Hike-n-Urban Beer Hike in Salt Lake City

Over the years, we have waxed poetic about our love of combining hiking and beer.  Whether a trek in the Alps followed by beers at a hut or an urban beer hike in a big city, we enjoy the slow-paced journey provided by feet powered transportation.  We finally wedded the two on a quick trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. Introducing the Hike-n-Urban Beer Hike.

We probably could have done something similar on a previous trip but the thought never occurred to me. The light bulb moment came  when creating  a map for the trip, I placed a trail head pin near the cluster of downtown breweries targeted for our walking tour. Why not combine the two?

Salt Lake City is known for being a hikers paradise with many trails accessible from the downtown area. The trail head I had pinned was for the Living Room,  an out and back hike whose reward was a panoramic view of the Salt Lake Valley.

Starting out for the Living Room
Starting out for the Living Room

With five breweries to visit post hike, our goal was to be at our first brewery for a early afternoon lunch.  We set out mid morning under a bright blue sky and fall temperatures forecast to be in the mid 60s.

The trail head is located near the Natural History Museum of Utah. Beyond that, the trail wasn’t well marked, our only guide being the intuition to follow all the other people up a trail. We did ask some fellow hikers, at first finding newbies like ourselves with the same question. Finally, we got confirmation from a group of women coming down the trail that we were in fact on the correct path.

Rated a ‘moderate’ trail,  Merideth and I quickly decided that this must have a different meaning in Utah. The 1,100 foot climb followed a rocky, steep, rain gullied track. Frequent stops to catch our breath were rewarded with ever higher sweeping views of the Salt Lake Valley. Luckily, it was only after a little over a mile of climbing until we reached our goal.


The Living Room is so named for the chairs people created from the numerous rock slabs that litter the hillside. Maybe a dozen in number – I didn’t actually count – Merideth grabbed one of the few remaining and sat down. We relaxed with our fellow hikers and dogs as we took in the panoramic view of the valley. With the Great Salt Lake in the distance, we overlooked the seeming quiet calm that was Salt Lake City on a Saturday morning.

Merideth relaxing in the Living Room
Merideth relaxing in the Living Room

While the ascent was tiring, the descent provided its own challenges with every step an opportunity for a twisted ankle or a knee scraping fall. Much quicker than the climb, we were soon back where we started with all joints still intact, which was important as Merideth and I still had 3 miles to go before our first beer stop.

As  I promised Merideth, it was all downhill as we crossed the quiet campus of the University of Utah. I lingered for a few moments at the Fort Douglas Military Museum peering through fence at the military equipment on display. Continuing on, we passed through the fall leave covered neighborhoods between campus and downtown.

Approaching six miles into our hike/walk, we finally reached, much to our legs’ delight,  level ground. And more important, we arrived at our first brewery, Desert Edge Brewery & Grill. Located in the upscale Trolley Square shopping complex, I successfully navigated Merideth through a mini craft fair to find the brewery opposite  of where we entered the building.

Well deserved
Well deserved

We grabbed a table with nice a nice cushiony bench and soon had menus in hand. Worried that any hesitation on our part would have the waitress tell us she would come back, we quickly perused the beer list and ordered a much needed beverage.

Soon we had beers in hand, a Happy Valley Hefeweizen for Merideth and Pub Pils for myself. That first gulp of a nice, clean, crisp Pils really hit the parched spot. With a little less urgency, we both  ordered pork tacos for lunch.

Before our legs got too jelly-like, we finished our second beers and lunch and pressed on. Good news was all of the hard work was done for the day. The distances between the subsequent breweries would range from a little over a mile to a few hundred feet.

House-brewed Saison
House-brewed Saison

Passing the City Center then turning down Broadway, we soon saw the big brick facade of  Squatters Pub Brewery.  Entering the double doors, we found a bustling pub. Merideth sidled into the one available seat at the end of the bar. I took a standing position next to her.

Our visit  had to include Salt Lake City’s first brewpub (second in Utah). However, I thought this was more  a sentimental stop as I wasn’t sure they still brewed at the brewpub. It was my soon-to-be-found-incorrect understanding that all the beer was brewed at their separate Utah Brewers Cooperative production facility. If true, we would not be able to count Squatters on the List.

First sips into our beers, Polygamy Porter on Nitro for myself and French Saison for Merideth, we asked our friendly bartender whether they still brewed at the this location. She enthusiastically replied “Yes” and helpfully added that the Saison Merideth was drinking was brewed in-house. Taking a gulp from Merideth’s beer, we both officially added Squatters to the List.

Our next stop, Red Rock Brewery, was around the corner from Squatters. Gassed after the .1 mile hike, we joined the Saturday afternoon college football crowd at the bar.

All smiles at Red Rock
All smiles at Red Rock

Going into this trip, I had little exposure to Utah beer except for the California-distributed Uinta. Just short of a half dozen breweries into our trip (we had visited three the prior evening), I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of styles offered in the beehive state capital. Most enjoyable to me was the large number of quality lager beers we found.

This experience continued at Red Rock. Merideth and I both ordered and appreciated the draft German Pilsner, a bright and crisp lager. Even as a hophead and IPA guy, I get more excited about finding a well-crafted lager than I do with my go-to style.

Approaching dusk, we embarked on our last real leg of the day. Skirting the city center, it was just under a mile and a half to our next to last brewery stop and probably most anticipated, Epic.

Like many first time beer travelers to Utah, we probably held a few misconceptions about state’s beer laws. The only oddity, if I can call it that,  we encountered in our brewery visits up to this point was draft beer had to be under 4% ABV (over 4% had to be served from a bottle). Given the number of breweries on our target list, we appreciated this particular aspect of Utah liquor law.

We intend to eat
We intend to eat. We intend to sit. We want to drink beer

However, this would change at Epic Brewing.  We would first experience the Utah of myth and legend. To drink at Epic, the customer needs to order food. And not just say “Yeah, I’ll get some food.” To  order beer, the customer needs to have ordered food first. And be sitting.

No big deal. We accomplished the more difficult part, sitting,  which was somewhat an achievement in the tiny tasting room. But, at first, Merideth was adamant that she wasn’t hungry.  Really? Took a bit of convincing but I finally got her to order a meat and cheese plate. I ordered the grilled cheese accompanied by a bag of Cheetos, Food ordered, we could now drink beer.

Epic was the big anticipation stop of the day as I had a number of people tell me they thought it was the best brewery in the city. At first, Merideth and I ordered a glass, Fest Devious Märzen for her, Hopulent IPA for myself. But noticing the sample prices, most under 50 cents, we quickly switched to ordering the tastes to enable to try more beers.

Please order some food...
Please order some food…

True to form, I sampled pretty much everything that said IPA. However. we sampled a wide range of beers, tasting Saisons and fruited Belgian-style ales. I did enjoy their IPAs, especially the Hopulent, but my star was the Elder Bret Saison, a collaboration with Colorado’s Crooked Stave.  Merideth’s star was the aforementioned Märzen.

Epic was living up to the pre-visit hype and there was plenty more beers on the list to try.  But we still had one more brewery to visit so we called it quits. Taking our check from our bartender,  we quickly perused the bottle shop for our favorites.  Grabbing a couple of bottles for home, we checked out with the cashier.

Be sure to ask the bartender what beers they like. Tips can be their bottles as well as cash.

Leaving Epic after nightfall, Proper Brewing, our last stop, was just on the block over. Proper was hard to miss as the name was painted in building-sized letters on the front.

A Proper Idaho beer
A Proper Idaho beer

Our original plan was to eat at Proper, ordering from their sister burger place located next door. But the unexpected meal at Epic changed our plans. With only beer to consider, I quickly ordered Hopspital IPA so I could drink a beer while further perusing the beer menu.

The beer I found on the menu,  a “beer-of-the-trip” candidate, was their Idaho Pale Ale. Made with ingredients sourced from their neighbor to the north, I did entertain the idea that the beer had potatoes. It didn’t. What it did have was the suddenly popular Idaho 7 hop that seems to be making the rounds of all the hoppy beer brewers. The Pale Ale had the big tropical notes that is characteristic of the hop. Unfortunately, Proper did not bottle Idaho Pale Ale so I wasn’t able to bring any home.

