“Brew Hiking” A Guide to the Beers of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs 2,176 miles between Mount Katadin in central Maine and Springer Mountain, GA. In 2003, Dave Walker covered the trail in one season, an accomplishment realized by only one in five of the thousands who set out.
Walker braced himself for snakes, ticks, and angry bears, but his greatest fear was “taking roughly 5 million steps and not finding a good beer.” But between breweries, bars and the occasional “trail angel,” here’s where he slaked his thirst.
Mile 0—The Blue Ox Saloon, Millinocket, ME, 30 miles from the northern terminus of the AT, From the fine selection on tap, I choose what I imagine to be my last beer for a while.
Mile 117.8— Monson General and Hardware Store, Monson, ME. After the 100 Mile Wilderness and 10 days of mosquitoes, black flies and mountain trails without switchbacks—owners Tim and Julie Anderson provide this thirsty hiker a variety of foreign, domestic and local microbrews. Guinness at a hardware store is a great find.
Mile 151.2— Kennebec River Brewery, Caratunk, ME. In Caratunk, the Northern Outdoors offers white water rafting in the summer, snowmobiling in the winter and the biggest hot tub I’ve ever seen. At the brewery, try Magic Hole IPA, or Big Mama Blueberry Ale.
Mile 187.8—The White Wolf Inn, Stratton, ME, 10 miles from Sugarloaf Ski Resort, pours your standard selections, with one difference: they offer your choice of brew served in “the Horn,” a 10-ounce Black Powder horn.
Mile 372.7— Franconia Notch Brewery, Bethlehem, NH. In 2002, this was the beer of choice for a dedicated group of hikers and beer drinkers. Once a year, the “Croo” that maintains the hiking huts in the White Mountains holds a get together at the Madison Spring hut. That year, four kegs of Franconia’s best were packed 2.3 miles (almost straight up) to the hut. This is 170 pounds of beer we’re talking about.
Mile 488— McGrath’s Irish Pub, Shelburne, VT. The Guinness flows like water, but for the hungry hiker the Guinness beef stew fulfills the desires for food and beer. The Long Trail Brewing Co., Bridgewater, VT is near by. Stock up on some of the fine of ales that have been brewed here since 1989.
Mile 930.9—Mugshots, Palmerton, PA. The Delaware Water Gap, where I saw five bears in one day (Come on…New Jersey bears?) leads into Pennsylvania and one of the beer friendliest sections of the AT. At Mugshots, Dave, the owner, set a new standard for hiker hospitality at this half biker/half college bar.
Mile 970.4—Schuylkill River, PA. For fans of Yuengling: I bathed in the river that is the source of the brewery’s water. Downstream, not upstream.
Mile 1041—Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA. Built as one of the Anheuser-Busch hotels a century ago, the Doyle offers not-so-great rooms (new management are making improvements), but a great bar downstairs.
Mile 1066.7—Local Italian restaurant, Boiling Springs, PA. Former hikers asked me to come to Monday Fun Day. “We drink beer, watch Monday Night Football, and play foosball.” Of course I went.
Mile 1147.3—Old South Mountain Inn, Boonsboro, MD. It’s the only place 10 feet off the trail that serves horseradish-encrusted fresh Atlantic salmon. This fine dining establishment served us despite our aroma.
Miles 1182.0 to 1713.7—The Virginia Blues: 530 painful miles from West Virginia to the Tennessee border where good beer becomes harder to find. You’ve never met desperation until you’ve left town with two 24-ounce cans of Steel Reserve. But stop in Damascus, VA, where the AT runs straight down Main Street. The annual Thru-Hiker Parade organizes in front of Dot’s Inn: the tap selection is standard bar fare, but the atmosphere and the country cooking are excellent.
Mile 1900—Paddler’s Pub, Hot Springs, NC. Up the road from one of the few hot springs on the East coast, the beer was cold and the steaks were huge. Asheville, NC, is a short hitch away. I won’t mention any of the places here because if you can’t find a good beer in Asheville, you have no business being alone in the woods.
Mile 2176—My friends and I summitted Mt. Springer on December 15. It was my 200th day on the trail. We celebrated an amazing accomplishment. The best beer, be it Boddingtons or Bud Light, tastes all the better when you’ve hiked miles upon miles to get it.
Dave Walker works at Duke University and can be found at almost any pub adjacent to the Appalachian Trail.