Great Beers in the Great Outdoors
The Maiden Publick House, Big Sur, CA
After a day of hiking in the majestic Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or chugging along the narrow, winding Highway 1 that hugs the California coast, a fresh beer or two at the Maiden Publick House completes the sublime Big Sur experience. Six redwood tables make up the front patio of this somewhat secluded gem, where redwoods tower overhead and the Big Sur River flows behind. Options abound, with 16 rotating drafts, including West Coast selections like Manzanita Rustic Horizon Red Ale and Deschutes Mirror Mirror barley wine, and more than 200 imported and domestic bottles. Watch the sunset on Pfeiffer Beach (about a 15-minute drive) and head back for a few more pints and a night by the wood stove, maybe a game of dice with the locals or a live bluegrass serenade.
Kern River Brewing Co., Kernville, CA
In the Southern Sierra Nevada, just below Sequoia National Forest, an afternoon here on the shaded patio provides panoramas of lofty granite canyons and riparian trees along the rushing Kern River. Fed by snowmelt from Mount Whitney, the brewery uses untreated Kern River water in its beer. Award-winning Citra Double IPA brought the brewery acclaim, but flagship Just Outstanding IPA keeps locals happy. Fish and chips, burgers and sandwiches from the brewpub menu fuel white water adventure-seekers, mountain bikers, and nearby campers.
Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery, Placerville, CA
One of California’s most picturesque brewery stops is also one of its best-hidden. Gold Hill situates itself about an hour east of Sacramento, in historic El Dorado County. It’s also about a mile from the since-ghosted town of Coloma, where the Gold Rush was sparked at Sutter’s Mill. The brewery seems miles away from most things, with a patio overlooking verdant hillsides of vines and the American River’s canyon.
Gold Hill’s winemaking operations began back in the 1980s, with brewing facilities added on in 2000 to better serve its wedding-hosting business. The beer names tend to reflect their places of origin: 49er Red Ale, Old Miner’s Scotch and Hank’s Porter—the last named after the winery’s founder. The Axe Pic’n Stout, in particular, stood out, with lush notes of leather, dark fruits and chocolate. Gold Hill general manager Bryna Dacus recommended a pour of Gold Trail pale ale and the half-mile jaunt to the lower pond.
The views shift with the harvest, with early April through October offering the best visuals. Children, pets, and picnic lunches are welcome, while Smith Flat House near downtown Placerville is popular for dinner, and one of the few spots to get Gold Hill’s beer.
Faction Brewing Co., Alameda, CA
From an airplane hangar on a former Naval air station, Faction offers distant views of the San Francisco skyline, the Bay Bridge and cranes in the Port of Oakland. On fogless evenings, it’s a spectacular place to watch the sunset and enjoy one of the brewery’s rotating seasonal India pale ales.
Faction opened in late 2013, but brewer Rodger Davis counts on years of experience at Drake’s Brewing Co. and Triple Rock Brewery. Hop-forward beers are a specialty and a barrel-aging program is underway (thanks to a steady supply of barrels from next-door neighbor St. George Spirits). If there’s no food truck outside the tasting room, take a short walk to nearby Rock Wall Wine Co. and order a burger and fries from Scolaris.
Make it a day trip from San Francisco and tour the USS Hornet, a World War II-era aircraft carrier.
Grand Teton Brewing Co., Victor, ID
The brewery’s expansive lawn lies before the jaw-dropping peaks of Grand Teton National Park like a wide, green welcome mat. The result of a series of seismic uplifts along the Teton Fault, the mountains thrust themselves from the valley floor with no foothills, like a massive, cosmic rock garden—one that happens to house a pristine alpine ecosystem, complete with spruce trees, wolves, grizzly bears and bighorn sheep.
Summer’s bright, clear days are Arctic in length, perfect for a game of cornhole and a pint of Ale 208. Named after Idaho’s area code, the ale is brewed with Idaho-grown grain and hops, using glacial run-off from a spring a half-mile from the brewery. Bravo and Galena hops lend a citrus scent and a mild bite to a mellow session beer, leaving plenty of time to check out nearby Jenny Lake Lodge on the shores of a stunning, mirror-clear body of water.
Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR
With a view of the sand dunes, Haystack Rock (actually the remnant of a volcano) and, of course, the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, Pelican Pub and Brewery offers what could be one of the prettiest backdrops for drinking award-winning beers in the world. From its perch atop sandy dunes, the outdoor patio in summertime brings great people watching, from families with kids to surfers to people of all ages playing Frisbee, frolicking with their dogs or just hanging out of the beach. But winter offers a completely different perspective. Grab a Tsunami Stout or Imperial Pelican Ale and cozy up in the pub beside one of the big picture windows to catch storms rolling in. The seemingly endless mists catch the wintry light, making everything look like a Monet painting. If you’re lucky, during any season, you might see a few members of the Dory Fleet launching their double-ended row boats directly into the ocean — something denizens of the area have been doing for more than 100 years.
Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, OR
Brewmaster Larry Sidor gave us gorgeous beers like Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss before helping deliver one of Bend’s most picturesque brewpubs. Inside, it’s all wood (both reclaimed and casks) and gleaming copper and stainless steel, but arrive in time for Sundowner, a twist on Happy Hour, to settle into the beer garden for an unimpeded view of the sun setting on Mount Bachelor lording over this majestic high desert playground. Among the 20 taps there’s Imperial Mosaic IPA (redolent of guavas) and Banished Doublecross, a strong dark Belgian ale aged in Oregon pinot barrels. Too bad biting into the rustic, gooey Grilled Cheesy makes you close your eyes in delight.
Thunder Island Brewing, Cascade Locks, OR
Following Interstate 84 east of Portland brings visitors to the Columbia River Gorge, a fairytale wonderland of misty waterfalls, rocky cliffs and gigantic Douglas firs, cleft in two by the mighty Columbia River. The vista is punctuated by the Bridge of the Gods, with one end in the town of Cascade Locks, where you can take in the view from the picnic tables at Thunder Island Brewing.
Thunder Island’s sweet, smoky scotch porter—whose chocolate and caramel flavors are balanced out by the scotch’s hot alcoholic finish—is the perfect way to end a crisp fall day on one of the gorge’s trails. On weekends, the food truck Pirates Fish and Chips serve hearty plates of battered halibut cod and jerk chicken sliders to crowds of hungry hikers. And a few minutes down the river, Hood River is home to Oregon brewing mainstays like Full Sail, Double Mountain and Pfriem.
Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop, WA
Four hours northeast of Seattle, on the sunnier and drier side of the North Cascades, the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in this western-designed town is known for its delicious beers and beautiful setting. The brewery has a beer garden that features a deck and a large patio right on the shore of the rippling Chewuch River. Here, under a canopy of shade trees, you will often find people eating, drinking, listening to live music and relaxing after exploring the million-plus acres of surrounding wilderness and forest lands of the Methow Valley.
Named the Small Brewery of the Year at the 2013 Washington Beer Awards, Old Schoolhouse produces a wide variety of award-winning beers on its seven-barrel system. Among the nine to 12 beers typically on tap, be sure to try Ruud Awakening IPA, which offers a wafting bouquet of dry-hop aromas, a rich malt backbone and resinous hop flavors of pine and citrus. Or try the smooth and robustly roasted Hooligan Stout, which offers notes of chocolate and sweetened coffee. Pair your beer with beer-battered fish and chips, an IPA-braised pork sandwich or other beer-infused made-from-scratch pub fare from the locally sourced menu.
It’s best to visit from May through November, when the scenic North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) is open; otherwise you will need to take I-90.
The Ale House at Amato’s, Denver
Three years ago, a two-story concrete block structure in Denver’s lively Lower Highlands neighborhood was transformed into a handsome modern taphouse and restaurant. Breckenridge Brewery and Wynkoop Brewing Co. were partners in the new venture. The building had been the home of Amato’s of Denver, a statuary business founded by Italian immigrant Carlo Amato in 1922. Paying homage to its former tenant, the new owners bestowed the gathering spot with the fitting moniker The Ale House at Amato’s.
It sits northwest of downtown at the western terminus of the Highland Bridge. This pedestrian bridge spans Interstate 25 and connects the Highlands neighborhood with downtown Denver. With stellar views of the skyline, Amato’s spacious sun-splashed rooftop patio has become a favorite haunt for Denver’s outdoor-loving beer enthusiasts.
The Ale House keeps patrons well-nourished with above-average pub food and a 42-tap collection of mostly Colorado-brewed beers. Breckenridge and Wynkoop are well represented. Other Colorado breweries often featured at the Ale House include Avery, Dry Dock, Left Hand, Great Divide, Odell, Oskar Blues and Ska.
Coors Field, Denver
Most Major League Baseball stadiums offer impressive beer lists, but Coors Field puts ballpark beer on a lofty perch. At street level, the park is home to the GABF-winning brewery The SandLot. New for this season is The Rooftop, a 38,000-square-foot patio in the right-field upper deck where Rockies fans enjoy views of the field, the Denver skyline and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. More than 20 Colorado beers are available on draft, and tickets start at $14.
More in the West
Fathom Bistro, Bait and Tackle, San Diego, CA; Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido, CA; Half Moon Bay Brewing, Half Moon Bay, CA; Island Brewing Co., Carpinteria, CA; Venice Ale House, Venice, CA; Perch, Los Angeles; Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Boonville, CA; Linger, Denver; Cannonball Creek Brewing, Golden CO; Bozeman Brewing, Bozeman, MT; Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, OR; Solera Brewery, Parkdale, OR; Terminal Gravity Brewery and Pub, Enterprise, OR; Mutiny Brewing, OR; Snake River Brewing Co., Jackson Hole, WY; Dornan’s, Moose, WY
This story appears in the July issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial.