This is a guest post by SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks challenger Ted Foster.
My first summit beer of 2020 was on Tecate Peak, drinking Tecate beer, while looking upon the Tecate beer factory, across the border into Tecate, Mexico. I then had some Firestone Walker 805 on the top of Palomar- this was all after finishing the San Diego Six, if that matters at all, so Palomar-plus-beer was not my first time up.
I summitted Sitton and Santiago before COVID closed everything down; when things started opening up again, Strawberry Peak was up next, and I acquired some strawberry-infused vodka for the summit. I don't think I did anything else for the rest of the “Alt-Six” but maybe from seeing one or a few other posts on the SoCal Hikers group about summit beers, I was somehow inspired to pair a beer with each of the “Original Six”. I then put out an APB to the SoCal Hikers Facebook Group asking for suggestions, and there were some great responses.
I started compiling the results and creating pairings. Living in San Diego, I initially struggled to find beers from Los Angeles and north; given all of the “Original Six” peaks were up north, I wanted to get beers that were from up north, for the most part.
I did find, before my first hike of Mount Wilson, from Golden Road Brewing, their Hazy LA IPA. I'm more of a craft beer guy, so I kind of cringed when I settled on Golden Road, because they are owned by InBev, but looking back, it actually was a pretty good pairing, I think, because a lot of Los Angeles is corporate-owned but still “local”.
Going back to the Facebook post, the first response was actually a suggestion of a particular liquor store in Los Angeles that would have a good selection; Steven Acosta made that suggestion, and it turned out to be a fantastic resource (thanks, Steven!). After hiking Mount Wilson, I went to Steven's suggestion of Ramirez Liquor, and indeed found a good number of selections. For Cucamonga Peak, I bought a Milkshake IPA called Rainbow Zebra, from Los Angeles Ale Works, which is an employee-owned brewery, very crafty and independent, and that helped fuel a very lovely nap at the top of Cucamonga.
For Mount Baldy, the highest peak in the San Gabriels, I bought a beer from a brewery in the city of San Gabriel: from Ogopogo Brewing, their Dry-Hopped Lager called Ponaturi. The summit was pretty cold, so I finished the tall boy as I went down toward the Devil's Backbone- thankfully lived to tell the tale!
Next up was San Bernardino Peak, and for this, Jeff Hester had suggested the Saint Bernardus Abt 12 from a Belgian monastery, and I picked that up also at Ramirez Liquor. This certainly wasn't a local beer, but given the name, how could I not? San Bernardino was a new elevation record for me- the highest peak I'd hiked to at that point in time, so having that beer, combined with the caffeine in my bloodstream, the endorphins from both the physical exercise and the sense of accomplishment, PLUS the elevation- it was quite the good feeling and I was a happy and effusive hiker on the way back down.
For San Jacinto, Jeff Hester linked me to a San Jacinto IPA from Mason Jar Brewing in Menifee, not too far away from San Jacinto. I stopped by their physical location along my drive up, but that beer was no longer in production, so I bought a crowler of their Menifee Valley Harvest IPA and it made the views from the top that much more of a sublime specatcle, to borrow from the great John Muir.
For my 18th and final peak of the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, San Gorgonio, I was inspired by another response to my Facebook post, from Chris Griffith, who suggested Peak Bagger from Kern River Brewing, collaboration with Beachwood Brewing, as the ultimate beer for the highest peak of the challenge.
Jeff Hester also suggested the site/app UpTappd, and in using it, I saw that a brewery in Dana Point had Peak Bagger on tap! I went there on my way back from Cucamonga Peak (again, I live in San Diego), and they could only do growler fills, which only last about 36 hours- I was still a few weeks away from attempting San Gorgonio. I still got the beer, because, beer; back in San Diego the next day, I went to Mission Trails Regional Park, hiked up the stairs of South Fortuna, and enjoyed that Peak Bagger. Good times.
From then on, I kept checking UnTappd, not finding Peak Bagger at all, and I resigned myself to not getting that experience. Not the end of the world; life moves on. After summitting San Jacinto, I go to Brewcaipa in Yucaipa and get a growler-fill because it's fairly close to San Gorgonio. Life is OK.
On my trip up to San Gorgonio, I go to the same place in Dana Point, just to see if they have it and it somehow isn't on the UnTappd app, and they don't. Bummer.
I then check the app and I see it is at this bar in Arcadia! I call them up, and the bartender confirms they have it, and he says he won't push the beer, but can't guarantee it won't tap out. So I high-tail it (within the speed limit, of course) to Matt Denny's bar in Arcadia, and they have it, and I get two growler-fills because why not, and I'm super stoked.
I get to Vivian Creek, I pack the beers in my pack, I meet up with the Taco Slayer (Will Mattox) and his lovely wife, we hike up San Gorgonio, I share beer, he shares tacos, and it was wonderful! Definitely one of the best and most positive highlights of my 2020.
I haven't really done summit beers since, as I've been trying to regain my girlish figure, but I have certainly done a few post-hike beers and I am most certainly planning on having a nice cold one at the Portal Store once I am down from Mount Whitney.
That's my story! Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook, and I look forward to seeing your summit beer posts!
Enjoy your hikes.
Ted's Six-Pack of Peaks/Summit Beer Pairings
- Mount Wilson: Hazy LA IPA, Golden Road Brewing
- Cucamonga Peak: Zebra Stripe (Milkshake IPA), Los Angeles Ale Works
- Mount Baldy: Ponaturi (Dry-Hopped Lager), Ogopogo Brewing Company (San Gabriel, CA)
- San Bernardino: Saint Bernardus Abt 12 (suggested by Jeff Hester!)
- San Jacinto: Menifee Valley Harvest IPA, Mason Jar Brewing (Menifee, CA; used to have a “San Jacinto IPA”)
- San Gorgonio: Peak Bagger, Kern River Brewing + Beachwood Brewing
Editor's note: Always exercise good judgement and moderation. The wilderness is the sort of place where you need all your wits about you.