Good beer, a good book (and a good question?)

Beer and books! Two of my favourite things, and who doesn’t like a good read with a glass of beer at hand? Throw in a campfire, and all is well. (The good question is buried – and then raised – further down. Read on if important questions matter to you…)

Research is vital, and with the weather improving, and campfire season pretty much here, I forced myself to go to two beer festivals two weekends in a row, as well as a tasting at our local beer store to search out new favourites. Research is hard work, but it is work I take very seriously, and I’ll even put in a little overtime if necessary, to get the job done. An unpaid and overworked PlaidCamper. Preparation, preparation, preparation. I know you feel my pain…

Exhaustive (exhausting?) research…

So, that is something about the beer part, with more to follow. The book part? Read on!

I was strolling along the banks of the Bow the other day, and I spotted a guy in waders fishing from the gravel on the far side. Behind him, up on the bank was a cooler. Am I right in thinking the cooler could only have been for beer? The sight put me in mind of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It.

Lovely, but where’s the beer?

What a book! If you’ve read it, then you’ll know I am seriously underselling it by saying there is a lot of fishing, family feuding, and drinking in this story. I’m being truthful, but the story includes so much more. If you haven’t read it, you’ve got a treat ahead should you so choose. Anyway, back to my tenuous book and beer stuff.

Maclean’s narrator and his brother return to where they left eight bottles of beer cooling in the river. They’ve been fishing on a very hot day, the fishing has not been too rewarding, and they are looking forward to a cold one:

“God, let’s get that beer,” I said.

Paul kept spinning a bottle opener around his little finger. We were so dry that we could feel in our ears that we were trying to swallow. For talk, we only repeated the lyric refrain of the summer fisherman, “A bottle of beer sure would taste good.”

Sure tastes good

They are disappointed – to put it mildly – that their brother-in-law, Neal, and his acquaintance, have finished off all the beer. These two didn’t take the trip for the fishing, they had a different activity in mind. The brothers spy the amorous culprits asleep – passed out? – buck naked and burning in the high heat of a Montana afternoon. Backsides are red, words are spoken, and actions are taken. You’ll have to read the story to find out more. It is a colourful episode in a book full of colourful episodes.

A River Runs Through It is wonderful on many levels, full of life, death, sadness and grace. But me being shallow, like a stream in mid-summer, I’ve always wondered about that beer in the river – Maclean wrote it was either Highlander or Kessler – was it any good, and what would be a good river beer today? (I know, one of the finest stories a person could read, and that is what I’m thinking…) The brothers were pretty annoyed, and I can’t imagine they’d have been quite so upset over a missing six pack of Bud. Both the breweries Maclean mentioned went under in the twentieth century, maybe under the Anheuser-Busch onslaught, although with the recent resurgence in craft beer, the Highlander name is being used once again in Missoula.

Also tastes good

Anyway, this is my question – what would be a good beer, river-cooled a la Maclean, to enjoy after an afternoon of fishing? Yup, heady stuff, and I have to find an answer. Strange to be occupied by this question, given I have hardly ever fished, and I hardly ever drink beer. One of those is true.

The beers we researched at the Calgary and Canmore BeerFests (Mrs PC and our Canmore friends were onhand to share the work – I couldn’t tackle this alone) are all relatively recent vintages. Some of the start ups are mere months old, and I admire the enthusiasm, craft and commitment all the makers have in aiming to produce excellent beer.

Up until last year, my choice for the beer in the river would have been Great Northern Brewing’s Going to the Sun IPA. Aptly, it is made in Montana, and an absolute gem for a warm afternoon. Not so hoppy as to be too dry on the finish, it is a definite river beer contender.

However, our recent research revealed many other possibilities. If the brothers could have sourced it back in the day, I believe the Papa Bear Prairie Ale from the Half Hitch Brewing Company would have hit the spot. Or the Farmer’s Daughter Pale Ale from the same brewery. And if the name doesn’t put a person off, Red Bison Brewing’s Party Pants Pale Ale is also a winner. (Regular readers recognize I love a little alliteration, but steady on there, Red Bison…)

Party Pants Pale Ale on the left

Honestly, I could list and share many of the beers from our two recent BeerFest experiences that were wonderful enough to be left in a river – in a good way – or opened and enjoyed by a campfire over the coming season. Perhaps I’ll write a short follow up in the next week or two to mention and recommend some of these other beers. Be a shame to let all that research go unshared!

