A Thirst for Quality
They do so for the thrill, of course, just as beer drinkers imbibe for pleasant effect. But the climber also loves solving the riddle of the rock. The hiker contemplates the forces of nature that created the mountains. The golfer admires the finesse and accuracy in play, and the combination of function and aesthetic in the course.
That same appreciative demeanor and curiosity carries over to the art and subtleties of craft beer. We examine the hue and aroma, then muse upon and debate the flavor. We marvel at the miracle (ahem, science) of fermentation. We give the brewer a grade and offer criticism or praise.
And doesn’t beer actually taste better after a long day of exertion?
It’s not just a nice reward to a job well done—there’s something different about that first sip of ale after a mountain bike ride, a day in the woods or a paddle down a river.
It’s almost magical, I think. Will Gilson, brewer at Moat Mountain Smoke House and Brewing Co. in North Conway, NH, has a more scientific theory.
“You’re taste buds have had a lot of fresh air,” he said. “Part of it is probably mental, but part of it is physical.”
Gilson should know. He previously worked for breweries in two other great outdoors towns, Salt Lake City and Jackson, Wyoming. He skis before work in the winter, and mountain bikes after work in the summer.
Bikes, boats, skis and other outdoors accoutrements often festoon the roofs of vehicles in the parking lots at his brewery and many others in the nation.
Of course, environmental consciousness also goes hand in hand with a passion for the outdoors. That’s why Michigan’s Keweenaw Brewing Co. chose to can rather than bottle its Pick Axe blond ale, said brewer David Lawrence.
Cans don’t shatter into a hundred dangerous pieces of litter when they get dropped. They also require less energy to produce and fill with beer, Lawrence said. And, of course, they’re lighter.
“People don’t want to carry a whole case of bottles with them when they go out,” he said.
Especially not in a place like the Upper Peninsula, where Keweenaw makes beer. Sailing and sea kayaking rule up there, and you can’t have beer bottles clanking around the boat.
No doubt, taking beer into the mountains or out to sea requires extra preparation. When we participate in outdoors activities, we must often hike, bike or paddle the extra mile to enjoy life to its fullest. Finding brewpubs isn’t as easy as locating a chain restaurant, and the willingness to do so shows a commitment to quality and a desire to experience the unfamiliar. Places like Lawrence’s brewery, or the fine brewpubs of Maine or Northern California, for that matter, aren’t exactly easy to reach.
But when we get there, aren’t we glad we made the effort?
Here are some places with great beer and great opportunities for your next active, drinking vacation: