.

Growler
vintage growler

Another interesting story Steve related was about the growler.  He said that what we call growlers today were known simply as beer jugs back in the day.  A true growler is really a copper beer vessel used by brewery workers.  As the story goes,  breweries all had a coppersmith on their staff who could do copper work and solder together pipe fittings and the like.  When a new worker at the brewery proved their competence, the coppersmith would make and present them with a growler – a copper mug.  Workers who had earned their growler were allowed to fill it with beer once per hour during their time at work as a nice fringe benefit of their job.  I asked Steve what he knew about what beer must have tasted like back in the 1800’s.  He said that early Montana brewers were emulating the styles they brought from their countries of origin.  The Central-Europeans were making lagers and the Irish ales and stouts.  Supplies of hops could be uncertain so there was a good bit of experimentation.  Things like pine needles barks, and mosses would be substituted when hops couldn’t be had.  So I guess that answer is that it is hard to know what the taste was like way back when but it might have been unusual.  Steve says that part of his collection includes old recipes and that he has selectively worked with brewers to try some out.

Steve welcomes visitors but requests that an appointment be made in advance.  You can contact him at 406 270 7695 or steve.lozar [ at ] cskt [ dot ] org

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Swag and Advertising Artifacts

Historical Photos and Records

Bottles and Containers

For more stories about hikes, beer, and travel stories in Montana, CLICK THIS LINK

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High Trail

High Trail with a beer at the end

Route Map
click on image for interactive route map

Fourth of July weekend called for a family adventure on a high trail.  The Bull of the Woods – Williams Lake Loop in northern New Mexico is 11 miles (17 km) of thigh burning, lung pumping hiking that starts at the base of Taos Ski Valley and ends high up in Kachina Basin near the Bavarian Restaurant.  The hike has 3832 feet (1150 m) of ascent and tops out at 13,040 feet (3975 m) – literally the top of New Mexico.

The Bavarian Restaurant
The Bavarian Restaurant
beers
An Andechser Vollbier Hell and a Weltenburger Anno 1050 Märzen

The hike starts out climbing and continues nearly non-stop for the first seven miles before a precipitous drop over the next two miles to Williams Lake.  There were several snowfields still remaining to cross on this July 4th and we ran into heavy weather just after mid-day.  A thunderstorm chased us off the high ridge and we were hit with sustained pea-sized hail and driving rain during the way down. The final two miles is a relatively tame descent to a pretty fair representation of a Bavarian berg gasthof (mountain pub).   It was a welcome place to finish the hike with an excellent German beer on tap.  The Bavarian has beer on draft from both the Klosterbrauerei Andechs and the Klosterbrauerei Weltenburg, two of my favorite monastery breweries.  These are great beers that are not easily found on draft in the U.S.A.

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Bull of the Woods – Williams Lake Loop

For more stories about hikes and beers in New Mexico, CLICK THIS LINK.

For a story about a hike to Andechs Monastery,  CLICK HERE.  For a story about a visit to Weltenburg Abbey, CLICK HERE.

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Great Falls

Barley, Beers, and Hikes in Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls
Great Falls location

My recent roadtrip to Great Falls, Montana featured interesting beers, beautiful hikes, and a great orientation to one of the USA’s premier barley growing regions.  Great Falls is a town of about 60,000 people located on the Missouri River above what used to be a series of five waterfalls, one of which was named “Great Falls”.  Many years ago, hydroelectric plants were built at the locations of each of these falls as part of a plan to industrialize the town.  Various mills, a smelter, and the Montana Brewing Company eventually used the electricity but those operations are no more.  Great Falls also became an important railroad center.  By outward appearance, Great Falls current fortunes are as the hub of a major agricultural area and home to an Air Force base.

Downtown street
downtown street

The downtown has seen better days but has interesting old buildings and some of them are beginning to be reclaimed for new uses.  One is home to the Mighty Mo brewpub whose owners take pride in anchoring revitalization.  A big attraction in the downtown is a tiki bar located in a motel called the Sip and Dip Lounge.  The magazine GQ once listed this place in its list of the top 10 bars in the world, ranking it as the “#1 bar…worth flying for”.

mermaids
mermaids at the Sip & Dip

Women in mermaid suits swim in the motel’s windowed indoor pool behind the bar and giant tourist drinks are served in fish bowls.  The place was hopping when we stopped by to see what it was about and it certainly is a novel spot.  Unfortunately, the lounge’s famous pianist, “Piano Pat” Spoonheim was under the weather so we missed her performance — she has played the piano there since 1963 and I understand she is a considerable part of the draw of the place.

what used to be the Great Falls
what used to be the Great Falls

As for hikes and beers, there is a long bikeway/pathway that follows the river, but the hikes I decided on were a half hour or so drive out of town.  Great Falls has three breweries and I visited a fourth in nearby Belt between hikes.  I was in town for an event called Beer Now, an annual beer bloggers conference.  Several agenda items involved learning about the role that Great Falls plays in barley and malt production.

No Barley, No Beer

barley field
a “not yet golden” barley field

The northcentral part of Montana fanning northward to the Canadian border from the town of Great Falls is known as the Golden Triangle.  The “golden” in “Golden Triangle” refers to the color of the massive agricultural tracts of barley and wheat grain that cover the area and turn a golden color as they are ready to harvest.  This area is a huge source of a key ingredient in beer — malted barley.  Trucks bring barley grain to malting facilities in the region that prepare it for use in brewing.

Just to the north of town is one of the maltworks – Malteurop.  Huge grain elevators for handling the barley tower over a huge industrial building where the malting process takes place.

malting barley
malting barley

The process is a series of steps involving moistening the grain, stirring it in huge tanks to initiate sprouting, drying, kilning, and packaging.  Malteurop is a farmer-owned, independent outfit that serves a broad clientele of brewers.  In contrast, brewing giants AB Inbev and Coors have dedicated operations also in the area.  The Malteurop folks indicate that they have seen substantial growth in their craft brewery customer base over the past many years.  Even though craft is a big market for them, my understanding was that they sell the majority of their output to Mexican breweries.

During the visit to Great Falls I enjoyed meeting a number of barley farmers and hearing about their work.  One described to me how it used to be that his production was contracted to AB InBev or Coors and they were pretty much the only game in town.  With the development of the craft beer market customer options were increased and he is now highly tuned into and focused on what is going on in the craft beer world.  The conversations brought me closer to a world in which the uncontrollable – weather and government policies (think tariffs) – play a huge role in making a living.

Beery Great Falls

Great Falls has three breweries and I visited a fourth in nearby Belt.  That’s pretty good concentration for a population just north of 60,000.  Mighty Mo Brewing Company has a brewpub located in a reclaimed, historic building in the center of town and for me is the most interesting of the taprooms.  Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company has a production facility located in the downtown but its taproom and pilot brewery are across the river at a place called The Front Brewpub.  As I understand it, the two breweries share brewing time in the JJBC production brewery.  Black Eagle Brewery is located in an industrial feeling area north of the river called Black Eagle.  Harvest Moon Brewing Company is located in a small, historic town to the east called Belt.  For my palate, Harvest Moon had the most interesting beers — I particularly enjoyed their Charles Russell Red and Pig’s Ass Porter.  Their beertender also served me what he called a “Pig Nut” – a blend of the Pig’s Ass Porter and their Broken Bale Nut Brown Ale that made a nice combo.

Brewery taprooms in Montana operate under what seemed to me to be some pretty strange constraints.  They are only allowed to be open until 8 pm and are limited to serving three beers per day to a given customer.  I understood that these limitations were the result of lobbying by the Montana Tavern Owner’s Association – apparently a powerful lobby.  I spoke to a tavern owner who told me he thought it was a fair situation because his license was far more expensive than a brewery license.  I kept my immediate thought to myself – that his tavern didn’t have to invest in the cost of a brewery or take the risk that he could produce a range of beers that people would want to pay for.  It also occurred to me that, in economic development terms, the breweries keep a substantially higher proportion of sales dollars in the local economy.  Like many states before them, I hope Montana can figure out how to reduce and remove constraints on their local brewers.

Kellergeist was another nice find for a beer in the downtown.  This self-described mini-pub was a friendly place that serves a variety of beers including dunkels from both the Andechs and Weltenberg Monastaries in Bavaria.   Both of these are quite nice and the Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel is a rare find in my experience so that was a treat.

Sulphur Springs Hike

Sulphur Springs Hike
Sulphur Springs Hike route – click for interactive route map

East of town starting near Morony Dam is an easy, scenic hike to a place of historic significance called Sulphur Springs.  The terrain is wide open here with few trees.  The trail rolls up and down between a series of side drainages.

The Lewis & Clark expedition and Native American history play large into a variety of historical sites in the area.  Sulphur Springs was a gathering place for centuries for multiple Native American tribes and is also famous as a source for healing waters that are said to have helped Sacagawea recover from an illness that threatened to thwart Lewis & Clark’s progress.  This is one of many sites in the area connected to the history of Lewis & Clark.

Sluice Boxes Hike

Sluice Boxes Hike
Sluice Boxes Hike Route – click for interactive route map

Further east is Sluice Boxes State Park and a hike that follows a former railroad grade into a narrow canyon of Belt Creek.  The railroad that used to run here served mining operations upstream in their day.  The canyon alternately narrows and broadens out as you head upstream.  Miners thought that the stream feeding through narrow sections resembled the sluices they used in their mining, thus the name of the area.  You get wet on this one as there are several stream crossings to contend with.   The trail eventually travels upstream seven miles, but I had to turn around well before that due to time constraints.

For more stories about hikes and beers in Montana, CLICK THIS LINK.

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Goblin Colony Hike

location of hike in U.S.A.
location of hike in U.S.A.

Maybe Halloween would be a better time of year to do a Goblin Colony hike, but you could fool me.  I took off on a bright May morning in search of goblins in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico.  The Jemez are full of interesting geology from their volcanic origins and this hike is no exception.  The goblin colony is a collection of hundreds of volcanic rock columns on a steep slope above Paliza Canyon at about 7000 feet (2135 m) altitude.  They are interspersed with Ponderosa Pine and some ancient alligator juniper trees.  Goblins are hoodoos, or tent rocks, that many people imagine display interesting human and animal-like profiles “if you look at them just the right way.”  The caps are gone from these hoodoos – I’ve also heard this kind of formation called a “fairy chimney”.

click on image for interactive route map
click on image for interactive route map

This hike, a 4-mile loop, is off the beaten track in an off the beaten track area so be ready for some rough road if you go.  You can approach from the North as I did on Forest Road 10 off of Highway 4 or from the South on that same road via the village of Ponderosa.  The South approach is paved more of the way and is fairly easy for a car.  A car can do the North approach in good weather, but I’d recommend a high clearance vehicle.

I parked off the forest road near the bottom of the hike then proceeded back north in the forest along the road.  At the top of the hike (highest elevation), you turn sharply over a small ridge and immediately descend into the goblins.  There is no beaten path so you need to pick a route through the goblins – for me, there was a bit of trial and error as some of the routes I chose led me to steep drop-offs forcing a backtrack to find a better way.  Eventually, you reach the floor of Paliza Canyon where an old track follows it back down to the starting point.

That was a good spot to cap off the hike with a beer.  I had thrown in a Santa Fe Brewing Company Imperial Java Stout.  This is a stout stout at 8% ABV and also very flavorful – a nice beer to cap off the walk.

