Beer has always held a hallowed place in snow sports. Many a tall tale has been recited over après pints, not to mention the restorative effect that the brews have on those savaged muscles. But the rapid evolution of the craft beer scene in the States has given snow-lovers more options for end-of-day libations than any one person should have to consider, and many of the beers originate around the very mountains that supplied the day’s exploits. That’s why we tend to play favorites. Speaking of, here’s ten:
10. Great Adirondack Brewing Company, Lake Placid, N.Y.
The best way to chase away the chill that typically smothers IceFace (AKA: Whiteface Mountain Resort) may be to forget tossing on an extra layer, and instead heading to Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood in downtown Lake Placid, home to the Great Adirondack Brewing Co. Founded in 1997, the small-scale operation produces some of the state’s best beer, from the silky Whiteface Black Diamond Stout to the Farmhouse Pale. And the robust food menu should also help you restock all those burned calories.
9. Lone Peak Brewery, Big Sky, Mont.
The names of the seasonal and regular-release beers from this high-elevation brewery — Steep’n’Deep Winter Ale, Headplant Pale Ale — speak to this Montana-based brewer’s affection for snow sports. Located about 15 minutes from Big Sky Resort, their tap house feature all of their brews including special releases, a rotating nitro tap, and growlers to go.
8. Wasatch, Park City, Utah
Ideally positioned in the heart of snow globe-perfect Park City, this Utah brewery proves that the state is no tea-toddling spot. Brews like the Bobsled and the Winter Seasonal speak to their love of winter and the town’s Olympic heritage, while the heady 8% ABV Devastator will make the aches and pains you earned through a hard-charging day a distant memory. The bar features standard pub fare as well as special cask-conditional ales and drafts on nitro, all without having to kick off your ski boots.
7. Aspen Brewing Company, Colo.
For a state that seems like it has more microbreweries than cities, it’s inconceivable that the haute ski town of Aspen has only one. Yet the way Aspen Brewing Company executes their brews, there may not be room for another. Their centrally located tap room is open from noon until late, and the prices are low, often less than $5 — another Aspen rarity. The styles bridge the gamut, from the super-hoppy Independence Pass Ale to the funky Brett Barrel-Aged Saison and the 10th Mountain Imperial Stout, an oatmeal stout named in honor of the army division that trained in central Colorado and fought in the Italian mountains during World War II.
6. Snake River Brewery, Jackson, Wyo.
With a modest 8,000 barrels a year, Snake River isn’t the king of the mountain town microbrews — and that’s just the way they want it. This small-scale craft brewery sits in the heart of Jackson, concocting signature beer rarities like Gravity’s Gone Saison and the all-too-scarce Le Serpent, a Flanders-style sour brown ale aged in French oak barrels for more than a year. In other words, they’re always up to something interesting. Their Snow King Pale, a winter seasonal, is named after the state’s first ski area, while the 8.3% ABV Triple Black Diamond offers a high-octane reminder of the extreme terrain found in nearby Jackson Hole Resort.
5. Alchemist, Waterbury, Vt.
This micro-craft brewery only makes one beer. But considering it’s the Heady Topper, a dense double IPA brewed from a blend of six different hops, you won’t yearn for anything else. The brew fosters such a loyal following that they recently closed the tasting room because of neighbors’ complaints. But they will be relocating to a new, bigger establishment in early 2014. Thankfully, their new spot will reside a mere ten minutes away from such heralded Vermont resorts as Stowe Mountain Resort, Sugarbush, Bolton Valley, Smuggler’s Notch and Mad River Glen. Miss the grand re-opening? Don’t worry. You should still be able to find Heady Topper throughout the state.
4. Breckenridge Brewery, Breckenridge, Colo.
What started as a ski bum’s dream — a bum with a talent for making beer — has since graduated to one of the state’s best breweries, crafting more than 52,000 barrels a year. With five brew pubs in Colorado and expansive distribution, finding their beer is easy throughout the state. But the original spot on Breckenridge’s Main Street, close to the resort of the same name, may rank as the best of the bunch. Here you can sample their entire range, from the Avalanche Ale, a smooth-drinking amber with a wink of hoppy bitterness, to the limited-release NVP nitro vanilla porter and rare whiskey barrel-aged batches.
3. Fifty-Fifty Brewing, Truckee, Calif.
Fifty-Fifty’s slogan — “Find Your Balance” — works just as well for skiing and snowboarding as it does for serious beer consumption, and their brewery and restaurant will help you forget any snow-exploding tumbles and strive for a more even-keeled drinking experience. Located in the tiny town Truckee, within driving distance of most North Tahoe ski resorts, this microbrewery rises to the fore in a state that’s practically drowning in amazing beer. Try the Donner Party Porter, a formidable brew made from hand-toasted oak flakes and molasses, or one of their barrel-aged brews.
2. Grimm Brothers, Loveland, Colo.
Loveland-based Grimm Brothers shares pretty rarefied company with the other stellar breweries in Colorado’s Front Range. But this small outfit has earned legions of awards since they opened in 2010, and they continue to push the edge with experimental and limited-release craft beers. The tap room is only open from 1-9 p.m., seven days a week, perfect for an après stop that should let you get to bed at a reasonable hour – unless you get one of their take-away growlers.
1. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
Deschutes is the big boy on the block in Bend, Oregon’s crowded craft beer scene, a quaint town located 30 minutes from Mount Bachelor Resort. In addition to such fantastic, ski-centric beers like Red Chair NW IPA and the crisp seasonal Chasin’ Freshies, a fresh-hop IPA, Deschutes boasts two locations within Bend proper: a downtown brew-pub and a massive factory on the river from which the brewery derives its name. Better still, Deschutes also hosts an annual spring concert series at Mount Bachelor to take advantage of the mountain’s marathon-length typical season. That said, to only visit Deschutes while in Bend would be like skiing only one of Bachelor’s 88 runs. Do yourself a favor and find time to also visit some of Bend’s dozen or so other breweries, including Crux Fermentation Project, 10 Barrel and Boneyard. The mountain ain’t going anywhere.