Road Trip 08 Planning: Brew

May 10th, 2008

Table Rock in Boise

I have a confession to make: I love beer. My experience with alcohol began in college and at first I didn’t like any of it. Wine, beer, liquor… all were seen by me and my rowdy college peers as unfortunate means towards great and exciting ends. To this day I abhor the first beer I ever drank: Bud Light. This is, of course, not unrelated to the fact that it is a terrible, awful beer, but my point is that I didn’t like beer. Over time however, as the desire to get raging drunk and do foolish things subsided, a taste for beer somehow emerged and remained. I’m not much of a wine drinker, and hard alcohol is as foul as it is dangerous, but beer… I love beer.

My love of beer has grown into a full blown hobby. Beer as a hobby is full of interesting history and delicious taste testing. The fact you drunk once in a while is an added bonus. My interest grew until drinking it was not sufficient and I started to homebrew. Last year was the peak of my brewing activity, which culminated in entering a local homebrew competition where the Banana Hefe my friend and I created won second place. We have a nice all-grain setup, allowing us to turn raw malted barley into a wide variety of delicious styles. I even invested in a homebrew keg setup! Skiing, school and the fact my brew partner quit have led to a hiatus from brewing, but I can’t wait to get back at it next fall after the Road Trip.

This leads me to a critical part of my of my Road Trip goals: brewpubs! The American west has nurtured an impressive beer culture, with microbreweries popping up all over and each turning out an impressive selection of quality beers. Bozeman’s new Beer Festival is a prime example of the beer culture here, with over 30 breweries showing off more than 100 beers and not a Bud Light to be seen. Companies like Rouge, Grand Teton, Snake River and New Belgium weaned me off bad beer early on (with, of course, the exception of the skiers staple: PBR).  The Bozeman area is home to great microbreweries as well, like Madison River and Bozone, who’s tasting rooms and growler fill-ups I’ve been enjoying since my 21st birthday. One of the fun things about microbreweries is that in addition to the “core” set of signature beers they bottle, the beer-loving brewmasters also enjoy experimenting and usually have a number of unique and delicious beers on tap that you can’t find in stores. This prospect of unknown numbers of strange and fantastic beers lurking in the West’s many tasting rooms is tantalizing, and I intend to search them all out. Rouge, the makers of such intriguing beers as the Chipotle Ale and Oyster Cloyster Stout, have brewpubs in Oregon with almost legendary status. As long as I’m out and about around the West, I can’t NOT visit these breweries. Besides the wonderful beer, most brewpubs have a nice atmosphere which is quite different from a regular bar, and I anticipate drinking and socializing in them will punctuate my wilderness solitude nicely. Below is a list I’m working on of breweries - who’s beer I’ve long enjoyed - which I want to visit on my trip:

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, and I will not be able to visit a small fraction of hundreds of microbreweries in the West, but it is a start. Check out sites like BrewPubZone.com to get an idea of how large the microbrew-craze has become. I, as a member of this craze and happy not to be drinking Budweiser, fully support this.

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