Après Ski Suds.
A few years back, I traveled cross-country to meet up with a good friend in Portland, OR. He put together a posse of mountain biking buddies, and we went on a three-hour hammerfest through Forest Park on the outskirts of town. Afterward, we retired to a local watering hole – a brew pub – to rehydrate.
I ordered a Bud Light. Big mistake.
Judging from the reaction of my riding partners, you’d think I had just committed a capital offense. “Bud Light? Really? In Portland?”
Lesson learned. As a longtime hockey player who relishes a few cold ones after a skate, I’m still fond of Bud Light. It’s a refreshing, low-calorie pilsner. But it’s not exactly an adventurous choice. What does this have to do with skiing? Simply this: If you’re checking out new terrain in ski country, take the time to check out the local brew pubs while you’re there. They’re part of the fabric that makes up the character of a ski resort, or ski town. And what could be better after a day on the hill than a frosty beverage?
The following are 10 of our favorite brewpubs, East and West. You’ll find some right on the hill, and a few a short drive away. All are worth a visit.
10. Deschutes Brewery/Bend, Oregon
Speaking of Oregon, this outdoor Mecca is home to the Bend Public House, the original brewpub of Deschutes Brewery (first opened in 1988). Located a short drive from Oregon’s largest resort – Mt. Bachelor – the pub offers at least 19 craft brews on tap, all of which reflect the “high risk, high reward” attitude embraced at Deschutes. My favorites are the seasonal brews, led by the robust, dark and spicy Jubelale and the fruity, forward, and hoppy New Chair NWPA. But the year-round selections such as Big Rig classic pub ale, Obsidian Stout, Black Butte Porter and Inversion IPA are all superb. A great menu is an added bonus. You can also check out most of these libations at the brewery’s Tasting Room, and participate in a free guided tour while your there. Flying into Portland? Visit Deschutes Portland Public House, with 26 taps. Talk about variety! Honorable mention: North Fork Brewery, Mt. Baker, Washington.
9. Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery/Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
All you need to know about the popularity of Woodstock Station is this: In the 3½ miles between Loon Mountain Resort and 135 Main St. in North Woodstock, you drive past two dozen other dining establishments. But Woodstock Station always provides value. Whether you’re dropping in a for a quick hand-crafted pint and a huge plate of nachos, enjoying a full meal with the family, or staying overnight at the inn, you always leave feeling like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. Throughout the year, there are 20 signature brews to sample. I’m a fan of big, bold beverages, so I’ll usually opt for an Old Man Oatmeal Stout, Pig’s Ear Brown Ale, Kanc County Maple Porter, 4000 Footer IPA, Last Chair Ale, or Wassail Winter Ale. My wife prefers brews on the lighter side, which typically means a White Mountain Weasel Wheat (also available with a raspberry tint), Pemi Pale Ale, Loon Golden Ale, or amber Live Free or Die. Our daughter Brynne insists the K&M Root Beer (with or without ice cream) is the best she’s ever tasted. Honorable mention: Schilling Beer Company, Littleton, NH.
8. Lone Peak Brewery/Big Sky Resort, Montana
The biggest ski resort in the United States deserves a locally crafted beer with a big, big taste. Lone Peak Brewery delivers. Big Sky’s first and only microbrewery/tap house, Lone Peak serves beers made on the premises, boasting 13 tap handles with rotating seasonals and award-winning specialty brews. Favorites include Nordic Blonde (light and fresh with just enough hops to keep things interesting), BaBam! (a delicious bourbon barrel-aged Belgian amber, with caramel and clove mixing with bourbon spice and vanilla), Sheepeater Bock (a classic lager nose with caramel and toffee notes), Steep ‘n Deep Winter Ale (crystal and caramel malts and moderate hops), the rich Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout (chock full of six imported English malts and flaked oats), and the signature Lone Peak IPA (an English style IPA with a bitterness balanced by rich, caramel malts). The tap room was recently voted Best Après in the Bozeman/Big Sky area and Top Ten in the USA by Freeskier magazine. Honorable mention: Great Northern Brewing Company, Whitefish, Montana.
7. Wasatch Brewing Company/Park City, Utah
Has there ever been a better name for a brew, with all its wicked implications, than Polygamy Porter? Plus, it’s a great-tasting brew. This dark, rich porter is just one of the wonderful creations produced by Greg Schirf’s Wasatch Brewing Company. The Park City location is Schirf’s second, after the Milwaukee native launched Utah’s first microbrewery in 1986. Schirf then opened the state’s first brewpub at the top of historic Main Street of this old mining camp. The brewery and brewpub maintain Schirf’s pervasive sense of humor, producing Evolution Amber Ale along with Bobsled Brown Ale, Raspberry Wheat, Apricot Hefeweisen, Ghostrider White IPA, Black O’Lantern Pumpkin Stout, and First One Down Winter Warmer Ale. The Brew Pub offers a full menu of local favorites such as Fish and Chips, Loaded Mac & Cheese and an array of burgers including buffalo burgers (The Wasatch), as well as more eclectic fare such as Tuna Tartare and Whiskey Salt Tater Tots. Honorable mention: Bohemian Brewery, Twin Peaks, Utah.
6. Microbrasserie La Diable/Mont Tremblant, Quebec
More than 20 years ago, Pierre Jasmin and André Poirier left the big city – and their jobs as engineers in the oil industry – to brew beer. In December 1995, they opened the Microbrasserie La Diable in the fabulous Pedestrian Village of Mont Tremblant, the first microbrewery in Quebec’s Laurentians. Over the past two decades, Jasmin and Poirier have perfected their craft, and the proof is in their beverages. Choose from Diable (the Devil’s brew is smooth and velvety, with a nice balance between malt and hops), Blizzard (a refreshing non-filtered, Belgian-style wheat beer with hints of orange, coriander and ginger), 7e Ciel (a golden British-style pale ale, crisp and clear), Extrême Onction (a potent Trappist ale – 8.5% alcohol – with a smooth, copper- color), and Double Noire (a black stout made with roasted barley). Their Real Ale, an unfiltered, dry-hopped red ale, is a special treat. The kitchen offers barbecue ribs and a selection of gourmet burgers and European sausages. Honorable mention: Idletyme Brewing, Stowe, Vermont.
5. Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Company/Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire
Moat Mountain doesn’t look like your traditional brew house. Nestled on Route 16 in the glorious Mount Washington Valley, and housed in a beautiful white Colonial, Moat Mountain appears to be more four-star dining than pub. But one sip of any of the numerous brews available here, including Square Tail Stout, Cathedral Ledge Lager or Bone Shaker Brown Ale, and you’ll know these guys are the real deal. After a really good session on the mountain, nothing is quite as refreshing as Miss V’s Blueberry Ale. Book a room at the adjacent inn, and you can sample as many brews as you’d like, worry free (especially if you’re sampling the Gate Crusher Ale, a hearty – almost 10 percent alcohol – brew named in honor of Valley native Leanne Smith, 2-time Olympian in women’s alpine skiing). Honorable mention: Tuckerman Brewing Company, Conway, New Hampshire.
4. Sawtooth Brewery/Sun Valley, Ketchum, Idaho
Like our friends at Microbrasserie La Diable, Sawtooth founders Paul Holle and Kevin Jones quit their jobs to pursue their love of beer. They started in 2011, and in February of 2016 opened the Sawtooth Brewery Public House in downtown Ketchum. Flagship brews include Sunnyside Session Wheat, Flow Trail Pale Ale, False Summit Amber Ale, Last Chair Stout, and Idahome IPA. But there’s gold in their seasonal brews, led by their Out Cold Winter Ale and Snowyside Blonde. They also have a “rotating rye” selection that deserves attention, including Mustache Ride Black Rye IPA and Freeheeler Rye IPA (inspired by North America’s oldest and boldest telemark race, the Sun Valley Tele). The Public House also features a full pub menu. If you simply want to slake your thirst, stop by the Sawtooth Brewery & Tap Room in nearby Hailey. Honorable mention: Snake River Brewery, Jackson, Wyoming.
3. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co./ Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and Northstar, California
This award-winning brewery embraces the motto, “Big passion brewed in small batches,” and it shows. You can sample local barrel-aged, sour, and wild beers at their brewpub on the shore of Lake Tahoe (opened in 2012) in this epic ski town. Recommended selections include IP-EH (a tropical IPA), Provisions Saison (a multi-grain Farmhouse Saison), Ranch Dog Red Ale (a malty red ale), Hop Dragon Double IPA (Imperial IPA), Paddleboard Pale Ale (a hoppy West Coast-style pale ale), Toasty Stout (creamy and smooth with toasted grains) and Evolution of the Barrel (a blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old golden ale). For more choices, visit the Brewery and Taproom in Truckee. There, you’ll find the award-winning Apricot Recolte Du Bois, Viejo Rojo Flanders-style red ale with cherries and blueberries, Batch 200: Bourbon Reserve barrel-aged sour dark ale, Old Bayard brown ale, Passion Pale Ale with hints of passionfruit and mango, Chain Monkey Baltic porter, and Ms. Coco, a chewy oatmeal stout. Honorable mention: Mammoth Brewing Company, Mammoth, California.
2. Telluride Brewing Company/Telluride, Colorado
Stop us if you’ve heard this before. Two close friends, Tommy Thacher, a bartender, and Chris Fish, an accomplished brew master, founded this brewery after meeting at, of all places, a local bar. Since their first beer was poured in 2012 (made with fresh Rocky Mountain snowmelt), Telluride Brewing has undergone four expansions, allowing production to roughly double each year. They’re now offering Telluride brews in kegs and cans, but with no plans to distribute outside Colorado, you’ll have to head to the Box Canyon to sample their creations. Start with the Face Down Brown, which won gold at the World Beer Cup (2012) and the Great American Beer Festival (2012 and 2014), and the Whacked Out Wheat, which medaled at the Great American Beer Festival (2015) and World Beer Cup (2016). On tap, the Ski-in-Ski-Stout, Belgium-inspired Triple in Stillwater Ale, and redFISH Ale are all winners in my book. Honorable mention: Breckenridge, Brewery/Breckenridge Colorado.
1. The Sunday River Brew Pub/Sunday River, Maine
Owned by the Stone Coast Brewing Company, The Sunday River Brew Pub in Bethel is a big, spacious place, and a nice alternative to the on-mountain, elbow-to-elbow zaniness that you’ll find at the resort’s Shipyard Brew Haus Restaurant at the White Cap Lodge. Here, at the base of the resort’s access road but still close to Sunday River’s elaborate, lung-busting trail network, you can just stretch out a bit more. Depending on my mood, I’m partial to the sweet Sunday River Alt, refreshing Raspberry Wheat, chocolate-tinged Ski Town Brown, or the robust, roasted Black Bear Porter. Then again, I always try to remember to ask what the seasonal offerings are, like the fabulous dark lager Ullr Fest. They offer a wide-ranging pub menu as well, including gourmet hot dogs (how can you not love that?). Honorable mention: Gritty McDuff’s, Freeport, Maine.
Photo: Microbrasserie La Diable