You know you’re out of the woods when you taste a hike-inspired beer.
By Laura Kiniry
Homebrewer and art instructor Eric Steen first learned of Friluftsliv, the Norwegian philosophy of incorporating outdoor living into daily life, while canoeing down Canada’s Yukon River. He was soon applying it to beer.
Steen, 30, is the brains behind Beers Made by Walking, a seasonal summer beer series based in Colorado Springs, Colo., that unites brewers and outdoor enthusiasts in discovering, uncovering and utilizing the indigenous flora along area hikes. The brewers then create new, small-batch beer recipes capturing the flavors and fragrances of the environment they encountered.
This year, Steen opened up the project to local commercial breweries like Trinity Brewing and Pikes Peak, both of which allow Beers Made by Walking homebrewers to use their facilities.
“One of my requests is that brewers not go in with an idea of what they already want to do, so that each beer is an honest portrait of the hike,” says Steen. While brewers taste plants en route, they are respectful of the environs and do not pick ingredients right off the trail; instead, they order the exact (or almost-exact same) plants from local sources. The resulting beers, including last year’s juniper- and ponderosa-pine-needle-infused Lightning Strike ale, inspired by the environs of a Palmer Park hike, and Old Man of the Woods Stout, a dark brew with hints of hazelnuts, sarsaparilla and spruce representative of North Cheyenne Canyon’s flora, are later served at public tastings.
While the project’s overall goal is ambiguous, Steen’s own agenda is clear: He loves nature—and beer—and wants to share his passions with others. “Some brewers aren’t outdoor types,” he says. “Some hikers may not know a lot about beer. Beers Made by Walking brings them all together and helps each group view the world a little differently.”