Wild and wonderful breweries worthy of the trip
There’s something about wild beers and wild places that just demand that you put them together.
As a brewer with Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville – and an adventure lover ¬– that’s how I like to plan my vacations.
These seven breweries will take you from the sea to the mountains in the Pacific Northwest; surround you with “fourteeners” (mountains with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) in Colorado; send you mountain biking in the Blue Ridge Mountains; and even steer you toward some hidden gems in the Midwest.
Here are four road trips to enjoy wild and wonderful breweries and the great outdoors:
The Pacific Northwest
De Garde Brewing
6000 Blimp Blvd., Tillamook, Oregon
503-815-1635 | www.degardebrewing.com
The beer at De Garde is as wild as the Oregon coast – quite literally. All of De Garde’s beers are spontaneously fermented, using only the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in the air. Try half-pours of their funky, tart beers – many made with Pacific Northwest fruit.
While you’re there: Head out to Cape Lookout State Park in the late afternoon and hike to the end of the cape for an awe-inspiring sunset with sweeping ocean views and a chance to see gray whales on their yearly migration. Return by headlamp.
pFriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave., No. 101, Hood River, Oregon
541-321-0490 | www.pfriembeer.com
Head inland and find a world-class Belgian-inspired brewery perched deep within the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River. Go kitesurfing or take a stand-up paddleboard out on the river during the day (rentals and lessons abound in town), then hit the brewery patio for the Frambozen – a lambic-inspired beer made with fresh raspberries; pair it with the pastrami burger.
While you’re there: On the way back to Portland, put in 12 miles (out-and-back) on the Eagle Creek Trail. You’ll hike through lush moss and fern-filled temperate rainforest and end up at 175-foot-tall Tunnel Falls, where you can bask in the cooling spray of the falls as you pass through the tunnel behind them.
The Mountain West
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
3350 Brighton Blvd., Denver, Colorado
720-550-8860 | www.crookedstave.com
Drive or fly into Denver, and make straight for this brewery built on Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that Crooked Stave has harnessed for its signature farmhouse funk. Go for the Nightmare on Brett, a Brett-fermented beer aged on rotating varieties of cherries and berries.
While you’re there: Head out of town and spend a few days exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike to Flattop Mountain from Bear Lake is a thigh-burner, gaining and losing nearly 3,000 feet over nine miles (out-and-back), but the views you earn standing atop the Continental Divide make it worthwhile.
Casey Brewing and Blending
3421 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, Colorado
970-230-9691 | www.caseybrewing.com
Make your way west across the Rockies and end up in the Roaring Fork valley, northwest of Aspen. There you’ll find one of the youngest and most celebrated breweries in the nation. Troy Casey earned instant acclaim for his beers fermented and aged in oak and made exclusively with Colorado ingredients. Try any of the Casey Family Preserves, each made with a hefty, three pounds of fruit per gallon, but don’t sleep on the more mildly flavor, rustic saisons either.
While you’re there: The valley is slow and lonely, but that’s the perfect setting for fly fishing in the Roaring Fork. With Gold Medal stream status, the river supports more than 1,000 pounds of fish per mile.
Wicked Weed Funkatorium
147 Coxe Ave., Asheville, North Carolina
828-552-3203 | www.wickedweedbrewing.com
Quench your thirst at the Funkatorium with Brett farmhouse beers and barrel-aged sours, such as Guajava – a golden sour ale aged in oak barrels with guava.
While you’re there: Asheville is a Mecca of beer, barbecue and bluegrass, but fight the urge to rush there right away in order to spend some time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hike 11 miles (out-and-back) to Gregory Bald in late June to catch a stunning wildflower display and big Appalachian views. Continue on the Oskar Blues REEB Ranch where you can camp or rent a creek-side cabin or barn apartment while you spend the days mountain biking the adjacent state forest trails. Rentals and guides are available on site.
Side Project Brewing
7373 Marietta Ave., St. Louis, Missouri
314-224-5211 | www.thesideprojectcellar.com
The views might not be as grand this close to home, but the beer sure is. Side Project has a stellar reputation for oak-fermented and aged farmhouse and wild ales. The selection varies as founder Cory King blends barrels only as they reach maturity. Aim for a single-barrel selection or something aged on stone fruit, such as peaches, apricots or nectarines.
While you’re there: Eat at Pappy’s Smokehouse, then spend the late afternoon exploring Cahokia Mounds, a once-bustling Native American city whose ruins tower over the Mississippi Valley.
Scratch Brewing Company
264 Thompson Road, Ava, Illinois
618-426-1415 | www.scratchbeer.com
Head southeast until the green, hilly landscape makes you wonder if you’re really in Illinois. Find your way to Scratch, where many ingredients for its farmhouse beers, such as maple sap, elderberry, hickory and dandelion, are grown on site or foraged.
While you’re there: Enjoy the forested setting on the patio with a wild passion fruit saison, then continue southeast to Shawnee National Forest, where the sandstone hoodoos, canyons and caves at Garden of the Gods make a strong case for best hike in the state.
Paul Schneider is a production manager at Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville.