Hiking and beer. Doesn’t sound much better than that for the outdoor enthusiast. Rachel and Brandon from Beers at the Bottom celebrate the beer hiking lifestyle by writing about their exploits while providing information so that others can do the same. Here’s our interview with this week’s featured beer travelers, Beers at the Bottom.
TRP: Tell us about yourselves in 140 characters or less. OR in a haiku
From trails to ales with
A notepad and camera
Linking two spaces
BATB: Luckiest Broke-ass Bloggers in the World.
Sometimes brewers give us free beer when we say really nice things about them on our blog. For now, drinking beer is a profitless hobby and we’re ok with that.
TRP: How did you first get involved with craft beer?
Brandon: For me it was a progression from too much Miller High Life in college. I began trying craft beer at parties and local breweries, eventually developing a taste for wheat beer, then browns, ambers, porters, and now I can enjoy just about anything.
Rachel: Craft beer has just always been around—as a kid, my dad was a home-brewer and drank strictly craft beer. But I really hated beer for a long time. I actually made a New Year’s resolution to like beer, and spent months filling up my fridge with half-empty six packs, trying to find a style I liked. I guess persistence paid off.
TRP: Tell us about your website Beers at the Bottom?
BATB: Beers at the Bottom started because we saw a niche that hasn’t been filled when it comes to hiking guides. Starting a blog seemed like a good first (albeit small) step towards a book. Plus, we enjoy projects that let us explore subjects we love—beer, music, hiking, travel—using our skills-set of writing and photography. The website is first and foremost for us to have fun.
Our website works kind of like a web of connected blog posts, since each hike is linked to a specific brewery. We review a brewery, and then review hikes in the area that we link back to the brewery. We’ve also expanded out to cover beer and hiking events we attend. Another section we’re really expanding on now is our Sojourn section where we give a recap of a beer/hiking destination we’ve visited outside western Washington.
BATB: Travel in which beer is the destination. We often base our weekend getaway trips around breweries. Going to Portland? We pull out the brewery map and find a hotel within walking distance of several brewpubs. You can get a pretty good feel for a place by drinking at the local watering hole, and who doesn’t like to try new beers in new places?
BATB: Together, our first beer travel memory was during St Patrick’s Day 2011 in Vancouver, BC. We stopped by every microbrewery in downtown Vancouver, sampling plenty of “fresh beer” along the way. After a single pint of Yaletown Brewing’s “Rocket to Russia” (10.5% Russian Imperial Stout), Brandon went back to the hotel, passed out for a couple hours, and woke up with a midday hangover. Highlights also include $8 pints of Patty’s Day Guinness. Good times!
TRP:How did your love of hiking come about?
Brandon: I like to say that I’ve been hiking since I was old enough to tie my own boot laces. Growing up in Western Washington, my childhood was filled with family hikes between Seattle and the Canadian border. I’m a hiker for life.
Rachel: My family has always been outdoorsy. Every summer we’d camp out on the Washington coast, and we’d take beach walks. We didn’t really hike though—my mom actually hates hiking. The idea of getting out and spending time in the backcountry always really fascinated me. Really, I started hiking in college and then extensively after becoming friends with Brandon.
TRP: Why pair your hiking with beer?
BATB: Because they’re perfect for each other? There’s something indulgent and celebratory about a good pint of beer. It’s the perfect way to celebrate accomplishing a challenging hike. It was just a pairing that came naturally, and something we were already doing.
TRP:Tell us a story from your beer hiking adventures.
BATB: During Bellingham Beer Week of last year, we were fortunate and scored an invitation to go hiking around Mount Baker with a group of visiting beer writers and local brewers. Not only was it a great group of people to hike with, but one of the brewers pulled out a growler during lunch break. So there we were surrounded by fellow beer travelers, drinking this nuanced Red IPA with a full view of Mount Baker. It was a near perfect moment.
BATB: When we first started collaborating, we were reviewing/photographing live music for a little free publication in town. We’d be on press lists, get into to see some great bands, but it never felt like we were more than just observers. I think with beer culture, that feeling is completely different. Like any hobby, or cultural group, there are going to be people who—to put it bluntly—are a little snobby. But with beer enthusiasts, we haven’t run into a lot of pretension. There’s never been a feeling of trying to break into some elite group of in-the-know’s—if anything I think we’re always slightly surprised at how welcomed we feel by the beer scene when we tell someone about our blog, or express an opinion. Which I think really helps to propel us in the act of crafting the content we’re adding to the conversation.
TRP: What are the best beers to pair with a long hike?
BATB: Something light, refreshing, and sessionable, especially on hot summer days. We usually go for an ESB, pale ale, amber, or wheat beer. Of course, it all depends on the season. In the dead of winter you’ll find us cozied-up in a toasty brewery, sipping dark, chewy winter warmers.
Brandon: I’ve learned that in order to answer such serious questions, I need another beer.
Rachel: First and foremost learned lesson: it’s the best way to travel. In conjunction with the blog, I think I’ve learned a lot about how to tailor my skill-set to compliment Brandon’s—even from something as small as the types of observations I write down when we take notes about brew pubs. Also, that even a mediocre craft beer is amazing when it follows a grueling 12 mile hike. This isn’t necessarily something about *me* that’s I’ve learned, but I found that the search for beer makes traveling to unknown places less worrisome. When I received a potential job placement for my upcoming teaching job in Japan, one of the first things I looked for was the nearest brewery. As if, as long as I knew where the nearest craft brewery was, I could locate myself. It was both comforting and hilarious that I was making that part of my decision process.
BATB: We don’t always hike with beer – but when we do, we hike with cans. Aluminum is much lighter than glass, compressible, easier to recycle, and keeps light out. We wrote a whole article about it: http://
Hiking for beer is a different story. When we’re out on a steep trail in 85 degree heat, being swarmed by biting black flies and about to collapse, beer is the thing that keeps us going. We imagine cool, refreshing beers at the bottom and life goes on.
TRP: What is on your beer hiking wish list?
Brandon: Bend, Oregon. Colorado. Basically any place with impressive views and microbrews. I’m looking forward to hiking Namsan in Seoul, South Korea this spring. Conveniently, there’s a taproom called Craftworks at the base of the mountain to satisfy my Beers at the Bottom needs.
Rachel: Brandon mentioned Bend, and that’s certainly on mine as well. There’s still so much in Washington and Lower B.C.,–and Oregon is Beervana with so many trails I want to hike out there. The big one I’m looking forward to in the coming months is Mount Tsukuba and the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. Beers at the Bottom is going international!