Gifts for Beer Lovers

It’s getting to be that time of year – that season where every blogger and website publishes at least one gift guide. There’s been some great ones that I’ve already found. I really like Scallywag Sprints’ A – Z of Active Christmas Gifts, Bearfoot Theory’s 33 Outdoor Travel & Adventure Gifts, Just a Colorado Gal’s Gear of the Year, and Jezebel’s Gifts to Make Your Life Seem Better on Instagram (fully tongue in cheek!). If there is one thing that I like almost as much as outdoor adventure, it’s beer. I’ve bought enough beer related gifts over the past couple of years that were loved by the giftees that I thought I’d share them with you. Here are my recommendations for the beer lovers in your life.

gifts for beer lovers tahoe fabulous

Klean Kanteen Pint Glasses
There are two great versions of Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel pint glasses – the Vacuum Insulated Pint Cup and the regular Stainless Steel Pint Cup. I have a bunch of the regular stainless steel pint cups now, and they’re my favorite thing to drink out of – water and beer. You can also get the regular pint glasses in a 4 pack for $26 – a great deal! I’ve used a lot of insulated Klean Kanteen products, and they’ve always been awesome. The insulated pint glass is perfect for keeping your beer cold on a hot summer day.

Pats

Photo from ActionHub

Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Carbonator Bottle Starter Kit
Sometimes after a long day of hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, biking, etc., nothing sounds better than a cold beer. But often, beer ends up being left behind due to weight concerns. That’s where Pat’s Backcountry beverages comes in. Using the Nalgene-sized carbonator bottle kit, and beer syrup, you can brew your own beer in the backcountry. It’s a little heavy if your goal is a lightweight set up, but light enough to bring along on shorter trips. I bought this set up (beer syrup ordered separately, see Pat’s Backcountry Beverages website for ordering) for my dad and Greyson last year, and the beer is good!

Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Growler
One of the coolest things I learned from visiting breweries in Oregon and Nevada is that they’ll fill any growler (in California, the majority of breweries will only fill their own branded growlers). Between that and the rise of beer/wine/liquor stores with growler fill stations, an insulated stainless steel growler is a great gift. I have the Hydro Flask 32 oz growler, but they also come in a full size, 64 oz version.

Alibi Ale Works Pale Ale on Nitro

Brewery Gift Certificates
If you know their favorite kinds of beers, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate to that brewery (or breweries!). Even if you don’t live near a cool brewery, consider getting a gift certificate for one in one of their favorite vacation destinations. A couple of my favorite breweries include Alibi Ale Works in Lake Tahoe, NV, Crux Fermentation Project in Bend, OR, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, CA, and June Lake Brewing in June Lakes, CA.

A Trip to a Beer Destination
If you have a slightly larger budget for this gift, consider a beer-related trip. There are some great beer related destinations out there that also double as great outdoor adventure locations. You could head to Bend, OR and do the Bend Ale Trail. Also in Oregon is the microbrew capital of the US, Portland. Just close your eyes, point, and walk in that direction for a few blocks. You’ll be sure to run into a great brewery. You could head for the very northwest corner of the continental US – Bellingham. It’s got a bunch of great breweries and amazing mountain biking. If you have a HUGE budget, there’s always Belgium or Germany! Note: I haven’t tried the Belgium or German beer tours, but they look awesome.

Solo beer touring in Portland this fall.
Solo beer touring in Portland this fall.

Those are just a few of my gift ideas for beer lovers! Beer drinkers – what would you like to get? I would love this Akinz “I Just Wanna Ride Bikes Drink Beer & Cuddle” tank top!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Try This Beer: Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company

I’m doing really well on the beer drinking portion of my Summer Bucket List! During Labor Day weekend, I was able to check out a new to me brewery/tasting room in Truckee – Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company.

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Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company has a restaurant & brew pub a few miles away in Tahoe City, but they brew their beer and offer tastings, bottles, and growler filling in a slightly industrial area of Truckee (near Full Belly Deli!). I’d actually tried Tahoe Brewing Company beer at their restaurant a couple of times several years ago, but I was not impressed. Katie and I went once right after it opened and the food, service and beer all left something to be desired. I figured it was probably just due to being so new, and gave it another try 6 months later or so. The food and service were great, but I still didn’t like the beer!

After that, I just gave up. I recommended the restaurant with the caveat that I wasn’t a huge fan of their beer. Flash forward to now. Greyson has been insisting that I give the brewery another shot, and that we should try the taproom. On Sunday, I finally agreed and we drove over there in the afternoon. It’s not in the most scenic location, but the interior is nice, and we easily got seats at the bar.

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Photo from here.

Greyson and I almost ordered just two pints (one each of two types of IPA), but the bartender told us we could get a sampler of 8 beers. We decided to try that, and I’m so glad that we did! Now I am an IPA girl, through and through. Though I do enjoy pale ales, lagers, pilsners, stouts, porters, etc., nearly all of my favorite beers are IPA, usually on the hoppier side. I’ve never gotten into sour beers, saisons, Belgians – those varieties that have been trendy in the last couple of years. Tahoe Mountain Brewing has a lot of saisons, barrel aged sours – things I wouldn’t normally even try.

We decided to be more adventurous this time, and not just try the eight closest beers to an IPA. And you know what – my favorite beer was a multi-grain saison – Provisions! Other than one special IPA (Hop Dragon), the IPAs and pale ales weren’t my favorite. I think that was my mistake before – I had only tried the IPAs and pale ales that are normally my favorite, but Tahoe Mountain Company’s best beers are the lighter, more sour beers. Here were my favorites (all descriptions and pictures from their website):

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Provisions Saison: “A full-bodied, yet sessionable rustic multi-grain Farmhouse Ale.”

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Hop Dragon IPA: “Fear stalks the land as this big, bold West Coast style double IPA brings a monstrosity of aromatic hops.”

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Hot Pants Berliner Weisse: “100% Lactobacillus fermented wheat beer.”

Try This Beer: Alibi Ale Works, Incline Village, NV

Back in June, I said that one of my Tahoe Summer Bucket List items was “Visit all of the Local Breweries”. I got another step closer this weekend with a visit to the new-ish brewery Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nevada.

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In addition to their awesome logo, they brew great beer. Since they’re still a fairly new brewery, they only have a few of their own beers on draft. But all of the ones I tried were great! They also have beer, wine and cider from other breweries, wineries and cider-ies (?) from near and far.

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Richard Romo, and Kevin Drake, Alibi Ale Works founders (photo by Kevin MacMillan Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Another really cool thing about Alibi Ale Works is that, since they’re located in Nevada, they can fill up pretty much any container you bring them. They sell branded glass and stainless steel growlers, but we happened to have our 32 oz Hydro Flask Growler from Crux Fermentation Project, and they filled it up when we left. They have a special deal on growler fills on Sunday, so we got 32 oz of their IPA for only $8! Also, the brewery often has live music and food trucks, and that calendar is posted on their website.

Their beers don’t have any exciting or punny names yet, and are simple descriptions of what they are. I tried Alibi Ale Works’ Porter, Scotch Ale, Pale Ale and IPA. While I enjoyed them all, I was most impressed by the Scotch Ale. Usually, that’s not my favorite type of beer, but Alibi’s was the best Scotch Ale I’ve ever had! It was slightly fruity without being to sweet, and I told Greyson that it made me think of cherry fruit leather. (like, the hippie fruit roll ups). He thought that description was weirdly specific. Sadly, the Scotch Ale isn’t available by the growler, so we got the (also delicious) IPA.

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If you’re in the Tahoe area, Alibi Ale Works is worth the trip! There are a bunch of good hikes, climbs and bike rides in the Incline Village area. Greyson and I earned our beers with a short hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail out to a gorgeous viewpoint up near Mount Rose. Check back next week for more details about the hike!

Disclosure: One of the links in this post is an affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Mountain Biking the Tahoe Flume Trail

One of the most iconic mountain biking trails in the country is the Flume Trail, and I finally rode it last week with Greyson and my friends Katie and Gavin.

Mountain Biking Tahoe Flume Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The flume trail is known for it’s incredible views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. For much of the trail, you are more than 1,000 feet over the tropical-colored East Shore of Lake Tahoe, looking down at the aqua waters and sandy beaches, and across to the snowy mountains on the West Shore. The flume trail itself is not very technical and can be done by anyone in moderately good shape with fairly basic mountain bike skills (though it does have a fair amount of exposure for those nervous about that). This is definitely a trail to savor the views, not rushed through for thrills.

Map via Strava
Map via Strava

The Flume Trail is usually done via shuttle (though it can be looped). We shuttled it ourselves, but there is a really convenient shuttle provided by Flume Trail Bikes for $15, a shop located at the end of the Flume Trail, where you can also rent bikes. Self shuttling is super easy with two cars. We parked a car on the side of the road by Flume Trail Bikes and Tunnel Creek Cafe (don’t park in their lot!) at the end of the Flume Trail and took off from the parking near the Highway 50 and Highway 28 boat inspection site at Spooner Summit. Both of these places have free parking, but you could also pay $5 to park at the Nevada State Park entrance to the Spooner Summit area. We just rode the half mile from where we parked to the park entrance along the road. Note: even if you ride into the park, you do have to pay an entrance fee of $2 per person for bikes, so be sure to  have a little bit of cash.

