Bison and Beer in The Old West

By Peter Sacco

Amidst the hops: learning all about beer on the Yellowstone/Grand Teton Multi Beer Adventure from Zephyr Adventures.
Amidst the hops: learning all about beer on the Yellowstone/Grand Teton Multi Beer Adventure from Zephyr Adventures.

Over the last 15 years, Zephyr Adventures has transitioned from inline skating tours to inspired high altitude trekking and cycling excursions around the world.

Now, Zephyr has morphed into a full-blown alternative-travel outfitter with guided expeditions to Tibet, Peru, and Tanzania. Recently, the innovators at Zephyr incorporated a new angle into their tours: the lure of good food and drink. They’re based in the scenic town of Red Lodge, Montana just outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Climb aboard with Zephyr, and you can trek to obscure wineries in South Africa, or bike through the lush vineyards of famous Napa Valley.

However, their latest attraction is synonymously simple and magnificent, accessible and remote. Zephyr Adventures now offers the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons Multisport Beer Adventure, an ambitious 6-day excursion through the stunning Rocky Mountains that will combine hiking and cycling with a handful of the region’s most unique high-altitude microbreweries.

Rollerblading Start

“Rollerblading was big in the 90’s, but when it began to phase out we knew we had to adapt,” said Kris Thomas, Zephyr Adventures Tour Operations Specialist. “We started running different tours internationally, but the inspiration for the beer adventure was right in our back yard. Most of us have lived in the area, and it just makes sense to combine the beauty of the countryside with the originality our many craft beers.”

This tour will exemplify a region and local culture that has long conjoined zesty ales and full-bodied beers with an adrenaline-pumping lifestyle. Here, adventurers routinely brave the lofty snow-capped peaks only to return for good beer and company at any one of the dozens of hidden pubs and restaurants tucked into the quaint valleys.

“In this part of the country in particular, beer is a big scene,” says Thomas. “Whether you are a beer fanatic or a casual drinker, this expedition will give you great insight into how our microbreweries operate and how these beers have helped to define the region.”

An Adventure To Remember

The Yellowstone and Grand Tetons Multisport Beer Adventure is a summer endeavor, and will run from July 20th to July 25th this coming season.

Brewmaster at Grand Teton brewing pouring suds for guests.
Brewmaster at Grand Teton brewing pouring suds for guests.

The tour will accommodate a small, intimate group of travelers who will participate in Hiking, Biking and Rafting excursions throughout Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Each day will also be marked by an outdoor activity coupled with the exploration of a new regional brewery, often complete with beer samplings, a tour of the brewery, and a meet and greet with the Brewmaster.

“There’s something about beer that just makes people happy,” laughed Marlena Crovatt, an artist from South Carolina who participant in last summer’s Beer Adventure. “There’s a great balance between the activities and the drinking, and it was a great overall atmosphere.

Each day was packed full of interesting activities and there was never a dull moment. Even when we were driving in the van, we were enjoying good conversation and the amazing vistas.”

The tour kicks off from Bozeman, Montana, and then winds down into Idaho before crossing into Wyoming. Along the way, you’ll marvel at the craggy peaks of Grand Teton National Park and the spewing geysers akin to Yellowstone National Park. Six days later, you’ll enjoy a well-deserved beer at the finish line in Billings, Montana.

Participation in The Yellowstone and Grand Tetons Multisport Beer Adventure will cost you $1,900.

Included in this cost is transportation throughout the six-day period, lodging for five nights, bicycle rental, brewery tours, and most meals and drinks. Zephry is also offering a Colorado Hike, Bike and Beer tour that includes admittance to the Great American Beer Festival from October 8-12, 2012.

Although the adventure is active, it is recommended for all ability levels.

Zipping down the Beartooth Highway toward Red Lodge, Montana.
Zipping down the Beartooth Highway toward Red Lodge, Montana.

Feel The Buzz Of Excitement

“I will always remember the morning I woke for an early morning run in Yellowstone,” said Crovatt. “I was passing Old Faithful just as the sun was rising, and the sunlight reflected off the steam from the geyser, creating this rainbow of sparkling colors. The morning air was cool and fresh and the trees shone bright gold and vivid green. Just as I turned a corner in the trail, I found myself face to face with the first Bison I had ever seen. It was magical, just one of those moments that will stick with you forever.”

Each day on the Multisport Beer Adventure offers countless opportunities to create a memory that you will remember for a long time.

The fun kicks off on day one with a brief hike on the Triple Tree Trail just outside of Bozeman, MT. Although short, the hike is rewarding, and will afford you a spectacular panoramic view of Bozeman Valley and the Gallatin, Madison, Tobacco Root, and Bridger Mountain Ranges. This is your first real chance to get to know the group and guides.

Then its time to head back into town for happy hour at the Bozeman Brewing Company. Here, one of Montana’s most esteemed brewing companies offers over 40 beers on tap, including their flagship Bozone Select Amber Ale.

Glowing with hearty food, fine beer and vibrant energy, you’ll spend the night at the nearby Magnuson Grand City Center Hotel.

MSU’s Hopyard

Having gotten your feet under you in Bozeman, day two will begin with a lesson on both hops and barely at Montana State University’s Hopyard. Enjoy the hearty breakfast that follows, for today will be marked by a 3-mile hike to Ouzel Falls followed by a challenging whitewater rafting stint on the Gallatin River.

Once you’ve filled your adrenaline quota for the day, enjoy a blind beer tasting at the Lone Peak Brewery and dinner at the 320 Guest Ranch. The Guest Ranch overlooks the Gallatin River, and is known for its fantastic local beef and trout. Get comfortable; this is also where you will stay the night.

On day three, the group will cross from Montana into Idaho for a visit to Harriman State Park and a scenic five or eight mile hike. Then it’s on to Grand Teton Brewing Company in Victor, Idaho for post-hike refreshments and an informative conversation with the Brewmaster.

Lunch with the Rockies right behind you.
Lunch with the Rockies right behind you.

“It’s really nice to be able to put a face and personality behind the beer you’re drinking,” said Crovatt. “Meeting with the Brewmaster and listening to him explain how the beer is made ads an extra dimension to the experience. You’ve spent the day exploring this spectacular countryside, and you can almost taste the flavor of the mountains and valleys reflected in the beer.”

Following the tour of the Grand Teton Brewery, it’s time to head east into Jackson Wyoming. This foremost adventurer’s hotspot, aptly named ‘the last of the old west’, boasts one of the world’s only Thai restaurant-brewery combinations. Take time to wander the quaint downtown streets and breathe in the cool mountain air before retiring to your room in The Lexington Hotel.

Wake up the following morning to the sun peeking over the majestic mountain peaks for a bike ride in the Grand Teton National Park. This is an opportunity to relax and soak in the deep blue of the lakes and rhythmic the hum of the insects. Depending on how ambitious you’re feeling, you will have the option to bike 8, 16, or 23 miles.

Dinner at Old Faithful Inn

Your fourth day will be topped off by dinner at the Old Faithful Inn and an evening walk to watch the renowned geyser erupt. The evening beauty of Yellowstone will make you will feel relaxed and ultimately at peace with yourself and the natural world.

The last full day of the tour will include a three-mile hike along the ‘Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone’, along which you will view tumbling Upper and Lower Falls, two of the most impressive cascades in the Rockies.

Yellowstone's incredible scenic beauty is a big part of the appeal of this beer adventure.
Yellowstone’s incredible scenic beauty is a big part of the appeal of this beer adventure.

Then, drive through verdant Lamar Valley in search of bear, wolves and elk. You are almost certain to see hundreds of bison grazing in the bountiful meadows. The vans will deposit you at the summit of Beartooth Pass for an exhilarating 12-mile downhill cruise into the town of Red Lodge, MT. This town is home to Red Lodge Ales, one of the regions premier breweries, and you will enjoy a delightful food-beer pairing for dinner at the Pollard.

On your final morning with the tour you will partake in breakfast, followed by one last hike to a stunning vista in Red Lodge.

“When you get off your bike to eat lunch overlooking the mountains, then finish the day with a cold beer around a warm fire with lots of good company; you just know that was a good day,” says Crovatt.

Peter Sacco is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD. He now lives in California.

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