As I type this I am 35,000 feet up in the air. On my way from Colorado to California. I've spent the past two weeks chilling out on the front range in a small town where my mother lives. Two stoplights and two breweries. On top of that, it's pretty much just wide open spaces. I spent most of my time doing two things: hiking and drinking craft beer. It's a good life. Simple. Pleasurable but in a soulful way, not purely hedonistic. If you ever get the chance to spend some time in Colorado, I highly recommend you partake. There is so much to see and taste which inspired me to pair my favorite Colorado hikes with a complementary delicious brew.
1. Rabbit Mountain with Pinner by Oskar Blues
Rabbit Mountain is more like a hill but for what it lacks in height it makes up for in charm. You get it all on a small scale - rocks, wildflowers, views, and critters (of the bunny variety). I’m not even sure we saw one but you could! You could! It was a great hike with plenty of switchbacks to the top. Once there, you are rewarded with 90 degree angle cliffs from which to soak in the view of surrounding valleys. Perfect time to crack open a can of Pinner by Oskar Blues. I love the tagline of this brew, “How do you cram as much hop & malt flavor and aroma as possible into a beer but make it crushable too?" Good question! It’s everything I look for in a summer brew - perfectly balanced and reasonable to start drinking at noon! This one’s got just 4.9% ABV and a nice 35 IBUs. It’s got citrus, spice, and even a little biscuit flavor on the exhale.
2. Mills Lake with Little Thompson Pale Ale by Berthoud Brewery
Both of these will surprise the fluff out of you in the most breathtaking way. How spectacular can a lake be? How divine can a pale ale be? Well, Mills Lake is an alpine lake at nearly 10,000 feet fed by pristine snow melt that cascades off thousands of feet of rugged mountain. Get yourself to Rocky Mountain National Park then to Glacier Gorge trailhead and 2.6 miles later, hiking alongside Glacier Creek and passed the stunning Alberta Falls, you will arrive at the foot of Mills Lake. The water’s edge is dotted with massive boulders which provide the ideal spot to bask in the sun and sip some of Berthoud Brew Co.’s fantastic Little Thompson Pale Ale. It might take some effort getting to the small town of Berthoud to procure this ale, but just like Mills Lake, it’s well worth the hike.
3. Devil’ Backbone with Rado’s Red by Crow Hop
Devil’s Backbone is one of the most entertaining hikes I’ve done in a while. The crust of the earth juts out in jagged peaks from the surrounding grass valley, all in a line like a monstrous vertebral column. You hike along side this beast until you come to an opening in the red rock, an opening the size of a condominium. With views on either side, this is an ideal spot to get a taste of the decadent Rado’s Red by Crow Hop. This red tastes of caramel and toasted malt but with an astringent bite and a dry finish. It’s delicious like dessert but then it kicks your ass, kind of like Devil’s Backbone. Enjoy!
4. Red Rocks with Agaveras by Twisted Pine
Red Rocks near Denver is a classic destination for concert goers, athletes, and sightseers alike because of the impressive amphitheater carved out of the landscape. If you challenge yourself to go beyond the crowds you will find meadows that wind around some of the most stunning rock formations you have ever seen. Trading Post trail is a loop that provides a good sampling of what I’m talking about. Do this one at sunset with a pint of Agaveras by Twisted Pine. I was most excited to try this brew but unfortunately the keg was tapped when I was there. Still, the description alone has my mouth watering. It’s brewed with “dank, resinous hops and Madhava agave nectar” and shines with 50 IBUs. It’s a must try for originality, perfect to enjoy while you’re getting off the beaten path.
5. Flagstaff Mountain with Introvert Session IPA by Lefthand Brewery
The city of Boulder is flanked on its Western side by the majestic Flatirons where hiking trails abound. We chose Range View trail on Flagstaff mountain and were not disappointed. The trail is quintessential Colorado with blue spruce, ponderosa pine, and juniper trees all around. Take your time with the sights, smells, and sounds on this hike because although the views are breathtaking there is even more to discover here. Same goes for the Introvert Session IPA, it’s got complex hop flavor balanced by tropical fruit, pine, and honey malt. If you pay attention every sip delivers something new.