Published on July 1st, 2011 | by Peter Bronski
Ales With Altitude
Do you ever get the sense, as I do, that for as long as people have been brewing beer and climbing mountains, two seemingly unrelated pursuits—drinking beer and hiking—have gone together like Bonnie and Clyde, or peanut butter and jelly?
Consider these time-honored traditions: a day of rock climbing at the Gunks followed by a trip to the Gilded Otter Brewery in New Paltz, N.Y.; a day of hoofin’ it through the Adirondack High Peaks followed by a trip to the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery; a day of tramping through the White Mountains followed by a stop at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. in North Conway, N.H.; a day up on Mount Mansfield followed by a near-obligatory stop for a pint over at The Alchemist in Waterbury.
Of course, pairings such as these have always been somewhat informal. But a select group of folks is taking the association between mountains and beer to another level.
Meet Views and Brews.
The driving force behind the group is Tom Rankin and Dawn Hamilton, an ex-husband-and-wife pair that has remained friends, and Laurie Rankin, Tom’s current wife. (The arrangement isn’t nearly as awkward for them as it might sound.) As the story goes, it was sometime in 2004, and Tom had just finished hiking the 35 Catskill peaks over 3,500 feet in elevation. He and his hiking partners had retired to the Hickory BBQ Smokehouse in Kingston, N.Y., where he downed a celebratory pint of locally brewed Keegan Ales beer to commemorate the occasion.
“I thought there ought to be a list about doing a hike and having a good beer,” he recalls. In short order, Rankin came up with the name “Views and Brews,” built a basic website, compiled lists of brewpubs, and then drew up lists of corresponding hikes. Views and Brews was born.
He never bothered officially incorporating as an organization under that name. That wasn’t the point.
“It’s a labor of love,” Rankin says. So much so that he’ll often try to meet up with aspiring “finishers,” the V&B equivalent of becoming an “Adirondack 46er,” and join them for their last hike and beer.
After initially launching in New York, V&B has grown to including 10 eastern states, including Vermont (with more locations, including Québec, in the works).
For Vermont’s iteration of V&B, there are a lucky 13 brewpubs, each with two corresponding hikes (you get to pick one … or both, if you’re feeling ambitious). In order to earn the state patch—the coveted trophy of a V&B finisher—you must complete nine or more hike-and-brewpub combinations.
The first person made the Vermont list in August 2007. Since then, a grand total of eight people (I did, after all, say this was a select group) have completed the feat, the most recent in April earlier this year. (“A lot more people have gone hiking and visited a brewpub, but not as many have the desire to see the list through,” Rankin notes.)
Maintaining the lists for each state isn’t as easy as the static lists of the New England 4,000-footers, or the Adirondack 46ers. Sure, the mountains are more or less permanent, but brewpubs come and go. For example, the Vermont list of 13 is actually 15 entries long, but two have been “deactivated” because the brewpubs closed or stopped brewing.
It might come as a surprise that you won’t find Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, or Vermont’s other highest peaks on the list, but that was by design.
“We were avid hikers, almost to the extreme. We were obsessive about peak bagging,” Rankin explains. “But the goal is just to get out—even if you just walk a mile—to get people out and to socialize. What you want is for friends to get introduced to hiking without the death-march mentality; the idea is to have easy, accessible hikes and to entice people with a beer afterward.”
Even so, each brewpub on the Vermont list includes an easier hike, as well as a more challenging alternative. They range from a one-mile hike along the shores of Lake Champlain to a six-mile round-trip hike with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
So try the following options to start your own Views and Brews adventure in the Green Mountain State. It’s just a small sampling (or is it a flight?); but heck, if you’re like a lot of mountain folk I know, there’s a good chance you’re going hiking and drinking beer anyway. Why not get credit for it and earn the V&B patch? It just might be a conversation starter on the trail and a way to find a new hiking partner or drinking buddy.
Choose one of these combinations to begin your Views & Brews membership, or find others at www.viewsandbrews.com.
From Route 125 in Middlebury Gap, head south on the Long Trail up, through, and over the Middlebury Snow Bowl ski area, ascending Worth Mountain. Then retire to the Bobcat Café & Brewery in nearby Bristol for your well-earned pint.
Take a casual stroll through Red Rocks Park along the shores of Lake Champlain in South Burlington. (Just be sure to meet the one-mile-minimum Views & Brews requirement!) Then head to Vermont Pub & Brewery in downtown Burlington.
One of the most challenging hikes on the list, an ascent of Mount Ascutney, is one of the two that you can pair with a pint at Harpoon Brewery in nearby Windsor along the Connecticut River.
From Route 9 east of Bennington, head steeply up Harmon Hill, which rewards you with great views of Mount Anthony and downtown Bennington to the west. Then tramp into town to the Madison Brewing Co.
Hiking either Sterling Falls Gorge just north of Stowe or Little River State Park right on Waterbury Reservoir, then set your sights on The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury.