An unloved peak meets a much-loved beer. Along the ridge that separates Parley’s and Mill Creek Canyons, Church Fork Peak is the outcast, a mountain hidden beneath the shadow of the ever-popular Grandeur Peak to the west, or the impressive summit of Mount Aire to the east. But I was in the mood to take the road less traveled, so with a bottle of Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused in my pack, I set out to climb Church Fork Peak with my dog, Lucy.
Church Fork Peak is not a summit to scoff at. Rising to 8,306 feet, it’s comparable to other mountains in the northern part of the central Wasatch. The way to get there is the same as a hike to Grandeur, which I have done dozens of times. Lucy and I drove up Mill Creek Canyon and parked at the Church Fork trailhead. As usual, after unleashing the dog, she immediately bounded up the trail like a canine gone mad, drunk on the smells and freedom of the woods. I appreciated her enthusiasm, and gave chase; running after her in a split decision to run my hike. We both bounded over rocks and roots, streams and bridges. Thankfully, many parts of the trail are too steep or rocky (sometimes both) to run on, so we hiked at normal speed until the trail leveled out again for another bit of mountain jogging.
At first the Church Fork Trail goes directly up the drainage of the same name until it begins to switchback and traverse the north face of Church Fork Peak. Switchbacks are the main event here as the path steeply ascends above the pine forest below, giving way to scrub oak and bushes. Finally, the trail leads to a saddle overlooking Parleys Canyon.
It is here at the saddle that the masses turn left to continue the 1/2 mile to the summit of Grandeur Peak. But a right turn leads one to solitude at the top of Church Fork Peak. Lucy and I chose the faint trail that snaked east through rock gardens and shin-scratching foliage. The path to the summit is nothing more than a deer trail that disappears and reappears at random. An obvious way to the top can lead to bushwhacking through oak trees, while no trail at all allowed an easy way to the top. No matter how we tried to get there, it was impossible to get lost – the summit of Church Fork Peak was right in front of us the entire time… all we had to do was hike to it.
At the top, there was no USGS marker, only a lonely rock cairn to mark the summit of Church Fork Peak. Cactus growing between cracked rock composed the top of the mountain, with nowhere to sit and enjoy the view without risking a butt-cheek full of needles. But the view was tremendous, almost as good as the vistas offered by neighboring peaks. So after watering the dog and eating a snack, I pulled out my reward: a Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused. But wait! I forgot a bottle opener! Disaster and a melancholy hike back down sans suds was my sad future until I remembered something. Lucy’s collar has a bottle opener on it! The dog saved the day and opened my beer for me. Good girl!
Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused
Hazed & Infused is a brew from the Looking Glass series of specialty beers from Boulder Beer in Colorado. It’s an American-style Pale Ale that the brewery says is an, “unfiltered dry-hopped ale is “hazed” in its natural state and “infused” with Crystal and Centennial hops.” Excited to taste it, I wrapped my lips around it and took a swig.
Typical citrus smells and tastes one would expect describes the beer, and it’s not overly complex. Such a simple beer means it’s easy to drink and doesn’t require much investigation to discover the flavors. A definite malty, caramel dance is going on in the bottle with a nice, full-bodied mouthfeel. Hazed & Infused finishes with a nice aftertaste that isn’t very bitter at all. Hops hit up front and blend with the malt and bitter caramel flavors that bubble up to the surface on the back-end. However, Hazed & Infused isn’t as hoppy as I would have liked, especially considering it’s a dry-hopped beer.
In the glass, Hazed & Infused pours with ample head. It’s surprisingly cloudy for a pale ale (hence the Hazed) which comes from it being unfiltered. There’s tons of lacing on the sides of the pint glass, and the color is a light amber, even orange swinging to the gold side of the spectrum. Noticeable hoppy aroma wafts off the head due to the dry hopping of Crystal and Centennial hops. But again, I hoped for more complex hop flavor, especially up front.
Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused is 4.8% alcohol, and is available in liquor stores in various markets across the country. To find it in your area, visit BoulderBeer.com