Flagstaff Mountain is one of many peaks that line the snowy ridge south of Alta, creating a mountain wall that looms above town. Taken on the whole, Flagstaff is a shorty next to her big sisters like Mount Superior, but is still a very popular summit for hikers and backcountry skiers alike.
In fact, it’s certain that Flagstaff sees the most traffic when she’s covered in snow thanks to the numerous backcountry ski tour routes that can be linked from the top. So when Brewddah and I climbed her flanks for a Summit Brew in early June, we brought skis and climbing skins with our beer thanks to an unusually wet and cold spring here in Utah.
The trip began in Alta (as any ascent of Flagstaff starts,) from the trailhead by the Town of Alta municipal building. After gearing up, we skinned up the track to the white, alpine meadows below the mountain. The day was warm, finally, and the sun was shining so bright it hurt to see. An amazing amount of snow for the late spring season made the mountains look like January instead of June.
The ascent up Flagstaff followed the typical route toward Cardiff Pass beneath the powerline, then split off to the right where it then went up on the mountain’s shoulder. The climbing became steeper the closer we got to the summit, and the track went from casual climbing to strenuous switchbacks on icy and wind loaded snow. Once on the ridge, an easy walk to the west brought us to the edge of Reed and Benson Ridge and the 10,530 foot summit of Flagstaff Mountain.
At the top, we were greeted by a view we both know all too well. Alta and Snowbird sat far below to the south, Catherine Pass beckoned to the east, the white peaks along Big Cottonwood Canyon called to us from the north, and Mother Superior held court in the west as the Salt Lake Valley shimmered behind her.
Although it was springtime and sunny, a cold wind blew on the summit, scouring the snow that whipped around us before twirling into the canyons beneath our boots. With winter still in effect and summer only three weeks away, we felt it was appropriate to break out the polar opposite of a winter beer – a seasonal summer lager. In defiance of all the snow, but with great humility and thanks shown to Ullr for the incredible ski season he bestowed upon us, we cracked open a Wasatch Summerbrau Lager. After knocking back a few gulps, we gave Ullr his share by ritualistically pouring some on the mountain for him. Hopefully Ullr won’t be angered by our quaffable offering come next winter.
Wasatch Summerbrau Lager
Summerbrau Lager from the Wasatch Brewery is a full strength, Czech-style pilsner-lager brewed with German malts and European hops. It comes in at a respectable 5.6% ABV, and according to Wasatch, is a lager, “designed to be the perfect companion for any summer celebration.”
Celebrating on a snow-covered peak counts, right?
On first taste, the Summerbrau Lager is crisp and clean, but doesn’t do much on the front of the tongue. But after swallowing, a somewhat hoppy, flavorful finish makes the palate sing. Also dancing on the tongue is a nice carbonation. Both elements make for a refreshing beer that is hard to stop drinking. And while lagers are a style of beer mostly consumed ice-cold in this country, I found time spent in my pack warmed the beer just enough to unleash all its qualities, rather than hiding behind a numb, frozen tongue.
In fact, I dare say the Wasatch Summerbrau is the most flavorful lager I can remember drinking. I spent a long time trying to decide what it compares to, when it hit me as I stood on the mountain – Summerbrau tastes like a strong Fosters. Does that make Summerbrau, “Utahn for beer?”
In the glass, Wasatch Summerbrau pours a see-through, light gold color with very little head. The lack of head is surprising considering how much carbonation is packed into this beer, but the bubbles are also what make it so fun to drink. The taste is pleasant, and classically lager-ish. This beer is hoppy for a lager, but rather than being bitter, has a dry flavor. As a summer seasonal, the Summerbrau is HUGELY refreshing, and is very much a sessionable beer despite the 5.6% ABV.
Plus, there’s a mountain on the label, so that really makes the Wasatch Summerbrau Lager a true “Summit Brew.”
Wasatch Summerbrau is available at the Utah Brewer’s Cooperative Beer Store at 1763 South, 300 West and all Utah Liquor Stores.