After some time away, my segment “Pairing: Hiking and Beer” is returning, the time for the state in which I currently reside, Washington! I must admit, this pairing is one I labored over for a while. Seattle has a plethora of great breweries, but the state’s greatest hikes are many times a couple hours of driving from Seattle proper. I did not want to make a suggestion with such a great distance between the hike and the beer. Another thing that crossed my mind was Bellingham, WA and a hike in the North Cascades. Boundary Bay Brewing Company has been one of my favorite breweries since living here, but still, it was a bit far. Then, awake around 4:30 am unable to sleep, the pairing hit me like a ton of bricks. It was so obvious, but it had taken me a while to realize it! The pairing:
The Enchantments and Icicle Brewing Company, Leavenworth, WA.
However, there was one problem. While I had drank Icicle Brewing Co.’s beers, I had never hiked The Enchantments! I must admit, I teased the idea of writing this post without having hiked The Enchantments, but I am a terrible liar. I knew I’d have to hike them and see what all the fuss was about for myself. Ugh, the things I have to do for my readers…
This very well might be the best hike in the entire state of Washington. Before we get to the hike, allow me to point out that in casual conversation, this is commonly referred to as a “loop.” However, it is not a true loop, but rather more of a “C” shaped point-to-point hike, and it requires two cars or some way to return to your car at the end of the hike; or you can park your car at the end, and do a pre-hike shuttle to the trailhead. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can do it as a hike-and-bike. That is, if you’re feeling up to an 8 mile bike after 20 miles of hiking.
Starting from the Stuart Lake Trailhead, I believe this is one of the most well designed hikes I have ever done. It requires a ~6 mile hike to Aasgard Pass via Colchuck Lake. This hike, in itself, is gorgeous. However, the hike from Colchuck to Aasgard is excruciatingly difficult. But if you can rise to the challenge and reach Aasgard Pass, you will be rewarded with a long, but very reasonable descent down to the ending trailhead. However, before you reach the end of this hike, you get to hike through the Enchantmant Lakes area. This is a series of incredible lakes that exist beneath high, craggy peaks and between boulder fields and small groves of larches. The hiking in the Enchantment Lakes area is mostly flat, allowing the hiker to focus on the scenery more than their footsteps. Seeing mountain goats is a distinct possibility in this area, another treat to the hiker. From Aasgard Pass, through the Enchantments, and past Snow Lakes to the Snow Lakes Trailhead is around 16 or 17 miles, and with the exception of the section between Prusik Peak and Snow Lakes, is quite gradual. It’s long, but very reasonable. Despite the long distance of this hike, I did not have to rush to complete it in an appropriate amount of time.
If you do this hike in reverse, you are faced with a gradual, but very long ascent to Aasgard Pass, and a short, but knee busting downhill hike from Aasgard to the Stuart Lake Trailhead. Both ways have their pros and cons, and the choice is yours.
If you don’t feel up to a 20 mile hike, but are interested in this pairing? An out-and-back to Stuart Lake, Colchuck Lake, Aasgard Pass, or Snow Lake are all agreeable options for a shorter hike near the Enchantments, each beautiful in their own right.
However, the most beautiful part of this hike actually be how close it is to the brewery…
From trailhead to brewery, I’m not even sure if it’s 5 minutes. It’s great not having to drive a long way for your post hike beer, and Icicle Brewing Company has an excellent selection of beers!
For these “pairing” posts, I try to not choose hikes that are too extreme or difficult, but rather ones that are attainable for most. But this hike was too good not to highlight. However, hiking 20 miles can leave you feeling one of two ways: either extremely hyped about what you just accomplished, or extremely tired and ready to go to bed. Since I’m doing something a bit different with “The Hike” section of this post, I’ll also do something different with “The Beer” and suggest two of them.
If you feel absolutely juiced and excited about your most recent accomplishment, I recommend the Pilsner. This German style Pilsner is light, crisp, and matches well with the faux-Bavarian theme of the town. This crystal clear beer with lively carbonation will hop across your tastebuds the same way you hopped from rock to rock just hours before in The Enchantments. It is the perfect post-hike beer.
However, if you’re feeling exhausted and would rather have something to lull you into a deep sleep, I suggest the decadent beer entitled “Dark Persuasion.” This beer is labelled as a German Chocolate Ale. The name doesn’t even do it justice. The chocolate flavor is dominant but delicious, smooth and rich, but not overly sweet. The luxurious, desertlike, but balanced nature of this beer will have you relaxed, sinking ever deeper into your seat on a post-hike evening. Trust me, after a 20 mile hike, you deserve this beer.
Check out Icicle Brewing Company.
While you’re at it, you might as well pick up a pretzel and a sausage. Because when in faux-Bavaria, do as the faux-Bavarians do!
There are an infinite number of combinations you could choose for the state of Washington, but I dare someone to name one better than this. Leavenworth is an attraction in itself and is a fun place to spend some time, whether or hiking or not. The Enchantments are a world-class location, and even if you aren’t up for the entire hike, I recommend trying to go part of the way, you will not regret it.