One of the great things about this trip is how flexible it has become.
We had originally planned only one brewery stop here in Jackson, Wy. On our way, however, we were given recommendations by the brewers from other parts of country on where to stop once we got to northwestern Wyoming.
One of those unplanned stops was Thai Me Up Restraunt and Brewery, a Thai restaurant in downtown Jackson that is making some really strong and interesting stuff. Part of that comes from their unique aging process. While many breweries are doing special aging in bourbon and whiskey barrels, Thai Me Up is thinking outside the barrel, if you will. They age some batches in Wild Turkey Whiskey barrels, but also are in the market for tequila and rum barrels to mix things up. Right now they have Darko, which is a 14% Russian Imperial Stout aged in cognac barrels.I asked why the unusual pairings, and brewer Jeremy Tofte’s response was simple.
“Well because everyone else is doing bourbon barrels,” he said.
Dad usually isn’t a big fan of high ABV beers, but here’s what he had to say about Darko and the other strong Thai Me Up beers:
I’m not a big fan of high alcohol beers mainly because they end up tasting like beer with ethyl alcohol added, but the Darko and the 4X8 IPA were different. Both have a depth to the malt and hop character that compensated for the higher ABV. These two beers were unique and paired nicely with the spicy Thai cuisine.
The other great thing about Thai Me Up is that, surprisingly, Thai food pairs great with very strong beers. The very spicy Thai makes their IPAs (they have four on tap) with up to 100+ IBUs seem not not as overwhelming. It’s an excellent pair that that we weren’t expecting.
Just down the street is Snake River Brewing Company, where we went for lunch. After being led to our table upstairs by the hostess, Dad and I stopped for a moment at the bar to take a look at what was on tap. A man with a brewery shirt was sitting alone at the bar.
“Got a lot of good stuff up there. What kind of beer do you like?” he asked.
We replied with the general response. We’re homebrewers, so we know a thing or two about beer. We’re on a trip across the country and have been stopping at microbreweries along the way. The man then introduced himself as Chris Erickson, director of brewing operations, and offered to show us around after we finished lunch.
Chris talked about how the high altitude impacts how they brew. They have to boil at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours to get proper sugar conversion. Brewing in the mountain also has its pluses. Chris said that the clear mountain water from Jackson goes into the boil with little additives.
He also showed us their new canning line, where they’ve started the transition away from bottling. Out of a can, their pale ale has much more aroma than many hoppy beers in bottles. Chris said that the linning in crown caps erodes hop aroma faster than the lining in aluminum cans.
“We’ve bottled since day one for 17 years and we’re just now switching to 100 percent cans,” he said.
Their new Pako’s IPA is their first beer to be distributed only in cans. It now makes up 46 percent of their off-premise sales. Named in memory of the brewery’s mascot, a dog named Pako, it is dry hopped for nine days after being brewed with Simcoe and Columbus hops that make it pop.
We also drove across the mountains to Victor, Idaho and stopped in at Grand Teton Brewing Company. Other than specialty German styles, they get their malted grain from Idaho farmers and distribute all over the Grand Teton and Yellowstone area.
For the beer nerds like us, one of the coolest things about Grand Teton Brewing is their horizontal mash tun. It spins like a laundry dryer machine on its side. It really stood out as something unique from all the other tours we’ve been on so far.
I first tried their Teton Ale (a crisp amber just right for an afternoon in the mountains, pictured at the top of this post) at the Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Teton National Park. They’ve got a branding deal with the parks whereas they market some of their beers specifically for park-goers. Their big sellers including Old Faithful Golden Ale and Bitch Creek ESB are on tap at the historic Old Faithful Inn.
As long as we’re talking about specialty beers for the National Parks, while in Yellowstone, we saw a small exhibit in the visitors center about the enduring popularity of the park. Included was a bottle of Yellowstone Ale by Rogue Ales, a specialty brew whose proceeds went to the park.
A short while later we saw a shelf full of these bottles at the General Store nearby. On the label:
For 139 years, Yellowstone has been a symbol of wildness, mystery and natural beauty. Each year, projects that would preserve its natural wonders and ensure that each visitor enjoys Yellowstone to its full potential never get funded. Please help us protect Yellowstone National Park — now and for the future.
In tasting it and after some online research we found out it is simply a clone of Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale. There may be some slight hop differences, but for the most part it appears to be the same. Nonetheless, kudos to Rogue for the effort to preserve America’s National Parks. (If you want to help the NPS, click here or visit a park near you.)
We are in Jackson through Sunday evening. Then it’s back home on a three-day trek through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. If you have any recommendations, let us know in the comments. Cheers!