James Murren
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Earn Your Beer: Hiking & Mountain Biking Mendocino Redwoods

The Earning

Biking and hiking in the redwoods of Mendocino County is time well spent. While different, both experiences allow for the opportunity to be in the powerful presence of nature. With tall trees and giant ferns coming together in an ancient rainforest, Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve is a magical place. A peaceful stillness enveloped us as we quietly hiked from one grove to another for nearly two hours. The gentle trickling of stream waters among the trees provided a soothing natural melody.

I also spent two hours on fat tires with a member of the Mendocino Coast Cyclists at Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Riding the high school (National Interscholastic Cycling Association aka NICA) race loop was a blast. Somewhere along the way there was a beautiful bench cut trail that gradually descended through the forest; it was a complete joy to ride. After a long climb back out, we cruised on over to the “Walmart” trails for a swoopy, fast, fun descent. Back at the starting point, I knew that I’d be back again soon.

The Beer

Along the 101 in Mendocino County sit the towns of Ukiah and Willits. Both towns have breweries that are well worth a visit after spending time in the redwoods. Ukiah Brewing Company, in the center of downtown, has a new water system they brought in specifically for brewing beer. Recipes have been tweaked and attention to detail has been amped up. What you get is delicious beer of all styles, Ukiah Pilsner and ‘90s Style Red Ale were highlights. ukiahbrewing.com

A little further north of Ukiah is Willits, the self-proclaimed Gateway to the Redwoods. Northspur Brewing Company is on the main street through town. Keep an eye out for it, as a blink might mean you’ll miss it, which you don’t want to do. This is a place for mountain bikers, as the brewer/owner rides and can point you in the right direction. Check out the railroad history that is central to the theme inside, and I’ll add that the porch/patio is a great spot to sip on a beer or two. You can’t really go wrong with whatever beer you choose. The recommendation I have, though, is the Barrel-Aged Felix Imperial Stout. My goodness! That beer is “next-level.” northspurbrewing.com 

Hare in the Forest Brewing is located off Highway 101 in Potter Valley. Owned by retired Marines, the company brews 15 gallon batches in their garage. I can honestly say Hare in the Forest beers are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, no matter the style. Check out their website for locations to buy their bottles and for locations in Ukiah and Willits to have a draft. Whatever is available, get it. You won’t be disappointed. The Bunny Slope Blonde and Hoppin’ Hare IPA are two to look for when in Mendocino County. hareintheforest.com

I’ll add one more: Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC). If you’re on the 128 on the way to the coast, AVBC is a stop not to miss. Since 1987, they’ve been at the forefront of craft beer in California. Put some cans in your cooler after having a taster or two at this world-class brewery. Oh, and you have to play disc golf, as they have a course on their property. avbc.com


Main image: Photo by Gary Kavanagh

Read other earn your beer columns here.