Of all the mountains that line up like chess pieces along the east side of the Salt Lake Valley, Grandeur Peak is likely the most popular for urban hikers looking for a quick summit to stand on. Plus, it’s an awesome mountain for a Summit Brew, like with a bottle of MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter IPA.
Mountaineers stomp straight up Grandeur’s steep west face as training for bigger climbs, but the rest of us lesser humans mosey along the easier trail that ascends to the peak from Church Fork in Mill Creek Canyon. For Summit Brew purposes, the easy way is the beer way. So with my beer stowed safely in my pack and the dog, Lucy, at my side, I headed up the Grandeur Peak Trail on a hot August day.
The path to the summit is always crowded. Visibility of the mountains from the valley is high, since Grandeur towers over I-80 as it snakes into Parley’s Canyon. The fact that it’s seen from most everyone’s back yard in the north end of the valley means it’s a peak almost everyone attempt to climb at some point, and on this day, it seemed everyone was there at once, despite the oppressive heat.
At first, the hike was pleasant as the trail winds through the forest along the bottom of Church Fork. A small creek runs down the center and several crossings give the dog ample time to splash, play and take a drink. In fact, the water source and open spaces make the Grandeur Peak Trail one of my favorite hikes for the dog. She flat-out loves it. Eventually though, the trail rises above the forest floor and into unshaded, steep switchbacks that lead to the ridge between Parley’s Canyon and Mill Creek. It was here that the heat hammered down, the dog started to lag, and a few boy scout troops led by sorely out-of-shape scout leaders struggled to make their way up.
I’ve flat-out ran up this trail before, but the temperature was so high that anything faster than a brisk shuffle invited heat stroke. The beer getting warmer in my pack was my only motivation, and the sweating bottle taunted me into continuing. Poor Lucy was so hot that no amount of water from my Camelbak slaked her thirst, and she frequently stopped under small patches of shade, refusing to go on (but eventually relenting to chase after me.)
Finally the trail leveled out at the saddle where it splits. The well-traveled left fork goes directly to the summit of Grandeur Peak. From here, the boot-tamped dirt gave way to rockier terrain with a few scrambling sections. Although the hike is easier than most peaks on the Wasatch Front, there are still areas where caution is mandatory. Only 1/2 mile along the ridge led me to the summit, where, amazingly and despite the crowds, I had the top all to myself. What luck! It seems Ullr was smiling down on me so I could enjoy a beer in peace with nothing but a sweeping view of the Salt Lake Valley below my feet and a slight breeze to cool me off under a blazing summer sun. It was time to break out the suds.
MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter IPA
On such a hot day, I wouldn’t usually pack an IPA. Generally, a lager or pilsner is far more quaffable than the hopped-up flavor explosion an India Pale Ale brings on. But seeing as how the MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter IPA has the word “summer” in the name, I figured it must be refreshing after a sweat-soaked hike. Turns out, not so much.
The MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter is a pretty typical IPA. It’s nicely hopped, has a strong malt base, and has enough alcohol to remind you that you’re drinking a beer. MacTarnahan’s, which is based out of Portland, Oregon, describes the Summer Grifter as, “a limited edition IPA for the summer whose cunning malt taste and hefty hop aroma will steal your attention and disappear in a wink!” It’s true that the hop profile is a bit different somehow, but overall I’d say the flavor is typical of the style.
Drinking the Summer Grifter starts out smooth, with a citrus-infused nose that you’d expect. While there’s not a whole lot of up-front hop smells coming off the head, it all punches you when swallowed. There’s even a hint of caramel, making it a sort of cross between an amber and IPA. In the glass, the color is a bit unusual for an IPA, with surprising amber, malty hues. The beer has an impressive, meaty head right after being poured, with tons of lacing on the inside of the glass. I’d say it’s a hearty IPA – a bit strange for a summer seasonal. While not the best IPA I’ve ever had, it’s still very good. The Summer Grifter is probably best consumed on cool summer evenings and not under the heat of the mid-day sun.
MacTarnahan’s Summer Grifter has a 54 IBU and is 6.2% ABV. For more information, visit www.macsbeer.com