Gambrill State Park & Midnight Run Brewing

Frederick, Maryland

It’s finally fall in Maryland! We’re seeing a very gradual foliage season in my area, so we decided to head northeast in search of color. One of my favorite areas of Maryland is Frederick County. There are so many great places to hike and the breweries are nothing to sneeze at either! For this combo, we went to Gambrill State Park to walk along the Yellow Trail. True to its name, we saw plenty of yellow hues in the trees! It still seemed to be a week or two away from peak colors though. The crisp fall air was still delightful and we warmed up afterward at Midnight Run Brewery in Frederick, whose boozy beers warmed us right up!

THE HIKE: Gambrill State Park Loop

Our route is highlighted in pink

Length: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 686ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, leashed pets
Parking: Limited parking at trailhead. $3 per vehicle for MD plates, $5 for out of state
H&H Rating: 3/5

Gambrill State Park is a popular hiking area just outside of Frederick, Maryland. We wanted to do the Gambrills Park Loop on Alltrails so we parked at the Lower Lot area off of Gambrill Park Road. This lot can fill up but we learned that there are a few other parking lots along the way that you can use without adding any mileage. You’d just start your loop at a different point! Also be sure to have cash; you just put your fee in an envelope and place it in the mail slot. Or might I suggest the yearly state park pass? It’s only $75 and absolutely worth it if you hike a lot like us. 

For the most part, we followed the yellow blazed trip for this entire loop. For the first mile or so it runs along the main park road so that wasn’t my favorite. It was hard to enjoy nature with cars whizzing beside you! Thankfully, the trail eventually led deeper into the woods and we were able to relax. While this trail might not have the vistas that its neighbors Catoctin or Cunningham Falls offer, it was still a lovely walk through the woods. It was a peaceful trail with little foot traffic. Although it was popular with mountain bikers so stay alert as they can sometimes be going pretty fast. 

This was a great trail for mushroom hunting. We saw several different varieties and lots of fungi and lichen on the large rocks along the trail. J particularly loves mushrooms, although he wasn’t a fan of some gross slimy ones we found! Overall, we had a nice time on the trail but I didn’t think it was worth our long drive. It definitely seemed like more of a local’s trail. If I was making the trip out to Frederick, I would choose something with more views.

Dat stratigraphy baby

THE BEER: Midnight Run Brewing

Address: 912 N East St, Frederick, MD 21701
Distance from Trail Head:  8.8 miles, 16 mins 
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

We’ve been to Frederick a million times but somehow we had never been to Midnight Run! They’re in a small strip mall just on the outskirts of the historic area and very close to Rockwell Brewery (another fav of ours). Although there are so many breweries in Frederick, Midnight Run sets themselves apart by creating beers that really pack a punch. We’re talking barrel-aged stouts, double IPAs, and Belgian Strong Ales. This is a place for high ABV lovers! Thankfully, we packed a DIY charcuterie board (thanks Aldi!) so we were ready to sample. Since the ABVs are so high, Midnight Run offers 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz pours. We stuck with 8oz pours so we could taste a bunch of beers without needing an uber home! Our favorite of the day was the One Bad Mutha, a bourbon barrel-aged Barleywine which made me want to sit in front of a roaring fire at a rustic lodge. Honorable mention goes to the Missionary brown ale, which was deliciously malty. These were exactly the fall beers my heart wanted! I only wish that the ABVs were a little easier to handle since we had over an hour drive home. But I gotta give it to them for finding their niche; it’s hard to stand out in a small town with 10 breweries! Those Frederickians don’t know how lucky they are!

Our Beer:

  • Double Darkness – Imperial Stout – 10%
  • One Bad Mutha – Barleywine – 10.8%
  • Missionary – Brown Ale – 7.5%
  • Cyber-Tech Dialect – Double IPA- 7.9%

SUM UP: Gambrills State Park is located in Frederick County, minutes away from historic downtown Frederick. It’s a quiet park on the Catoctin Mountain Ridge, although it doesn’t have quite as many grand vistas as the other parks. The yellow trail is a popular trail for hiking and biking but there are several parking lots along the route. Make sure to pay the per car fee which helps to maintain this park for everyone! Our route was about 5 miles long with only a few elevation changes. The crisp fall air coupled with the just-changing leaves made for a lovely afternoon hike. Afterwards, we visited Midnight Run Brewing in Frederick. They specialize in unapologetically boozy beers with unique flavors. Make sure to bring some snacks ‘cause you won’t want to stop sampling these potent brews!

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK: Cascade Canyon & Snake River Brewing (BONUS – Grand Teton Brewing Company)

Jackson, Wyoming & Victor, Idaho

It’s finally time to share our biggest Hike & Hop yet! We saved the best for last in our Yellowstone/ Grand Teton adventure. This incredible hike starts at Jenny Lake, travels up to the breathtaking Inspiration Point and finally travels into the Cascade Canyon Valley with stunning views of the Grand Teton peak. This hike completely blew me away and I already want to go back and do it again! There are plenty of opportunities for extending or decreasing the mileage while still getting in a fantastic hike. After this all day trek in the woods, Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming really hit the spot. And to round out the day, we drove back through Idaho and hit up Grand Teton Brewing in Victor.

THE HIKE: Grand Teton National Park – Cascade Canyon

Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,096ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 4 -5 hours
Trail use: Hiking only
Parking: Very popular spot so Jenny Lake parking fills up quickly
H&H: 5/5

Although most of our trip was in Yellowstone, we decided to add a day trip down to Grand Teton after hearing so many people raving about it. We got up before dawn to drive down through Yellowstone. It was truly a magical experience with the park so quiet and full of mist swirling in the sunrise. We even saw the most majestic elk emerging from the woods to stand in the early morning light.

We had a lot planned for a single day and made several stops before our big hike to take in the scenery. Guys, if you’ve never seen the Tetons, they are real mountains. The kind that stay snow-capped all year round. I could not wait to hike them! The only problem was, when we got to the Jenny Lake parking lot it was packed. Not a single spot anywhere. So we had to make a brash decision and go to the next trailhead to park. At first, I was disappointed, knowing that this would add a good 2 miles to our hike but as soon as we set out, I quickly swallowed my disappointment. The trail was so peaceful with very little traffic that we were really able to enjoy the beauty around us. And much to my surprise, we saw two moose in the distance within 10 minutes of starting out! 

This trail follows along the shore of Jenny Lake and offers incredible views of the stunningly blue lake. I really loved this part of the trail, despite it not being part of our original plan. However, once we made it to the main trail, we had to share the way with a LOT more people. The first main viewpoint is Hidden Falls, which were lovely but could easily be skipped if you can’t spare the extra miles. It’s a really popular spot that was overrun with people taking a lunch break when we visited. The next stop is Inspiration Point which, while just as popular, is so beautiful that you just have to do it! The path to get up there is quite steep and not for the faint of heart. The steps are cut into the hillside and can be quite difficult for anyone unsteady on their feet or who have a fear of heights. As you’re going up, make sure to turn around and see the Grand Teton veering up behind you! After Inspiration Point, it’s time to head into the valley. The terrain will suddenly change from rocky and rugged to lush and green. And the trail will be noticeably quieter as the majority of people turn around at Inspiration Point. As you head into the valley, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. This is a very popular place to see moose and bears! We weren’t so lucky but the stunning views made up for it! 

The stairs leading up to Inspiration Point – Not for the faint of heart!
Make sure to turn around and see the Grand Teton soaring behind you!
Feeling pretty inspired at Inspiration Point!

At this point, you have some options. Since we didn’t have all day to hike, we walked for a while into the valley and then turned around to head back. If you want to continue into the valley, you can hike all the way to Lake Solitude and back for a 13.7 mile out and back. To save your legs, you can take the Jenny Lake ferry back and forth from the trailhead; just make sure to check the hours and have cash! Or if you really really want to challenge yourself, you can do a huge 21 mile loop from the String Lake trailhead that encompasses Cascade Canyon, Lake Solitude, and Paintbrush Canyon. This can be done as a backpacking trip too! I’m definitely adding to my backpacking wish list! 

Even though we didn’t do the whole loop, we still had clocked nearly 30,000 steps! Needless to say we were definitely ready for a brew!

Entering Cascade Canyon

THE BEER: Snake River Brewing

Address: 265 S Millward St, Jackson, WY 83001
Distance from Trail Head: 20 miles, 32 mins
Food?: Full Menu
H&H Rating: 3/5

Only about 20 miles away from the trailhead is Snake River Brewing in Jackson. There are several breweries in town so you’ll have plenty of options if this one doesn’t suit you! I was very excited to see so many breweries here since opportunities for Hikes & Hops in Yellowstone were extremely limited! In fact, Wyoming only has 22 breweries in the whole state! 

Snake River Brewing first opened in 1994 so it is pretty established in town as the place to be. That couldn’t have been more clear when we arrived and had to wait over an hour for a table! Thankfully the expansive outdoor space made it a comfortable place to relax and wait. It’s not often that we end up at breweries with a full menu so this was a treat. We both scarfed down an elk burger and were pretty happy with our beers. My only complaint was that the fast paced environment of the brewery made it feel very impersonal and made it hard to relax and have a good time. I think we might have been better off getting dinner somewhere else and having a beer outside here. 

Afterwards, we needed to drive back to West Yellowstone through Idaho. One of my goals is to not only go to every state but also go to a brewery in each one. So, of course, after hiking in Grand Teton National Park, we had to stop by Grand Teton Brewing Company in Victor, Idaho. I LOVED this little brewery. We sat outside and watched the sunset drinking beer made from 100% glacial water! It was the perfect end to such a fulfilling but exhausting day. 

Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, Idaho

Our Beer:

Snake River Brewing

  • Earned It – New England IPA – 6% 
  • Custer’s Last Ale – Pale Ale – 6%

Grand Teton Brewing Company

  • Mail Cabin – Scottish Ale – 6.5% 
  • Black Cauldron – Imperial Stout – 9.5%
  • Amber Ale – Red Ale – 4.8%

SUM UP: The highlight of our Yellowstone/ Grand Teton trip was our hike through the Cascade Canyon. To do this trek, you can park at Jenny Lake and either take the ferry to the trailhead or add on the hike along the shore line like we did. Along the hike, be sure to stop at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. I rate this hike as difficult because of the rocky climb up to Inspiration Point and the length of the hike. Our favorite part was the hike into Cascade Canyon where you are surrounded by lush forests and snowy mountain peaks jutting up beside you. Keep your eyes open for bears and moose in this area! To cap off your day, check out Snake River Brewing in Jackson for a delicious elk burger and some crisp, refreshing brews. If you still can’t get enough, make the gorgeous drive through the mountain pass into Idaho and watch the sunset at Grand Teton Brewing Company in Victor, Idaho. A perfect day!

Jenny Lake

Ousel Falls Trail & Beehive Basin Brewery

Big Sky, Montana

Here’s another peak at our amazing trip out West! This was a little hike & hop that we did on our way from Bozeman down to West Yellowstone. The towns are only about 2 hours apart, but it was some of the most beautiful scenery we had ever seen! We were constantly pulling off to gaze at sheer cliffs and clear blue rivers. Along the way, we stopped at Big Sky Montana, a well known mountain resort to check out a short hike and a new brewery. Ousel Falls was the perfect trek for us because it offered a lot of bang for your buck. We really didn’t want to exhaust ourselves before we even made it to Yellowstone and it was also only 2 miles away from Beehive Basin Brewery, a new microbrewery in the Big Sky town center. Nestled in the meadow, the brewery offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains. We ordered sandwiches from the nearby deli, had a cold brew, and relaxed in the beauty of the ridges. Definitely worth a stop if you’re on the road to West Yellowstone!

One of the pull-offs along the way from Bozeman to Big Sky

THE HIKEOusel Falls Trail

Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 45 mins
Trail use: Hiking, biking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot with vault toilets
H&H: 4/5

Ousel Falls is a delightful little trail just minutes away from the main town center of Big Sky. It’s maintained by the Big Sky Community Organization, a nonprofit that manages many of the local trails in the area. It’s clearly a popular trail judging by the ample parking lot and the wide, gravel trails. Also there are vault toilets in the parking lot so that’s always a plus. The trail starts with a bit of a steep decline, but there are railings and benches which make it accessible for most abilities. Along the way, you pass over the South Fork of the Gallatin River several times, offering lovely vistas and plenty of benches for relaxing in the beauty. Within no time, you’ve already reached the falls! Although several other hikers told us the cascade was very light, we still thought the falls were gorgeous. I loved that we could get so close to them! There were so many friendly people along the trail and several offered to take pictures of us. I’ll never get over how warm the camaraderie among hikers is!

If this trail is too short for you, there are several other hikes in the area, including some mountain treks. We were short on time, so this little hike was perfect for us. I think this hike would also be great for families or people with some mobility issues. The trail is very wide throughout and mostly free of tripping hazards. There’s also a great spot to bring a picnic! Overall, we were really pleased with this hike, especially since it was a spur of the moment stop for us. So glad we did!

THE BEERBeehive Basin Brewery

Address: 245 Town Center Ave, Big Sky, MT 59716
Distance from Trail Head: 2.2 miles, 6 mins
Food?: BYO, deli right across the street
H&H Rating: 4/5

By the time we finished our hike, we were definitely ready for lunch and a rest. Taking in beautiful scenery really works up an appetite! Thankfully, Beehive Basin Brewery had been on my radar since I was originally planning our trip. Although they don’t have a kitchen, they encourage you to get food from one of the local restaurants. We opted for delicious sandwiches from the deli next door. I cannot even begin to tell you how much they hit the spot! 

Beehive Basin has an excellent patio with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. It was so peaceful out there. That is, until we started to get sunburnt! It’s amazing how quickly you can burn at higher elevations. Luckily, it was a quiet day at the brewery so we had no problem grabbing a seat inside. I was really impressed with the decor inside the brewery. It was the perfect blend of mountain lodge and art gallery. Taking notes for my future place! Our beer was pretty good for a very new brewery! I really hope they continue to grow. My favorite pour of the afternoon was the Mad Fresh Hop Pale Ale which was made with freshly picked hops from a local hop farm. J really liked the Malty Mountain Rye since he’s usually a big fan of malty flavors. All in all, I’m so glad that we stopped in Big Sky!

Our Beer:

  • Montana Wheat Bier – Witbier – 4.5%
  • Mad Fresh Hop – Pale Ale – 5.4%
  • Green Bridge IPA – American IPA – 6.4%
  • Malty Mountain Rye – Rye Beer – 6.2%

SUM UP: Ousel Falls is an easy out & back trail in Big Sky, Montana that is 1.6 miles long. It has some small elevation gains but is well suited for all ages and abilities. The trails are very wide and even with several benches to take breaks. The short trail guides you through pine forests and over and across the beautiful South Fork Gallatin River. The Ousel Falls themselves are breathtaking and the trail allows you to both at the base and from overhead. Make sure to take plenty of pictures! Only 2 miles away is Beehive Basin Brewery, a new microbrewery that has a constantly rotating taplist. Offering views of the surrounding mountains, Beehive is a perfect place to relax with a crisp beer. We can’t wait to share more of our Montana/ Wyoming adventures with you soon!

Raven Rocks & Bear Chase Brewery

Bluemont, Virginia

We’ve got another birthday hike for you! My birthday is at the very beginning of October and to celebrate I wanted to try out a new hike and brew combo (big surprise). We went all the way out to Bluemont, Virginia to do Raven Rocks along the Appalachian Trail and to stop at Bear Chase Brewery right across the road. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate! We had excellent weather, good beer, and a fantastic hike. Cheers to another year around the globe.

THE HIKE: Raven Rocks via Appalachian Trail

Length: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,535 ft
Difficulty: Difficult
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: small lot so plan accordingly
H&H: 5/5

Raven Rocks is a popular section of the Appalachian Trail in Bluemont, Virginia. It was a bit out of the way for us Maryland folks, but totally worth it! We started at the trailhead right off Harry Byrd Parkway/ VA 7. Although we were lucky to snag a spot, this parking lot is pretty small and there is NO STREET PARKING. You will get towed! As an alternative, you can park at the Snickers Gap Lot which adds 0.4 miles at either end of the hike. I was uneasy about parking here since it requires walking across the divided highway. If you park there please use EXTREME caution when crossing the road! 

Most of this trail is fairly moderate, but there are a couple really rocky spots combined with elevation increases, so I’ve bumped it up to a Difficult rating. This was definitely a hike where I wished I had a walking stick or hiking poles at times. I really loved the challenge though! Sometimes a nice nature walk hits the spot, but other times I love scrambling over rocks and getting my heart rate up! Also I loved seeing all of the mushrooms and acorns along the trail. Despite the warm October we’ve been having, it felt a little like fall! 

After a lot of winding up and down the trail (they don’t call this the Roller-Coaster for nothing) we made it to the overlook. It was so impressive and such a peaceful place to stop. We’ve seen a lot of rocky overlooks during our hikes, but I never get tired of them! This was quite a roomy overlook so there’s plenty of room even on a busy day. We relaxed for a while and eventually decided to head back down. Make sure you have really good shoes for this hike because some of the downhill is more difficult than going up! Close to three hours after we started, we made it back to our car. We had worked up quite a thirst and were so lucky that Bear Chase Brewery was so close! 

THE BEER: Bear Chase Brewery

Address: 33665 Bear Chase Ln, Bluemont, VA 20135
Distance from Trail Head: 0.9 miles, 3 mins
Food?: Full Menu, No outside food
H&H Rating: 4/5

Bear Chase Brewery is located off VA 7 and is the perfect stop for hikers. In fact, the AT runs right behind their facility so you could add to your Raven Rocks hike to go to the Bear’s Den overlook. Or even further to Buzzard Rocks. The possibilities are endless! We stuck with Raven Rocks and then drove to the brewery since I really wasn’t into crossing that huge highway. 

Bear Chase Brewery is a farm brewery located on a massive 35 acre property that offers plenty of places to relax with a handcrafted brew. For a pretty penny, you can even rent out the Bear Chase Manor for you and 13 of your closest friends! There’s also plenty of on-site restaurants and food trucks so you’ll never go hungry! Just note that no outside food is allowed. We weren’t expecting this and had to eat our packed lunch later on! We really enjoyed the views and atmosphere at this brewery. As an apartment dweller, I relished being able to kick back in an adirondack chair and take in the rolling hills as I sipped a decent beer. We only had one round here since we had a long drive ahead of us and we both thought the Mornin’ Sunshine was the best of the two. It had a really refreshing hop taste that was balanced by something fruity, guava maybe? Definitely hit the spot after our hike. Overall, I liked this brewery but I thought it toed the line of being, dare I say, too commercial? It felt a bit like one of those places that puts more into the location and the atmosphere than their actual product. But hey, I only tried two beers so I can’t be certain on that! 

Our Beer:

  • Mornin’ Sunshine – American IPA – 6.7%
  • Oktoberfest Marzen – Marzen – 6%

SUM UP: Raven Rocks is a popular section of the Appalachian Trail in Bluemont Virginia. It has a small lot which fills up quickly. There is another parking location but it involves crossing a divided highway so be cautious. The trail itself is very rocky with lots of ups and downs. Wear good shoes and bring plenty of water. The 5.7 mile out-and-back trail has a turn around point at a beautiful overlook that’s a perfect place to have a snack and relax. After your hike, check out Bear Chase Brewery, a newer farm brewery only 0.9 miles up the road. It’s a huge facility with lots of food options and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. May I suggest the Adirondack chairs overlooking the valley? If you have time, there are so many other breweries to check out in the area! We’ll definitely be back.

Beer Byte – October

Yeast: Operation Fermentation

Fermentation may have been a better invention than fire

David Wallace

So we’ve already talked about hops and malt, but we’re still missing a key ingredient in the beer making recipe. Yeast is the third main component of beer and it’s extra important since it gives beer it’s booze! Making beer is one big science experiment and that’s most evident in the fermentation process. Things can get a little technical here, but we’re gonna try to simplify it for everyone!

Yeast is one of the last ingredients added in the beer making process (aside from final flavoring hops). We’re gonna dig into this a bit more in another post, but briefly the beer making process starts with adding hot water to malt which yields a sugary liquid called wort. Then the wort is boiled and hops may be added at this stage. At this point, there is no alcohol yet in the beer! That’s where the yeast comes in. The mixture is transferred to the fermenter and brewer’s yeast is added. The yeast then feeds on the sugars from the malt, resulting in alcohol and CO2. Still with me? Cool.

So what exactly is yeast? Yeast is a microscopic, single-celled organism that’s part of the fungus kingdom. Feeling thirsty yet? Yeast cells feed on carbohydrates (which are made of sugars) and convert them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is called fermentation.

Is there yeast in other alcohols too? Of course! Since fermentation occurs with yeast, it’s a primary ingredient in all alcohol. In wine, the yeast feeds on fruit sugars and in clear spirits, it feeds on starches like potatoes. And remember that whiskey also uses grains! Fermentation isn’t just in the drink world either. Lots of foods are made using this process, including bread, soy sauce, vinegar and more!

What a minute, why isn’t bread alcoholic then? Well actually it is! Yeast used in brewing and baking undergoes the same process of converting sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 is what causes bread to rise! But when bread bakes, the alcohol cooks off. But bread does in fact have traces of alcohol even after baking. You’d get stuffed long before getting tipsy from bread though!

Are there different types of brewer’s yeast? – Definitely and it completely depends on what you’re making. Some yeast strains have specifically been cultivated for certain flavors. Generally, there are two types of yeast in brewing: top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting. Top-fermenting yeasts react best in warm water and are generally used to make ales. Bottom-fermenting yeasts do better in cold temperatures and are used to make lagers. But within these two categories, there are thousands of strains of yeast to choose from. Definitely gives me a new appreciation for some of my favorite beers. 

My dad’s homebrew ready for fermentation.

How long does fermentation take? Like most things with beermaking, it depends. Lagers take much longer to ferment than ales. Also a high alcohol beer will need a longer conditioning (also called secondary fermentation) time. And the darker the beer, the longer the fermentation process. Brewers really need to know their stuff to make sure their product has had adequate time to bubble.

So there you have it! Hops, malt, yeast and water, what more could you need??