Despite being our last stop, my internal beer hike clock told me we couldn’t spend all night at Proper. It did sound like a grand idea but we had a flight home  in the morning. Finishing my second pint of Idaho Pale Ale, Merideth and I called it a day.

We entertained the idea of walking the two and half miles back to our hotel but decided that would be overkill. Instead we took advantage of a free trip from one of those ride share services.

Celebrating the completion of a fun day in Salt Lake City
Celebrating the completion of a fun day in Salt Lake City

A hike with breathtaking views, five breweries, nine total miles. A great way to introduce ourselves to the Salt Lake City hiking and brewery scenes. That is a Hike-n-Urban Beer Hike.

View all the Salt Lake City images…

Beer and Eagles in Iowa

Waking up in the Madison suburbs on the second morning of our trip , one might think  exploring the bustling beer scenes of Madison or Milwaukee was next on our itinerary. But no, we had other plans. Merideth and I were headed to Decorah, Iowa.

Visiting Decorah wasn’t a completely random choice. Our good friend Renee was born and raised in Decorah. After years of  hearing stories of this magical place,  we took the opportunity of being somewhat in the neighborhood to experience it for ourselves.  The fact that Decorah had two breweries added the beer to our travels.

Crossing the mighty Mississippi River at Praire du Chien into Iowa, our first  visit to the Hawkeye state officially began.  We pressed on through the rolling hills of mid Iowa and reached Decorah late morning.


With only two breweries to visit, we had plenty of time to  explore our friend’s hometown. Walking down the street in small town middle America made me feel I had been transported back to an earlier, simpler time. A feeling reinforced by the fact that we had no cell coverage so had to rely on a paper map for navigation.

Merideth and I  strolled along Water  St., the main drag through downtown Decorah. Well-known for its Norwegian heritage, we popped into the Vesterheim,  the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center. Usually on a go go go schedule, I am sure Merideth felt a bit odd being allowed to wander around the gift shop.

Perfect cure to the heat
Perfect cure to the heat

The not-for-Californians heat and humidity we expected on this trip was in full force. Lucky for us, first on the agenda was the Whippy Dip, an old school ice cream stand on the edge of the downtown. Coached by Renee, we already knew what we were going to get, the Peanut Butter Cup “Tornado”, ice cream topped with candy. What she failed to mention was that they were HUGE. Per usual for us, Merideth and I each ordered our own. That first teeth numbing bite of ice cream took the edge off the swelter.

Continuing our walk, we crossed the Upper Iowa River and reached what could be called the town’s “brewery gulch” (brewery quarter?) since both are located just across the span.  Still needing time to finish our massive ice creams, we bypassed our planned first stop, Toppling Goliath, to check out Dunning’s Springs, a 200 foot waterfall located just down the street from the brewery.

Dunning's Springs
Dunning’s Springs

Passing the family picnicking at the base of the falls, we climbed the set of stairs to take us to the top.  The rushing sound of cascading water accompanied the scraping sound of plastic against Styrofoam as we attempted to power through the  ice cream.  With the stairs ascended and descended, ice creams in different states of completion, communing with Iowa nature was complete.  We were ready for our first ever Iowa brewery visit.

Founded in 2009, Toppling Goliath  quickly built a national reputation for their hoppy and barrel-aged beers.  Through our Decorah connection, we were familiar with one or two of their offerings.  However, the excitement of visiting this highly rated brewery wasn’t necessarily the opportunity to try their full lineup of beers, rather the promise of air conditioning. We lingered as we entered, enjoying the surge of cool air before moving up to the bar.

Toppling Goliath flight

A  sample flight of seven beers in hand, our next decision was where to sit. The taproom had an invitingly spacious, trellis-covered, hop vine-lined patio that normally would have beckoned us. Most of the customers chose that route. But, we had plenty more of the day to experience hot and humid so chose comfort of the air conditioned bar area.

Toppling Goliath: Our first Iowa brewery
Toppling Goliath: Our first Iowa brewery

The flight ranged from Dorothy New World Lager, a California Common to Seltford Stout on the dark end. Living up to their marquee “we brew hoppy here”, four of the five in between highlighted my favorite beer ingredient.

