The Views and Brews Challenge is an ideal activity for the goal-oriented beer hiker. Complete a certain number of hikes coupled with brewpub visits within a participating U.S. State and qualify to receive an embroidered patch as well as get your name enshrined on the Views & Brews website as a “finisher” of the challenge in the state.
Recently, a member of the Lovers of Beer, Hiking, and Travel Facebook Group asked for ideas for her upcoming travels to Alaska. Never having been to Alaska, but curious as always I did a quick Google and turned up the Alaska page of the Views & Brews Challenge. It has good-looking info about hikes and breweries so I passed the link along in the FB group.
Views & Brews was a new one for me. I always enjoy connecting with kindred spirits who have a hobby that involves beer hiking (read about how different people define beer hiking here) so I reached out to Tom Rankin, the creator of the Challenge and the website. My home state of New Mexico was not yet represented in the Challenge and I figured it would be easy for me to rectify that. Tom was receptive and easy to work with and within a few days, the New Mexico Views & Brews Challenge was available to visitors to his website. The challenge is presented as a Google map indicating the locations of breweries and brewery taprooms together with the locations of suggested hikes that are nearby. Completing 30 beer hikes as defined in the rules qualifies a person as a “finisher”. Finishers can apply online to Views & Brews to have their name enshrined on the website and to receive a Views & Brews patch they can affix to clothing or hiking gear.
Speaking with Tom and his wife Laurie Rankin, their passion for hitting the trail and enjoying quality brew was unmistakable. Tom and Laurie live in the Catskills area of upper-state New York. Well before Views & Brews, Tom had been participating in a number of hiking clubs in New England that offer a variety of challenge goals. An example is the Catskill 3500 Club, a natural resource stewardship group that offers an ongoing challenge to hike all 33 of the Catskill peaks that exceed 3500 feet in altitude. Tom describes sitting in a brewpub enjoying a craft beer in 2004 having just completed the hike to his 33rd Catskill peak and the conversation produced the idea that there should be a similar challenge and patch connected to hikes that ended in a brewpub. Inspiration strikes!
Fast forward and there are now twenty states and two Canadian provinces with challenges on the Views & Brews website. New Hampshire is the state that has had the most finishers so far, and Tom says he averages getting an application from one finisher per month. There is a concentration in northeastern states due to the Rankins living in that area but it has been branching out. Contacts from knowledgeable people who want to populate the information for a challenge in their state are welcomed. “We are open to hearing from people in other places. Putting together information relies on local knowledge and expertise.”
When traveling, Tom and Laurie say they will organize their activities around hikes and brewpubs, even if there isn’t a challenge in the place where they are going. “Local hikes and brewpubs open doorways to discoveries about what is distinctive and unique in any given locale. We also find that we can return to a hike or a brewpub and there is a newness each time. Whether it is a change of season and how that affects the hike or a change in the menu, there are fresh eyes and tastebuds each time.” The Views & Brews site does not try to impose any judgment about the quality of a hike or a venue. There is no judgment made on what is “good” recognizing that there are different strokes for different folks. “The owner of a favorite brewpub has a policy that if you order a beer and don’t like it, he’ll not only provide you with another choice, but he’ll drink the one you didn’t care for. One time he was really eager for us to try his new porter. He did, but we didn’t really like it. True to his policy, he poured us a couple of replacement IPA’s and downed the porter – we could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t his favorite either.”
“For some reason, a common reaction we get from people is that we ought to do a Views and __________. You can fill in the blank. Our standard come-back has become, ‘no … you ought to …’ There was actually someone who took that to heart and did something called ‘scoops & loops’ that is about bicycling and ice cream. It also isn’t uncommon to hear from people who say they love the idea but then we never hear from them again. Maybe they like the activity but it’s not in their nature to keep track.”
Tom figures he has completed more than 300 hike and brewpub combinations that qualify for one of the state challenges or another and Laurie has been there for quite a few of them. There are a few rules they apply across state lines for the brewpubs and hikes that qualify to be part of the challenges. A brewpub is defined as a brewery venue that has its own kitchen service. A hike must be a hike or a walk that is longer than a mile. The brewpub visit-hike combination must be completed within a 48 hour period. For any given state, completing the challenge requires visiting at least 3/4 of its brewpubs with a maximum of 30 required. As the Challenge-meister, Tom says he tries to be reasonably flexible and allow people who have volunteered to put together state information to exercise local knowledge and judgment in what is appropriate in their locale. For instance, in the COVID environment, he has ruled that take-out visits to brewpubs are fully acceptable.
The “great rule of Views and Brews” according to Tom isn’t about delineating the challenge though — it is to call ahead to be sure a place is open and serving when you want to be there.