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Eastern Sierra, Craft Beers, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
A long weekend in the Eastern Sierra, that spectacular stretch of majestic mountains along US 395, was a hodgepodge of activities that can only happen when winter is at bay, but then comes sweeping down the mountains and into the valley from the northwest. On a gloriously warm sunshiny winter afternoon, I rode Lower Rock Creek, a trail that serves up fast, swoopy flow in its first two sections, and then delivers several rounds of technical mountain biking, characterized by chunk, chunk, and more chunk. There ain’t no flow down low on Rock Creek, until you get to Paradise. I left a little skin on the trailside granite.
In Mammoth, I finally found some snow. I strapped on snowshoes and wandered off-trail up on the “other” side of the lodge area, following local beta in the form of days’ old meandering xc-ski and snowshoe tracks through the trees, affording opportunities for views of downhill skiers swooping down the mountain while I stood in solitude and silence amidst a winter wonderland. No trail signs to follow, I looked for animal tracks and listened to bird songs, gentle breezes swaying the treezes.
Finally, some gravel grinding out in the Wild Willy’s area, by way of the green church road turnoff, provided a blast of true winter. I needed to use the standing crouch with head down to move my bike and body through 30+ mph head and cross winds as a front moved in, overnight dropping eight inches of fresh powder, the first measureable snow in 40 days, according to folks at the Tamarack Ski Center. The wind was cold, fierce in its entry on a Sierra morning. Up high, the sky was moody, and the peaks soon were veiled in clouds. Winter ripped through my layers and stung my lungs. A smile worked its way onto my face, a bit of a smirked grin saying, “I’m happy to be here.”
Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop served up a Rye XPA that needed a little more rye for my liking, lacking a peppery kick. Mammoth Brewing Company has its mainstays, which have never really knocked my socks off, but a seasonal Baltic Porter on draft nearly did. The 2-week freshly opened Distant Brewing in Mammoth had several IPAs and DIPAs pouring in the tasting room, all darn good and satisfying my India Pale Ale needs.
For this round of Earn Your Beer, it is time to honor a true American beer classic. A craft beer icon. One I have been legally drinking for just under 25 years: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
When I see the green label, it seems a new memory comes out of nowhere, yet somewhere, from the nooks and crannies of my brain. Years of cheers lost in the synapses come flooding back by way of sight. Then I crack open a can or a bottle and the always-balanced taste that is a “pale ale,” to me, cements those memories back into the folds of my mind and reminds me that seeking perfection is worth the endeavor to get there.
At camp, at home, at the pub, bar or restaurant, it never disappoints. If there were a Mt. Rushmore, nah scratch that, if there were a Mt. Whitney or The Minarets of USA craft beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be there, no doubt.