Around Portland, no hike is ever truly complete until the first round of pints have been ordered at the nearest watering hole immediately afterward. So it was only natural that someone would find a creative way to combine two of the city’s most fervent passions—hiking and beer—while putting a uniquely Portland spin on the idea.
Eric Steen founded Beers Made By Walking (BMBW) after a canoe trip along Canada's Yukon River in 2011. An outdoor enthusiast with event production experience, Steen put together hikes and nature walks in Colorado, where he was living at the time, invited brewers to join, and tasked them with creating beers inspired by what they found along the way. Hikers, meanwhile, enjoyed aspects of the outdoors they might not have otherwise explored, learned about the edible and medicinal characteristics of plants, and gained insight into the brewing process.
Steen also brought together hikers and brewers at the end of summer for tastings, where beer-lovers could sample brews that were dreamed up on the trail.
Steen brought BMBW to Portland in 2012—“Edible plants grow all over the place, and we have such easy access to great trails and outdoor hiking,” Steen says of the city—and now offers events in three cities throughout Oregon (including Bend and Eugene). The hikes, which are free, do require advance registration, which opens up on the BMBW website one week beforehand (set a reminder on your calendar, as, not surprisingly, they tend to fill up). Keeping in line with other BMBW events throughout the country, brewers from local breweries will join each hike to talk about how plants are used to make beer and gather ideas.
Here, a look at what's on tap for Beers Made By Walking in Portland this summer.
Where will the hikes happen this summer?
BMBW partnered with the Forest Park Conservancy for the series, so all hikes take place in the massive urban park. Up next on the calendar are an August 22 hike to explore the Balch Creek Canyon area and a September 18 walk through an ancient forest preserve.
What's in it for hikers?
In addition to a good workout and the chance to sample quality brews at a tapping event this fall, Steen wants hikers to gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world in which they live. Forest Park, after all, is one of the largest urban parks in the country and is (literally) a brisk walk from the bustling downtown Portland core.
“My hope is that, when people go on the hike, they learn something about the natural world, gain a better appreciation for it, and begin to see the world through someone else’s eyes,” Steen says. “The brewer has been tasked to create a beer inspired by what we find on the trail, so the process of discovery is just as important as the beer itself.”
Which breweries will participate this summer?
The list of participating breweries is a veritable “who’s who” of Portland- and Oregon-based heavyweights. Participating breweries in 2015 include Hopworks Urban Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Ecliptic Brewing, Lompoc Brewing, Laurelwood Brewing, Base Camp Brewing, and Burnside Brewing.
What kind of beers have been produced so far?
Eight beers in 2014 came directly from the summer series, while others came from state-wide brewers that participated in other hikes around Oregon.
One brewer made a beer with yeast and bacteria harvested in an old-growth area of Forest Park, and another beer was brewed with the salal berry, which is found in the late summer on some trails around the park.
Other notable brews from past years include:
- Coalition Brewing: Ale with stinging nettles and salmonberry
- Breakside Brewery: Spruce-infused zwickelbier
- Coalition Brewing: Huckleberry and ginger root saison
- Flat Tail Brewing: Fresh hop cherry saison with Corvallis cherries and yarrow