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.

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.


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.


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


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.



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.

Breweries Along the Way

The brewery scene in this area struck me as kind of early-stage.  It was tough to pick a day/time to find all of the places open – hours of operation seemed limited.  Several of the places were fairly new and were side businesses for the proprietors.  I got the sense that regulations governing breweries in Pennsylvania have held up development of breweries here compared to in other jurisdictions and that the regulatory environment here is still evolving.  St. Boniface and Appalachian (a multi-location brewery in the region) were more established operations while Fetish and Pour Man’s are small but friendly operations that were hard to catch when open.  Black Forest is a unique bed & breakfast with brewery combination that I imagine could be a good place to base out of if I weren’t staying with relatives.  JoBoy’s is a brew pub located in a historic building called Rudy’s Hall that has long served as a community meeting place.  We happened to be there on the anniversary of the end of prohibition so it was a natural to stop into their basement Speakeasy – a sign invites customers to “knock loud 3 times wait for the door to be opened.”   There is a small hatch on the entrance door as you would expect.  There is even a password.

Lancaster Beer Walk

Lancaster is a fairly sizable urban area with an historic core, so a downtown tap room/brewery walk was a natural.  Three breweries and the tap room of  a fourth are found along the way.  A stop at the historic Lancaster Central Market was my starting point.  This is a cool, old school market with a great variety of local baked goods, canned goods, meats, produce, and crafts.  Just a few steps away is a taproom.  Spring House Brewing has both a taproom and their brewery along the way.  Wacker Brewing is named after an historic Lancaster brewer – there were several breweries in Lancaster from the mid 19th century into the mid 20th.  Columbia Kettle Works, located in nearby Columbia operates a taproom near the center.   I ended the walk and caught my Uber at Lancaster Brewing is the oldest of the “new wave” of breweries here.   



The Nation’s Brewery Museum

Potosi location
location of Potosi, WI in U.S.A.

Did you know that the nation’s brewery museum is housed in an historic brewery building in a remote, rural community in southwestern Wisconsin?  Ever hear of an organization called the American Breweriana Association?  I hadn’t before stopping at Potosi on a long drive from New Mexico to Milwaukee.  In fact, I had never come across the word “breweriana” so I had to look it up.  Breweriana  refers to items or artifacts containing a brewery name or brand name, usually in connection with being a collector. Examples include beer cans, beer bottles, glassware, steins, bottle openers, beer labels, signs, coasters, beer trays, tap handles, wooden cases,  advertising, and promotional materials.   The American Breweriana Association is a non-profit with nearly 3000 members.  If you are a collector or lover of “beer stuff”, you should check it out.

The museum consists of several floors with multiple rooms/galleries on each floor.  Although there are exhibits about brewing and breweries, this museum seemed to me to be more about collectibles.  Rooms and galleries are filled with impressive collections of breweriana which I take to having been donated by association members.  The facility also incorporates a well-stocked gift shop, a research library, and a well-appointed taproom serving a range of Potosi beers from the current Potosi Brewery which is nearby.  On weekends, visits to the museum can be combined with a brewery tour.

The original Potosi brewery operated from 1852 to 1972.  The brewery was revived in 2008 under the auspices of a non-profit called the Potosi Foundation.  This is a really interesting organizational structure for a small town brewery.  The Foundation’s mission is to “spur economic opportunity in and around Potosi, brew only the finest craft beer and to channel all profits into supporting historical and educational initiatives and other charitable causes.”  The Foundation partners with the America Breweriana Association in operating the nation’s Brewery Museum as well as operating a second museum —  the Potosi Brewing Company Transportation Museum.

Potosi is a waystop along a cultural heritage route called the Great River Road Scenic Byway along which there is a network of 70 museums and attractions in a 3000 mile stretch passing through ten states.  These sites collectively interpret the history of the Mississippi River.  All said, a stop at Potosi was an interesting and fun break during a long drive.

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National Brewery Museum


Two Bavarian Mountain Towns

Beer at Mountain AlmTwo Bavarian mountain towns to the south of Munich provide great bases for hiking in the Bavarian Alps — kind of the front range of the Alps on their northern flank.  Both towns are near the Austrian border and are way-stops on train routes into Austria.   Road signs proclaim this region as “Zugspitzland” after the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany at 2,962 m (9,718 feet) above sea level in the part of the Bavarian Alps called the Wetterstein Mountains.  The Zugspitze towers above the adjacent towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen just to their south.

location of Garmisch and Mittenwald in Bavaria & Germany
location of Garmisch and Mittenwald in Bavaria & Germany – image by TP Galvin

The border with Austria runs across the peak.  Mittenwald is in a valley on the eastern flank of the Wetterstein.  Trains run frequently to Garmisch from the center of Munich and the trip takes about an hour and a half.  The train route splits at Garmisch (or GP as locals often refer to it) with one branch going east around the Wetterstein to Mittenwald (and then in the direction of Innsbruck) and the other proceeding southwest to Reutte in the Austrian Tirol before curling back into Germany.

These are beautiful small towns that offer skiing and other sports in winter, and a wealth of hiking options through summer and fall.  Various mountain lifts operate year–round in both places and can be a pretty handy accessory for hikers.  There are numerous small pubs and guesthouses sprinkled along mountain hiking routes that provide way-stops for food, beer, and other refreshments.  Most of the beer in the area comes from the big Munich breweries, but I did manage to hunt down a local brewery option or two.

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Mountain Hike in Garmisch

Hike Route - click for interactive route map
Hike Route – click for interactive route map

My accommodations were at a family guesthouse in central Garmisch so my hike began and ended there.  A footpath from the center follows the glacier fed stream called the Partnach from the open valley floor up a narrow valley past the 1936 Winter Olympic Stadium  and ski jumps.  The valley narrows into a gorge called the Partnachklamm where a cable car known as the Graseckbahn provides the option to lift you quickly above the gorge to a mountain guesthouse called Das Graseck.  There are multiple routes that can be taken from that point, but I chose one that wound its way up to Hintergraseck before circling back down to walk through the Partnachklamm from top to bottom.   The narrows of the gorge is over a half mile in length and a pathway is carved through the stone wall along stream level.  The cliffs tower more than 260 feet (80 meters) above stream level.  A small fee is charged to walk through this section of the route.

Beers and Breweries in Garmisch and Mittenwald

Both Garmisch and Mittenwald have local breweries, but the Brauerei Mittenwald is a larger operation with multiple pubs while the Brauhaus Garmisch is a start-up with no public-facing presence – I found their beer at the grocery store.  Mittenwalder is an attractive operation brewing a broad range of traditional beer varieties.  I enjoyed an excellent dunkel and an excellent marzen.  The food is great and the pubs are attractive.  Although located at multiple sites, all are easily walkable from the train station.  Brauhaus Garmisch is a very different but interesting story.  It is a project attempting to revive a hundreds of year old brewing tradition in Garmisch that died out in the 1970″s.  At the time of my visit their sole offering, a helles, was contract brewed by Herrnbräu in Ingolstadt.  Plans are underway to re-establish brewing in Garmisch. The former, historic brewery is now home to Bräustüberl Garmisch, an attractive, traditional pub and restaurant that is not connected to the revival as far as I could determine.

Two Mountain Towns in Bavaria

These are two attractive small towns both situated in spectacular mountain settings.  If I had the time, I would have liked to have spent many more days exploring a variety of other hiking routes.  I’ve been fortunate to visit and hike this area many times over the years, and it has never failed to disappoint.  Readers of this article who are U.S. Army or Air Force veterans will be somewhat familiar with Garmisch as there has been an “R&R” (rest and relaxation) resort presence there for many decades.

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


Beers and Hikes in Sonoma County

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sonomalocation2.pngA trip to California to spend time with friends provided the opportunity to partake in some beers and hikes in Sonoma County. Justifiably, most people’s first thought when hearing “Sonoma” is wine country, but like everywhere these days there are more breweries than can possibly be explored during a short visit. Our friends have a place on the coast at Sea Ranch, a highly planned but unincorporated enclave about 100 mi (160 km) north of San Francisco and 120 mi (190 km) west of Sacramento. An unintended consequence of the Sea Ranch development was creation of a public, coastal trail and a network of connectors to access it. Together with private trails in the Redwood forest above the coastline, this location makes for some nice, weekend hiking.

