The Hoppy Grail

Who would have thought a little town at the foot of the Blueridge Mountains in West Virginia held the secret of youth. The serum I’m referring to is Lunar Eclipse Stout – which is only available at a small Slovenian restaurant called Dopra Zupas in the town of Beckley – an old turn of the century house converted into a restaurant serving food and craft beer. From this point on in my trip, I more or less screwed myself. Trying to find a brew that would compare to whatever magic elixir was in that glass was going to be tough. It’s since became a quest. A quest for something that compares to the Hoppy Grail.

New Glarus.

I started my Saturday off at the New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin. Founded in 1993 by Dan and Deborah Carey, they produce seasonal beer as well as six staple beers that are available year round – Moon Man, Raspberry Tart, Serendipity, Wisconsin Belgian Red, Two Women and Spotted Cow – their most popular beer.

First brewed in 1997, Spotted Cow is a cask-conditioned ale, sweetened with corn. They brew about 45,000 barrels a year, which accounts for about 40% of all the beer New Glarus makes in a year. An unfiltered brew, (meaning the brewers yeast is still in it) Spotted Cow has a smooth 4.8% ABV and is one of Wisconsin’s most well known beers.

The brewery itself started in an old abandoned warehouse with used brewpub equipment. The Carey’s hit a stroke of luck when they acquired a million dollars worth of kettles from a retired German brewmaster for just over twenty grand (scrap metal price) thanks to the couples business savvy and Dan’s excellent brewing prowess (he apprenticed in Germany) they’ve grown to be the 25th largest brewery in the nation.

“When you get fat and lose your hunger, that is when you know the sellout has happened.” – Bruce Springsteen

In May 2006, the company broke ground on a $21 million facility on a hilltop on the south edge of the village of New Glarus. The facility was designed to look like a Bavarian village and has since become a Wisconsin Wally World destination for up to 150,000 people a year. Parking is not a problem, since there’s a Wayne Newton style bus parking area. It’s not everyday you get to go to Branson Missouri in Wisconsin.

The only things missing were the Spotted Cow effigy standing at the front entrance (with the punched in nose compliments of Chevy Chase) and a Spotted Cow mascot handing out utter shaped balloons to the kids. And maybe there was, I didn’t see them as I was too busy swimming through a sea of people to find a spot in line to purchase drink tickets, so that I could be redirected to a second line to get a beer.

“Your approximate waiting time from this location is 30 minutes. Please take one of our complimentary souvenir catalogs and watch this televised brewery tour on the big screen tv in front of you and have a great day.”

In Canada, we had a government run merchandise store called Consumers Distributing. Dead looking attendants greeted you behind cold hard counters. I would fill out a form for the item I wanted, wait in line for what seemed like forever, then hand the form to the dark wraith behind the desk who would go into a back room to try and locate the item on the form. (Always on backorder. Always)

The website slogan for the brewery is – “Welcome to our quaint little brewery nestled on the outskirts of New Glarus, Wisconsin.” This is equivalent to saying “McDonalds, over 20 served.”

New Glarus Brewery is a perfect example of corporate mashing and what happens when business takes precedence over production. Not that there’s anything wrong with that from a business standpoint. If the money is rolling in, jobs are being created and the local area flourishes. The owners and investors couldn’t be any wiser, shrewder or better at filling their coffers. They’ve done a hell of a job turning their quaint little brewery into an enterprise, with the soul purpose of draining the wallets, purses, pockets and allowance of every man, woman and child. Yes, even children are not immune. The plethora of stuffed spotted cow toys is overwhelming in the Walmart size gift shop connected to the tasting room. According to their website, New Glarus consider themselves to be agricultural manufacturers, not retailers.

Really it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a hands on Mom and Pop experience, someplace where you can cozy up to the brewers and the bartenders, or talk about the real things in life with the person sitting beside you, (I like my bullshit down to earth) you won’t find it here. You will find that one middle aged slumlord in his Ralph Lauren polo sporting a Rolex – minus the Swiss time movement, talking about his golf swing and how the Lexus dealership in Madison is better than the one in Milwaukee, as he buzz’s on a thimble size glass of Raspberry Tart.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a family experience, where you can bring the in-laws and let the kids run around in circles to burn off the candy grandma gave them, all the while sneaking in a couple of very excellent, much needed brews and not feel guilty about drinking them – this is the place for you.

I prefer the smaller, less commercial establishments, not the stuffy energy that flows out of the corporate Bavarian walls here. But in hindsight, I can’t criticize the beer flowing out of New Glarus, it’s excellent. Just be sure to bring a friend, because walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Cheers! 🐄


Communication Breakdown.

Watching the Christian Bale movie “Hostiles,” I found myself relating to the quandary of man when it comes to communicating, saying the things we want to say and the struggles to put our sentiments on the line for fear of seeming too vulnerable or coming off as a candy-ass.

In the movie, Captain Joseph J. Blockeris (played by Bale) is a hard man. He’s lived through the Civil War and the American Indian Wars. He’s seen death, dealt death and avoided death most of his life, so with that, you would think it wouldn’t be difficult for him to keep his composure as he’s been accustomed to enough strife over the years to be impenetrable. But he still has cracks where compassion shines, and there are times when his vulnerability shows through his rocky demeanor. As I was taking all of this in, feeling like I was right there beside him, it was hard not to get choked up a bit.

The nods, the facial expressions and the one syllable sounds, were very much a part of this movie. The simple gestures that have so much meaning in a mans world, but mean little to a woman other than annoyance, as they see it as just another part of our lack of communication. It’s not that we can’t communicate, i think it’s just that we do it differently than women.

So I found myself thinking about why we are the way we are. Why do we have so much trouble putting our feelings on the line, why is it so hard to communicate how we feel, and why do most of us prefer to keep our problems to ourselves? Why are we portrayed as unfeeling, unemotional socially inept Neanderthals. I’m not a psychologist, so I’m going to wing it from what I’ve read and use a seldom used phrase called common sense, which is as rare as a unicorn nowadays.

Too often I find myself struggling to find the words to express how I feel. In my generation, we were taught to suck it up. Crying was not accepted and expressing your inner-self was considered weak. We weren’t really given a stage to talk about how we felt and instead were quickly told to move past it and be strong. This leads us to throwing our feelings aside or burying them and never really addressing the issues.

My dad had 5 brothers – all straight up saddle bronc farm boys. Growing up, anything outside the realm of masculinity was considered being a “tit,” a word my uncles frequently used. Expressing your feelings in this kingdom was almost a crime. Luckily I had a mother that gave me enough love and affection to even things out a bit. On the downside, this would come back to haunt me when I would head down south to visit my dad in the summertime. Entering his world of rodeos and cowboys forced me to buck up and be the kid I thought my father wanted me to be.

My first taste of machismo reality happened at a barn dance in Wisconsin, when I was six years old. A boy was teasing me about my Canadian accent. A bit older than me, raucous, uncouth, a little shit – very similar to the dime a dozen ruffians I grew up around living in single parent neighborhoods until my mother was remarried. I finally got mad and pushed him and the battle was on.

Instead of the normal routine, where an adult would break up a fight like in the playground at school, the “adults” whistled, and blissfully cheered – this was a hard, cold, reality check for me, considering I’d always looked up to adults as protectors and role models. Add that to this kids rough cut, bull riding father yelling – “hit him like I taught you!” at that point I felt pretty small.

I looked over at my dad, hoping he would liberate me, but the “you got this” look he gave me, indicated I was clearly on my own. I compare it to a baby bird falling from the nest. I wanted to show my dad I could be tough, but I was bogged down by this terrifying new plight that scrappy little hair pulling monster had gotten me into.

In the end not much came out of it, rolling around on the floor, lots of straw dust, grabbing and clawing. I remember my eye being poked.

When all thirty seconds of what seemed like thirty minutes was over, my dad patted me on the back, said nothing and life went on. Within a couple of hours it didn’t matter much, because being a kid, the next big adventure takes precedence over past events pretty quickly and it was soon forgotten. But I often wonder today if my Dad was proud of me or if I embarrassed him with how I fought.

We can act tough, but at the end of the day we’re still human. So despite how we’re raised, we still have those moments of vulnerability where the walls come down and we let shit out, which can be a mess since we’re flushing our brains out of a lot of the things that have been building up over weeks or months.

Like most men, usually we’re more communicative or we’ll say something about how we’re feeling when things build up to the point where we can no longer hold them in. The problem with this is we’re not at our best during these times and tend to lash out and say things we don’t mean and regret later. So we’ll retract what we said after the damage has been done and try to change it and in the end come off as contradicting or confusing. After going through this a few dozen times, you realize it’s just easier to keep your mouth shut, for fear of regretting it later.

If you’re like me, (I think a lot of men are like this) you take the shortcut around confrontational situations, which in reality can handicap us even more. It’s easier to just agree or ignore or bury it, just to move on from it. By avoiding talking about the problem, or something that might cause a rift in our relationship, we can continue to act like no issue exists, which allows us to continue moving forward in a way thats less stressful and convenient for us, because we know a full conversation can trigger things we don’t want to deal with. We do what we can to run from it and hope it just goes away, when in actuality we’re just causing more damage. It’s a form of managing a situation to our advantage because with all the shit we deal with in the working world, we don’t want our relationships to be stressful like our everyday lives.

I do know as men we’re more compartmentalized in how we think and communicate. Listen to a group of women talk and a group of men talk…you notice the differences right away. This is why we squirm when we hear the words “we have to talk”. The barrage of words mixed with emotions, intimidates us and makes us uncomfortable. (I got the same feeling I had in my catholic elementary school when I was sent to the office and the principal pulled out the strap)

Most of us men engage in “report-talk,” it’s a style focused on exchanging information with little emotional input. This is a way for men to preserve independence and maintain status in a hierarchical social order. It goes wayyy back to the dawn of man. This is part of the reason there are so many misunderstandings between men and women. When it all comes down to it, we’re simply wired differently.

It’s never easy to deal with a person who doesn’t express themselves. I’m first degree guilty of this. I think taking time in a relationship to understand why certain issues exist really helps in finding effective ways to overcome them. Yes, I’m stating the obvious here. Creating an environment that encourages open communication is important but it has to come from both sides. In general, as men, we need to lower our defenses and get more comfortable connecting with our emotions and share our feelings when talking to women -but it’s so much easier said than done.

On the other hand, women need to learn to be more concise and direct when talking to men, and try to keep their emotions under control. We both have to bend a little. It’s about finding that perfect balance (or maybe finding that needle in the haystack?) The openness you desire from someone is a two way street. If you hold back, that will only make it easier for them to do the same and this will come back to haunt you down the road. I know this through experience.

Keep in mind, if everything I wrote in the last three paragraphs was that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this in the first place. A lot of it is learning from our mistakes – if I had a dollar for every one I’ve made, I’d be a very rich man. NP

I posted a link at the bottom that I think every man should read.

The BozAngeles Breweries.

“I think I’m going down to the well tonight, and I’m going to drink till I get my fill.” – Springsteen

The Bridger Mountains are to the northeast, the Tobacco Root Mountains to the southwest, the Big Belt Mountains and Horseshoe Hills to the northwest, the Hyalite Peaks of the northern Gallatin Range to the south and the Spanish Peaks of the northern Madison Range to the south, make Bozeman, Montana, an outdoor enthusiasts wet dream. Yellowstone National Park is a 90-minute drive south, and “A River Runs Through It” was filmed on the nearby Gallatin River, so trout fishing is a given. If you’re lucky you might even find a lock of Brad Pitts hair on the rivers edge.

Restaurants galore and some good ones at that, a wine bar, a booming Main Street with eight breweries to go with it, make Bozeman a pretty cool little city. I use the word “little” lightly, as unfortunately, Bozeman has one of the fastest growing populations in the USA, (hence the BozAngeles label) with a large flux of people moving in due to the recent tech boom, it’s estimated that by 2076, Bozeman will be the size of Salt Lake City – thats a scary thought.

But things change and 2076 is 58 years away, so let’s head to the breweries and worry about that later.

My first stop was Map Brewing.

MAP, hands down, has the best view of all the breweries in Bozeman. It sits along the west shore of Glen Lake and the East Gallatin Recreation Area and looks out at the Bridger Mountains. During the summer you can rent paddle boards nearby and spend a few hours cruising around the lake, and of course finish with beers on the patio. They have a couple of award winning beers like the Northbound Ale and some local favorites like the Destination Session IPA or Smoked Lion Wheat Beer.

406 Brewing Company.

I love how experimental this brewery is – sometimes a beer just doesn’t turn out the way they’d hoped, and that’s fine by them. They let their customers decide what’s good and what needs work. They do have some staples that are delicious, but the fun is in trying new things. 406 is now offering food, so if you want to hang out and grab a bite, you’re good to go. I recommend the Strong Scotch Ale (6.2%)

Bozeman Brewing Company.

Not very big, and somewhat crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, but it’s where craft beer was born in this town. Favorites like Bozone Amber Ale and Hopzone IPA are dispensed at numerous bars in the area, but it always tastes better when you’re drinking it at the source. A popcorn machine in the corner is the only food served (though there’s sometimes a BBQ truck in the parking lot).The oldest of the breweries in Bozeman, they’ve been brewing beer since 2001. Their most popular beer is the Bozeman Amber and it is fantastic! The tasting room is small with only a few tables but the atmosphere is a fun locals hangout.

Bridger Brewing.

This is located right across 11th Street from the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. They feature great beer and delicious pizza. This is a popular hangout for MSU students or anyone attending events at the field house. Try out the Vigilante IPA or the Ghost Town Coffee Stout. If you want something a little lighter, the Blond Ale or the Climb Every Mountain Hef will be right up your alley. Their pizza is delicious and they even brew root beer if you are looking for a kid friendly option.

Outlaw Brewing.

Outlaw is located a little off the beaten path on North 27th Street. It sits at the edge of a neighborhood and has a very local feel. But don’t sleep on Outlaw – the beer is excellent, including their Irish Cream Ale and Passive Aggressive IPA. In the winter the Russian Bill Imperial Nitro Stout is great after a day of shredding Bridger Bowl. Outlaw does not serve their own food but there is usually a food truck outside if you get hungry.

White Dog Brewing Company.

If you’re hanging out downtown, (which is inevitable) White Dog is the brewery to check out. It sits on the west end of the downtown area along side Bozeman Spirits distillery. It’s got a great little trendy vibe and some good beers that pack a punch. If you are looking for something light and refreshing, check out the Blood Orange Hef or the Blond Ale. If you crave something a little more full, try the Scotch or the Double IPA (both fantastic) If there is room to belly up you will be amazed at the bar top. It features a chilled metal strip to place your beer on to keep it frosty, and it actually works. They don’t serve food there, but you’re on main, so getting food isn’t an issue.

Bunkhouse Brewery.

This is one of the newest breweries in town and is located right near campus and around the corner from Bridger Brewing. They are focused on bringing back an older style of German brewing while still producing popular beers. Check out the Broadhorn Brown Ale or the High Lonesome Hef. This is a great spot to pair with a brew tour that includes Bridger Brewing.

Mountains Walking Brewery and Pub.

Another new member of the brew family in town. The menu includes hushpuppies with scallion aioli, smoked trout dip and sriracha and honey chicken wings as well as a pair of wood-fired pizzas. The wood fire, the open kitchen, the low ceilings and shared tables, all are part of Dose’s desire to create an atmosphere that feels comfortable. Try the Gallatin Roar Triple IPA or the Boxelder Red Ale.


The Blind Owl.

A strange introvert with coke bottle glasses. In a lot of ways he was your classic nerd. When he started school, it was obvious he wasn’t like other kids. He was attuned to the world of nature. He was more interested in forests than people. Trees and plants became his best friends, his true source of peace and comfort.

He could forecast the weather by just a glance in the sky. A neighbor was reportedly unwilling to leave on a shopping trip until he advised her whether an umbrella would be necessary.

One time cold weather had descended upon the trees in his neighborhood, ice causing the branches to break. He ran down the street with his hands over his ears, tears streaming down his face, saying he could hear the trees crying.

He would collect twigs, leaves and other naturalistic objects. His clothes were often dirty as a result. He was like a modern day Henry David Thoreau, as if his hair had been combed with a pine cone.

He liked girls but had no sense of appearance or presentation. He was extremely clumsy and had no social skills. Bathing and using deodorant weren’t his thing. Friends and family would buy him clothes and underwear to at least keep him presentable.

His vision was terrible. His inability to see properly, heightened his natural introversion. When being around groups of people, he didn’t know how to act and would sit in a corner in a lotus position and read. He slept on his back with his knees in the air every single night. He lived in a messy apartment and took in a bunch of heroin addicts because he felt sorry for them, though he didn’t do heroin himself.

Then he joined a Rock Band.