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Goblin Hike

Goblin Country

This part of the Jemez Mountains has other interesting things to see and do and I decided to take the scenic route home.  Following the hike, I headed South to the village of Ponderosa and made a stop at the Ponderosa Valley Vineyard tasting room.   This is a relaxed place in a pretty setting.  There is a striking red rock area at the Jemez Pueblo, one of New Mexico’s nineteen remaining Native American pueblos.  Not far from the Pueblo is Gilman tunnels, a series of former railroad tunnels carved into a scenic gorge.  The village of Jemez Springs is a picturesque place with an old saloon, a few eating places, a few hot springs establishments, and the Second Alarm Brewhouse.  Second Alarm is a fairly new place so I wanted to stop for lunch and try one of their beers.  I had a green chile cheeseburger with a drinkable porter.  In addition to their own beers, they serve a variety from Bosque Brewing, Santa Fe Brewery, La Cumbre Brewing, and others.

For more stories about hikes and beers in New Mexico, CLICK THIS LINK.

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A Beer Hike in Spanish Peaks Country

The Spanish Peaks
The Spanish Peaks

The Ute Indians called the Spanish Peaks  Huajatolla (pronounced Wa-ha-toy-a), meaning “two breasts” or “breasts of the Earth”.  For travelers on the old Santa Fe Trail, these were the first big peaks they would see signaling the beginning of a transition from traveling on the plains to entering the mountain west.  For me on this trip, they provided the backdrop for a relaxing Spring weekend and a hike in the forest.

Spanish Peaks location map
location of the Spanish Peaks in the USA

The Spanish Peaks were formed by volcanic uplifts eons ago and the area is somewhat unique for the many prominent intrusions (also called volcanic dikes) that injected themselves upward into the landscape.  Up to 400 of these rock formations radiate out from the peaks and given that they are very hard rock, the land around them has eroded away while they rise out of what remains like long spines.

We took a scenic route up from New Mexico that travels up and over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range before dropping into Cimmaron Canyon.  It struck me that this could be a good brewery road trip someday as we passed by breweries in Los Alamos, Rinconada, Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Cimmaron, Raton, and Trinidad along the way.   We stopped at the Blu Dragonfly Brewing  Company in the town of Cimmaron for lunch and I enjoyed a nice dunkel with a “Moink” (park pork, part beef) BBQ sandwich.  The server told me that much of their business derives from the nearby Philmont Boy Scout Camp backcountry facility.

The small city of Trinidad is the first place you come to across the Colorado border from Raton, NM and is the eastern terminus of what is called the Highway of Legends (CO State Highway 12).  This is a scenic, mountain highway that heads into the Spanish Peaks country along the Purgatoire River and the southern flank of the Spanish Peaks.  It climbs to 10,000 feet altitude at Cuchara Pass before descending to the villages of Cuchara and La Veta.  We stayed at a small place along the streamside in Cuchara.

Thanks to an interesting smartphone app called Travel Storys we did get exposed to a legend or two along the way.  The Byway is home to unique geological, cultural, and historic features and includes a myriad of legends from the Native Americans, the Spanish Conquistadors, and the pioneers, miners, trappers, and ranchers who explored and then settled this region.  A fellow guest told me about the Travel Storys app, and being a gadget guy I downloaded it.  It is pretty slick — once you activate it, it monitors your geo-coordinates using your smartphone’s GPS capability and automatically plays short narratives that match the place where you are.  It was quite helpful in learning about the history and geology of the places we were at.  If you enjoy innovative apps, check it out.  They have routes all over the country.

The Dikes Hike

The Dikes Hike route – click on image for interactive route map

No, not that kind of dikes.  A hike that started near where we stayed climbs up one of the long ridgelines that towers above the valley and then follows it just below its crest.  I hesitate to call this particular ridge a dike though because I read somewhere that it is really a sedimentary uplift – far too technical for me.  The forest is pretty there and there are frequent openings to big views across the valley.

The hike can be done as an out-and-back (as we did) or there is the possibility to put a car at either end and do it one way.

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Beer Notes

We stopped at the grocery in Trinidad for some beers and there were plenty to choose from.  Not being a Colorado beer expert, I gravitated toward my favorite style – darker lagers.  Without looking to close,  I picked up a six of Colorado Native Amber Lager and we headed into the hills.  Inspecting the beers after I popped one when we arrived at our lodgings, I saw that the brewery was the AC Golden Brewing Company.  Golden sounds like Coors-town to me so I Googled to see if this was some Coors trained off-shoot.  My first impression was that this is a very nice beer.

Someoneone associated with Golden whose initials are AC — hmmm — who could that be?  Yes … it turns out that must be Adolph.  AC Golden is a subsidiary of Miller-Coors that was founded in 2007 by taking over Coors’ 30 barrel system pilot brewery in Golden.   It is tiny compared to its owners’ production breweries and is reportedly run quite independently but it apparently does get support from the distribution infrastructure of its parent.  My antennae were up so I made a quick search for the expected derogatory comments by big beer haters.  Surprisingly, not much popped up.  Interestingly, this brand is only sold within Colorado (I brought some home) and sources all of its ingredients from within Colorado so it is pretty “local” depending on how you define that.  I did find a nice article on the Colorado Craft Brews blog profiling the brewery that I recommend if you are interested in more details.  Not “craft”, but definitely a satisfying artisanal beer I’d say.

Also worth mentioning on the trip was a lunch stop on the way at Blu Dragonfly Brewing Company in Cimmaron, New Mexico – not too far south of Spanish Peaks Country.  This is a laid back, small town place with pleasant outdoor space.  They served a drinkable dark lager.

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Beery, Beautiful Bamberg

To many people, saying “Beery Bamberg” is a statement of the obvious but for many more, it is still one of those magical beer places awaiting personalized discovery.  I’ve had brief visits many times over the decades and it always resulted in my vowing to come back for a longer stay.  That finally came around for me when I decided to base out of this northern Bavarian city for a week of beersplorations in the area.  It is a great base location with rail connections heading into Franconian bier heartlands in several directions, inexpensive places to stay, and a rich set of things to see and places to visit within its very walkable confines.  My only regret ended up being that I didn’t have more time to stay there.

More than 1000 years in the making, Bamberg now has a population of about 78,000 people most of whom appreciate a good bier.   It is a picturesque city loaded with impressive architecture and interesting public art.  In addition to being a good place for walking, you immediately recognize it is a bicycling city.  Bikes are everywhere, maybe because it is also a university town and young people are moving everywhere via bicycle.

The old town of Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  You could be forgiven if you attributed this to the beer culture of the place, but I think it has more to do with its authentic medieval appearance.  Beery Bamberg had 75 or more breweries into the 1900’s but that has been whittled down to eleven today.  Most people count it at nine, but I am including the pilot brewery embedded into the Weyermann Maltworks which makes some very nice artisanal beers and the microbrewery of Hopfengarten.  I wrote about visiting Weyermann’s and their beers in a separate story so I won’t say much more about them in this one.  I’ll speak to a visit to Hopfengarten later in this article.  The biggest of the breweries, Kaiserdom is located in an outlying part of the city that I didn’t make it over to.

Beery Bamberg
Places mentioned in article – area shown is approx. 2.5 km square in central Bamberg

Beery Bamberg

Schlenkerla Rauchbier
Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Bamberg is famous world over for Rauchbier, or smoked beer, but the truth is that only a couple of the breweries specialize in this brew.  Smoked beer is made from a special malt that is dried over an open fire before brewing to produce the smoky flavor.  The most famous are the flavorful Brauerei Schlenkerla varieties but every bit as good in my estimation is the rauchbier of Brauerei Spezial.  By all appearances, Schlenkerla is the most popular of the Bamberg taprooms — a small window near the entry served the crowd that was overflowing into the street out front.  Don’t stop with just these famous beers though as there are many other great beers found elsewhere in Bamberg as well.

