Biking Through Windows and Puffy Jacket Beer

Don’t look at the Breckenwolf webcam. It’s too sad. The camera is pointed at the base of the lift. The quad chair is motionless, the main slope bare, except for a skinny sliver of patchy, dirty snow. It’s like our own localized version of the melting ice caps, and the image makes it painfully obvious that ski season is over for those of us that frequent the wild slopes of Breckenwolf. Based on the long-range forecast, it won’t be long before other ski areas in the South quiet their lifts too. The resorts have done their best, but you just can’t make snow when it’s 60 degrees for two weeks straight. Overall, for the Whiskey Wednesday crew, it was a ski season plagued by sickness, injury and shitty conditions. I’m calling it the worst ski season in a decade.

But listen, I’m not here to bitch and moan about how crappy the skiing has been down here this winter. Sure, it’s been 60 degrees for two weeks straight, but on the other hand it’s been 60 degrees for two weeks straight. I’m not one to lean into religious platitudes, but as everyone’s favorite aunt is fond of saying, “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” And for me, that window has two wheels. So, I’ve been riding the shit out of my bike. Road bike, mountain bike, gravel grinder…singletrack, pump track, mountain climbs…it’s almost 70 degrees out there and sunny. In February. Ski season might have been cut short, but bike season has been given a jump start. I’m making the most of it.

And I’m drinking a new beer after each bike ride: Patagonia Provisions Long Root Ale. Yes, the maker of your favorite puffy jacket is producing a beer now. Patagonia actually has an entire division that’s focusing on sustainable foods, called Patagonia Provisions. They produce a mean buffalo jerky, and they’ve partnered with Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) to brew Long Root. And this beer isn’t just some vanity project; This pale ale is the first beer ever to be made with Kernza, a grain that’s grown to regenerate the soil’s biodiversity and sequesters carbon. It’s a relatively new grain developed by The Land Institute, a non-profit that aims to introduce ecological stability to farming practices. Think of it as a perennial wheat substitute that requires no tilling and very little water.

Cool, right? So, Patagonia decided to put it in a beer, because even though Kernza is a wonder crop that could help save the world a little bit at a time, there isn’t a huge market for it. But that could change, as Kernza adds a layer of complexity to this beer’s malt bill. The beer itself is tasty, hitting all of the requisite grapefruit notes you expect from a West Coast pale ale. There’s a mellow sweetness that underscores the whole thing, and the Kernza contributes a rye-like spice that I dig. I find that Long Root pairs well with afternoon bike rides and unseasonably warm heat waves.

Places to Go, Things to See: