Pairing: Hiking and Beer (Colorado)

Going to Colorado and not sampling their finest selection of brews is like going to New York City and not trying a slice of pizza or a bagel.  It’s like going to the Maine seacoast and not trying their lobsters.  Dietary restrictions aside, of course.  Going to Colorado and not hiking is like going to Gettysburg, PA and not visiting the Civil War battlefields.  It’s like going to Rome and not going to see the Coliseum.

You get my point.  Amazing mountains and beer are a critical part of Colorado’s culture.  When you go, seek out the mountains, and have a beer afterwards.  And why not pair them?

Colorado

I’ve only spent a total of 13 days in Colorado in my entire life.  My wealth of knowledge is limited, and it would take a lifetime to have the entire state staked out in terms of hiking and beer.  However, I will share a hike/beer pairing that I sort of stumbled into that I very much enjoyed.  I highly suggest this pairing, especially in winter.

The Hike

view from Emerald Lake Trail
view from Emerald Lake Trail

The hike I’ll highlight here is the same one I mentioned in my last post.  I highly recommend checking out Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I suggest going in winter, as I imagine this gets extremely packed in the summer.  However, it makes for an absolutely stunning snowshoe or XC ski among pristine powder, a few aspen groves, and multiple views.  This is not the hardest or longest hike (only 3.6 miles roundtrip), but the payoff is big.  Besides, if you undertake hiking in winter, 3.6 miles can certainly be enough of a challenge.  Another advantage to this hike is that while the trail is unmarked (I believe. I didn’t see a blaze anywhere, unless they were hidden beneath the snow), it is fairly straight, follows a stream connecting the series of lakes, and resides at the bottom of a bowl/ravine of sorts.  It’s hard to get lost.  As long as you’re not climbing a steep bank approaching a mountain peak or cliff, you’re not lost.  Just continue ahead in with the steep walls on both sides of you to ascend to Emerald Lake, or retrace your steps still with steeps on your sides to return to the trailhead.

Pick a perfect day, as the beautiful blue sky and sunshine reflecting off the snow create a very refreshing feeling.  A beautiful sunny day in the Rockies in winter gives off a very “crisp” feeling, for lack of a better descriptor.  That feeling that can be found in the day will be beautifully transfered over to a proper beer pairing after your hike.

Check out Rocky Mountain National Park trail maps here:  http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/maps.htm

The Beer

A bright and sunny day in the Rockies calls not for a heavy stout. Complimenting a “crisp” and sun filled winter snowshoe or XC ski at Rocky Mountain National Park, I think of something bright, crisp, possibly a hint of fruitiness.  I think Belgian.  Thankfully, there’s a beer for that.  If you’re heading back into Boulder after your hike, you’re in luck.  Stop by Upslope Brewing Company and order a glass of their Belgian Pale Ale.  Can’t stop by the brewery?  No worries, they can it too.  However, it is limited release.

photo courtesy of www.craftcans.com
photo courtesy of http://www.craftcans.com

I stumbled into this pairing, as this beer was the first beer I had after my hike to Emerald Lake.  It comes at an interesting time, as one of my favorite breweries, Ommegang Brewing Co. of Cooperstown, NY, recently discontinued their Belgian Pale Ale or “BPA,” a beer I was quite fond of.  I have been in search for another good one, and Upslope may have hit it out of the park.  I felt this pairing was perfect.

This beer tastes like a sunny winter day.  It’s fresh, crisp, and light, but has enough body to satisfy a cold individual.  It’s fruity, hinting at the sunny days of spring or summer ahead.  However, it’s spiced with just enough coriander to draw you back into the comfort of winter,  appropriate to enjoy next to a fire as your wet boots from the day’s hike dry out.

I like what Upslope is doing, be sure to check out what they offer.  http://upslopebrewing.com/

Conclusion

Confession:  This blog post was just an excuse to see how many times I could include the word “crisp.”  Just kidding.

Colorado is a mecca for hiking and beer.  Don’t get bogged down and overwhelmed in the plethora of options.  Don’t be crippled by sheer variety.  Sometimes, it’s best not too worry too much about finding the hidden gem in a sea of great options, but rather enjoy what’s right in front of you and easy to access.  Rocky Mountain National Park and Upslope Brewing Company make it easy to do that in both the realm of hiking and beer.  A beautiful day in RMNP is something to truly appreciate. If you throw a tasty Colorado brew into the mix (not while you’re in the park, except in campgrounds), and you’ve got yourself an all-star day.

Enjoy.

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