Beer Touring: Jackson, Wyoming

My husband and I enjoy beer touring together, and our vacations often end up including a variety of brewery destinations. Even when we aren’t vacationing together, the road often leads me to beer. Such was the case when some friends and I recently visited Jackson, WY for a hiking trip.

When people think of Jackson, they think of Tetons National Park, of skiing, perhaps of hiking or cowboys. While it’s not a premier beer destination, Jackson boasts two GABF-decorated breweries within a town of 10,000 plus change. And, as we found out, a third brewery just opened last winter west of town proper, near Teton Village and the nearby town of Wilson.

In town, locals and visitors alike flock to Snake River Brewing. Recognized by GABF as small brewery of the year in 2000 and 2001, Snake River has been packed both day and night on two recent trips to Jackson. They crank out 8,000 barrels a year on the seven-barrel system that’s right behind the bar. Beer is consumed onsite with delicious locally-sourced pub fare at the brewpub, and it’s canned for sale at nearby liquor stores. (Wyoming sells all beer and wine at privately licensed liquor stores, not at grocers.)

At the pub, we enjoyed the Pakos Eye-P-A paired with the mac and cheese in a three-cheese sauce with roasted cauliflower, a brown butter and parmesan gratin and pickles. The Snake River Pale paired with the spicy Thai peanut pasta, and the Snake River Lager was delicious with the Zonker Buffalo Brat.

3_Tie_meThe more unlikely award-winning brewery in town comes in the form of a Thai restaurant just east of the main square in Jackson, Thai Me Up Brewing. In 2012, Thai Me Up was instantly vaulted to the top of the beer hunting map, taking home three medals at GABF. They won gold for their IPA, Melvin (in the category American-Style Strong Pale Ale), and their double-IPA, 2×4 (in the category Imperial India Pale Ale). They also snagged a silver for ChChChCh-Cherry Bomb (in the category Fruit Beer), and for the coupe de grace – they won the prestigious Alpha King award.

Except for the beer menu, and cheeky descriptions on the food menu, Thai Me Up looks a lot like any Thai restaurant with the usual decor and layout (all ages on one side, bar on the other featuring non-stop Thai martial arts movies). One thing most Thai restaurants probably don’t have? The framed clip from People Magazine featuring Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel dining at Thai Me Up on their recent visit to Jackson. (This, we swear, will probably be the only time we mention J.T. on this blog. Unless he starts a brewery.)

The food is fresher, hotter and less crayola-colorful than most Thai restaurants. Whether that means it’s more authentic? I’m guessing so, and we enjoyed several of the dishes and they paired great with a Yakimama, an experimental single-hop beer that was on tap that day.

If you visit, you may find the Melvin and 2×4 have run dry. Demand exceeds production even though Thai Me Up doesn’t (currently) ship their beers anywhere except to their own bar. On our first visit, we enjoyed other beers but found out the Melvin and 2×4 would both be back on tap later that week, so we made a special trip back to try them. Definitely worth the effort, both were fresh, and somehow both overhopped and balanced at once.

Owner Jeremy Tofte hinted about potential changes at Thai Me Up including a brewery renaming (to Melvin), expansion and more distribution. Suffice it to say, we are hoping we can share some news with you soon that will make IPA drinkers round these parts pretty darn happy. Stay tuned, Seattle.

When you enjoy beer touring, keeping your eyes open and nose to the ground is key. That’s how we found a third brewery in town – we saw the “Brewery” sign while driving from Jackson to our Teton Village condo.

8_Q_roadhouseQ Roadhouse has been serving upscale barbecue for several years now, and in January of this year they added “and Brewing Company” to their repertoire. We were impressed by the extensive tap list – 12 of their own beers on tap even though they’ve only been brewing for eight months? Turns out the brewer has been homebrewing for years and is well connected. Having a brewer at Dogfish Head in the family is pretty handy when you need advice about scaling up to a pro brewhouse.

Beers include a range of Belgian styles, a favorite of one of the owners, we were told, and a wide range of strong ales. Our resounding favorite was the Veil of Composure pale ale, which at 6.9% ABV tasted more like a Northwest-style IPA. That means the IPA drank more like a double, and so on. (One thing we found about Jackson beers – “Wyoming-style” means strong, just as “Northwest-style” means hoppy.)

The food was our favorite of the trip, so delicious we went back twice in a week for dinner. Highlights included the gulf shrimp and white cheddar grits, the rootbeer-glazed Ballard Farms pork chop with cornbread pudding, and the fried chicken Brussels sprouts, tossed in chicken fat, served with crisped chicken skin cracklings.

What we missed trying this time? Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, ID is just over Teton Pass from Jackson. Sounds easy, but it’s a windy, steep and slow drive. We also peeped a new brewery in Victor that we didn’t have time to stop for – Wildlife Brewing, we’ll catch you next time!

Staying and Playing in Jackson:

Getting to and staying in Jackson, the prices can be a little eye-popping, this isn’t the sleepy cowboy town it used to be, now it’s an upscale mountain sports town that caters to the wealthy just as much as the ski bum.

Depending on the season and where you’re flying from, flights directly into Jackson can be more spendy than a flight to Hawaii. From Seattle, we saved money by flying into Bozeman on Alaska Airlines. We rented a van for the scenic four-hour drive up the Gallatin, past Big Sky and the West entrance of Yellowstone.

For lodging, if you don’t mean to cook your own meals then there are a variety of motels and hotels in downtown Jackson that put Snake River Brewing and Thai Me Up within easy walking distance. Farther afield, there are also plenty of condo and house rentals ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand per night. We had a great experience renting from Rendezvous Mountain Rentals in Teton Village, but if you rent there you should be aware that it’s about a 25 minute drive from downtown Jackson, with very little within walking distance.

Aside from the breweries, here are some favorite go-to places from the trip:

Pearl Street Bagels – great for a cheap, delicious breakfast and coffee on the go. Don’t let a long line dissuade you, they move it faster than Starbucks all morning long.

Jackson Whole Grocer – Jackson’s own version of Whole Foods, very high quality locally sourced produce, meats, fish and more, plus an onsite liquor store for beer to go.

Spur Restaurant – in the Teton Lodge, another place that was so good we went back twice for lunch. Not as pricey as you would think, and a great option if you are staying in Teton Village.

Dave Hansen Whitewater – so much in Jackson is about the Snake River, it’s a shame not to get out on it. We took a scenic float, but would go back for the whitewater trip next time.

Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row – our favorite wildlife viewing of the trip. Bison, antelope and birds of prey when we visited.

Cascade Canyon Trail – take the boat across Jenny Lake and quickly shed the tourists on this 9.5 mile round-trip hike up a canyon. Watch for wildlife, we saw a moose by the creek.


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