Merideth, true to form, liked the Dorothy. The star for me was always going to be PsuedoSue. And as we heard the bartender explain to every customer, I was treated to a special version dry hopped with Galaxy.  A big fan of the citrus/tropical fruit notes of Galaxy, I enjoyed a pint or two (maybe three) of PsuedoSue.

With a few pints under our belts, we decided to leave our air-conditioned  sanctuary and set off for further adventures.

Decorah is ringed by a 11 mile paved path, the Trout Run Trail, which is an excellent springboard for explorations of the area.  With a few more hours until the second brewery, Pulpit Rock, opened, we continued our trek along the section of the path that runs along the  Upper Iowa River on the north side of downtown.

Off the beaten path in Decorah
Pig in a car

Here the path follows the wide green flood plain banked by levees on each side of the river. Hiking into the bluffs in Palisades Park, we tried to get a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, all we could see were the tress that lined the trail.

Loopy Lynn at Pulpit Rock
Loopy Lynn at Pulpit Rock

Returning to brewery gulch early evening , we found Pulpit Rock already hopping for a Monday. Or what I imagined what a hopping Monday night looked like in Decorah.  While Pulpit Rock’s outdoor seating appeared perfect people watching location, we again selected the cool, air conditioned bar.

Grabbing seats at the bar, we ordered a sample flight. A few sips into the first sample Preikestolen, a Blonde Ale, lo and behold, Renee shows up.  Thus, our visit to Pulpit Rock became less about the beer and more about catching up with our friend.  Letting her know how we got along in her old stomping grounds, Merideth and I almost felt like locals chatting with Renee.

I did enjoy  their IPA, Saftig. But my go to was Loopy Lynn, their hazy, Citra and Eureka hopped Double IPA.

Renee was kind enough to give us a quick driving tour. We were able to get our panorama view.

Evening in Decorah
Overlooking Decorah

The following morning, we still had one more culinary item on our Decorah tour,  the  best cinammon roll in Iowa. The purveyor, Ruby’s, was conveniently located only a block from our hotel and I was waiting at their front for their 7am opening time. Not learning the Whippy Dip lesson from the day before, I excitedly ordered two of the frosting laden treats.

Bready, gooey, sticky deliciousness! For the second day in a row, a sweet treat was too much for Merideth. I, on the other hand, finished mine.  And maybe Merideth’s.

Shocking to believe, there is more to Decorah than ice cream, beer and cinnamon rolls. In 2007, the Raptor Resource Project set up a webcam overlooking a Bald eagle’s nest on the outskirts of town. Four years later, the live stream of the daily activities of the adults and their eaglets became became the most watched live stream ever. So well known, when Merideth told a local friend we were going to Decorah, she assumed we were going to see the eagles.

A couple of baby eagles
A couple of baby eagles

Hopped up on loads of sugar, Merideth and I drove to the fish hatchery to find the famous Decorah eagles. Described in the local tourist map as being across from the hatchery, we parked at the small visitor-looking center opposite. Merideth and I wandered around the area trying to find the eagles. No luck.

Knowing we had an over four hour drive ahead, I was ready to give up.  Merideth not quite ready to throw in the towel, suggested we cross the main road. And there it was right along Trout Run Trail. High up a tree, Merideth pointed out a huge mass of sticks that made up the nest. Not something we normally see, spying the two eaglets sitting near the nest put a exclamation on the short amount of time we spent in Decorah.

We only lingered a few minutes watching the eagles. Then it was back in the car and on the road to explore another new state.

View all the Iowa images

Silver Lining

A part of life is friends moving away. Merideth and I were reminded of this recently when some good friends relocated to Minnesota. First feeling depressed, then resigned, Merideth and I turned disappointment into opportunity and booked a beer trip to the Upper Midwest.

Merideth and I felt a bit bleary-eyed when we landed in Minneapolis just after 5am on Sunday morning. Grabbing a quick cup of coffee, we bundled in our rental car and headed east towards some dark, menacing clouds on the horizon. Our destination was Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the home of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.

After just under two ours on the road, it was reassuring to see a water tower with Chippewa Falls in big block letters.  Our first task  was to get breakfast.  Entering the old school diner, Chippewa Family Restaurant, we definitely got the ‘you’re not from around here’ look. Despite this, we figured we were in the right place as every other customer was greeted  by their first name upon entering. The service was quick and friendly, the coffee bottomless and the eggs and polish sausage hit the spot. We were ready to conquer our first ever beer travel day in Wisconsin.

An idyllic setting

Not quite. Still an hour to the opening of Leinie Lodge, the brewery’s visitor center, we took a quick half hour nap in the car followed by a walk along picturesque Duncan Creek.

Returning from our walk a few minutes before 10am, this otherwise deserted sleepy town suddenly buzzed with cars. Thinking that we were going to be the only people drinking beer at 10am on a Sunday, all these cars had a singular destination, the Leinie Lodge parking lot.

When the doors opened, there were about 20 people waiting to get in. Just wanting to have a beer, we bypassed all the people lining up for what I thought was the tour signup and bee-lined straight for the bar. We quickly learned our first lesson of Wisconsin beer travel. We couldn’t just a buy a beer at the bar. We needed to go back and purchase one of the tasting/tour/glass packages. Deflated, we went back towards the entrance and joined the back of the line.

Surviving the five minute delay, Merideth and I headed back to the bar with our wristband and tasting glass in hand.

Cheers Jim!

Visiting Leinenkugel had a special place in our heart. In 2008, our local paper ran an article about our beer adventures. From the article, I received an email from Jim Leinenkugel, who lived nearby. The great grandson of the brewery founder, he wondered if we wanted to meet for a beer. Over beers and stories about the old days, we became friends. Sadly, Jim passed away in 2014.

We toasted our friend Jim with Leinenkugel Original, their classic old school golden lager inspired by the family’s 1867 recipe.

With my second beer, I ordered the India Pale Lager. Hopped with two popular varietals, Citra and Mandarina Bavaria, I’ll admit I was surprised to see Leinenkugel doing an IPL.  The beer was quite good. Similarly, Merideth follow up beer was BeerGarten Tart , Leninkugel’s take on a Berliner Weisse. We agreed that it was the closest re-creation of the style this side of Berlin.

Our first Wisconsin brewery

On return home, I learned that Jim was buried in the family plot in Chippewa Falls. Visiting him would have completed our trip to Leinenkugel. I guess we will need to return to Wisconsin.

In our years of beer travel, the biggest change, besides the sheer number of breweries, is the advent of technology, especially GPS. While reaching a brewery became much easier, the journey at times can be confusing. In the old day of paper maps, we saw the beginning and end in one picture and for the most part knew where we were along the way. Today, with GPS, the understanding of the journey has diminished, we know our present position and the next turn, but lose the big picture.

This came into play in our three hour drive from Chippewa Falls to New Glarus. Clearly driving down every two lane highway, passing every dairy farm and small town in Wisconsin, Merideth and I both worried silently that technology would lead us off the edge of the earth. Or at least we were not on our way to New Glarus, WI. It wasn’t until the last five minutes of our long drive did we breathe a sigh of relief as we passed a road sign that read New Glarus. Our destination was seven more miles down the road. At that time we confided in each other the feeling we were lost.

The courtyard at New Glarus

As we wound up the road to New Glarus’ hilltop brewery, I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect. Reaching the parking lot, what appeared before us was quite outside the realm off all expectations. Thinking we were visiting a smallish Wisconsin brewery, we in fact had been transported into a re-creation of a small European village. As we walked up the path into the central courtyard/village square, we could see two men blowing on Alphorn to complete the feeling that we had accidentally drove to Europe. Stupid GPS!

With one Wisconsin brewery under our belts, I wasn’t going to act like a rookie again. Merideth and I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased our glass and taster tickets like we were Wisconsin beer travel veterans. However, as the wrist band was being placed around my wrist, I couldn’t resist asking if I could start a tab. The response was a friendly “no” with a gentle tone that acknowledged my lack of experience in the state.

New Glarus ticked

Properly banded, glass and tickets in hand, Merideth and I grabbed a couple of beers from one of the several beer stations and sat ourselves at a table on the edge of the courtyard in the sun.

