First hike, then beer


If there’s two things San Diego is good for (like there’s only two), it’s epic craft beer and a glorious range of hikes. With more than 175 brewery spaces and hundreds of trails around the county, the outdoor lover can work up a sweat then cool down with nearby sudsy refreshment.

Sound like a perfect day to you? Welcome to the realm of Hike for Beer, a local community known for their love of the outdoors and craft beer. Spearheaded by Kira Bouchard and Leah Milton, Hike for Beer is a member of 1% For The Planet. The group leads adventure lovers through coastal lagoons, seaside cliffs, canyons and desert mountains and ends all trips with a few lessons at a local brewery.

PACIFIC chatted with the ladies on how the group works, how people can join and what’s next for the organization.

Why did you start Hike for Beer, and what was the inspiration?

LEAH MILTON: The idea started about two years ago, when we met in the beer industry. We both worked in tasting room at AleSmith and went hiking a lot. We were out on the trail one day and we said, “Everyone should do this!” and decided then to share our two passions with everybody.

How do you choose your breweries? Is it based on vicinity to the hike?

KIRA BOUCHARD: A lot of it is, and also working in the beer industry as long as we have, we’ve developed relationships, and we look for ones that have similar interests to us. As it turns out, a lot of brewers are hikers, too, and have great passion behind their product.

What are the rules of an event?

MILTON: We post the info for upcoming hikes to Instagram and Facebook. They are open events, and anyone is welcome. Our rules are to have fun, to make everyone feel comfortable, bring water, and comfortable shoes, and to be safe. But above all it’s to have fun and join us again on a future hike.

How often do you set events?

BOUCHARD: We do hikes every other weekend on a Sunday morning, and over the summer we have sunset hikes every other Wednesday. We keep those mellow, as it’s midweek, and utilize the extended day time.

What’s 1% For The Planet?

BOUCHARD: A nonprofit that teams up with business and individuals, and at the end of every year, you donate 1% of bottom-line sales. We chose the National Forest Foundation, because their main mission is reforestation across the entire country. That speaks to both of us. Without the trees where are the trails? We want to protect the places we love. As we grow, we can share more with other nonprofits.

Can you be a member of Hike for Beer?

MILTON: Yes, every January we are going to have open enrollment, for a one-time price of $30, you get a t-shirt from Hoppy Beer Hoppy Life (a local artist), 10%-off the store for life, 20%-off yours first group tour, and (access to) a calendar of events. Non-members can find out about events the week of on Instagram and Facebook.

Tell us about the small group tours you do.

MILTON: That is something we are excited to introduce soon. We just purchased a 15 passenger van. For now it’s a meetup, but we will be able to offer half-day or full-day long adventure experiences. We are aiming to launch that in the next few months. We will also offer corporate and team building experiences.

Any other news we can look out for?

BOUCHARD: We’re partnering with Adventure 16, a local retailer, and planning to join events with camping, backpacking, and how-to classes. That’s in the works.

What’s your favorite beer style to drink after a hike?

BOUCHARD: Hoppy lager.

MILTON: Tropical Session IPA.

Give us a memorable Hike for Beer story:

MILTON: We met up to hike around the San Elijo Lagoon area (during the summer) and right before we started the trail, we saw two new hikers join our group. “Sorry we’re a bit late,” they said. “We just drove all the way here from Orange County!” Our new friends ended up being awesome company and had lots to talk about with everyone. We look forward to hosting adventures in their neck of the woods soon!

Top 5 hiking tips from Leah and Kira

  1. Hydration is No 1.
  2. Leave the trail better than you found it. It’s our second home, improve it.
  3. Always be prepared, know your route. Do your homework.
  4. Bring your essentials. Bring a first aid kit, it doesn’t have to be extensive; it gives you peace of mind.
  5. Snacks and beer. Feed your body and reward yourself!

Follow along

Instagram: @hikeforbeersd

Twitter: @hikeforbeer