He could play the guitar and harmonica to perfection. John Lee Hooker claimed he was the best harmonica player he ever played with. He was able to perceive tiny graduations of pitch and tone which were inaudible to the average person.

He was so shy that onstage he would rarely gaze into the audience, and instead would close his eyes while playing, and if he did gaze into the audience, it was a blur since he rarely wore his glasses on stage.

He hated touring because he wanted to spend more time outdoors. He would bring his sleeping bag with him on tour and sleep outside in the nearest park or parking lot if there were trees near by. He would come back with pollen, mud and grass all over him, ready to hit the stage.

He would pack his own food in his suitcase while on tour, which included large quantities of brown rice and a camp stove. On one occasion at the airport, his suitcase fell open and rice fell everywhere, much to the embarrassment of his band mates.

Another time his band was busted for drugs in a Denver motel room, while they were being arrested, he was off collecting leaves in a nearby park and avoided getting caught as a result. He wasn’t into material things. He didn’t own a home and eventually would live in his van. His uncashed paychecks occasionally doubled as bookmarks. What was important to him instead was preserving the natural world.

The bands manager said “I took walks with him sometimes in different botanical gardens while on tour. Seeing a plant he had never seen before or a tree that there were only 20 of in the world, was like an orgasm for him.”

While the rest of the Band would be partying with groupies and drugs, he would be in the backyard staring at a tree. Sometimes while on tour, the band would pass a forest, and he would see a certain tree and yell “Stop the car!” Then run over to check out the tree.

He was a passionate conservationist who loved reading books on botany and ecology. He wrote an essay called ‘Grim Harvest’, about the coastal redwood forests of California. He was interested in preserving the natural world, particularly the redwood trees and started “Music Mountain Organization” dedicated to this purpose.

On a live recording he cut, he sings a song called “Pulling Hair Blues.” He gets personal and says in the song that he has been compulsively overeating, and pulling his hair out (as he did when he was nervous) he can’t sleep at night because he can’t be outside, he doesn’t like long train rides on the tour and it rains all the time, there is no relief for his troubled mind, and at one point, he mentions he can’t even get laid. As the song is played, you can hear the curious sound of titters from the audience, the nervous kind of giggle that some people produce when faced with something embarrassing. His raw, naked pain was just too much for an audience that had come to hear a rock show. Just as his strange personal habits tended to make women uncomfortable, his open vulnerability had made his audience uneasy.

When there’s so much going on in your mind, the world tends to recede a bit. He came into life with his music and his love for nature, but in other areas of being human he was just a babe in the woods. It would be painful to be human and just kind of not get the hang of it. He battled anxiety and depression in a time when the coping ammunition was rudimentary at best. Unfortunately, he lost the battle in 1970 at the age of 27.

Alan Wilson’s body was found in his band mates backyard in his sleeping bag, a mostly empty baggie of barbiturates laying beside him – pills he used to help him sleep and escape the war going on in his head. Although his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not really clearly established. Wilson’s death came just two weeks before the death of Jimi Hendrix and four weeks before the death of Janis Joplin, two artists who also died at the same age. His band “Canned Heat” would go on without him, but they were never the same after Alan died. Lead singer Bob “The Bear” Hite, would overdose just a few years later.

If you ever watch the D.A. Pennebaker movie, “The Monterrey Pop Festival,” look for a nerdy guy with glasses playing guitar on stage, or in the movie “Woodstock” you’ll hear a high tenor, almost girly voice, singing about going up the country.

In order to support Alan’s dream, his family has purchased a “grove naming” in his memory through the “Save the Redwoods League of California.” The money donated to create this memorial will be used by the League to support redwood reforestation, research, education, and land acquisition of both new and old growth redwoods. Alan was a pioneer in his day. One of the first celebrity style environmentalists. He wasn’t into it for the fame and glory, his love for nature was unconditional. I can’t imagine what he would have accomplished had he lived a longer life. NP

The Mad Hatter of Blacktail Creek

This past Christmas Eve was about the coldest night I’ve camped outside since I was a teen in Alberta.

