CROOKED RIVER RANCH — Come fall, don’t be surprised if hints of elderberry, arrowleaf balsamroot or wild mock orange find their way into a beer at your favorite watering hole.
For the second consecutive year, the Oregon Natural Desert Association is teaming up with Beers Made by Walking, a nonprofit that organizes nature hikes for brewers and the general public. The goal of the program is for local brewers to use their wilderness journey as inspiration for a new and creative beer.
Cam O’Connor, a brewer at Bend’s Crux Fermentation Project, participated in the first Central Oregon walk of the year — Beers Made by Walking helps organize hikes in Washington, Colorado, North Carolina and several areas of Oregon — a roughly 3-mile jaunt Wednesday along the Scout Camp Trail, part of the Deschutes Canyon Area proposed wilderness area near Crooked River Ranch.
Led by Oregon Natural Desert Association’s Central Oregon wilderness coordinator Gena Goodman-Campbell, O’Connor and a motley crew of journalists, beer geeks and outdoor enthusiasts trekked into the Deschutes River Canyon where the Deschutes and Whychus Creek meet. O’Connor found the hike awe-inspiring and was excited to get to the drawing board for his Beers Made by Walking brew.
“A lot of the wild herbs and plants (on the trail), we can find a lot of those commercially,” said O’Connor, whose beer, along with the two other Central Oregon Beers Made by Walking brews — and possibly others from around the Pacific Northwest — will be unveiled in the fall at a tasting party.
“With the day being kind of dark and gray, maybe a brown ale?” O’Connor said after the hike. “Maybe a farmhouse brown with rose hips and elderberry?
Beers Made by Walking founder Eric Steen first started taking hikes with his local home brewers club in Colorado Springs in 2010. The trips were so well-received that the following year he invited a handful of established breweries to take part in the hikes, and Beers Made by Walking was off and walking.
“It just snowballed,” Steen said by phone Tuesday. He is now the communications specialist for Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland. “The initial events were a success, and we ended up with some very unusual and strange beers. And the more walks we did, the better the beers got.”
Highlighting some of his favorite past Beers Made by Walking concoctions, Steen mentioned the Kriekenstein, a sour beer made with chokecherries by Pikes Peak Co., in Colorado Springs; Worthy Brewing’s Walk on the Wild Side Badlands Indigenous Ale brewed with juniper tips, juniper berries, Indian ricegrass and desert sage; and a Flanders-style brew by Hopworks that incorporated salmonberry and vanilla leaf.
“My desire when I created this was simply to get people outside and to see the world differently,” said Steen, who now coordinates walks in beer hubs such as Eugene, Portland and Seattle, and even Bellingham, Washington, and different parts of North Carolina. “And I like to tie and attach that to beer.”
In Oregon and Washington, all Beers Made by Walking trips are associated with a local nonprofit that receives proceeds from the finished beers. The Eugene-area hikes benefit the McKenzie River Trust and the Portland beers will raise money for the Forest Park Conservancy. In Bend, the partnership is with the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
“When working with the nonprofits, we schedule the hikes according to their educational needs,” Steen said. “(Oregon Natural Desert Association) is interested in wilderness protection, so they’re taking people to wilderness proposal areas or places that are already protected. In Portland, working with the Forest Park Conservancy, the hikes take place in Forest Park.”
Local beer blogger Mark Linder was one of the 10 hikers who “oohed” and “ahhed” their way through Wednesday’s Scout Camp walk. After participating in one Beers Made by Walking event last year, Linder hopes to make all three Central Oregon events this spring and summer.
“I like the environment and I like the beer all these folks make,” Linder said. “And you get to meet other people and go on a beautiful hike. Why not?”
— Reporter: 541-617-7829, firstname.lastname@example.org .