How to Survive a Six-Hour Drive

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When U.S. goalie Jim Craig beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, he simplified the game by breaking it into five-minute increments. Once the United States had the lead, he simply shut out the Russians for five minutes. Then he did it again for another five minutes. And then another, and another.

The result was a 4-3 miracle win over the Red Menace, and an eventual gold medal for the United States.

Driving more than 2,000 miles across the country in a 10-day period, I also attack it in increments. Five minutes probably is a little short, though. So I count the time between breweries.

And that, my friends, is the saving grace in the drive across Wyoming from Laramie to Jackson.

The sign next to the tanks at Bitter Creek Brewing make it very clear that important work is being done.
The sign next to the tanks at Bitter Creek Brewing make it very clear that important work is being done.

Total time in the car is about six hours — the max I can take in one day. But three hours in, after passing monotonous miles of scrub brush and dry dirt, the town of Rock Springs delivers a gem.

Bitter Creek Brewing Co. appears as an oasis in this land of desolation. Or, as our bartender said, “another day in paradise.”

OK, to be honest, Rock Springs is a dump. But if you ever find yourself there, instead of turning north on US-191 toward the beautiful mountains of Jackson, go just two miles south of I-80 and find Bitter Creek. You won’t be disappointed.

Their stout, which they call A Beer Named Bob, is one of the best-tasting beers I’ve had all trip. And remember, that’s been eight days and 2,000 miles so far. I’ve tried my share of beer.

The Bob, as they have nicknamed it, is an incredibly smooth, velvety tasting stout with some smokiness and creaminess combined. No one flavor overpowered this complex beer, but multiple flavors danced around my mouth with every sip. This easy-drinking stout is Bitter Creek’s signature brew, and it only takes a few sips to understand why.

The Bob is definitely in the running for “Best in Beer” award from the coveted Beer-and-Burgers blog.

With half of the drive completed, and two Bob’s under my belt, the next step to surviving a long day in the car is to cut the remaining time in half with a stop at another brewery. Fortunately, Wind River Brewing Co. complied with our wishes.

The award-winning Oatmeal Stout at Wind River Brewing Co. is almost as alluring as the cowboy version of the leg lamp.
The award-winning Oatmeal Stout at Wind River Brewing Co. is almost as alluring as the cowboy version of the leg lamp.

Located in sprawling Pinedale, WY, Wind River Brewing sports nine different award-winning beers. The most decorated of these is the Oatmeal Stout, a gold medal winner (just like Jim Craig) in 2006 at the World Beer Cup, and more recently a gold medal winner (like Jim Craig) in the 2012 North American Beer Awards. It must be good.

In fact, it was. This full-bodied beer had hints of dry-roasted coffee thickness that makes it a classic stout. No wonder it won so many awards.

With so many homemade beers, I was forced (yes, forced) to try the award-winning English Porter. Not much head on this beer, but flavors of toffee and nuts made it a nice craft beer.

Wind River also has a well-regarded IPA that my hop-crazed traveling buddy was ready to try. But alas, the last keg had been kicked. So she settled for the equally interesting Wyoming Pale Ale — yes, they call it a WPA — to appease her hoppy palate.

She found it nicely bitter with enough malt to add just enough balance to make the beer quite drinkable. But not with the hop-bite of the IPAs she prefers to guzzle. Good to know that in a pinch, however, a WPA may be able to substitute for an IPA.

Between the two stouts I tried on the day, the better one is definitely the Bob from Bitter Creek. But kudos to Wind River for helping me survive yet another six-hour day in the car. I just wish Nebraska could take a hint from Wyoming on how to break up a long-day’s drive.

— Eric Van Steenburg

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