Do a search on Youtube for “Schlitz Rafting Beer Commercial with Dick and Joe” and you’ll be treated to one of the most ridiculous beer-lifestyle spots outside of the Saturday Night Live spoof for Schmitt’s Gay Beer. The copy that the voiceover guy reads is piece of work: “The river’s running high and wild…carving a path out of the earth…. Whitewater. Alive. Free. And you can never tame it.” But he is onto something. Lovers of craft beer and outdoor enthusiasts have been one and the same since the get-go. Most of the pioneers of post-Prohibition brewing are in fact or in heart grizzled nature buffs who carved out career paths that enabled them to make a natural and thrilling product far away from the mainstream. Not unlike wild rivers themselves.
And like the beer we love, some of these rivers are easy to navigate, some are too challenging for most, they’re each about 95 percent water (remember, it’s air that makes rapids white), and, thankfully, these liquidy adventures can be sourced from all over the country. The brawny winter we had should keep water levels high later into the season but the deeper into summer, the more relaxed (read: “family-friendly”) running these rivers get. To get your raft ’n craft package for one price, check out this summer’s return of Whitewater Warehouse’s “Oregon Craft Beer and Rogue River Rafting Trip,” a three-day excursion in near Medford with Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing. For $950, you get your rafting, lodging and food-and-beer pairings accompanied by Ninkasi president Jamie Floyd and Ginger Johnson, the southern Oregon resident who created Women Enjoying Beer. To reserve your spot for an adventure, call 800-214-0579. To put together your own river and beer soaked trip, consider these three locations.
Gallatin River near Bozeman, MT
“Lewis and Clark stood on the banks of the river they named Gallatin (after the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin) in 1805. They were at the confluence of three rivers in a place now called Three Forks, MT, at the headwaters of the Missouri River.” This history lesson comes courtesy of Reno Walsh, a veteran guide and enthusiast of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem who leads the Yellowstone Hike, Bike & Beer Adventure for Zephyr Adventures (zephyradventures.com). Cutting to the present, Walsh adds, “Incidentally, this river is going to rage this year. There is more snow in Yellowstone than anyone can remember.”
Yes, the river’s source is Yellowstone National Park, which is probably the most gorgeous place on earth, but it houses no breweries. As the river meanders through the Gallatin Canyon, the upper stretches are primarily home to canoeists and fly-fisherman. The movie A River Runs Through It, based on Norman MacLean’s novella, was filmed here.