Tonight: Beers Made by Walking at the Wynkoop injects nature into your brews
Barley, hops, water and yeast. And wild sage and dandelion greens, yarrow and golden currants. Oh, and rabbit brush. These are some of the ingredients that were used by seventeen Colorado breweries as part of this year's Beers Made by Walking.
Beers Made by Walking
The festival, today at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, is one of the most unusual events that takes place during Great American Beer Festival week in Denver. All of the beers were made using some plant that the brewers discovered on a local walk.
"I had two criteria driving my beer," says Scott Witsoe of Wit's End Brewing, who created Killer Rabbit, a beer made with rabbit brush and rabbit brush honey. "I wanted to use a plant that is indigenous to Colorado, and I wanted to find something that grows on the South Platte bike path, which is just about a quarter of a mile away."
Since Witsoe doesn't know what wild plants are edible, though, he enlisted the help of a local herbalist named Joan Zinn, who showed him the rabbit brush.
"It's medium height with flowers at the end. It is incredibly fragrant and reminded me of chamomile, with honey notes," Witsoe says. "It's really aromatic."
The resulting beer is a blond ale that comes off more like a saison and has some funky notes from local rabbit-brush honey, which Witsoe also added. It will join sixteen other beers at the festival tonight, including those from Crooked Stave, Our Mutual Friend/Cerebral Brewing, Fate, Mountain Sun, Elevation and Wynkoop (see the full list of beers and ingredients on the next page.)
Created several years ago by Colorado Springs beer blogger, homebrewer and professor Eric Steen, Beers Made by Walking started small, but took on a life of its own in 2013 as Steen moved to Portland and created a second chapter there.
"I have a fascination with environmental education and being outdoors," Steen says, adding that it took him a couple of years to start inviting breweries on his walks. "Beer gets us to slow down and be with friends. Walking is also something that does that. Slowing down is at the heart of what I like to do in the world."
At first, Steen organized all the walks, but as more breweries heard about the idea, they began organizing their own trips, either to the mountains or natural areas nearby, or simply around the urban environments in Denver or Boulder. The Wynkoop, for instance, is making a beer with blue gummy bears that is based on the Big Blue Bear.
"These people are making some of the most interesting craft products available, so getting out into nature embeds a level of environmental respect into what they are making," Steen says. "This allows them to get into nature and have it still be work."
Beers Made by Walking takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Wynkoop. Tickets, $30, are available in advance at ticketalternative.com or at the door -- if it isn't sold out.
Turn the page to see the list of beers: