Hiking and beer just seem to go together. Some of my best hikes have become all the more memorable by sharing a post-hike pint with friends and family.
Recently I was pleased to receive an invitation entitled “Ales and Trails,” a tasting at The Mill, a local craft brewery and tap room to benefit the good work of the Santa Barbara Trails Council. The event was a reminder to me of the many wonderful hikes I’ve taken on trails near and far that have been followed by a fine beer.
I love hiking the Northern California Coast and have long championed the “Lost Coast” of Humboldt County. In the late 1980s, just as I was putting together a Lost Coast map and hiking guide, Barbara Grom was starting the Lost Coast Brewery in an old Victorian building in Eureka, California. Downtown Brown, Alleycat Amber, their namesake Lost Coast Pale Ale…this beer puts me back on the Lost Coast Trail, hiking on black sand beaches, on cliff-top trails, through redwood groves…
I remember my first post-hike beer as if it were yesterday. It was an Anchor Steam with the USC Hiking Club, just after leading fellow students on a hike through Malibu Creek State Park. For me and for my hiking buddies, it was our first craft beer, but nobody called it that back then. Though just barely drinking age, we knew we were tasting something special. Here was beer that came in a bottle. Beer you sipped not swilled. Beer so much more flavorful than that fizzy stuff in cans that filled the coolers at the tailgate parties before USC football games.
To this day, whenever I drink Anchor Steam, I think of taking a hike. Hiking and beer are forever associated with great times in the great out-of-doors.
In 1990, as a young newlywed, I took my new bride Cheri on a honeymoon hike in the Cotswold region of England. Yeah, it was romantic hiking through the pastoral countryside past castles and storybook cottages, but what I really liked was stopping at the pubs for a pint. Wait a minute. Hiking and beer–that’s not all I liked…It was my honeymoon after all. Sure hope Mrs. Trailmaster isn’t reading this…
Anyway, after a morning hike, it was great stopping at a pub for lunch. I usually ordered the Ploughman’s Lunch (cheese and bread accompanied by such items as ham, hard-boiled eggs and pickled onions) and of course a beer.
I enjoyed the widely distributed Flowers and Boddingtons and especially loved a pint of Donnington, made by Donnington Brewery in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Across the nation and around the world, a good hike and a good beer are a splendid pairing. While spending parts of two summers hiking around New England and doing field research for my book, “Great Walks of New England,” I became fond of Long Trail Ale, a refreshing amber ale. It just seems to go with the 272-mile Long Trail, the Green Mountains and the Vermont countryside.
Last summer I spent a fair amount of time in the High Sierra. I helped my son Daniel and his two buddies by resupplying them with food and fuel as they hiked the 220-mile long John Muir Trail. The Vermillion Resort café at Edison Lake (located at about the half-way point of the trail), offers a free bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to every JMT through-hiker. We all celebrated the completion of their trek with another bottle at the end of the trail at Whitney Portal.
OK, I need to interrupt this story to bring you an important message. I can’t help being The Trailmaster and would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t add a few precautionary words: “Always hike and drink responsibly.” Got it? Good.
My home terrain (Santa Barbara County) is world famous as “wine country,” but more recently has drawn attention for its beer-making. Yes, hiking and beer go together so well. Santa Barbara boasts great hiking in the local mountains and nearby Los Padres National Forest wilderness, and an increasing number of craft breweries. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company brews several beers named after regional hiking destinations including Figueroa Mountain Pale Ale, Lizard’s Mouth IPA, Hurricane Deck Double IP and Big Cone Black Ale.
Here’s wishing you Happy Trails and Ales wherever you roam.
The Trailmaster John McKinney