As I hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail, I'd been hearing about a place in Virginia - this goes all the way back to Pennsylvania - from beer snobs like myself about a brewpub called The Devil's Backbone.
I thought about checking it out but beer is just not in the budget on this hike. It's gonna be tight until the end - IF I make it. Also, this place was about six miles off-trail. That's a tough hitch or a long road-walk for me. I was gonna skip it but I am extraordinarily proud of Michigan's craft brew scene and I wanted to compare what Virginia had to offer. I decided to go for it.
The hitch was, indeed, tough. I had to walk a steep mile down hill to even get to a place that was safe for a car to pull over. A lovely woman in a van finally had mercy on me. She knew right where I wanted to go. "All the hikers stop there." she told me. I was trying not to get my hopes up because you never know what to expect but visions of a cold, hoppy IPA were dancing in my head.
As we pulled in to the place, I realized that it was much more than just a brewpub - it was a huge compound! It had an outdoor stage, several smaller buildings that sold food and beer and big, open areas for RV parking and camping. It appeared to be a well-planned event center. I later found out they had just had a concert there attended by 8,000 people.
As soon as I walked into the restaurant part of it, I received a warm welcome. They had a place for me to park my pack and they sat me at a table near an outlet so I could plug in my phone. I felt kinda bad when the server handed me a dinner menu and I told her I would only be having one beer. She was fine with that.
All of this matters not if the beer is no good and I was NOT disappointed. I ordered an Eight Point IPA - their flagship beer. It hit all the targets dead on: color, aroma, temperature, carbonation and, most importantly, taste. A perfect combination of bitter hops and sweet malt. This beer was worth getting off the trail.
Then things got even better when my server insisted I try (rather large) samples of both the Schwartz Beer and the Trail Angel Weiss.
Both very well crafted brews. This place competes with just about anything in Michigan. The hostess welcomed me to camp on the property and told me to come back at 9am the next morning for a 'hiker's special' breakfast.
That morning I had the pleasure of meeting Steve, the owner. He is both a builder and a hiker and this whole place was his idea. We shared some great conversation about the trails we had hiked. Breakfast was served to me by the chef and was one of the best meals I've had on this trail.
All that good food for only five dollars! Before I left, Steve made sure to hook me up with some bumper stickers and a new ball cap.