One of our worries about this trip was humidity and the effect it would have on our delicate California constitutions. But the rainy weather that we had experienced earlier in the morning had produced a very pleasant afternoon to drink beer.

New Glarus is one of those larger than life brewery names for beer travelers. Our previous experience with New Glarus was  drinking Raspberry Tart at home in California.  We explored their unknown beers with a bit of excitement. The famous Spotted Cow, Moon Man Pale Ale, the two lagers, Two Women and Totally Naked, and finally Bubbler, a Hefeweizen, were tasted.

After a sample or three, we decided to explore the grounds. There were a number of paths that took us to faux ruins and various seating areas. The only reference I could think of was Stone’s World Bistro in Escondido; completely different except both were make believe lands.

As we traveled back down the winding drive, I felt a great deal of beer traveler satisfaction and accomplishment.  We finally ticked off New Glarus.

Merideth’s hole-in-one on 17

Merideth and I finished up our afternoon in New Glarus with a round of golf at Swissland Minature Golf. A challenging course aptly themed with a wedge of Swiss cheese obstacle on the tenth hole was made a bit more difficult by standing water on a couple of holes.

It might have been the jet lag or the distraction of cute goats but Merideth did not have her A game. I took control of the round early with a hole-in-one on the par three third and never looked back. An ace on 17 was too little too late for Merideth as I cruised to a five stroke victory.

On a day that began with a midnight departure from Phoenix airport, we finished up with dinner at Vintage Brewing, a brewpub in Madison, WI. The following morning, we would be off to Iowa.

Ending our first Wisconsin beer travel day

View all of the Wisconsin pictures

Breaking Down One Thousand

For those curious about the geographical details of our 1,000 breweries, below is a breakdown by country and U.S. state of the 1,006 different breweries included on “The List”. The overall brewery total is 1,006 due to the fact that Merideth and I have slightly different lists of breweries. No real surprise that the numbers are skewed towards where we live as well as where we like to visit.

And for the really curious:

  • Closest brewery visit was Carmel Valley Brewing. 1/4 mile.
  • Furthest brewery visit was Colonial Brewery in Margaret River, Western Australia. 9,500 miles.
  • The most frequent word in all the brewery names excluding brewery, brewing, brewpub and the like was “mountain.” River was a close second.

Breakdown by Country

Country Count %
Australia 57 5.67%
Austria 6 0.60%
Belgium 14 1.39%
Canada 48 4.77%
Czech Republic 8 0.80%
Denmark 6 0.60%
England 24 2.39%
France 11 1.09%
Germany 130 12.92%
Ireland 18 1.79%
Italy 3 0.30%
Netherlands 5 0.50%
New Zealand 22 2.19%
Scotland 3 0.30%
Spain 2 0.20%
United States 640 63.62%
Wales 9 0.89%/

Breakdown By U.S. State

State Count %
Alaska 5 0.78%
Arizona 11 1.72%
California 308 48.13%
Colorado 40 6.25%
Delaware 5 0.78%
Georgia 3 0.47%
Illinois 12 1.88%
Indiana 1 0.16%
Maine 30 4.69%
Maryland 3 0.47%
Massachusetts 12 1.88%
Nebraska 5 0.78%
Nevada 9 1.41%
New Hampshire 9 1.41%
New York 2 0.31%
North Carolina 17 2.66%
Ohio 3 0.47%
Oregon 64 10.00%
Pennsylvania 16 2.50%
South Carolina 1 0.16%
Tennessee 3 0.47%
Texas 7 1.09%
Vermont 9 1.41%
Virginia 20 3.13%
Washington 45 7.03%

One THOUSAND! The Video

We’re back on video! We created this shortish clip as a companion piece to the travelogue I wrote about our 1,000th brewery Urban Beer Hike.

Going in, Merideth and I realized that we would be too distracted enjoying the moment to shoot enough footage for a full beergeek.TV One Pint at a Time episode. Instead, we decided to film short snippets at each brewery stop to capture the spirit of our milestone day.

Enjoy this snapshot of our 1,000th brewery day…