Why Does Beer Taste So Good After a Day on the River?
According to Kyle Sillars from Big Sky Brewing, That’s a Deep Question…
Kyle Sillars has a pretty tough job. He’s the Quality Manager for Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana and a Certified Cicerone. But if you think he spends all his days drinking beer, you’re wrong. An avid kayaker, who grew up doing family rafting and canoeing trips, Kyle spends plenty of time outdoors. As do all the employees at Big Sky, which is exactly why they’ve become one of O.A.R.S. go-to partners over the years for our Craft Beer Tasting rafting trips.
So why does beer taste so good after a day on the river? Read on…
What got you interested in beer?
I grew up in a family that supported local craft breweries, so I’ve always been interested in the craft side of things. But I believe I was in college when I had the epiphany that, “Hey, you can actually make this stuff and it’s not some magical corporation making it.”
Tell me about Big Sky Brewing. What do you specialize in?
We are a Montana brewery in the sense that we really like to relate our outdoor lifestyle with our beers. We have a large culture of kayaking, rafting, biking—a lot of outdoorsmen (men and women) on the brewing staff here. We’re primarily known for being the brewers of Moose Drool.
Coming from the beer and whitewater world, what surprised you the most about O.A.R.S.’ Craft Beer Tasting trips on Idaho’s Lower Salmon River.
Coming from the private boater segment, it was a lot more fun than I anticipated. We had a chance to jump around the different boats from the paddle raft to the oar raft, and then even a stand up paddleboard and a couple of inflatable kayaks. The dory was really fun to hop into too. It was kind of like being a kid at the playground. And then just getting to camp, sharing some beers and talking to people about the variety of beers, beer styles, history—that was really fun.
As the guy who has had to bring the beer for one of these tasting trips, what can people expect?
We brought a variety of cases of cans, kegs and some specialty beers—not dessert beers but more rare beers that pair with specific courses at dinner. I think we brought 20-22 cases of beer and several specialty kegs.
You were able to keep kegs cold for a 4-day river trip in the middle of the summer?
I’ve never poured a jockey box in 100-plus degrees on the river before, so that was a first for me. I questioned it before we did it, but it worked out. We had cold beer at the take-out on the last day. It’s a challenge, but draft dispense is just a simple principle of pressure and temperature.
It’s not all about the beer on these trips, right? How does the food measure up?
It’s really impressive and opened my eyes to what’s possible on the river, culinary-wise. We have had the opportunity to partner with Chef Chip Roberts [of Arnold Pantry] on both trips I’ve done. He does an outstanding job.
They jetted out early one morning, got to camp, and slow-cooked ribs all day while the rest of us were having fun on the water. That was by far the most stand-out pairing—those slow-cooked ribs with Moose Drool were just outrageous. We’ve had nothing but top-notch food.
What’s your favorite Big Sky beer to crack open after a day of whitewater?
Big Sky IPA is what I’m looking for. A lot of flavor, very refreshing. That’s kind of my go-to right now.
So, why does beer taste so good after a day on the river?
That’s a deep question. I guess it’s just a really nice way to unwind and reflect on how much fun we’ve had. When isn’t it fun to have a cold one?