Pairing Craft Beer and Disc Golf Courses
We all know there have been countless books, magazine articles, blogs, and social media posts written about pairing craft beer with cheese, desserts, appetizers and other various epicurean delights. Hell, some have gone so far as to pair craft beer with music and books! But as far as I can tell, I am the first to pair craft beer with disc golf courses, and I kind of wonder why I never thought of this sooner. Just like craft beer, each disc golf course has its own depth, character, layers of complexity, and even proper “serving” temperature. (Try playing any Lake Tahoe course when it’s 14 degrees outside; you might find that you’ll enjoy your round much more at a warmer temperature.) One can find elements in many craft beers that compliment, contrast, or cut through the varying aspects of any disc golf course.
So, here is my list (in no particular order) of my Top 8 favorite disc golf courses in the Northern California region and their appropriate Anderson Valley Brewing Company beer pairings.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville, CA)
Boont Amber Ale (5.8% ABV, 15 IBU)
The rustic, 18-hole course at Anderson Valley Brewing Company features a great mix of long open fairways, dog-legs, and tight, tree-lined paths. Though there is not much change in elevation, there are multiple OB lines and plenty of trees that will provide challenges; well-placed upshots are pivotal to a good score. Much like Boont Amber Ale, this course is well-balanced with fresh herbal aromas (depending on who’s in your foursome ;)) that will leave you satisfied regardless of your score (though you can always have another round).
The Redwood Curtain (Arcata, CA)
Poleeko Pale Ale (5% ABV, 30 IBU)
Located behind Humboldt State University, The Redwood Curtain easily makes my Top 3 courses of all time. Majestic redwoods and elevation changes come into play often, making for some very difficult (yet entertaining) shots. It’s a very technical course and playing a “managed” game is the key to success here. The pale malts and bright, citrusy hop flavors in Poleeko Pale Ale give a nice contrast to the sweet, earthy aromas from the dense Redwood canopy and the deep red color of the forest floor.
UOB-College of the Siskiyous, Weed, CA
Belk’s ESB (6.8% ABV, 60 IBU)
Way up north near the Oregon border, there’s a hidden gem at the base of Mount Shasta. Known as “UOB” (University of Out-of-Bounds), this course is located adjacent to the College of the Siskiyous campus in Weed, CA. Ten of the 18 holes have roped-off OB’s along the fairways and several even feature island greens (“Mound Shasta” on Hole 10 is my favorite) that make for one challenging round of frolf! I’ve rarely encountered other golfers during my visits, making for a smooth pace that can quickly give way to the sharp bitterness of an inevitable OB drive or upshot. All in all, UOB is much like Belk’s ESB… you might have to make a long drive to find it, but when you do, it will be worth it in the end.
Zephyr Cove Park (Zephyr Cove, NV)
Summer Solstice Seasonal Ale (5% ABV, 5 IBU)
Nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove Park should be on every disc golfers Bucket List. Located at an elevation of 6,300’, the scent of vanilla from the Jeffrey pines and crisp, clean mountain air mimic the aromas and finish in Summer Solstice. Numerous elevation changes (including several uphill drives), tall manzanita, and multiple slopes provide plenty of “risk vs. reward” situations to challenge your game. After trekking to the tees of both “top-of-the-world” shots on Hole 9 and Hole 15, it will be the perfect time to take a moment and enjoy a light and refreshing beer as you gaze upon the breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe.
Condon Park (Grass Valley, CA)
Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout (5.8% ABV, 16 IBU)
This is another of all time favorite courses. Surrounded by redwood trees, manzanita, and a mini-river that runs through the back nine, Condon Park is a world-class course located an hour north of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I’ve had many a bittersweet round of frolf here, so Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout was the ideal choice (especially in the can!) The local disc golf club keeps this course well maintained and changes the pin placements often. It’s a fairly technical course with some decent elevation changes and “thread the needle” fairways, but depending on the pin settings, there are multiple birdie opportunities for those who have a great feel for their putt-and-approach game.
DeLaveaga Park (Santa Cruz, CA)
Brother David’s Triple Belgian-style Abbey Ale (10% ABV, 15 IBU)
Many consider DeLaveaga “Disc Golf Mecca,” with thousands of golfers making the pilgrimage to the coastal town of Santa Cruz every year to experience this 27-hole masterpiece of frolf. To say this course is varied is an understatement. Its stunning complexity and uncompromising challenge make it the perfect choice to stand up to the bold layers of flavor in Brother David’s Triple. Yes, this Belgian-style Abbey Ale does clock in at 10%, but given that a typical round at DeLaveaga will take more than 3 hours to complete, you’ll have plenty of time to sip and enjoy both the beer and the beautiful scenery without worry.
Highland Springs Reservoir (Lakeport, CA)
Hop Ottin’ IPA (7% ABV, 80 IBU)
Among the rolling hills of Lake County, Highland Springs Reservoir is set off the beaten path, making it mostly a “locals” course. However, with 22 holes and multiple tee/pin placements, it’s definitely a disc golf experience that’s worth the trip. I chose Hop Ottin’ because its hoppiness and moderately high ABV “bites like a can-kicky blue tail” (that’s Boontling for “bites like a rattlesnake”). Enjoy two or three of these well-balanced IPAs they’ll help cut through any fears you may have of finding a rattler deep in the brush. There are a few elevation changes, but most of the challenges come from trees, OB’s, dog legs, low ceilings, blind shots and long fairways.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort (Kirkwood, CA)
Heelch O’ Hops Double IPA (8.7% ABV, 100 IBU)
Kirkwood’s Disc Golf Course is… how do the kids say these days… EPIC!? Affectionately known as Discwood, it sits at an elevation of 7800’ with panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range all around you. With elevation changes on virtually every hole, nearly half of them are over 300’ in length. Hole 16 even plays down a ski run at a whopping 1200’ followed by Hole 17 at 625’! Heelch O’ Hops Double IPA pairs perfectly with every aspect of this course: the big piney hop flavors sing in harmony with the surrounding pine forests, while the rich, caramel malt backbone and 8.7% ABV lay a solid foundation for the big drives you’ll need to give yourself any chance of an upshot for par.
So, what beer would you pair with your favorite course?
Steve Miller is the Steinber Kimmie (Beer Guy) for Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Beer Running, Social Media, Sales and Marketing are a few of his favorite things. He’s also a pretty decent home brewer, gee-tar picker and disc golfer too. You can follow him @SteinberRunner on Twitter.