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Hiking trips inspire some wild beer recipes for this unusual project in Colorado Springs

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There are wild hops that grow in them thar mountains of Colorado, but that's not the only ingredient you can find by hiking in the wilds. There are also pinon nuts, sumac berries, prickly pear cactus and chokecherries.

And if those don't sound like beer ingredients to you, think again, says Eric Steen, a Colorado Springs artist, professor and beer blogger who has created the Beers By Walking project.

Here's how it works: Steen and a naturalist, a professional brewer and a couple of home brewers, along with members of the public, go for a series summer hikes in the Pikes Peak region and identify edible and medicinal plants along the way.

After the hikes, the home brewers come up with recipes and make beers (at Rocky Mountain Brewing in Colorado Springs) based on those plants. The ingredients, by the way, aren't foraged during the hikes, but are obtained afterward.

On August 27, from 4 to 8 p.m., Steen will serve up the beers that the group has made so far, based on the first hikes of 2011, at Brewer's Republic, 112 North Nevada Avenue (entry is $5), for a one time-only tasting. The beers will be poured into four five-ounce sample trays that Steen made himself from local wood.

The first couple of hikes were at Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Open Space and Palmer Park; four more hikes are scheduled, and there will be a second tasting of four new beers sometime in late October. Beer Made By Walking is sponsored by the Gallery of Contemporary Arts.

Steen, who runs the Focus on the Beer blog, says the beers celebrate the Colorado landscape; he also believes beer is an art form and that brewers are artists. That, in turn, makes beer a tool for social change. (Agreed!)

Here, then, are the art works that will be on display tomorrow:

Opuntiae Deorum, a wheat ale made with prickly pear cactus and inspired by plants at Garden of the Gods; the brewer was Justin Carpenter.

Smoked Piñon Brown Ale, made with piñon pine nuts and inspired by plants at Red Rock Open Space; the brewer was Grant Goodwiler.

Monk Choker, a double double Belgian IPA made with chokecherries and inspired by plants at Red Rock Open Space; the brewer was Isaac Grindeland.

Lightning Strike, made with juniper, ponderosa pine needles, and three-leaf sumac berries. It was made by Jason Miller and inspired by plants at Palmer Park.

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