The first Beers Made By Walking took place in Colorado Springs in 2011, it was a summer-long series involving seven hikes, eight homebrewers, and was sponsored by the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art. Each hike was public and along the way we identified edible and medicinal plants. Afterwards, each homebrewer created a recipe for a beer that would use ingredients identified on the trail and the beers were produced commercially at local breweries. There were two special tappings at a local pub. The events were so successful and fun that organizer, Eric Steen, who also writes for Focus on the Beer, decided to expand the idea and bring it to multiple cities.
The hope in the initial program was to simply get people outside and to have various people groups come together and find intersecting commonalities in interdisciplinary topics as seemingly diverse as botany, environmentalism, art, geography, and beer making. The initial inspiration for BMBW came during a week long canoe trip down
the Yukon River in Canada. There Eric was introduced to the Norwegian term
‘friluftsliv,’ which is translated as ‘Free Air Living.’ The term
describes a way of living in which people make a habit of being outdoors
on a regular basis. There are Friluftsliv conferences that host
‘walking lectures’ where attendees hike for a few days on end, stopping
every now and again for a lecture and food.
The program's concept developed
further during a trip to Scotland, when Eric built a pop-up pub that served homebrewed beer to the public. While there, Eric visited Williams Bros. Brewing in Alloa and was inspired by their line-up of historic Scottish beers that used ingredients from the landscape - like heather flower, gale, Scottish pine, and seaweed. Another inspiration came from British artists, like Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who use walking as a means of understanding our relationship to the world. Beers Made By Walking, in some respects, is a mashing together of those pieces.
It has been a year since the first summer series and there are now four different iterations of Beers Made By Walking. Two are happening in Colorado, one involving homebrewers again and the other involves commercial breweries. There will also be versions in Oregon and Washington and we hope to grow the program each year. We are now looking forward to urban walks and the social landscape in addition to the physical geography of a place. We've also begun asking some breweries to donate portions of their proceeds to local environmental non-profits. We would like to use this program to inspire others to look at our local landscapes in fresh and community-minded ways.