Mount Olympus. The name just oozes mythology and ancient history. But this Mount Olympus isn’t the god-inhabited peak of Greek lore. Instead, I unsheathed my glass bottle filled with Hop Notch IPA from Uinta Brewing and consumed it atop the Mount Olympus of the Wasatch Mountains – that jagged, double-summit hunk of quartzite that watches over the Salt Lake Valley as if gods really are chilling at the top.
It’s an annual tradition for many hikers to hump up the front side of the mountain, and it’s no wonder as Mount Olympus is one of the most prominent peaks on the Wasatch Front. The reddish color, twin peaks, and immediate rise from the valley with no foothills cluttering up the view is an irresistible lure. Olympus tops out at 9,026 feet, but has an impressive 4,800 foot elevation gain from the Salt Lake Valley floor.
With my Uinta Hop Notch in tow, I started up the steep Mount Olympus Trail, maybe to hang out with some Utah brew gods myself, and to give an offering to the ultimate god in lofty heights, Ullr, Norse god of snow.
The trail here is steep. It starts out steep and ends even steeper. There are no flat sections through meadows or forested glades. No, Mount Olympus demands that you suffer for the honor of reaching her wondrous summit. As such, the well traveled trail switchbacks along the front side of the mountain through rocks and scrub brush with no shade. The plus, is you gain elevation very fast – like over 4,000 feet in 3.1 miles, fast. Luckily on this day, fall temperatures kept things cool and the sun remained behind the mountain for much of the morning.
As I climbed, the initial switchbacks leveled off for a short distance as the path went deep into the split that cleaves the mountain in two distinct parts. The makeup of the hike changes here, as open desert gives way to shady groves of gamble oak and even a small stream. But before I entered the gloom, I stopped for a last look at the massive urban sprawl on the Salt Lake Valley below.
Once in the shady confines of the trees, the trail got steep once again. A practically straight up approach with dozens of boulders-as-staircases sections made the going slow and breath hard to catch. Gamble oak trees with sides worn smooth by thousands of hands grasping for support provided balance on especially tricky spots. Now and then, a view of the summit came into view, teasingly close, yet laughably distant as the path seemed to go deeper into the mountain in a never ending maw. But eventually, and finally, the trail topped out at the shoulder, where the Wasatch Range south of Olympus came into view like a curtain of granite.
As nice as the view was here, the real fun only started. To reach the top of Mount Olympus, a serious scramble up scree and slick rock was required. Although as a rock climber, I thought it was quite easy to navigate the cracks and ledges of the stone, but many people might have problems here, where a single slip and fall could be disastrous, and getting off route might involve a cold night followed by an appearance on local T.V. news when you get plucked off the mountain by search and rescue.
After rock stepping, and even crawling on all fours, I made my way to the very top of what is called “Summit Peak,” the southern most high point of the mountain. The top of Mount Olympus is nothing but a jumble of giant stone blocks strewn about as if the very gods themselves clashed in an epic battle here. There was little room to sit as level, flat rocks were few. But lucky for me, I had the entire place to myself, so I chose the best spot to hunker down on right next to an old mailbox filled with mementos and a summit register.
After signing my name and date, taking in the 360-degree view, and snapping off a few photos of a vista that stretched so far I could see the West Desert, I proceeded to perform my Summit Brew duties. I popped the top off my Uinta Hop Notch IPA, and enjoyed a beer with a the best view in Salt Lake County.
Uinta Brewing Hop Notch IPA
It’s about damn time Uinta came out with a standard American style IPA. They never had a typical India Pale Ale that’s stronger than their 3.2 Trader IPA (which I dislike) but not as head-busting as their wonderful Detour Double IPA from the Crooked Line. So it was with great relish that I drank my first Uinta Hop Notch at the top of Mount Olympus. The excitement of quaffing a brand new Utah IPA overshadowed the entire hike, and I was not disappointed.
Uinta’s Hop Notch makes me giddy, because it’s clear that brewmasters around the state and country are continuing to experiment with new hop varieties and combinations. Hop Notch is wonderfully complex and has a flavor unlike any IPA I’ve had before. The brew is extremely well balanced with a supportive malt backbone and hop profile that lacks in-your-face hoppiness, but makes up for it with plenty of flavor that encourages me to keep the taste in my mouth forever. Like most IPA microbrews, Hop Notch has a citrus nose with a hint of pine and grass. It almost seems like every hop flavor is swirling around in the bottle. The brain works overtime trying to decipher each subtle taste and scent that hides within the foamy head.
In the glass, color is a light copper with ample head that just oozes hop aroma and tastes thick and creamy. The head doesn’t disappear much over the course of drinking, and lacing sticks to the glass in layers of bubbly white. The brew tickles the tongue and goes down smooth without much bitterness, just hoppy goodness that makes my mouth happy. Finishes with a nice aftertaste where the hop flavors remain in the back of the throat, where I can taste them again every time I exhale.
Uinta hit this new beer out of the park. It’s a grade-A example of an American style IPA and I think it will quickly become one of Utah’s favorite IPAs.
Uinta Brewing Hop Notch IPA is 7.3% ABV and 82 IBU.
For more from Uinta Brewing, visit www.uintabrewing.com