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Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. | Prickly Pear

Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. | Prickly Pear
Jeremy Fuerst

In a way, it is fortunate that President Thomas Jefferson wasn’t able to read his distant successor’s “The Art of the Deal.” If he had, he might have learned that one does not kick the tires after making a $15 million purchase (as providence would have it, Jefferson’s profligacy was vindicated and the French ended up looking like suckers). So it was that in May 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark boldly commanded their corps to paddle furiously upstream from St. Louis, Missouri.

One full year later, Lewis and Clark found themselves in present-day Montana. By August 1805, two events critical to the expedition had happened: Lewis and Clark successfully navigated the Missouri River past Great Falls and what is today known as Helena, Montana; William Clark celebrated his 35th birthday with nary a beer in sight.

Luckily for you, the extended family at Lewis and Clark’s namesake brewery have labored so you do not have to be so deprived. For your next expedition (e.g. trip to the bottle shop) or special occasion (e.g. Tuesday), we suggest Lewis & Clark’s Prickly Pear Pale Ale.

Photo courtesy of Lewis and Clark Brewing Company

Winner of a Bronze Medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival and Silver at this year’s World Beer Cup, Prickly Pear’s reputation precedes it.

Upon pouring, Prickly Pear’s color is between carrot orange and tawny brown, with a low to medium chill haze. The low white head dissipates quickly, leaving a faint lacing around the edge of your glass as you enjoy it. Aromas are low and subtle. We (my friend and I, not the royal “we”) picked up on mandarin oranges and pine, with just a trace of marijuana. The initial malty backdrop is of crackers or biscuits, though the hops profile elbows its way to the front of the line on your palate, revealing grapefruit juice, pine, floral notes and, surprisingly, just the slightest hint of tarragon. Perhaps we were too suggestible, but we picked up on pears as well (though not the prickly variety, which we have never tasted). While the carbonation in Prickly Pear is relatively low, its hops profile cleanses your palate as you enjoy it. Because of this, Prickly Pear would play more nicely with a spinach salad or even a rich cake than with greasier foods, such as cheeseburger or pizza.

By Clark’s 36th birthday, the expedition had returned to Great Falls only to find that many items in their cache were ruined. While Clark’s ongoing, unquenched thirst is a tragic footnote in the annals of history, those of us in western states can perhaps be grateful that Lewis & Clark Brewing was not yet in operation at the time. Had it been, the expedition may have never left Helena.

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