BOW VALLEY – What’s more satisfying than clanking pint glasses together with friends after a long day out hiking in the wild Canadian Rockies?
For many, visiting the mountains means a fun outdoor experience, while for others, checking out the local vibe, like at a favourite brewery, is a mandatory checkmark in the box.
Banff author and journalist Kendall Hunter satisfies both appetites in her new book Beer Hiking: Canadian Rockies, which gives readers insight into 30 hiking trails and a mishmash of 30 beers from craft breweries in Alberta and British Columbia.
In the full-coloured book, which is newly released, one brew and one beaten path are paired together with a description of the hike, difficulty, duration, and points of interest. Once a hike is completed, the author recommends a nearby craft brewery or brewpub where a pint of the cold, good stuff awaits thirsty mountaineers. Each beer is described by its look, smell, taste and alcohol content.
“Beer Hiking provides a unique approach to visiting this region of Canada,” said Hunter. “It is a ‘where to go’ and ‘what to see’ guidebook, but the ‘pairings’ of hikes and craft brewery visits, I feel, deliver a purposely entertaining and sociable way to do so.”
Hunter added readers don’t have to be big hikers or beer drinkers to enjoy the book. It offers a unique perspective of western Canada and often suggests less congested areas to explore and visit as Rockies hotspots rapidly grow in popularity among tourists.
Part of an international series of Beer Hiking books, what struck the local author about writing the Canadian Rockies version was the intimate connection she felt to the communities, locals, and brew-masters.
“I saw, even more so while doing it, when you’re visiting a craft brewery you’re getting right to the local culture,” Hunter said. “Mostly the owners want to sit down and have a chat and you’re meeting locals right off the bat. I feel like everything about it, you’re experiencing the outdoors and you might be going to a place you might otherwise have not.”
Tightening up her hiking boots, Hunter set off on all 30 trails and more than 200 kilometres to get the full first-person experience, tired legs and all, in the regions of the Foothills, Central Rockies, and the Kootenays. She did all but two hikes solo – even if it was a bit creepy at times.
“I was out there clapping and singing to myself,” she said. “I was very aware of what might be around, but there were no real catastrophes.”
The guidebook also recommends essential gear to bring on hikes – like bear spray – and gives insight into trail etiquette.
Describing herself as a bit of a lightweight when it comes to pounding ‘em back, Hunter did drink each beer featured – mainly in small flight glasses.
Local trails featured are in Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country and Canmore, while Bow Valley brewpubs include Banff Avenue Brewing Co., Canmore Brewing Company, Grizzly Paw, Sheepdog Brewing, and Three Bears Brewery.
A worldly individual, Hunter left Banff to see the world, for a long time. She still gets chills thinking about photographing Nelson Mandela, while working as a photojournalist in South Africa.
These days, Hunter appreciates the locals in front of her camera’s lens and on the ink of her pen and the opportunity to reconnect to her backyard through Beer Hiking: Canadian Rockies.
“I grew up skiing and mostly ran the trails around Banff but rarely hiked. I felt this was something I’d missed out on and there were places I never got to see, despite growing up here,” said Hunter.
“After living in several places from South Africa, to the U.K. and Switzerland and eastern Canada, it was meaningful to be back here roaming, connecting through my camera's lens and meeting locals wherever I went.”
As part of the 2023 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, Hunter is hosting a book signing and party at the new Herschel store in town.
Visit www.kendallhunter.ca for updates on day and time.