Map via Google Maps
Map via Google Maps

Trail Ends at Flume Trail Bikes and where to leave a shuttle car.

Map via Google Maps.
Map via Google Maps.

Intersection of Hwy 50 & Hwy 28 – where we started and left a shuttle car.

Once you’re in the park, hit up the super nice restrooms and follow the signs to the Flume Trail/Marlette Lake.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

Now we get to the only really challenging part of the Flume Trail – the climb to Marlette Lake. This section of the ride is on an old fire road that was in really good riding condition in mid-May, but I imagine will get sandier and sandier as summer progresses. You’ll climb from ~6,850 to ~8,020 in about 4. 5 miles, with the steepest section occurring in the last quarter mile or so of the climb. We took our time on the way up to save our legs for the last climb, and I even got off and pushed on a couple of the steeper sections during that last quarter mile. It took us over an hour to make the 4.5 mile climb, but going slow was the right decision and kept us from being miserable on the fun parts!

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Forced smiles only on this part.

After the climb, there’s a quick downhill via fire road to Marlette Lake. I recommend taking a long-ish snack and water break here. You’ll want to feel good enough to enjoy the scenic portion of the Flume Trail.

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Photo by Katie Riley

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After eating our snacks of PROBAR Meal and workout candy (aka Clif Shot Bloks) and enjoying the view, we rode along the side of Marlette Lake and finally connected with the Flume Trail. Though the whole ride is commonly called the Flume Trail, the actual Flume Trail is a 4.5 mile section built on top of an old logging flume. The Flume Trail is flat, sandy and easy to ride. There are a couple of high-consequence technical sections (ie, don’t fall off the cliff), but those come with large warning signs asking you to dismount well in advance. Though we could have burned through this slightly downhill, non-technical section quickly, we didn’t want to. The views are what makes the climb worth it!

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We quickly got our first view of Lake Tahoe – and it only got better from here. We stopped and took a million pictures along the way. It took us over an hour to ride 4.2 miles of non-technical, net downhill trail! But, like I said, the views are the reason that you ride this trail, so there’s no reason not to linger.

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The trail is fairly narrow, and has a steep drop off in sections, but as long as everyone is cautious and polite, passing is not really an issue as even the narrowest sections eventually widen out for a safe passing area. People generally ride it in the downhill direction (or south to north), but we did encounter a few people taking the opposite way. Here’s a typical picture of the Flume Trail – as you can see it’s flat and non-technical.

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And here’s an example of a more technical section. Katie and Greyson are picking their way though a narrow opening in the rocks.

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photo by Gavin Feiger

We could not get over how awesome the views were! We decided that the view of Lake Tahoe from the Flume Trail is one of the few things that could be accurately described as “hella epic”.

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Since we weren’t in any sort of race to the finish, we took a ton of pictures – not only of the stunning views, but also pictures of us enjoying the trail. One of the cool things about the Flume Trail is that it is cut through huge granite outcroppings in a few areas. So you are surrounded by and ride through these massive boulders!

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photo by Greyson Howard

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photo by Greyson Howard

Sand Harbor is one of the most well-known spots in the Lake Tahoe area, and for good reason! It’s got aqua blue water, large sandy beaches, and spherical boulders dotting the shores. If you’re on the ground, you can hang out on the beach, paddle board or kayak through the clear water and even attend a Shakespeare play on the beach! Now that I’ve done the Flume Trail, I can say you haven’t experienced Sand Harbor at its best until you’ve seen it from 1,000 feet up.

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photo by Gavin Feiger

After the incredible views of Sand Harbor, we started winding our way back into the trees and towards the end of the trail. But not before a final view of Lake Tahoe!

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photo by Gavin Feiger

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The last part of the ride is 3 miles of a fast fire road down to Flume Trail Bikes and Tunnel Creek Cafe. The fire road is in excellent condition, but there are some sections with loose gravel and ruts, as well as plenty of hikers so be sure to keep your speed under control. When we got to the end, we were totally ready for food and beer, and luckily, Tunnel Creek Cafe has both. We all enjoyed Deschutes Fresh Squeezeds in the sun – well deserved after an awesome day on the bike!

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P.S. Did you notice I added a “Beer” page to my site? You can check out my favorite breweries by clicking here!

Santa Cruz: Sea Otters and Sea Otter Classic

I told Greyson that all I wanted for my birthday was to see some otters. We ended up going to Santa Cruz, and the trip delivered!

The first sea otter we visited was the Sea Otter Classic.

Sea Otter Classic // tahoefabulous.com

The Sea Otter Classic is a massive bike festival and expo that takes place in Monterey Bay, California over a few days in mid-April. Greyson had great memories of attending the festival when he was younger, and we were excited to check it out. The only word I can use to describe Sea Otter is…overwhelming. Maybe people who are more experienced with massive expos would have gotten more out of it than I did, but there were so many booths and exhibits and things going on that it was hard to find anything I wanted to see. We also went on Saturday (the festival started on Thursday), so I don’t know if it was our random wandering or if the booths were already cleared out, but we didn’t score any swag. I did get a good deal on some new bike gloves and I ran into my friends from TAMBA. While I’m glad that I went at least one time in my life, I don’t feel the need to head back to Sea Otter next year.

We drank Sierra Nevada beer, ate some expensive teriyaki, watched some cyclocross, and then it was time for the main event of the day – Men’s Pro Dual Slalom.

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The Men’s Pro Dual Slalom race kicked off with a race between two tandem teams!

Dual Slalom isn’t a super popular race anymore, but it’s a super fun one to watch. Two bikers race head to head on identical courses full of features like berms, drops and jumps. The riders then switch tracks, and their times are combined. The slower rider is eliminated and the other moves on to the next round, until a winner is declared.

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As much as I love biking and all things related, I was even more excited for the next iteration of otters – actual live sea otters in the wild!

Elkhorn Slough // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson and I drove south from Santa Cruz to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve with one goal: to see some otters!

The Elkhorn Slough NERR is

“one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. The Reserve is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The 1700-acre Reserve is a hub of activity and hosts programs that promote education, research, and conservation in Elkhorn Slough. The Visitor Center has award-winning exhibits that invite everyone to explore the Unseen Slough. There are five miles of trails that meander through beautiful oak woodlands, calm tidal creeks, and freshwater marshes. We offer tours on the weekends and special events throughout the year.”

More importantly, Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest population of California’s sea otters, a fact I learned by watching Saving Otter 501 (a PBS Nature Documentary, available to watch online here and via Netflix!) over and over.

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Picture from Saving Otter 501 found here.

California’s southern sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries, but a surviving population of around 50 was found off of Big Sur in 1938. The population has grown to nearly 2,000, many of which live in the protected Elkhorn Slough.

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Greyson and I didn’t really have any concrete plans for finding the sea otters, other than going to Elkhorn Slough, and potentially renting kayaks. We ended up just pulling into a beach parking lot on vague instructions from Greyson’s sister, and we immediately spotted otters! We were on a little spit of sand with a manmade breakwater that made a perfect spot for otter spotting.

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I only had my phone camera, so my photos aren’t great. Greyson got some great shots though, and made an adorable video that I already posted.

Photo by Greyson Howard
Photo by Greyson Howard

A highlight was definitely the two juvenile otters who wrestled near us for 15 or 20 minutes.

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The shot I got with my phone.

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The shot Greyson got with his camera. Ha!

I also loved this otter that floated contentedly while a fisherman and his dog worked on a boat nearby.

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In addition to the dozens of otters frolicking about, the Elkhorn Slough was packed with other wildlife. We saw sea lions, harbor seals, cormorants, herons, and the ubiquitous Velella velella. If you’re in the Monterey or Santa Cruz area, I highly recommend a trip to the Elkhorn Slough. If you’re interested in the crucial conservation work they’re doing, you can learn more on their website, or become a member!

We did a few other fun things in the Santa Cruz area over the weekend. We hit up the Monterey Bay Aquarium just in time for the otter feeding and to visit the fluorescent-ly lit jellyfish:

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And we hit up Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing for some birthday beers just before we left town on Sunday. These weren’t my favorite beers of all time, and I probably won’t write up a whole review of the brewery. I did enjoy their Peoples Organic Coffee Porter and Devout Stout, and I loved their location with an outdoor beer garden and tap room.

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The whole weekend was a great way to celebrate my 31st birthday, and it will be hard to top next year!

Try This Beer: Mountain Rambler Brewery – Bishop, California

I have been waiting for Mountain Rambler Brewery to open for almost as long as I have been visiting Bishop! As awesome  as Bishop, California is (and it is incredibly great), they had been lacking a great place to get a beer, a delicious meal, and hangout with friends after a day outside.

Mountain Rambler Brewery Bishop // tahoefabulous.com

Mountain Rambler had its grand opening in early February, and it was already super popular by the time we visited in March. We ended up going there twice in two days, and it always had a good crowd. The brewery has high ceilings, and a light, airy feel, and the walls are covered with Eastern Sierra inspired art and photography. I heard a rumor that the bars and some of the tables were constructed from reclaimed bristlecone pine wood, giving Mountain Rambler a very Eastern Sierra feel.

We tried three of the beers while we were there – Peaklet Porter, Pale Ale First Release and Extra Pale First Release. Mountain Rambler offers very generous half pints, which we went with for sampling, and I went back for seconds (over the course of two days) of the Porter and the Pale Ale. We also had the polenta tots with delicious pesto aioli. Whether you’re staying in Bishop for a longer climbing trip or just passing through, a visit to Mountain Rambler Brewery should definitely be on your 395 bucket list!

 

Try This Beer: June Lake Brewing

When driving back from the Eastern Sierra this weekend, Greyson and I finally got to try the new-ish brewery in June Lake – June Lake Brewing.

June Lake Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

We sampled both tasting flights the brewery offered, and the awesome owner threw in samples of the other two beers on tap so we could have the full experience. Here’s what I tried (all descriptions from June Lake Brewing website):

Deer Beer Brown Ale (3/5): Having a love for traditional English Browns we used UK Fuggles and UK Goldings hops coupled with 2-Row Pale, Crystal 15 and Chocolate malts to craft this beauty.  By doubling the amount of Fuggles and Goldings recommended for the original style we introduced a slightly higher hop flavor (read Westcoast style) to the traditional English Brown, and complimented the hoppyness with the additional of Chocolate malt.  With an ABV of 5.8%, an IBU of of 24 and an SRM of 21, Deer Beer Brown is smooth, refreshing and packed with character.

Alper’s Trout Pale Ale (3.5/5): Working with Tim Alpers, father of the famed Eastern Sierra Alpers Trout, we put together a well rounded grain bill comprised of 2-Row Pilsner, 2-Row Pale, Munich, Crystal 15 and White Wheat malts to compliment the heavy additions of Cascade, CTZ, Mt. Hood, and Crystal hops.  This beer weighs in around 5.8% ABV with 35 IBUs and a light 6.6 SRM color profile.  Combined with our phenomenal water, the primarily Pilsner malt grain bill provides a nice, slightly creamy mouth feel, with the strong citrus notes compliments of the Cascade and CTZ hops.  In the finish hints of spicy can be found from the Crystal and Mt. Hood aroma hop additions after the boil during the whirlpooling process.

SmoKin Porter (4/5): Brewed and named in honor of TestPilot 001 Jeff Kramer the SmoKin Porter is a full bodied robust porter exhibiting a mildly smoky character complimented by a generous helping of CTZ hops for bittering and Mt. Hood hops for flavor and aroma.  With an ABV of 7.2%, a bitterness of 51 IBUs and a deep dark SRM of 32, the SmoKin Porter drinks remarkably smooth for such a dark colored beer.  With skills that rival Kramer’s own, the SmoKin Porter is a delicious choice for any occasion.

Hutte Double IPA (4.5/5): Working with our Brewfather and a number of our brewer friends we developed this Goliath of a beer.  Think big Westcoast style DIPA with a massive hop bill that includes Cascade, Millenium, CTZ, Ella and Nugget, countered by an even larger malt bill comprised of 2-Row Pale, Carapils and Crystal 15. Oh yeah and throw in 66lbs of dry hopped Cascade, Ella and Armarillo for a citrusy, orangy finish that accentuates the overall super hoppy goodness. Though light in color at 9 SRM, Hutte makes up for it in flavor and body with 9.5% ABV and 120 IBUs of palate crushing awesomeness!

This beer was my far away favorite, and reminded me of a couple of the beers I really liked at Crux. When we told the owner that, she said that she was super flattered, as Crux is one of her and her husband’s favorite breweries!