Before I left the ranger station in Yellowstone, I was put through the grind by not one, but by two rangers, to see if I was worthy of a backcountry camping permit, due to the crippling cold weather. After watching a video from what appeared to be the 1980’s on cold weather camping, (the girl in the video was wearing a neon green Jordache style snowsuit). I was then questioned on survival tactics and winter gear. “No sir, I do not have the proper gear as outlined in your 1982 Hall & Oates survival video.” As cold as it was, I think their interrogation was based more on the inconvenience of having to go rescue some smuck in genitalia shrinking weather, rather than caring whether or not I actually lived or died. But I shouldn’t complain, they do a thorough job to weed out the imposters (maybe crazy people?) and being my life was in their hands, I felt pretty confident when the ranger said with a sarcastic smile “have fun out there and enjoy your trip.” One thing you’ll notice about park rangers is the common sense most of them have, based on some of the stupid shit people say and do. “How do the elk know they are supposed to cross at the elk crossing signs?” “Are the bears with collars tame?”

I was one of only two people in the whole northern section of the park that night according to the rangers. I needed to meet this other person, I needed to look into his eyes and see if I could spot the Craziness.

I settled on an area north of Blacktail Creek about 10 miles east of Mammoth. From there it was about a 4 mile hike into the great frost barrier.

The sun was up and the views were killer, the air was cold but tolerable. The Bear Tooth Mountains visible to the north were beautiful, yet ruggedly intimidating. Snow capped peaks as far as my eyes could see, which isn’t so far these days. There were elk grazing on a hill to the northeast and there was a lone Buffalo in front of me who paid me no attention at all. He was moving snow with his snout, trying to find grass to eat, his every exhale was like the smoke from a hundred cigarettes my old grade 2 school teacher would smoke on an average day. RIP Mrs. Carnine.

Pulling a sled is nothing new for me. My friends and I would use a sled when we winter camped up in Alberta as kids. Our equipment was menial at the time (allowance reflective) and made for some REAL survival trips. But luckily for me, I have a big boy job and my gear was up to par. But- I could tap into my kid side every time I was faced with the downslope of a hill. I rode my sled down on several, only tipping several times.

Like the castle in its corner, In a medieval game, I foresee terrible trouble, Yet I stay here just the same – Steely Dan

Extreme camping is exhausting. The expenditure of energy setting up, trying to stay warm, keeping the snow at bay, walking in snowshoes, keeping your clothing dry, (especially from the inside) batteries and electronics from freezing, preparing (mostly frozen) food and plenty of it to keep the calories high in order to stay warm, melting snow for water with a camp stove as most of the streams are frozen, trying to stay hydrated at a higher altitude, not being able to build a fire due to winter fire regulations, dreaded late night pee sessions, where you curse yourself for having a bladder, crawling out of your cozy cocoon to go outside and pull it out (enough to make any man cry), listening to noises at night where every snapping twig in your mind is a bear waking up from hibernation, getting up in the morning with a tent covered in ice, and not just on the outside. Then after all this you pack up your wet cold, snowy gear and hike the 3-4 miles back to where you started. You ask why then would a person go off to die like this?

To everyone else, it’s a suffer fest. To me, it’s something entirely different.

First off, the park is completely isolated. It’s as pure and closest to its natural element this time of year. The solitude, the chance of feeling at one with nature, the challenge, the experience. Everything looks so clean, the snow covers the earth’s blemishes. Those who hunger for a respite from civilization will find it if they’re brave enough to step out of their comfort zone. It’s a time where the animals anxiety is at its lowest. Most of them are in the lowlands, feeding off grass where there is less snow. So where you have Buffalo you also have Elk, and Bighorn Sheep. And where the prey go, so do the predators. Large wolf packs. No bugs. The bears are hibernating. You’ll see stars like never before, witness a moon dog or stand in awe under a veil of Northern Lights streaking across the sky. Unless you live down south, for 5 months out of the year we’re stuck in winter. That’s a lot of time to be stuck indoors. It’s a way to embrace and take advantage of the whole year and everything Mother Nature has to offer.

And… no one wants to admit it, but one of the big advantages of winter camping is that you’re doing something completely abnormal -which means when you spin a tale at the local pub, people will listen. After all, anyone can tell stories of summer camping, but share an anecdote of sleeping outside in -33 and you’re in an elite group of mad hatters.

Before I forget… I did meet “the other crazy camper.” He was that guy from Utah I mentioned in my prior post that gave up his Mormonism and was trying to find himself. Label that one however you want.


Neptune and Katabatic. Livingston, Montana.