In deciding which breweries to visit, it is clear that the major concentration is along a drive north from San Francisco to the Santa Rosa area. Lagunitas, located at Petaluma, is a former small brewery that succeeded to the extent that it expanded, has gained a national presence, and was acquired in 2015 by Heineken. Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa and Windsor is another nationally known brewery owing to its highly praised Pliny IPA’s. I tend to be more interested in the smaller guys, so I decided to visit the new Russian River facility in Windsor. When I checked out the websites of the dozen or so other small breweries in the Santa Rosa area, Moonlight Brewing Company jumped out at me as the most interesting beer range for my tastes. Finally, a brewpub called Stumptown Brewery would be along the way as we drove down the Russian River to the coast so appealed as a stop. As far as I could tell, there were no breweries out along the coast.

Beers and Brewery Visits in Sonoma County

Pliny the YoungerOver the years, I have certainly seen Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger being hyped on social media and in print, but I never really tuned in much because IPA’s aren’t really my favorite beer style. Their proponents often seemed somewhat fanatical and the implication always seemed to be that these are rare, hard-to-find brews. I was intrigued to be passing by, and I had no idea that our visit would coincide with their biggest time of the year.

It turns out that in early February each year RRBC serves up its Pliny the Younger Triple IPA for just two weeks and pretty much only at its own Santa Rosa and Windsor tap rooms. We arrived a day after the advertised two week period ended and found that they were still serving the Younger until it ran out. During the advertised run, I was told that Pliny cultists travel here from all over the world and line up around the block to drink this rare beer. By dumb luck, arriving the day after meant that we did not need to stand in any line (although one was beginning to form by the time we left). A second very famous RRBC beer is their Pliny the Elder Double IPA which they brew and serve year-round.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0726.jpgUpon arrival, I ordered up one each of the Elder and the Younger so I could try them side-by-side.  Customers are given a rationing bracelet so the servers can limit you to three Youngers and my server took a tab off of it.  I have to say that I found both of the beers to be exceptional – flavorful, crisp, and impressively balanced.  I had anticipated that they might seem strongly hopped (I quite often consider IPA’s to be over the top in their hoppiness) but was pleasantly surprised by their balanced character.  There was a distinct difference between the two, but I found them both to be very nice in their own way.  Would I travel and stand in line for the Younger?  Not me, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone who wanted to do so.  Would I visit RRBC again if I was in the area for an Elder?  No doubt.

The Windsor facility is a beautiful one that was opened just last year.  RRBC offers both a free, self-guided tour and an hourly $15 guided tour.  Both tours use upstairs observation decks, but the guided tour gets into more areas and comes with beer and souvenir glass.  The production system is a 75 barrel system and they can put through four batches per day.  They were Moonlightusing whole hop umbels in their brewing the day I was there.  Next to there big array of closed fermenters were a couple of rooms each containing two massive open fermenters.  The side-by-side fermenters in one of the rooms were processing their STS Pilsener in one and their Intinction Wild American Ale in the other.  There was a good bit of talk by the guide about all of the yeast that was likely in the air and about their brewers’ love of that condition.  A part of the facility is dedicated to barrel aged beers and a “beer chapel” of sorts high up in the eaves houses an open air cooling ship used for their Lambic-inspired Beatification – a spontaneously fermented beer (meaning yeast is not added – it only gets whatever yeast happens to be in the air).

By contrast, Moonlight Brewing is a small operation with a taproom packed into several bays of an industrial park.  They caught my eye because they were the only place in the area I recollect was brewing a range of interesting sounding lagers.  Their Death & Taxes was a nice, smooth dark lager.  Stumptown is an even smaller roadhouse operation with a huge deck out back along the river.  It had more of the feel of being a bar rather than a brewery.

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