Lately, more and more indie beerswith their mad hops and big barleyare sporting names cribbed from the lexicon of the stoked. But are the brewers of these imbibables just appropriating the cachet of adventure sports to sell a few six-packs? Or do they live and love the wild life? We separated the men from the ploys, then asked venerable froth expert Jason Alström, co-founder of the encyclopedic BeerAdvocate.com, to go behind the labels and get at what really matters.
fat tire amber ale micro brew
FAT TIRE AMBER ALE, from New Belgium Brewing (www.newbelgium.com), features a Belgian-style balance of malt and hopsbready but with a lighter, Yank twist. TRAIL CRED: Founder Jeff Lebesch and his crew religiously tear up the singletrack around Fort Collins, Colorado, and still manage to squeeze in skiing and fly-fishing. ALSTRÖM SEZ, "Tasty cult beer; a light flash of hops tames the malt. So easy to knock back a few." »; OUT OF BOUNDS STOUT, from Avery Brewing (www.averybrewing.com), has a good, black heart: This dark concoction pairs roasted barley with a nice hoppy bite. TRAIL CRED: President Adam Avery and the rest of the guys live to ski and snowboardpreferably in the backcountry. And with HQ in Boulder, there's plenty of primo rock to climb, which the staff tackles together. ALSTRÖM SEZ, "Hefty yet not huge, with a head like rocky terrain. The lingering barley flavors really shine." »; LONGBOARD LAGER, from Kona Brewing (www.konabrewingco.com), is cold-aged and lightly hopped, making this golden Hawaiian fizz a great antidote to the heat of the 50th state. TRAIL CRED: Brewmaster Rich Tucciarone & Co. rip the curls at Big Island breaks like Makalawena and Mahaiulathat is, when they're not biking volcanoes or kayaking. ALSTRÖM SEZ, "Wicked-frothy head and a good kick of spicy bitterness. A real American lager in my book." »; HIT THE TRAIL ALE, from Long Trail Brewing (www.longtrail.com), fuses three malted barleys and a hint of brown sugar, to sweeten the finish. TRAIL CRED: Founder Andy Pherson, who built his brewery on Vermont's Ottauquechee River, has hiked the length of New Hampshire's Presidential Range and regularly treks in the Bavarian Alps, making pit stops to chug German ale and get ideas. ALSTRÖM SEZ, "Decent head, very creamy body. Chalk it up as another great session beer."
This fall, hit the best beer festswhether it's the Bavarian classic or three of the fattest in the United States.
THE MUNICH OKTOBERFEST, September 18October 3, is the mother off all suds extravaganzasand the world's biggest public festival. While brass bands play, six million volks down 10.5 million pints and 200,000 sausages ... then hop on roller coasters. (www.oktoberfest.de) OKTOBERFEST BY THE BAY, October 1417, is San Fran's answer to Munich's big mama. Enjoy German singing, dancing, and cuisine, plus, of course, enough beer to KO a kaiser. (www.oktoberfestbythebay.com) THE GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL, September 30October 2, brings 320 top U.S. breweries to Denver. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are up for grabs in 65 style categories. (www.beertown.org) THE MOUNT DESERT ISLAND ACADIA OKTOBERFEST, October 9, makes the argument that lobster, not pork, is beer's best friend. In the Maine hamlet of Southwest Harbor, indulge in brew, Germanica, and the bounty from lots of big red claws. (www.acadiachamber.com/oktoberfest.html)