There is nothing finer after a long day of riding or skiing than a cold beer or a fine cocktail. Even better is something handcrafted with care and love right there next to the mountain.
Luckily, with the craft beer movement taking off since the 1980s, fine breweries and distilleries have been spreading like wildfire across the country, and some of the very best can be found in ski towns.
We had a really hard time narrowing this down so we chose some of the most exciting and innovative breweries and distilleries that are some of the best. Please send us your favorite breweries and distilleries near your home mountain and let's see if we can make a Top 20!
Here are some of our favorite mountain hideaways:
Bend, Oregon: Yes, the whole town is one lovely explosion of craft brewing with at least 14 breweries in a town of 80,000 people -- and more opening all of the time. Bend is in a great location for skiers and riders too, only 20 miles from Mt. Bachelor and 45 miles from Hoodoo.
Deschutes Brewery was the first and is currently the biggest player in town. They've grown over the past 24 years to become the fifth-largest craft brewery in the U.S. while still producing great beers like Mirror Pond Ale and Black Butte Porter. They have paved the way for the newer places by getting Bend's name out there as a true beer mecca, and also by producing brewmasters like Jimmy Seifrit, now brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Bend, who told The New York Times: "The brewer I am today is 100 percent because of Deschutes."
Beer Me Bend is a great resource for comparing the delicious options around town, but you really need to be there on the streets to experience the wonder of so much divine innovation. So we got our crack Liftopia correspondents Isabel and Ari out into the bush to see what's really going on. Isabel wrote from 10 Barrel Brewing on August 8: "We have hit almost all [14 of the breweries here]. Boneyard Beer, Deschutes and 10 Barrel I would say are my top three. They seem to be doing some 'different' brewing techniques, such as putting coffee or kombucha in the beer, which sounds weird but it's good stuff."
Our intrepid beer drinkers went on to complete the Bend Ale Trail by hitting 10 (10!) different breweries to earn them these wicked Silipints and fancy patches for their snowboard jackets. Respect! And so jealous!
The Alchemist (plus the "Vermont Ale Trail"): On the opposite side of the country in New England, fine brewing is just as well respected. Best of the mountain breweries, by popular vote, would be The Alchemist with their flagship beer, the Double IPA Heady Topper rated #3 beer in the world by Beer Advocate, the go-to site for beer aficionados (and snobs).
Located in Waterbury, Vermont, the Alchemist Brewery is within 10 miles of five top ski resorts: Stowe Mountain Resort, Sugarbush, Bolton Valley, Smuggler's Notch and Mad River Glen. In fact you almost have to be a boarder or skier to get ahold of the delicious Heady Topper because it is only available via retail locations in Waterbury, Burlington, Stowe and a few other places. You HAVE to be in Vermont to taste this treat.
If you want to create your own "Vermont Ale Trail," head north from The Alchemist in Waterbury, VT to Greensboro for a visit to Hill Farmstead Brewery. They produce the top-rated Saison-style beer in the country, called Ann, in a little town between Burke Mountain and Stowe. Then circle back to Warren, VT for a visit to Lawson's Finest Liquids.
Just downhill from Sugarbush and on tap at Mad River Glen is one of the hottest small breweries in the US. Known for their Double Sunshine IPA and their Maple Tripple, Lawson's look set to continue racking up awards.
Hopfenstark: A real up and coming brewery you may not have tried yet, Hopfenstark is located north of Montreal, Quebec and east of the beautiful Mont Tremblant Ski Resort. They are making a big name for themselves with their exciting seasonal bieres like Saison Station 10 (a sour beer), Saison Station 16 (a rye beer) and Saison Station 55 (a bitter beer). Seek them out and prepare to be delighted!
Montanya Distillers : Though we love beer as much as we love snow, we have to point out some great innovation going on in the mountain distilling arts. Montanya is a craft distillery that makes award-winning rum from scratch, by hand. Located in Crested Butte, Colorado, you might ask yourself: Why make rum in Colorado? Apparently there are quite a few good reasons such as the great water and the effects of altitude on distilling. Who knew? And if you're not ready to make the switch to rum, you know you can get quite a few good hand-crafted beers in Colorado from the Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, CO near Eldora Mountain Resort and Winter Park Resort to the Telluride Brewing Co. and many more.
High West Distillery and Saloon: Finally, we cannot mention mountain distilleries without highlighting the unbeatable High West Distillery and Saloon in Park City, Utah. High West was the first new distillery to open in Utah since the 1870s and it is a tribute to the passion of owner David Perkins for the craft of small-batch distilling. He studied with the masters in Kentucky and brings his training as a biochemist and distiller to every batch he brews. Try their Rye Whiskey or their newest Campfire Whiskey when the chill hits you. And it will since this is the only ski-in distillery in the U.S.!
Whether you prefer Double IPAs, Dark Rum, Farmhouse Saisons, Rye Whiskey or Kombucha in your beer, you can find just what you need in and around the ski towns of North America. Just be sure to get yourself a designated driver when you hit the Ale Trails of Bend or Vermont or the tasting rooms of Crested Butte or Park City... You'll want to come back for more.
What other mountain breweries and distilleries would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Follow Liftopia on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Liftopia