I started yesterday in Livingston, Montana. Livingston is located at the head of the Paradise Valley, sandwiched in between the majestic Crazy Mountains and the formidable Absaroka Range, where the plains meet the mountains. It is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene, and over a dozen art galleries.

My first stop was Neptune’s Brewing Company.

Their symbol being Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. The place was laid out in what you would expect to see down south in a more tropical climate, not in a Montana frontier town.

When you walk into Neptune, the first thing you notice is an aquarium behind the bar with tropical fish, that serves as a two way window into the brewing room. Very cool. The rest of the place is more or less Neptunish related things, including pictures of what looked to be the owners or previous owners, dressed in navy duds and fishing photos. There’s a sushi bar with a busy chef in the corner as well. I loved the vibe of this place. It was warm and well laid out, Motown playing on the stereo and a friendly sociable staff and regulars to boot.

I ordered the philly roll – (cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, smoked salmon & green onions) along with their Wee Heavy Scottish Ale 8.6% (a good kick in the kilt) a Winterfest 7.1% and the Knotty Lotte Latte Stout 6.5%. with coffee beans from Yellowstone Coffee Roasters. All were excellent.

My drinking partners included a female dog sledder and a hard lined local named Bill, that filled me in on everything from the town history to Margot Kidders escapades (Kidder lives in town) and his disgust for “Bozeangeles” which is a derogatory term that Montanians give Bozeman based on the fact that it’s become an overpopulated hotbed of commercialism and rich outsiders. I got the vibe, that Livingston is still very much it’s own town. I also made a friend, a former employee at Neptune. He walked with me to Katabatic Brewery which was my next stop.

Katabatic’s tagline, “Rugged, Yet Refined,” captures the rugged mountains that surround Livingston and the refined quality of their beer. Katabatic is a term for wind or air current, moving downward or down a slope. What you might call a windy day, is just a breezy day for folks in town. On an average day the winds are blowing about 16 mph, but the highest wind ever recorded was back in 1978 at 108 mph.

After sampling a couple of beers I settled on the Katabatic Strong Scotch Ale 7.3. A deep, dark, malty Beer, with six different malts in it. This is a BOLD full-bodied beer, the finish is sweet, but not cloying and I loved the 13-ounce Belgian Snifter Glass they serve it in.

My new friend “Apollo” has spent his whole life in Livingston, and again, like Bill, gave me a pretty down to earth layout of the local political scene, gossip, and his view of things. I feel like I was given my initiation pass.

I should mention, Montana law limits you to three beers at one sitting. In a way this is good, because it keeps the breweries hopping, as people move on to the next one after their limit is reached.

Off to Bozeangeles…


What’s up with the B-17 on that can?

If you’ve ever picked up a can of Bomber Mountain Amber Ale from Black Tooth Brewing in Wyoming, you’ll notice a WWII, B-17 Bomber on the side.

On a sunny Sunday in August of 1945, Wyoming cowboys Berl Bader and Albert Kirkpatrick noticed something shiny up ahead of them on a high ridge in the Bighorn Mountains. Climbing up the unnamed mountain ridge to investigate, the two discovered what appeared to be

the scattered wreckage of a plane along with several bodies.

In June of 1943, a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed “Scharazad”, with a crew of ten, departed Pendleton Army Air Base in Oregon destined for Grand Island, Nebraska. From there, the bomber would join other members and continue to England to participate in the ongoing bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.

Around midnight, the captain radioed in that their position was near Powder River, Wyoming. That would be their last radio call. After they failed to arrive in Grand Island, the plane was declared missing and the Army mounted a search effort with no results. A second search was conducted the following year, concentrating on the Wind River Mountains, Absaroka Mountains and Big Horn Mountains, but still no wreckage was spotted until the Bader and Kirkpatrick discovery, two years later. The paint on the plane that matched the mountain side had faded, revealing shiny patches in the metal, making it easier to spot in the bright sun.

Although the plane reported its last position 40 miles northwest of Casper, the wreckage was found 110 miles north of Casper, indicating that the plane was either off-course or its navigational instruments were malfunctioning. This factor alone was significant in the delay of finding the missing plane. Weather may have also been a factor in the crash. No moon was visible on the evening of June 28th, 1945, so it is likely that the Pilot would not have noticed the approaching unnamed mountain peak rising before him until it was too late.

Secondly, area residents reported a freak snowstorm on that evening which may have played a factor as well. Army reports indicate that the crew was young and likely inexperienced, and the plane was flying too low. When the pilot noticed the looming peak, the engines were put to full throttle. While he pulled up the plane’s nose at the last minute, the tail section could not clear the mountain and the plane ripped in half, explaining the disbursement of wreckage on both the east and west sides of the mountain. It appears that the plane needed just 50 to 100 feet more to have cleared the mountain ridge.

The exact site of the crash, a precipice of more than 12,000-feet in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, was named by the Sheridan Chapter of American War Dads. And has been known ever since as Bomber Mountain. The crew is now forever memorialized in the Bighorn Mountains.

• William R. Ronaghan (pilot)

• Anthony J. Tilotta (co-pilot)

• Leonard H. Phillips (navigator)

• Charles H. Suppes (bombardier)

• James A. Hinds (aircraft engineer)

• Ferguson T. Bell, Jr. (radio operator)

• Lee ‘Vaughn’ Miller (assistant aircraft engineer)

• Charles E. Newburn, Jr (assistant radio operator)

• Jake F. Penick (aircraft gunner)

• Lewis M. Shepard (assistant aircraft gunner)


Crow Peak, Black Tooth and Luminous Brewhouse.

I started the day with Crow Peak brewing in Spearfish, South Dakota within the realm of the Black Hills.

One of my go to brews when I’m out west is their Pile-O-Dirt-Porter. I’ve brought it to the Bighorns via can form in the past, but this was my first time straight from the faucet. Crow Peak Brewery has a warm and inviting atmosphere, and drinking by their fireplace on a 15 degree day, was a great way to take the chill off. There’s a small farmers market in the same parking lot, along with Bunky’s BBQ who makes a pretty kick ass pulled pork sandwich.

My next two stops were in Sheridan, Wyoming. The first being Black Tooth Brewing Company,

A five year old brewery, located at the base of the majestic Big Horn Mountains. Makers of Saddle Bronc, and one of my favorites- I swear you can actually taste the toffee. Black Tooth now has three of its flagship beers, Saddle Bronc (Brown Ale), Bomber Mountain (Amber Ale) and Hot Streak (IPA) available in 6-Pack Cans and Draught statewide in Wyoming as well as parts of South Dakota and Montana.

Last stop was Luminous Brewhouse

I tried a few samples and settled on the Uphill Brew Ale, named after the infamous local mountain road “Red Grade”. Red in color, it has a tasty hop appeal. There was live music here and the atmosphere was jumping.

All three breweries are worth trekking off highway 90 for, especially the latter two during the spring when the access roads to the Bighorn Mountains and Yellowstone are in full swing. Off to Billings and Livingston tomorrow if the weather clears.

Of note- Powder River Pizza Co. in Sheridan makes a mean Greek pizza, and if you’re there, try Tensleep Brewings “Speed Goat Golden Ale.”


“Give me 80 men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux nation!”

Imagine you’re living on the frontier in a fort with your husband who is a lieutenant in the army. There isn’t a week that has gone by where at least one man from your fort hasn’t been killed by the Sioux and Cheyenne. It’s still fresh in your mind that just recently, a friendly photographer from the National Geographic Society was found scalped and dismembered not far outside the fort walls.

One morning, your husband along with 80 men, fail to return from their most recent patrolling excursion. You wait with anticipation as a tug of war plays on in your mind between positive and negative thoughts. Finally, sometime in the evening, a party of wagons carrying what looks like wood approaches the gates. They’ve returned, what a relief! As eyes adjust in the darkness, you hear the woman closest to the gate scream a noise that cuts like a knife in the cold cruel night with a weight that brings you to your knees and you realize its not wood those wagons are carrying.

It was 151 years ago today that the U.S. Army had its greatest military defeat at the hands of Red Cloud and the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations, until the Battle of the Little Bighorn years later. On this day, Mrs Frances Grummond, among many others became widows, as 81 men of the US 18th Infantry died in what became known as the Fetterman Massacre. The fort was abandoned not long after and gave Red Cloud a strategic victory, that closed the road west for almost a decade and was the only time the US government would concede to defeat at the hands of the Indians.

I spent my afternoon here today on the way up to Sheridan, Wyoming. After reading Frances Carrington’s journal (formerly Grummond) I was able to clearly visualize life here. It made for an interesting day to say the least. NP