For instance, Brauerei Keesmann makes an excellent pilsner called Herren that I stumbled across on my first night in the city.  I had come from an international flight arriving earlier in the day at Munich and was tired and hungry.  The pleasant courtyard behind the gasthaus was pretty full.  A nice lady shepherded me to the last seat at a shared table in the center and I was served a Herren.  Terrific!  The lady eventually sat down at the table and I was told by others at the table that she was Frau Keesmann — she was up and down through the evening making sure the place was running to her satisfaction.

Other conventional breweries with taprooms are Mahr’s Brau, Brauerei Fassla, Brauerei Geifenklau, Klosterbrau, and Ambrausianum.  Non-conventional breweries include the aforementioned Weyermann pilot brewery (their beers are available at the former Bamberg Hofbrau brewery location in the city center) and Hopfengarten.  Hopfengarten is a garden nursery of sorts that has a microbrewery that uses their own hops in a variety of artisanal beers.

The two best (but not only) Bier Kellers (or beer gardens) I experienced in Bamberg were the Wilde Rose Keller and the Spezial-Keller which both are located on a big hill south of the center called the Stephansberg.  They are classic beer gardens with thousands of seats beneath canopies of shade trees.  Wilde Rose serves beers made for them by a brewery in Neundorf and Spezial serves Brauerei Spezial beers of course.  These are great places to while away an afternoon.  Another significant beer place that I enjoyed multiple times earlier in the day is Cafe Abseits.  They offer good food and a deep selection of beers from nearby breweries in the region.

The map above shows relative locations of breweries (amber mugs) and other interesting beer venues (red mugs).  All of these places are very walkable from the center within a one-mile radius or so.  I stayed at an inexpensive Air BnB near the center that also gave me easy access to the train and bus station.

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Beautiful Bamberg

Even if there was no such thing as beer (heaven forbid!) Bamberg would be a beautiful place to visit, stroll around in, and relax at the many street cafes.  Bamberg town is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site for no reason.  The center of the city is said to have survived World War II relatively intact and as a result, retained its charming medieval character.  Seven hills are grouped around the center, each with its own interesting church.  There is also loads of public art and building art on display — some ancient and quite a lot that is more modern.  My guess is that I took more photos per capita in Bamberg than in any other city I visited on this particular trip.

More Beery, Beautiful Bamberg

Read a story about a visit to Weyermann Maltworks in Bamberg.

Read a story about a visit to Sandkerwa, one of Bamberg’s annual festivals.

Stories about countryside excursions for beer hiking in the Bamberg region:  13 Brewery HikeAnnafest in ForchheimBier Keller HikingBrauerienweg

Other stories from Bavaria

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Banned in Norway

How do you get banned in Norway?  Growing up in the late sixties and early seventies I became aware of the irreverent, surreal satire and absurd humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  The Britishness of their humor was an interesting contrast with the closest American absurdist ensemble – the National Lampoon Radio Hour, but it even came with grainy, crude imagery and psychedelic cartoonery.  The bits from these groups somehow had a profound effect on my sense of humor that continues to this day.  I guess my sense of humor wouldn’t be appreciated in Norway.

Jean Cocteau Cinema
Jean Cocteau Cinema

So when I saw a notice on Facebook for the 40th Anniversary Re-release of the Python movie masterpiece, Life of Brian I was pleasantly surprised to find it would be screened in nearby Santa Fe.  The venue would be the Jean Cocteau Cinema, a throw-back art film venue in the old town owned by author George R.R. Martin.  Martin is famous as the author of the books that the popular TV show Game of Thrones is based on.  The perfect venue for this kind of classic movie.

Arriving at the theater, we were given 40th Anniversary swag packs complete with a movie poster, an origami “boulder” (a piece of paper with folding instructions to crumple it into a paper ball for stoning purposes), cut-out fake beards to wear to stoning events, a sing-a-long sheet with the lyrics to “Just Look On the Bright Side of Life”, and other assorted LOB stuff.  We didn’t even have to haggle to get this trove.