“Beer? No thanks. I drink water from my frisbee!”

I can’t help but think if only a certain someone would simply sit down, perhaps with an optional small glass of APA, turn off the (three?!) televisions, and read a few documents and reports, the world might be a tad more relaxed.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps you have a different “beer in a story” suggestion? Or a recommendation for a post-fishing river-cooled beer for Maclean’s story? If I can find it, I promise to try it…

“A bottle of beer sure would taste good.”

Have a wonderful weekend!

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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

21 thoughts on “Good beer, a good book (and a good question?)”

  1. We read this aloud and chuckled throughout. It’s a serious question you have posed and really deserves an answer. But, we can see, more time and research is probably required to get it right. We trust your important work will continue…Keep us updated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed this one! I have to say, I’m not sure I’m up to maintaining that level of research, but rest assured, I’ll keep looking for an answer (at a slower pace!)


  2. I was inspired by your enthusiasm and determination to answer life’s difficult questions!😁 I hope the summer finds you lost in hours and hours of research searching for the perfect river beer! Sadly, I am unable to offer any suggestions, but since I enjoy the names more than the beer, I think Party Pants Pale Ale would be a great choice.🙂 Absolutely enjoyed the beers and book adventure and loved the shot of Going to the Sun.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Sadly, I doubt I can keep up such an intense search, and will dial it back to my more regular bottle or two each week – still research, and important work, but with less chance of snoozing through late afternoons…
      I guess with the Party Pants Pale Ale, it’s a memorable name, but not one you’d want to shout out in a busy pub with your mates:
      “Yeah, a pint of the party pants for me!”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent work, Maestro! Glad to read that great minds are posing great questions today (possibly to counter-balance some of the stone-sober BS coming out of national capitals of late) for self improvement and political relaxation and campfire delight. Wow, what a book River is, and I mean the book more so than the movie. of course. You mention Highlander as a possibility for the boys’ afternoon delight, and the fact that it has been reborn out in Missoula. This is good news, and we’ll search for it if we can get to Montana this summer. Going to the Sun is a fine one, and I’ll keep an eye out for the Half Hitch bottles/cans. There are so many craft beers popping up like German flowers these days that it’s fun to fish or to travel about and not even worry about having to chill the beer at riverside away from prying eyes. If all else fails, there’s always my Bell’s Two-Hearted in easy reach of the supermarket (My wife, in a moment of brew snobbery says it’s an OK beer but way too basic). Anyway, a Grade A post from superior research and analysis!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Walt! There’s a line in ARRTI, and it’s something like “in Montana, drinking beer isn’t considered drinking at all” that I rather like. I’m a bit of a lightweight with beer drinking compared to past youthful overindulging, but it’s quality rather than pint quaffing for me now. We are spoiled with the recent craft beer explosion, and so many of these little operations are making great beer – and it takes the mind off the political BS.
      I sure hope you find yourself Going to the Sun and Montana bound this coming summer. I doubt the Half Hitch is brewing on a scale big enough to export south of the border, but you’ll find many new beer friends down there I’m sure.
      Your favourite beer is “too basic”?! Harsh words! I like to say it’s good to have a reliable mainstay. For me, either Deschutes Brewing’s Mirror Pond Pale, or the grand-daddy of the revival, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Mrs Rivertop might not approve!
      Enjoy your week ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love it! Not the book, though it does sound rather engaging, but the depths of research undertaken for a good story. I think you and my hubby would get along famously! Fun post PC. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I chuckled throughout the reading of this, PC, thanks so much. Your sacrifices in research and hard work are exemplary, and I will try to follow in your magnanimous footsteps. Loved all the photos, and the first one with the glass tipped over gave me more to chuckle about. I am a beer lover, but definitely not an expert. Excellent post, my friend, and happy continued research to you and Mrs. Pc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jet! Glad this raised a smile or two, we certainly had lots of laughs doing the “research”, haha.
      Your area is home to many great breweries (another check mark, one of many for SF and area!) with two of my favourites close by – Lagunitas in Petaluma, and North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg. NCB’s Acme California Pale Ale might be the best summer beer ever…
      Hope your week is going well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That is one loud can, but the contents would be good. Had to search a little on the Stillwater site, but the name triggered a memory from a beer tasting a few years back, and there it was – Stillwater As Follows and the amazing bottle art work and strong beer inside. Sadly, their beers haven’t made their way back up here in a while, but if and when they return, I’ll be in the line for them!
      Enjoy your weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

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