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Walk softly and carry a big — craft beer — stick

By Paul Viau | Jul 06, 2016
Photo by: Paul Viau BIER-CENTRIC HIKING STICK — The Blue Ridge Bier Trakker keeps Paul Viau happily focused on the best part of every walk in the forest — post hike hydration.

With apologies to President Theodore Roosevelt, I will be talking about ‘carrying big sticks’ this week, but not about foreign policy.

I have nothing to say about drones, walls, embassies, treaties, immigration, trade policy or golf course diplomacy. There is, however, plenty to say/write about a new, beer-friendly hiking stick crafted by an inventive Clyde resident, Wayne Ruth.

This particularly stylish hiking stick is called the Blue Ridge Bier Trakker, and the German spelling of beer should give you a clue that it was inspired by Ruth’s experience growing up in Germany and Austria.

Ruth was an ‘Army brat,’ and his father’s deployments really broadened his horizons and exposed him to the active walking, hiking and bier drinking European culture.

Among the things that caught Ruth’s eye back then, were the small, colorful medallions that adorned many walking and hiking sticks, representing famous towns, castles and monuments. He was fascinated with them.

Years later in the 1960s and 1970s and back is the USA, Ruth got the idea for an adjustable metal hiking stick with a special section for displaying those medallions. Unfortunately, this idea didn’t pan out.

Ruth’s next idea was a folding camp chair with adjustable legs that could be altered for level seating on irregular terrain. This project was also abandoned.

Finally, in 2015, Ruth — now an avid craft beer fan — came up with the idea for the Blue Ridge Bier Trakker.

It consisted of a wood hiking stick which could be adorned with beer bottle-cap medallions of hikers’ favorite beer or beers.

“You finally had a good idea,” said Ruth’s long-time friend Jen Pearson.

And she was right.

Wayne Ruth, who BTW is a retired Haywood County shop and technology teacher, used a hiking stick from The Swag as the prototype. He removed the Swag medallion (Sorry, Dan and Deener) and added added European beer bottle-cap medallions as a birthday present for his brother. It was a huge hit.

Ruth then sought approval from local craft breweries to use their bottle-caps or logos on future Blue Ridge Bier Trakkers.

To date, all the WNC and Asheville brewers have given Ruth permission except one — Oskar Blues. OB is so proud of the fact that all its beer is canned, it declined.

The first Blue Ridge Bier Trakker I saw was on display near the front counter at Bosu’s Wine Shop in Waynesville. I fell in love with it immediately, and I especially like the design for Bier Trakker’s logo bottle-cap medallion closest to the top. It features a likeness of Ruth’s Beagle-Walker mix dog, Molly.

She is a well-known patron (along with Ruth) at many dog-friendly breweries in Waynesville, and surrounding towns. Molly’s favors Wedge Brewing Company in Asheville, because of its abundant supply of Molly’s favorite snack food — peanuts.

BTW, Molly has her own, very interesting backstory. She showed up at Ruth’s home in Clyde one winter, cold and hungry. Ruth fed her and sheltered her for a few days, but in an effort to find Molly’s rightful owner, he took her to the Haywood County Shelter.

A few days later, Ruth checked back and “bailed her out.” The two have become inseperable walking and hiking companions ever since — doing on the average three miles a day at Lake Junaluska or in the neighboring woods.

Anyway, back to the Blue Ridge Bier Trakker — Ruth made his first sale in 2015, and is slowly building the business — one hand-made stick at a time.

All the sticks are kiln-dried, American hickory sourced from a fellow woodworker in Arkansas. Ruth drills each stick for a hand-strap, adds a steel-reinforced rubber tip, “where the rubber meets the road,” then adds his bier-cap medallions as finishing touches.

The prototype model that I purchased at his shop (pictured) features a leather hand strap and bier-cap medallions for all of the Waynesville brewers. The crowning touch at the top of this Bier Trakker is a modified, Grolsh-style, wire flip-top — complete with gasket seal.

This is a nice feature on this model, because the top of the trakker is drilled out, leaving a small ‘secret stash’ tubular chamber for ‘’who knows what?”

No-doubt, many glasses of beer (bier) has gone into the design of the Blue Ridge Bier Trakker, and who knows what design modifications will come?

What I am sure of is that my Bier Trakker will make a bold statement wherever I hike — that I am a huge supporter of craft beer. And as I travel and experience new beers, I can save the bottle-caps and either have Wayne Ruth add them to my Bier Trakker, or do it myself.

BTW, Ruth can create customized bottle-cap medallions for a small fee and/or attach any of your collection of bier bottle-caps to your bier Trakker — again, for a small fee.

To see/purchase a genuine Blue Ridge Bier Trakker, visit Bosu’s Wine Shop, 138 Miller St. in Waynesville. You can also reach Wayne Ruth directly at 828-674-1208, or via e-mail — biertrakker@gmail.com.

Happy hiking.