“Rush More Growlers"

My family and I are great fans of America’s National
Parks and for many years have been checking off those
visited by means of the National Park Passport, a little
book divided by regions of the country into which the
parks visited can be date stamped to help preserve your
memory of these wonderful destinations. My son had
always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, but somehow we
had never gotten to it, so before this summer was over
we decided it was time to go.

Thanks to United Airlines, the transportation would cost
nothing, so with a few days off we set off in standby
seating for Denver from where we were to make
connections to Rapid City, South Dakota, the closest
regional airport to Mt. Rushmore.

Unfortunately, upon arriving in Denver we discovered
that all flights to Rapid City were booked solid until the
10:00 pm, which had 22 open seats, so it was try to
remain cool,calm and collected for our ten hour layover.
But fortunately, situated near our waiting area was a
bar which included ALASKAN IPA and FAT TIRE Ale
among its tap handles. The Alaskan made the lengthy
wait much more tolerable.

Arriving in Rapid City, we quickly picked up our rental car
and headed to our hotel in Keystone, about twenty five
miles away, only to learn that everything is locked up
tighter than the proverbial drum at night. Everything
that is except Barbee’s, a local saloon featuring frozen
pizza, cold, pre wrapped sandwiches, country music and
Native Americans who had imbibed more than a few
beakers of firewater. (Nothing politically incorrect there,
just a statement of fact). About what you’d expect in
such a place was on tap: PBR, Bud, Coors Light, etc.,
but I noticed a cooler with bottles  of O’DELL’S FIVE
BARREL PALE ALE  and 90 SHILLING ALE, one of each
of which made the tasteless ham and cheese
sandwiches (served without benefit of mustard or any
other condiment) more palatable.

One additional benefit of a late night bite at this pub is a
sort of electroshock therapy, which, when the bill is
presented, jolts one into an immediate, clear-headed
reality after surviving fourteen hours worth of flying and
waiting time. $61 for two bottles of beer, two small
glasses of Chablis, two pre- wrapped sandwiches, a
small frozen pizza and a coke seemed to be a little
steep. Barbee’s is great place for travelers to avoid after
visiting Gutzon Borglum’s inspiration on Mt. Rushmore.

The two O’Dell’s beers were excellent, however.
Founded in 1989 in Ft. Collins, Colorado, they offer six
year round “classics” and three seasonals. Every
restaurant or pub we stopped in seemed to have them
available and every one I tried was excellent.

The next morning we arose and went to Mt. Rushmore,
the majesty of which has to be seen in person to be
fully appreciated. For a beer lover and New Jersey lover
the appreciation is greatly expanded when one realizes
that two of the sculpted Presidents (Washington and
Jefferson) were brewers and two of sculptor Gutzon
Borglum’s other most famous works are in Newark (NJ):
the “Seated Lincoln” on the steps of the Essex County
Courthouse and the “All Wars Memorial” in Military Park.

We drove back to Rapid City by way of Black Hills
National Forest and Custer State Park. The heat
necessitated a stop for water and the shabby looking
convenience store in the middle of nowhere we stopped
at to procure some also had bottles of MOOSE DROOL
BROWN ALE (Big Sky Brewing, Missoula Montana) in the
cooler. Good beer, great name!.

The trip to Rapid City was so that my son could visit the
life sized bronze statues of every President which are
situated at the corners along the two main drags for
nine or ten blocks. These were conceived by a Rapid City
businessman in 2000 as a tribute to our past Presidents
and to further promote tourism in the area.

While reflecting on each President’s contributions to
American history, one might also reflect on his
contributions to America’s brewing history. (See Beer
My Way article
“Ale to the Chief”). All 42 men who have
served as President are depicted by the statuary created
by five different artists. The notable exception is our
current Commander in Chief. When I questioned the
Visitor’s Center as to his absence I was told that his
statue cannot be erected until he leaves office.

