Asheville’s local brews inspire guided hikes

10.10.2013 Drew Stevenson 0 Comments

This article was written by Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen-Times.

For Love of Beer & Mountains
Anna Zanetti, public awareness and outreach associate for Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, stands by the view looking south from Clawhammer toward Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah National Forest that hikers will see on 'For Love of Beer and Mountains' hike Saturday, October 5th. / Special to the Citizen-Times

 

ASHEVILLE — There isn’t much that goes together better than a cold brew after a long, hard hike in the autumn-splashed mountains of Western North Carolina.

Unless the cold brew is named for one of those stunning mountain peaks, and by buying that beer, you know you have helped to preserve the land you are hiking through and the views your eyes are gulping down, and keeping the water clean to make those brews.

That’s the vision that Kristy Urquhart, associate director of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, had nearly 20 years ago. The idea to marry a land trust and a brewing company with experts in wildlife habitat has resulted in the “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership among Highland Brewing Co., the SAHC land trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The partnership, which was formalized in 2009, works to heighten public awareness of the natural treasures that make this region so attractive, to garner support for local conservation efforts, and, as most things in Asheville do, to highlight seasonal brews.

For Love of Beer & MountainsThe partnership, continues its “For Love of Beer and Mountains” hiking series this Saturday with the Clawhammer Hike in the Pisgah National Forest and Oct. 12 with the Thunderstruck Hike partly in the Plott Balsam Preserve, an area protected by the Nature Conservancy. Highland Brewing’s Thunderstruck Coffee Porter seasonal release party on Oct. 18 will donate a portion of the proceeds to SAHC.

“It was a natural fit because Highland Brewing Co.’s corporate values of community, clean water, and recreation dovetail with our own,” Urquhart said. “We preserve headwater streams that provide clean water sources in our watersheds, as well as the features of the landscape for which Highland Brewing names their seasonal brews. And, clean water makes good beer.”

Urquhart had toured Highland Brewing Co.’s brewery when it first came to Asheville in the early ’90s, and met with owner Oscar Wong. She felt the two groups, both with “Highland” in their names, had to be working for the same goals — awareness of land conservation and highlighting the places that make the WNC region special.

“SAHC is responsible for protecting the main watershed for WNC’s drinking water. They’ve protected the peaks and mountain treasures around the state,” said Drew Stevenson, community outreach with Highland Brewing Co.

“Clean water and good water means good beer. That was an added incentive to create this partnership. It’s a good way to get younger people involved in things like this. If you get them involved early they’ll want to continue.”

The partnership is not a monetary agreement, Stevenson said, except for the release party donations, but rather a way to help promote the work of the land trust. The partnership also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which includes information about the natural area such as a plant and animal that are thriving there, on the 12-pack packaging.

Each Highland Brewing seasonal brew is named for a feature of the Southern Appalachian landscape, for example: Little Hump Spring Ale is named for Little Hump Mountain along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan; Devils Britches IPA is named for Devils Britches Trail at Cataloochee on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, where SAHC has preserved land with conservation easements; and Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is named for Thunderstruck Ridge, a beautiful section of mountains visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County.

“This is unique, these seasonals have reasons behind them,” Stevenson said. “I’m not aware of another brewery in the country that focuses its seasonal brew series on land protection.”

For Love of Beer & MountainsAspects of the “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership include: financial donation from Highland Brewing Co. to SAHC for a percentage of pint sales at each seasonal release party; educational or awareness events hosted at Highland’s Tasting Room in Asheville; guided hikes of each seasonal namesake; volunteer work days on protected properties for staff from each organization; and printed information about the region’s natural features and native species on each of the seasonal 12-pack boxes.

“SAHC is responsible for protecting the main watershed for WNC’s drinking water. They’ve protected the peaks and mountain treasures around the state,” said Drew Stevenson, community outreach with Highland Brewing Co.

“Clean water and good water means good beer. That was an added incentive to create this partnership. It’s a good way to get younger people involved in things like this. If you get them involved early they’ll want to continue.”

The partnership is not a monetary agreement, Stevenson said, except for the release party donations, but rather a way to help promote the work of the land trust. The partnership also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which includes information about the natural area such as a plant and animal that are thriving there, on the 12-pack packaging.

Clawhammer Hike

Each Highland Brewing seasonal brew is named for a feature of the Southern Appalachian landscape, for example: Little Hump Spring Ale is named for Little Hump Mountain along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan; Devils Britches IPA is named for Devils Britches Trail at Cataloochee on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, where SAHC has preserved land with conservation easements; and Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is named for Thunderstruck Ridge, a beautiful section of mountains visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County.

“This is unique, these seasonals have reasons behind them,” Stevenson said. “I’m not aware of another brewery in the country that focuses its seasonal brew series on land protection.”

Aspects of the “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership include: financial donation from Highland Brewing Co. to SAHC for a percentage of pint sales at each seasonal release party; educational or awareness events hosted at Highland’s Tasting Room in Asheville; guided hikes of each seasonal namesake; volunteer work days on protected properties for staff from each organization; and printed information about the region’s natural features and native species on each of the seasonal 12-pack boxes.

The highlights — especially in the fall — are the hikes. Anna Zanetti, public awareness and outreach associate with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, said both partnership hikes are strenuous, but each is worth the effort.

The Saturday hike to Clawhammer will start in the Pisgah National Forest and climb for more than 9 miles over several different trails to a summit of 4,072 feet. There are spectacular cliff top views, single log bridges and also muddy areas and rocky and steep inclines.

“It’s definitely strenuous, gaining a little over 1,000 feet elevation,” Zanetti said.

“We will pass by Twin Falls for a break about 2 miles into the hike. It’s amazing. It’s a difficult hike, so this is a great opportunity for people to be part of a group, not worry about getting lost, and take in the senses of so many other things. It has a beautiful view from Clawhammer to Looking Glass Rock, where we protected a couple of these properties.”

Thunderstruck Coffee Porter

The hike will traverse equestrian, mountain biking and hiking trails and forest service roads. The one downside is the frequency of yellowjackets on this trail, so Zanetti warns those with allergies to opt for Thunderstruck.

The Thunderstruck hike on Oct. 12 will start at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Haywood County, at an elevation of 6,292 feet. The timing and the altitude should make this hike prime viewing for fall leaf color, Zanetti said.

It is also considered strenuous, with several hundred feet of elevation gain, but is only 5 miles roundtrip. The hike crosses through red spruce and fraser firs, red oak forest, and other high elevation trees while occasionally stopping at rock outcroppings for views of Thunderstruck Ridge.

The group will hike through the 1,595-acre Plott Balsam Preserve and eventually reach Blackrock Ridge at 5,600 feet elevation. This section can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway and protects more than 1,700 feet of pristine stream corridors.

The hike is narrow in places, and Zanetti said it is not for hikers afraid of heights, although she said she has not seen any yellowjackets on her scouting trips.

Stevenson said he will be on both hikes and encourages everyone to check them out.

“I think the name ‘For Love of Beer and Mountains’ just says it all,” he said.

Written by Karen Chavez, Asheville Citizen-Times

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