It’s not just New Belgium’s Fat Tire. There’s Ska’s Wheel Sucker, Hopwork’s Bike IPA, Chama River’s Broken Spoke, and, of course, Boulder’s Singletrack. People passionate about biking and those who are fanatical about craft beer share a huge overlap. Naturally, the mountainous areas of this country that have become renowned for their biking are breeding grounds for beer cultures to support the riders and the brewers who, not surprisingly, are often included in that first group.
We’d love to see more breweries catering to cyclists across the country but for now, the Mountain West seems to predominate in beer/biking Meccas. Many such towns have recently been covered in this column: Durango and Telluride, CO; Jackson, WY; Park City, UT; Lake Tahoe, CA. But the road doesn’t end there. So strap on your brain bucket and bunny hop over to these spots where the trails are single-tracks and the ales are twice as nice.
Not just Portland, but all of Oregon is considered Beervana. The things Oregonians do, they do well, and flooding a city with amazing breweries is no exception. Portland may get the credit for having the most breweries, but Bend has more per capita than any city, boasting nine, among some 80,000 residents. But that will reach an even dozen in the coming months.
Nestled between the Cascade Mountains and eastern Oregon’s high desert, outdoorsy types flock to Bend for rock climbing, river rafting, hiking, skiing and fishing. And, thanks to the trademarked Bend Ale Trail, brewery hopping has become its own sport. Jon Abernathy, who has been blogging at TheBrewSite.com since 2004, serves as our guide.
Abernathy deftly begins with Deschutes (www.DeschutesBrewery.com, 1044 NW Bond St.), Deschutes County’s biggest, oldest and best-known brewery, deserving of its reputation. The recently-expanded pub is in the brewery’s original home, with the production facility (901 SW Simpson Ave.) now based across the Deschutes River , with free daily tours including a tasting room. The food menu is semi-standard pub grub (vegetarians need not be scared, there’s a Black Butte porter-grilled portabello “burger”) and the liquid menu climbs over the top with 22 taps including several exclusives brewed on site. At last glance, there was a white IPA called Chainbreaker. Of course, odds are good that on tap you’ll find their Black Butte XXIII imperial porter (with chilies, cocoa nibs and orange peel) celebrating 23 years in brewing, or a vintage of their infamous The Abyss.
A block east is Silver Moon (www.SilverMoonBrewing.com, 24 NW Greenwood Ave.), which garnered a pair of medals at the last Great American Beer Fest including gold for Dark Side Stout, so you know their lineup is solid. Abernathy said of the pub’s funky, slightly grungy space on the edge of downtown that, “I like to think of it as authentic Bend: slightly eclectic, possibly a little run-down, unpolished and completely comfortable.” In addition to being served award winning beers and upscale pub fare, the pub offers some of Bend’s best independent live music.
A two-minute walk west of Deschutes Brewing is Bend Brewing Co. (www.BendBrewingCo.com, 1019 NW Brooks St.), where Abernathy said, “Tonya Cornett has been brewing some amazing beers as well as improving the house lineup.” Situated on the river, making the back patio the place to be in the summers, it’s great year-round. “I really love the ski lodge/après-ski atmosphere and decor that the brewpub is decked out in. It’s a locals’ favorite,” Cornett said.
Shaking things up in town is 10 Barrel Brewing (www.10Barrel.com, 1135 NW Galveston Ave.), which is just under a mile from Bend Brewing on the west side of the river, an easy walk or ride for Tonya since she has started splitting her time by brewing there, too. Abernathy said that the pub is already so popular that there can be a line to get in. Though the brewery is expanding from its existing system to a 50-barrel system, there is no word on whether that will affect their name. From pub-only one-offs such as a PB&J beer to the paint-strippingly sour One in the Sun, Abernathy said10 Barrel is definitely having fun with their brews.
Over at Boneyard (www.BoneyardBeer.com, 37 NW Lake Pl, Ste B) in the industrial part of town, stop at this new production brewery’s tasting room thatAbernathy said is fast becoming a local favorite thanks in part to interesting beers that aren’t afraid of the dark. After sampling them, fill your growler with either Black 13 (a roasty shwarzbier), Shug Knite (14% imperial stout), or Armored Fist, an extra hoppy imperial Cascadian dark ale (as black IPAs are known in these parts). While only one year old, the Boneyard almost qualifies for middle-age in Bend.
Expanding the Bend Ale Trail, the newly-opened Good Life (www.GoodLifeBrewing.com, 1355 SW Commerce Ave.) has only a few beers under their belt, but impresses with a massive indoor bierhall and outdoor biergarten in which to enjoy them. While most of the menu is German-style, don’t overlook the hop-infused hummus or the bourbon-baked brie. Going in the opposite direction, Dean and Bridget Wise have launched Below Grade Brewing, which is below ground level in their basement. Soon, Below Grade won’t be the only one-barrel nanobrewery in Bend, as brewer Al Toepfer is building out Rat Hole Brewing, though the name doesn’t befit the attractive rural setting.
Finally, two breweries are on the verge of opening, both from top-ranking Deshutes alumni. Former brewmaster Larry Sidor will be unveiling his as-yet-unnamed project this summer’ and former assistant brewmaster Paul Arney is getting The Ale Apothecary off the ground from his abode near Tumalo Falls. He vowed that his flagship Sahalie Ale will never be the same beer twice. To check out his operation, schedule an appointment in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there’s only so many breweries you can visit, there are several great beer bars in town where you can let the Ale Trail come to you. Perhaps the most convenient, all-in-one is the Brew Shop–both a homebrew supply store and bottle shop with more than 500 chillers–that recently added The Platypus Pub (1203 NE 3rd St.). This new location began as a church, so it’s no wonder the selection is divine. Abernathy calls the new restaurant, “a welcoming, fairly family-friendly pub with 15 taps and a couple of dartboards. “They also plan to brew their own pub-only beers at some point.”
Perhaps more popular with the mountain bike crowd because it’s on the Westside and just that much closer to the trails is Brother Jon’s Public House (www.BrotherJonsPublicHouse.com, 1227 NW Galveston Ave.). Directly across the street from 10 Barrel’s pub, Brother Jon’s slings tasty morsels from morning until night, so it’s a great place to fuel up before starting your climb up Mount Bachelor. The fact that they tap rare beers found nowhere else in town doesn’t hurt.
When exhausted from tackling the riding and beer trails, crash out in historic comfort. Across Oregon, the McMenamin brothers made a habit out of renovating and converting historic buildings into ornate brewpubs. Sometimes that entails adding lodging, as is the case with the Old St. Francis School (www.mcmenamins.com/421-old-st-francis-school-home, 700 NW Bond St.) in the heart of downtown. Established as a Catholic school in 1936, it now houses a rustic lodge replete with its own brewpub, bakery, and movie theater. Rooms start around $150.
Grand Junction/Fruita, CO
A major part of the thrill of mountain biking is getting away from “it all” and getting back to nature. It’s part of the allure that attracts mountain bikers to the Kokopelli Trail that carries riders 142 miles from Loma, CO, to Moab, UT (over the course of several days, mind you). But the Moab Brewery (www.TheMoabBrewery.com, 686 S. Main St.)is that town’s only brewery, so when your tires tire you out, park yourself in Grand Junction. It’s less than 20 miles from Loma, only 12 from Fruita along the way.
After silver and oil busts, the next wave for the local Fruita-Grand Junction economy wasn’t based on something found in the ground but the ground itself. A man named Troy Rarick scoped out the terrain and knew it was perfect for developing a mountain biking haven. He built a ton of trails and a bike shop called Over the Edge (www.OTEsports.com, 202 E. Aspen Ave.). The area attracts some 100,000 riders annually, and they all want beer at the end of the day. One of the people who can help with both is Over the Edge’s Max Snazzy, aka Pablo Snazzy. The best way to ask him in person is at the shop almost any given Friday around quitting time, 5 to 6, where people commonly show up with a sixer to socialize and maybe show off some new scabs.
The first brewpub he recommended was Kannah Creek (www.KannahCreekBrewingCo.com, 1960 N. 12 St, Grand Junction). In addition to their mainstays, there’s always a good selection of seasonals and cask ales, but Snazzy, being a dark beer fan, gravitates to the Black Ridge Stout on nitro or Pigasus, a particularly roasty porter. He said people come not just for the good food but the great patio as well, open from April to November because of a relatively mild winter. He said the local archaeologists keep the place rocking. If you’re traveling with your whole family, there’s the Dinosaur Journey at the Museum of Western Colorado (www.MuseumOfWesternCo.com, 550 Jurassic Ct, Fruita).
A few blocks from Kannah Creek is the Breckenridge Brewery’s Ale House (www.BreckBrew.com, 2531 N. 12th St., Grand Junction), one of the four locations of the Breckinridge, CO-based company. Snazzy said that it attracts mostly students from Colorado Mesa University, but who wouldn’t want to kick back in a brewpub with a verdant outdoor area? While hopheads gravitate to their Lucky U IPA, Snazzy opts for the Oatmeal Stout to go with the fish’n’chips (beer battered of course).
A 15-minute drive east in Palisade is Palisade Brewing (www.PalisadeBrewingCompany.com, 200 Peach Ave.), housed in a brewery that has changed hands more than once. But you have to love a brewery with a flagship called Dirty Hippie that’s fittingly a Dunkelweizen, not unlike the color of old bathwater.
Right next to the brewery is Peach Street Distilling from the guys who gave us Ska Brewing down in Durango. In addition to making Colorado Straight Bourbon, they make brandies because Palisade is a grape-growing region with several wineries. And for fans of honey wine, there’s the Meadery of the Rockies (www.MeaderyOfTheRockies.com, 3701 G Road) a mile away. Visit the tasting room to sample their range of dry-to-sweet meads. Among their fruit meads or melomels is Raspberry Chocolate Satin, though it’s hardly the stuff of campsite fires.
In Fruita, on the next block from Over the Edge, is Hot Tomato (www.HotTomatoCafe.com, 124 N. Mulberry), a café and pizzeria.. Beer-wise, they exclusively carry New Belgium, which means patrons are among the first to test-ride new products coming out of Fort Collins, even before the rest of us get to buy them.
As for where to rest your exceedingly tired bones, if you’re not camping,, Snazzy said that there are two mountain-biker oriented accommodations nearby. Happy Trails Inn (www.beerandbed.com, 1249 M Road, Loma) has got to be one of the best options for the beercationer. The guesthouse is just two miles from the start of the Kokopelli Trail. Guests can help themselves to proprietor and brewmeister Doug Luck’s homebrew, and mornings start with the Lucks’ homemade muffins and nutritious munchies to power through the trails. The rate is $125/night with off-season discounts. There’s also The Balanced Rock Motel (126 S. Coulson St., Fruita, 970-858-7333). It’s both frugal and regarded for being bike-friendly.
If your lodging doesn’t provide you with nourishment, Snazzy recommended The Dream Café (314 Main St., Grand Junction, 970-424-5353) for its amazing staples such as eggs benny, or Aspen Street Coffee (136 E. Aspen Ave., Fruita, 970-858-8888) which is across from Over the Edge. Grab an early bagel to go with the java made from fresh-roasted beans. During the annual Fat Tire Fest, aka 18 Hours of Fruita because it’s an 18-hour bike race beginning at midnight, the coffee shop extends their hours because who starts a mountain bike race at midnight?
Sun Valley, ID
Known primarily as a ritzy ski resort, Sun Valley has been a playground of the rich and famous since the 1930s. But when the snow melts, the MTBers takeover.
Sun Valley comprises towns such as Hailey and Ketchum. Our guide to the hot spots is Kevin Jones, who just opened the Sawtooth Brewery (www.SawtoothBrewery.com, 600 N. Main St. #A-120, Ketchum) with a taproom on the way.
While not as recognizable, several MTB celebs live in Sun Valley including Rebecca “The Queen of Pain” Rusch, who just three-peated the Leadville Trail 100, and Billy Olsen, an ex-racer who runs Power House (PowerHouseIdaho.com, 411 N. Main St., Hailey), a dual pub and bike shop. Whether you need to buy a new full-suspension bike or just need repairs, you can do that here while enjoying their huge draft and bottle list. While scarfing a burger, Jones said he is a fan of the hand-cut fries and housemade ketchup. He said the tap list is heavy on Belgians with only a few local bottles on the menu but that’s not entirely Billy’s fault. “Our beer scene is just starting to grow,but I think the overall attitude toward craft beer is great here,” he said.
Sun Valley Brewery (www.SunValleyBrewery.com, 202 N. Main St.) is a brewpub with accounts all over town and six-packs in stores. My only experience with their beers while in Sun Valley recently wasn’t great, but Jones said that they are improving.
Another post-ride hangout is Lefty’s (www.LeftysBarAndGrill.com, 231 6th St. E.). Among their 13 taps is another Hailey brewery, River Bend Brewing, and Jones is a big fan of their Round the Bend Pale Ale. Also likely to be available is an offering from Grand Teton Brewing of Victor, ID, a brewery worthy of its cult following. While sunning yourself on their deck, Jones suggested ordering the Train Wreck (turkey, roast beef, and ham) with Monkey’s, referring to their oval-cut spicy fries.
Another place for great carbo loading is Wiseguy Pizza Pie (www.WiseguyPizzaPie.com, two locations: 460 Sun Valley Road, Ketchum, and 121 N. Main St, Hailey) with 12 taps devoted to Northwest micros. Jones’favorite pie: the Fat Guy with salami, pepperoni, ham and bacon.
If you prefer to get your calories in the morning, The Kneadery (260 Leadville Ave, Ketchum) is worth the wait. Read the whole menu if you must, but get the Grizzly Bear: a Belgian waffle with two eggs, thick-cut bacon and sausage with a side of hash browns.
No trip to Sun Valley is complete without enjoying a burger on the patio at Grumpy’s (860 Warm Springs Road., Ketchum). The beers they stock are nothing to endo your bike over (though you can get a 32-oz chalice for $5) But the thousands of vintage cans and other breweriana that festoon the walls and ceiling, all donated by serious collectors who’ve visited Sun Valley, are worth the visit.
Accommodations in Sun Valley range from free camping to rooms costing several hundred dollars per night. Jones recommended the Clarion Inn of Sun Valley, which is physically attached to his brewery, bike friendly and close to the trails.
Brian Yaeger recently moved to Portland, OR, where he homebrews and is exploring the beers of the Pacific Northwest.