The auditorium quickly filled to capacity and the lines at the concession and the bar were buzzing with anticipation.  The couple in front of me in line were talking about how they had not missed watching Life of Brian on Good Friday in more than twenty years — kind of like a Good Friday version of It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmastime.  I asked the twenty-something workers at the concession whether they had seen the movie or understand the buzz — one guy told me he didn’t know much about it but that he was intrigued and wanted to see it.

we dare you to say "Jehovah"
we dare you to say “Jehovah”

Settling in as the room darkened and the previews started playing I could see that the room was pretty full.  There were no kids but the demographic seemed surprisingly broad (I was expecting it to be just a bunch of old people).  A vintage preview for an upcoming showing of Reefer Madness produced big laughs and set the tone quite nicely I think.

“He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy.”

The familiar movie wound its way through the unlikely saga of Bryan and his longing to just be a normal guy.  The brilliantly conceived collection of absurd characters came and went to huge bursts of laughter and the clever satire of terrorist groups, authoritarian government, and unthinking followers of religion struck me as still quite relevant in the strange environment we find ourselves today.

“Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

It was fun to laugh as part of a crowd.  There was no need for restraint.  As the movie inevitably ended to the strains of “Just Look on the Bright Side of Life” people remained glued to their seats, some singing along.  There was a relaxed, warm mood apparent in the group that filed out and dispersed into the New Mexico night under the glow of a full moon.  I was thinking about the influence that this movie and moreover this group of comedians have had on comedy and other comedians to this day so I resolved to research see what I could find to include in this article.  I guess that being banned in Norway can’t be all bad.

pre-viewing beer selection - I guess they didn't have beer yet in the time of Brian
pre-viewing beer selection – I guess they didn’t have beer yet in the time of Brian

By the way, the beer was pretty good – it is a pale ale from brewed by Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

 

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A Hike, Walk, Breweries, & Beers in Lancaster County

A chilly winter day and I was out to find a hike, walk, breweries, and beers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  I’ve visited this area of southeastern Pennsylvania many times over many years.

Location of Lancaster County, PA
Location of Lancaster County, PA

There is a charm here from the rolling farmland landscapes, long history, and the quaint presence of Amish, Mennonite and other interesting cultural legacies.  There are interesting local foods like whoopie pies, scrapple, and shoofly pie to find along the way.  I also passed an historic marketplace, America’s oldest pretzel factory, and a chocolate factory along my way.

I have a routine I follow now days when traveling to any area that calls for searching out and mapping interesting hike possibilities then layering brewery locations on to the map to see what might coincide.

Traillink screenshot showing Lancaster area trails

One of my “go-to” places to look for hikes in U.S. localities is Traillink, the trails database of the Rails to Trail Conservancy (RTC).  The RTC, if you don’t know about it, focuses on fostering the development of a network of trails throughout the country that take advantage of defunct rail line right-of-ways and other connecting corridors.  The trails shown in Traillink generally avoid congested auto routes but go where trains used to go.  Where “trains used to go” is often a match to where breweries are today.  In the case of Lancaster County,  once I overlaid brewery locations a hike combining two of the trails popped out at me.  Add to that a beery walk in the center of Lancaster City and I had my walking orders.

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Warwick – Ephrata Rail Trails

The  Warwick-to-Ephrata Rail-Trail combines quite nicely with the Warwick Township Linear Park Trail to provide a pleasant, scenic hike with six breweries in good proximity to the route.  The old Moravian town of Lititz in the heart of Warwick Township anchors the western part of the hike and is home to three small brewery operations, America’s oldest pretzel factory, and a chocolate factory.  As I understand it, the Moravians here favored beer as a favorable alternative to harder drink.  The old cloister town of Ephrata on the east end also is home to three small brewery operations.  I was staying in Lititz, so I got a lift to Ephrata in order to hike from east to west.