Beers of the Northern Rockies and the Northwest

Read the stats and we’re a Budweiser nation. Travel around, and it seems like nobody drinks the stuff. Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin is a Miller strong-hold that spreads into the surrounding area. Same with Yuengling and the Pennsylvania area and Coors and Colorado. Meanwhile, Upstate New York loves its Labatt Blue. The only place that seems to support Bud is St. Louis – no surprise there. So what gets served up here? Glad you asked.

Note: With the exception of Alaskan Amber and Red Hook ESB, I’d neither seen nor tasted any of these beers before.

Kokanee (Co-KEN-ee not Cocaine-y)

This is the light lager of choice. It’s Canadian. Molson and Labatt don’t seem to have much influence over here. Every bar serves Kokanee in Idaho and Montana. They even serve it at Alive After Five in downtown Boise and on Jeff’s sailboat. We’ve seen it everywhere. At bars it’s priced like a domestic. At stores it’s priced like an import.

Fresh like a 100-year-old glacier!

Fresh like a 100-year-old glacier!

Olympia Lager

This stuff is cheap, like Schlitz in the Midwest. We first saw it in Utah, 3.2 version naturally. Not bad – just your basic swill beer and sometimes that’s exactly the beer you want. The regular version is better and still way cheap (under $8 per 12 pack cheap).

Seattle swill beer.

Seattle swill beer.

Rainier Lager

One more reason to like Seattle in my opinion. I like stouts and ales and IPAs and the full-bodied stuff too, but on a warm day, a lager sure hits the spot. We had these while camping below Mount Rainier, naturally. Brewed with local, Yakima Valley hops.

Yakima Valley hops make it yummy.

Yakima Valley hops make it yummy.

Alaskan Amber and Summer

Fat Tire, basically the default craft brew of Colorado, plays second fiddle to Alaskan Brewing Co in the Northwest and northern Rockies. This stuff is everywhere. Nearly every bar carries the Amber. In Seattle, yes, there’s Redhook, but Alaskan seems to be everywhere Redhook is too. In Montana and Idaho, it appears to be king. For good reason too — the beer is good. I had a co-worker that would bootleg it to Chicago because it was her favorite. I’m not sure it’s that good, but it is fun to think of Alaska while drinking a beer.

Whales love to get drunk in the summertime.

Whales love to get drunk in the summertime.

Bozemon Amber

Picked this one up outside of Yellowstone before the reality of Montana struck. Not bad. Fat Tire is still my favorite amber though (and Lisa’s favorite beer).

Crazy state medicine.

Crazy state medicine.

Grand Teton Amber and Pale Ale

Grand Teton Brewing Company is based out of Idaho. We had some of their beers in Grand Teton National Park. Tasty stuff, but shouldn’t the brewery be in Wyoming?

Warning: Consumption of too many of these may lead to the flashing of Tetons.

Warning: Consumption of too many of these may lead to the flashing of Tetons.

Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat

Well, we had this one in Glacier after striking out at the local dining establishment. Not a bad beer, but not exactly from the area. It’s brewed in Kansas, but it had the world ‘buffalo’ in the name so I had to get it … and because all microbrew cans were the same price at the store and this one was 16 ounces.

The buffalo makes it local.

The buffalo makes it local.

Hilliard’s Amber Ale

We walked or drove by Hilliard’s probably six times before finally trying their beer. The 4-pack is nearly $10 at the store. Ouch. But it’s good and the cans are big. Too hoppy for Lisa, about perfect for me. Sort of an IPA meets Fat Tire taste. The hipsters of Ballard probably love this beer. Dale Chihuly’s crew probably drinks here after work — his studio is down the block.

Hilliards's Hipster Ale.

Hilliards’s Hipster Ale.

Red Hook ESB

Probably Seattle’s best-known beer for good reason — it’s good. Makes me thirsty for Fuller’s ESB and our trip to London. Yum. I finally had a pint on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Great setting for a beer.

Enjoying a Red Hook ESB on the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

Enjoying a Red Hook ESB on the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

One beer we didn’t try: Churchkey Can Co’s pilsner. Each six-pack comes with an old-timey opener (you can’t open the cans by hand). The beer company is named ‘can co’ not ‘beer co’ … as in the can is the main event, the beer is just in it. They were featured on Tech Crunch, lamely, as a high-tech start-up. Lame, as I said, but hipsters: this beer is your new king. Throw away whatever remaining stock of PBR you have, toss out your Hilliard’s, this beer is for you. Just get your wallet out. It’s expensive.

So it’s been tasty lately. I love how these beers were entirely off our radar until we ended up in the right part of the country. Makes me happy to realize that sort of stuff still happens. What a boring place the world would be if we all drank the same beer.

  • http://drivinginertia.com/ Paul David Olson

    Was at a bar yesterday that had that spelled out as a bumper sticker. Now I get the reference.