Silver Lake Saison (3/5): You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened… This is our lightest beer in color, flavor, alcohol and palate… But never ones to fully capitulate to other’s opinions we utilized a fruity/spicy Belgium Farm House Saison Ale (BFHSA) yeast as opposed to our standard California Ale yeast to keep it foot! Combining equal parts 2-Row Pale and 2-Row Pilsner with some White Wheat and Munich malts, we ended up with a light refreshing BFHSA that is lightly hopped with Cascade, Columbus/Tomahawk/Zues, Crystal, Ella and Mt. Hood.  Perfect for a long day at the downhill park, and/or a hot day in the sun, the Silver Lake Saison

Rock-N-Dirt Milk Stout (3/5): We love Mammoth Rock n’ Dirt so of course we wanted to make a collaboration beer with them to express our deepest feelings and gratitude. You may ask how a heavy equipment and excavation company can collaborate on a beer, well all we can tell you is that it’s got real dirt in it and that’s how you can tell it’s authentic (*does not actually contain dirt, we just think that sounds good). The combination of 2-Row Pale, Carapils, Chocolate and Crystal 75 malts creates the perfect backbone for the conservative Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus and Mt. Hood hop profile. Brewed with English Ale yeast as opposed to our standard California Ale yeast, this brew has a smooth, slightly sweet finish.

Archimedes Red Ale (3/5): RIP Tyson Archimedes Montrucchio. Gone, but certainly not forgotten we brewed this kickass Red Ale for our fallen friend Tyson.  As a tribute to the intensity with which he lived life we packed this beer with a sh*t ton of love and respect.  From a grain bill comprised of 2-Row Pale, Crystal 75, Munich, Victory (that’s where the biscuityness comes from), and Chocolate malts, to a hop profile of Cascade and Mt. Hood, we didn’t pull any punches on this one.  As a full bodied Red Ale that isn’t over the top, the Archimedes Red is our TCB go to beer, and is a constant reminder that we all need to be thankful for each new day with our friends and family.  La Familia Por Vida!

8140 IPA (4/5): 8140 ain’t our altitude folks so don’t go telling our friends at Mammoth Brewing Company they aren’t the highest brewery in California. The 8140 Black IPA was brewed in homage to the eight thousand one hundred and forty square feet of sheet rock we had to hang in our brewery.  As the ring leaders of the monumental task we naturally asked our supreme friends Jonathan Widen and Dave Thomas from Premier Painting Plus what kind of beer they wanted and naturally they said BLACK. So before you sits a Black IPA with an ingredient list as ominous as the color (basically it has more ingredients than will fit on the page). So enjoy the black hoppy goodness and avoid hanging drywall at all costs!

ESBzar (3/5): Rest In Powder BZ! We hand crafted this traditional Extra Special Bitter to honor our fallen friend Larry “BZ” Miller, without whom it would have been very difficult to open our brewery. Utilizing ESB as our base malt (think English style malt similar to Marris Otter) we combined Crystal 15 malt with Golding and Fuggle hops to provide the perfect base for the WLP 002 English Ale Yeast to do it’s yeasty magic and create this full bodied, subtly hopped 7% ABV 32 IBU beauty. If big hop forward beers aren’t necessarily your thing, the ESBzar may be your new go to fermulation.

Not So Hoppy Holiday Ale (3/5): Picture Santa crying…. Taking a step away from our hop forward roots we crafted this recipe with the help of our Brew Father to highlight the tastyness of holiday spices.  Utilizing cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, nutmeg, fresh orange zest, grains of paradise and amazing awesome sauce we concocted this wickedly good holiday mix.  With an IBU of 19 and 5.7% ABV, this crimson beauty can be sessioned all night without fear of praising the porcelain thrown.  Spicy, malty, goodness.

I really liked this brewery – it’s in a really cool space and Sarah the owner was super friendly, not only giving us a couple of free tastings, but offering mountain bike suggestions in the area. The brewery doesn’t do food, but there is an AMAZING Hawaiian food truck parked outside – Ohanas395. You can order at the truck, and they’ll deliver your food in the brewery. Try the Big Kahuna Fries!

If you’re road tripping up or down 395, June Lake Brewing is worth taking the scenic route on the June Lakes loop!

 

Bend: The Beer

So I’ve already waxed poetically about the beer at Crux Fermentation Project, but I tried A LOT of beers when we were in Bend. Here are some of the highlights:

Bend: The Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

After purchasing a bike lock and rear flashers for our Bend Ale Trail bike tour at The Hub Cyclery, we rode over to 10 Barrel Brewing Company* for dinner and beer. Despite it being fairly early on a Wednesday, the place was packed! We headed for the bar to wait for our table, where I ordered the Apocalypse IPA (I ranked it 4/5) and Greyson got the India-Style Session Ale (3/5). We were seated at the long, bar-style community table where we got to eavesdrop on lots of interesting/awkward conversations. I also had a P2P American Stout (4.5/5).

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*10 Barrel Brewing Company was recently bought by AB-InBev, so it’s technically no-longer a craft brewery, if that matters to you.

We then biked over to McMenamins Old Saint Francis School, a converted Catholic schoolhouse from the 1930’s. There’s a bar, restaurant, hotel, movie theater, and even a soaking pool! I only found out about all of the other amenities after I was back home, but I definitely want to check out the pool on my next trip to Bend. I had the Star Trip IPA (which did not have an entry on Untappd! So, honestly I don’t remember how much I like the beer, other than it was not my favorite, but I enjoyed it.) and Greyson got the Hammerhead American Pale Ale (1.5/5 – did not like it!). We called it a night after McMenamins after the long drive and headed back to the condo we stayed in our first night there.

We spent Thursday afternoon at Crux Fermentation Project, and that was our only brewery that day.

On Friday, we had a leisurely morning around camp (I finally tried a Picky Bar and really liked it! Got to love that there are getting to be more and more soy-free bars out there!), and took on the Deschutes River Trail via mountain bike. It only seemed appropriate to visit the Deschutes Brewery after!

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR // tahoefabulous.com

My favorite six pack that I can get fairly easily in California is Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA, and Greyson waits all year for Red Chair NWPA, so we were excited to try our favorites and more at the source. In addition to Fresh Squeezed and Red Chair, we had samplers of Bachelor Bitter (3.5), In Version Experimental Inversion IPA (3/5), Obsidian Nitro Stout (3.5/5) and Chasin’ Freshies. I’d never had Red Chair on draft, and I really liked it, it may have been my favorite out of the ones we tried there! We also split a pint of Deschutes Black Butte Porter (my favorite porter!) at Crow’s Feet Commons later – because who can resist getting a beer at a bar in a bike shop?

We grabbed dinner Friday night at a mediocre Mediterranean restaurant – nothing worth writing about, but there I was able to order a happy hour pint of Boneyard Beer Company RPM IPA (4/5). This brewery had come recommended by Emily and the bartender at Crux, so I was excited to try it out. I really enjoyed it, and I wish we could have made it to the actual brewery during our time there. Next time!

We decided to hit one more spot on the Bend Ale Trail before heading back to our campground out at Smith Rock. We walked over to Bend Brewing Company and ordered pints of Elk Lake IPA (4/5) and Metolius Golden Ale (3/5). I liked the Metolius Golden Ale way more than I usually like that style of beer.

After climbing in the cold on Saturday morning/early afternoon, we headed into town famished and ready for more beer. We had a late lunch at the most amazing Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to – Wild Rose (this place deserves its own post!), where I had a pint of 3 Sisters American Red Ale (4/5) from Wild Ride Brew, just down the road in Redmond, Oregon.

Our final stop on the Bend brewery tour was Silver Moon Brewing, my second favorite brewery of the trip. Also, the brewery was located across the street from a DONUT TRUCK which was, unfortunately, closed both times we drove by. Next time. We sat at the bar, and the friendly bartenders poured us samples of HopNob IPA (4.5/5 – the only beer in my Top 8 NOT from Crux!), Voodoo Dog American Amber (4/5), Get Sum American Pale Ale (4/5), IPA 97 (2.5/5) and Mango Daze ISA (3.5/5) which was surprisingly good for a fruity beer!

Bend is a perfect destination for the outdoorsy, the beer lover, and, especially, for those who fall in both categories. We honestly just scratched the surface of breweries in the Bend area. I can’t wait to go back and try all of the other beers from the breweries I didn’t get to visit. And (honestly), probably spend another day at Crux and Silver Moon!

P.S. We also stopped by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company on our way up north!

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA // tahoefabulous.com

 

Try This Beer: Crux Fermentation Project in Bend Oregon

I tried A LOT of beers while I was in Bend. In fact, brewery visiting was one of my top 3 motivations for this semi-spontaneous road trip. Most of the beers I tried ranged from good to excellent, but one brewery blew all of the rest out of the water: Crux Fermentation Project

Crux Fermentation Project Bend Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

At Crux, I tried eight beers, and seven of those beers were the seven best beers I had in Bend. And the other one was still delicious, just not my favorite type of beer. In addition to the amazing beers, the staff was super friendly and generous with their time and their pours.

One bartender (whose name I didn’t get) asked us which beers we liked the most, then poured us another couple of samplers he thought we would like and needed to try. He also recommended several other breweries to try, and we took his suggestions seriously on our list of places to visit.

Here’s the list of the beers I tried (all descriptions from Crux’s website) and my rankings at the time according to Untappd.

Prowell Springs Pre-Prohibition Lager: 5 out of 5

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Sugar Daddy American Pale Ale: 5 out of 5

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Outcast American IPA: 5 out of 5

“The name “Outcast” gives a nod to the origin of the Galaxy hops used. The hops came from Australia, which was originally populated by English “Outcasts” or outlaws.”

Nitro Stout: 5 out of 5

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Half Hitch Imperial IPA: 5 out of 5

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2014 Tough Love Imperial Stout: 4.5 out of 5

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Bert Scotch Ale: 5 out of 5

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On the Fence American IPA: 5 out of 5

“It’s not a Pale and it’s not an IPA – it’s “on the fence”. A solid malt backbone with significant hop flavors and aromas (Centennial and Citra), medium alcohol and bitterness.”

We ended up buying a half growler (in this awesome double walled growler from Hydro Flask) of the On the Fence to take back and enjoy at our campsite. We even stopped by on our way out of town and filled up the growler with Half Hitch and bought a couple of bottles of Outcast! We weren’t kidding around with our Crux Fermentation Project love.

 

Try This Beer – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company isn’t exactly a tiny, unknown microbrewery in need of promotion, since you can buy their beers in pretty much every state. But I recently got a chance to visit their headquarters in Chico, California and try some of their beers you can’t get in the store or are much more difficult to find.

SNBC 1

Greyson and I went for an early dinner at their Taproom (be sure to order the beer cheese if you’re there!) and split two samplers. The samplers were pretty small, which is why we ended up going for two. We were glad we ended up being able to try so many different beers, and the samplers were very reasonably priced (I want to say somewhere in the $5 range? Sorry, I don’t remember!). One note – they don’t tell you which order to drink the beers, which is usually standard when ordering samplers for maximum taste enjoyment. We organized them by IBUs, going from least bitter to most bitter, which seemed to work just fine.

I tracked my tastings using the Untappd app (which isn’t my favorite, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. Any suggestions?) Spoiler alert – I really, really enjoyed most of them, but the overall winner for delicious drinkability (#1 qualification for growler purchase) was the Pilsner *- a result that surprised myself! We shared the growler with 2 friends when we got home, and it did not last very long! The Best Bitter was another surprise for a close second place and I would also recommend in the growler volume.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company // tahoefabulous.com

Here’s what I tried (all descriptions from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company website):

Knightro Dry Irish Stout: A fully nitrogenated beer designed as our take on the creamy dry stouts of Ireland with a decidedly Sierra Nevada twist. Knightro is black in color, but surprisingly light in body with rich caramel and chocolate malty flavors. It has a creamy mouthfeel and gentle carbonation from the use of a high percentage of nitrogen instead of the typical carbon dioxide. My score: 2.5/5

Narwhal Imperial Stout: Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come. My Score: 4.5/5

Northwest Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale: Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers. My Score: 5/5

Hoptimum: Hoptimum is a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced. It features resinous hop varieties: Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada. With intense hop flavors and aromas of grapefruit rind, pine, herbs and tropical fruit, Hoptimum is an aggressive drinking experience. Originally created as part of our Beer Camp program, Hoptimum throws down the gauntlet to all other IPAs. My Score: 5/5

Pilsner*: Our Pilsner won a gold award in the bi-annual “Olympics of Beer,” the 2010 World Beer Cup, in the German-Style Pilsner category. This traditional Bavarian lager is straw colored with a pinpoint balance between nutty malt flavors and aromatic noble hops. Our Pilsner is an excellent example of this light-bodied traditional style. My Score: 4/5

Nooner Session IPA: There’s no better way to start a lazy afternoon than with a group of friends and a few beers. Nooner IPA is a session beer that’s light in body yet big in hop flavor. By using intense, whole-cone American hops in our Hop Torpedo we pack this small beer with a hefty hop punch. Traditionally, IPAs have been bigger, stronger beers, but this session beer offers the same hop assertiveness with an easy drinkability. My Score: 4/5

Flipside Red IPA: Just when it feels like the dog days will never end, suddenly, the switch is flipped, the air gets cooler and it’s clear that autumn is on the way. Featuring a ruby-red hue and abundant tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors, Flipside Red IPA is the perfect beer for the final flash of summer. My Score: 2.5/5

Best Bitter: Brewed with imported English malts, this medium-bodied, copper-colored beer is a rendition of the popular English Bitter. Best Bitter is a true “session” beer that features a smooth toasty, biscuit-like malt character and finishes with a clean, spicy hop note. My Score: 5/5

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a brewery with an environmental focus, delicious beers, and is always supporting great local and regional causes, and I’d heartily recommend their beers you can regularly find in stores (especially their original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a can). If you ever get a chance to visit their brewery in Chico or sample some of their less available brews, you won’t regret it!