Hopefully, work will commence on his bronze tribute on
November 7, 2012, although I reluctantly must give
credit where credit is due: under his administration a
brewery has been installed in the White House. At least
there’s one thing he did I applaud.

Also in Rapid City is the Firehouse Brewery, located in
the city’s original firehouse, built in 1915, and converted
into a brewpub in 1991, featuring English oriented pub
grub and hand crafted beers served in authentic early
twentieth century firehouse décor. The beer sampler
included WILDERNESS WHEAT, BADLANDS BITTER ,
FIREHOUSE RED, SWARTHY BEAVER English Pale Ale,
HONEY BADGER Brown Ale, and SMOKE JUMPER
STOUT, all very good but not outstanding brews. I liked
the stout best.

The next morning we stopped at a Safeway to buy
lunch meat, a throw away cooler and a twelve pack
sampler of Boulevard Beers from Boulevard Brewing of
Kansas City on our way to spend a day in Badlands
National Park. Boulevard offers eight year round ,five
seasonal, and 15 “Smokestack Series” special brews,
one of which is Oak Barrel Aged Quad. I’d love to see if
it compares favorably with the Gaslight version.

The Badlands are rightfully named: desert like terrain
with huge mesas which seemed to have nothing growing
on them. But it was very nice to picnic at the shaded
tables while enjoying a BOULEVARD AMBER ALE and
BOULEVARD PALE ALE. Later that afternoon when my
wife and son went on a hike which included a ledge with
a 1000 foot sheer drop off, I wisely opted to find
another table and read while savoring a BOULEVARD
ZON BELGIAN WITBIER and BOULEVARD WHEAT. Not
as exciting but a hell of a lot safer!

On the way back we stopped, as advised by previous
visitors, in Wall, S.D. to visit Wall Drug, enough of a
tourist trap to rival “South of the Border” in Dillon, S.C.,
unendingly advertised to all motorists traveling I 95 on
the way to Florida. Definitely not on my “must see” list.
Passing back through Rapid City in the early evening, I
suggested dinner at, guess where, the Firehouse
Brewery where freshly tapped CHUKKAR ALE was on tap.

A dip in the hotel pool and some BOULEVARD BULLY
PORTER and BOULEVARD SINGLE WIDE IPA for a
nightcap prepared me for a night’s sleep before the
next day’s trip to Wind Cave National Park and the city
of Deadwood where Wild Bill Hickok participated in his
fateful last poker game. Waiting for the reenactment of
his murder to begin in Saloon #10 (same name,
different location) afforded me time to try draught
versions of BOULEVARD WHEAT and O’DELL’S 90
SHILLING as well as Crowpeak Brewing Company’s
(Spearfish, S.D.) CANYON CREAM ALE.

We had passed many signs promoting “Red Ass
Rhubarb Wine”, so taking a short break from the beer
aspects of the trip, we detoured to the Prairie Berry
Winery where my wife tasted seven or eight different
wines in addition to the Red Ass Rhubarb. Later the
Slate Creek Grille in Hill City offered bottles of O’DELL’S
IPA and O’DELL’S LEVITY AMBER to have with the
burgers we had for supper.

One beer related part of this trip I had never seen
before was a combination antique store/bar. In
Keystone, my wife wanted to stop at an ancient building
that featured two floors and a basement full of
“antiques” (read…JUNK) covering everything from empty
violin cases, to musty books, to rusted Pennzoil signs
to dusty LP records. There was some breweriana
including old Storz and not so old Sturgis beer cans and
a few rusty trays but the main attraction for a beer
lover was a bar selling bottles of Fat Tire Ale. What a
spectacular idea for husbands in hurry hearing the
dreaded words “Oh look, dear! Let’s stop here!”

All in all it was a great four day excursion and six bottles
of Boulevard brews made it safely back in checked
luggage for some of the DB 15 Cask Commissioners to
try. It’s always much more fun sharing new brews with
friends who know beer.




Cheers!

Dan
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by   Dan Hodge