Pairing: Hiking and Beer (part 1 of 3)

Hiking and beer you ask?  What do those two have to do with each other?  Well, it is my humble opinion that the best way to experience a place is through its trails and its local beverage.  Might sound crazy, but it’s a personal philosophy.  So far, it has worked for me.

I spend an absurd about of time researching hikes and researching breweries and their locations.  When we talk about pairings, we usually think about food and drink.  However, I’m going to go a little more outside the box for you, and highlight some of my favorite beer and hike pairings from some of my favorite states.

This topic will be a three part series.  Here is part #1:

Virginia

The Hike:

Considering I currently reside in the beautiful commonwealth of Virginia, I will start there.  While I go to school at Virginia Tech, you might think that I would highlight a hike from Southwest Virginia (maybe Catawba, if you know the area).  However, I’m going take you a little farther north to Shenandoah National Park.  Shenandoah is a shining example of the beauty that Virginia has to offer, with beautiful sweeping mountains and an abundance of wildlife.  In fact, last time I was there, I saw more deer than I ever have at once, as well as a full grown black bear!

For a hike in Shenandoah, I might suggest the Rip-Rap Loop (in the southern part of the park, around Milepost 90). Map below:

Official National Geographic map of Shenandoah - Rip Rap loop
Official National Geographic map of Shenandoah – Rip Rap loop

You can make this a loop by parking a car at the RipRap Trail parking area.  From there, you can start on the Rip Rap trail, which will take you past great views at Chimney Rock, downhill into Cold Spring Hollow.  If you choose this route, you will follow the RipRap Trail into the ravine until you intersect the Wildcat Ridge Trail.  Turn left on the Wildcat Ridge Trail to hike uphill to the Appalachian Trail, on which you will turn north (left), to head back to the trail head. Or from the trail head you can take the Appalachian Trail – South, towards the Wildcat Ridge Trail, and do the loop in reverse.  This loop offers varied environmental conditions, from views to thick forest, and valley stream walks.  It’s definitely a “get-it-all” kind of hike in Shenandoah!  Around 9.5 miles, this hike is definitely deserving of a well crafted, thirst quenching beer afterwards!  (Sorry I don’t have a picture from this hike, but I’ll offer you another):

A view in Shenandoah National Park.  Two thumbs up!
A view in Shenandoah National Park. Two thumbs up!

More info about Shenandoah:  http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm

The Beer:

So, what beer would I offer after a great day of hiking in Shenandoah National Park?   If you’re heading east towards Charlottesville, you’ll love Blue Mountain Brewery!  It’s is a must stop!

Blue Mountain Brewery
Blue Mountain Brewery

Blue Mountain Brewery is in Afton, VA (exit 99 off I-64 to route 250, then a right on route 151.  Brewery will be on your left.)  Blue Mountain brewery is a very casual place, serving up quality brews for all palates, from crisp lagers to big barrel aged stouts!  As much as I love all of their beers, I would recommend their flagship beer, Full Nelson Pale Ale, for your post hike indulgence.  This beer, like Shenandoah, defines Central Virginia for me.  It’s one of the finest beers in the state, and the brewery is surrounded by the beautiful mountains in Nelson County, VA.  It’s a crisp, dry Pale Ale (made with brewery-premises grown hops), coming in at a very approachable and pleasant 60 IBUs (bitterness level).  The main aspect of this beer that I like is its floral-ness (wait, is that even a word?).  Yes, to me, this beer is very floral and rosy.  I personally love it.  It’s a great post hike beer, because it’s got enough body to detract from your hunger after a day full of activity, but light enough so that it’s not overly syrupy or unpleasantly sweet to a possibly dehydrated tongue!  You have to give it a try!  While I don’t have a picture of the Full Nelson, you have to imagine what it would feel like to enjoy it with this view:

Enjoying an Evan Altmighty (German Altbier) at Blue Mountain Brewery
Enjoying an Evan Altmighty (German Altbier) at Blue Mountain Brewery

There’s even cornhole boards, for you and your friends to play all the way through sunset.

The brewery’s website: //www.bluemountainbrewery.com/

Conclusion:

If you find yourself in Central Virginia, Shenandoah and Blue Mountain Brewery are must-dos.  Neither will disappoint.  I think both are the finest examples what Virginia has to offer.  Remember, there is no better pairing than a beautiful views and some tasty brews!  Get out there, see what a region has to offer in hikes and beer!

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