For a Tuesday night, Ake's Place in Burlington, Vermont, is packed. Ryan Hawks' segment in Meathead Films' 2011 Prime Cut plays above the bar, while thirsty Vermonters unanimously order the same beer over and over again. Standing atop a chair, looking over a crowd, Vermont's Long Trail Brewing Company rep breaks impressive news to a mid-week crowd. "We just kicked the keg," says Quinn Delahanty. The usually saddening announcement, however, is greeted with applause. "Well, actually, I think two or three," she says.
Long Trail Brewing Company held a release party on September 9 for their new Flyin Ryan IPA. Though Vermonters didn't need another excuse to go out for a drink, the new IPA was created in partnership and support of the Flyin Ryan Hawks Foundation to remember the life and principles of professional skier Ryan Hawks, who passed away in 2011. Throughout the winter, a portion of each beer that is sold will go toward the foundation to provide scholarships for adventure seeking youth.
"It's more than just a beer," says Ryan's father, Peter Hawks. "It's a beer with a story, with spirit, and with core values."
As a native to the Green Mountain State, Ryan Hawks grew up skiing Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. His love for the sport grew with his age. Friends and family said that when Ryan went to the mountains by himself, he was the guy making friends in the lift lines, eager to share the mountain with someone new, which is how he befriended the owner of Ake’s Place, the venue of the evening’s event.
"We skied Octopus's Garden at Mad River and we stopped at the end and he just looked at me with the same kind of smile you see right there," says owner Josh Markle, pointing to a memorial of Ryan on the wall of his bar. "We grew a connection and every time he'd come back from the West or the Freeskiing Tour, he would come say hi."
In 2011, while competing at the Kirkwood, California stop of the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour, Ryan sustained injuries from a fall that ended his life. Though his time concluded prematurely at the age of 25, Ryan's legacy has continued to inspire through the Flyin Ryan Hawks Foundation. Run by Ryan's sister, Alicia, and his father, Peter, the foundation has provided over 50 scholarships supporting kids who have aspirations in the outdoors, whether it’s hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, enrolling in First Responder courses, or pursuing big mountain skiing.
"When Ryan died, I was 74. I surrounded myself with adventurers and freeriders and I have to say there is something about that group of people who really live everyday, all day," says Peter Hawks. "We're trying to even the playing field for other upcoming adventure seekers who want to take the driver’s seat, so we look at passion, character, and financial need."
To raise funds for their scholarships, the foundation has organized events ranging from mountain bike festivals to golf tournaments. In a natural progression, and because skiers love beer, the foundation turned to Ake's Place and Long Trail Brewing Company to create an IPA. Though the process took nearly a year, Long Trail rebranded an English Style IPA with 6 percent ABV with the Flyin Ryan logo.
"When the subject of beer first came up, I knew that it had to be through Long Trail, because they are Vermont," says Markle. "Now the beer is out and it’s hoppy, fully bodied, and exactly what I'd expect to represent a guy like Ryan."
From December 1 until March 31, ten cents from each beer sold will go toward the Flyin Ryan scholarship fund, meaning skiers now have another reason to keep the tab running. The beer will be available at a number of après bars including Mad River Glen's General Stark’s Pub and will likely make its way throughout the rest of the Green Mountain State's ski areas and bars.
"Everything we do tries to bring Ryan's spirit to life," says Peter Hawks. "And we're just getting started with this beer. We expect to take [it] to every ski area in Vermont."
Ryan Hawks 13 Core Principles:
1. Live every day, all day
2. Never Stop exploring life
3. Never lose my adventuresome attitude
4. Be the best friend I can be
5. Be the best brother, son, uncle I can
6. Look out for others
7. Look out for myself
8. Look out for our surroundings
9. Be self-sufficient
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help
11. Work hard
12. Live easy
13. Live simply