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Emily Hutto's picture

Will Hike for Beer

Beers Made By Walking, Beer Connoisseur Magazine

Stinging nettles, wild chokecherry and blue gummy bears are not your usual beer ingredients – unless you’re Eric Steen, the founder of Beers Made by Walking.Eric Steen, Beers Made By Walking, Beer Connoisseur Magazine

Steen first thought about combining his two major passions of environmental education and craft beer when he was on a canoe trip in the Yukon. “The trip guide was telling me about some of the plants that grow up there,” he remembers, “and I started wondering what would this taste like in beer?”

Steen stewed on that question for another couple years until he was approached by the Galleries of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which was looking to plan an event involving craft beer. That’s when Steen launched Beers Made By Walking (BMBW), a program that invites brewers to make beer inspired by nature hikes and urban walks.

He launched the program hiking with Colorado homebrewers in 2011, and over the years has expanded it to eight locations where he has worked with more than 100 commercial brewers. Each location is different— in the Pacific Northwest he partners with environmental nonprofit organizations that lead hikes and profit from the resulting beers; in Colorado he invites craft breweries to go on their own hikes for beer inspiration.

These hikes have yielded some seriously unexpected brews. In 2012, Coalition Brewing created an ale with stinging nettles and salmonberry and Upright Brewing crafted a saison with yarrow and rose. In 2013, brewers pushed their limits even further with a sour-mash wild chokecherry sour from Pikes Peak Brewing and a lager infused with raspberries, thyme and blue gummy bears from Wynkoop Brewing (That beer was inspired by the large blue bear  statue in front of the convention center, home of GABF, in Denver).

Beers Made By Walking, Beer Connoisseur MagazineLast year, Epic Ales made a farmhouse blonde ale with wild watercress foraged in the Olympic peninsula and Hopworks Urban Brewery brewed Salal Slap, a bright pink, bracingly sour Berliner Weisse with Salal berries.

“The attraction for brewers to this program is that it connects them to their communities in a different way,” Steen says. After their hikes, these brewers get to showcase their inspired beers at several BMBW tastings and festivals across the country. The program’s cornerstone event takes place in Denver during the Great American Beer Festival. Proceeds for these events then are donated to various environmental groups.

“I’m interested in wilderness advocacy, and protecting natural areas from people,” Steen says. “I really appreciate and like to support organizations that are thinking about clean water, and who create opportunities to tell people about the natural world that we live in..."

Although many BMBW beers are brewed with wild plants, Steen affirms that the program does not encourage foraging. “On our hikes we look at, talk about, and taste edible plants but we don’t encourage harvesting them. As soon as you start scaling up commercial batches of beer, especially when you repeat those beers, you’re beginning to take plants that animals need and take away from that environment,” he explains.

There are upcoming BMBW hikes planned in Bend, Eugene, Portland, Bellingham, and Seattle. The GABF festival that will benefit the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership is slated for September 23, with more than 25 breweries from Colorado and beyond on board. Visit for the complete calendar and more information about Beers Made By Walking.


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