On a previous Summit Brew trip, I hiked to the top of Mount Wire with the Kilt Lifter from Pike Brewing out of Seattle. Well, there’s another Kilt Lifter beer out there, courtesy of Four Peaks Brewing Company, located in Tempe, Arizona. So with this Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale from the American Southwest in my pack, I decided to hike another Salt Lake foothills peak; this time Mount Van Cott, Mount Wire’s neighboring peak to the north.
Mount Van Cott
Mount Van Cott is an unassuming mountain with a summit elevation of 6,348 feet that looms over the University of Utah, directly behind University Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. While Mount Van Cott is small in stature, it’s still a worthy hike for a morning or late afternoon and can be accomplished in less than two hours on a good day.
There are many ways to the top of the mountain thanks to the urban masses scrambling to the top, bush-whacking up in the most direct way possible. But for this Summit Brew, I needed to find an easy way, following the path of least resistance to avoid any unnecessary workout. So with my dog, Lucy, in tow, we parked in a tiny parking lot above the Jewish Community Center by the U, and hiked up the old jeep road toward Dry Creek Canyon in search of a leisurely path to the top.
Turns out, the easy way is the most obvious and well traveled, though perhaps difficult to navigate with the plethora of side trails that spiderweb around the Bonneville Shoreline Trail above the city. Basically, after following the jeep double track up a bit, a steep trail on the right appears and links up with the Shoreline Trail. A left turn took us up toward the foot of the mountain. At a critical juncture, however, a left turn onto a singletrack trail is the key, as continuing right will only allow you traverse on the Shoreline toward Emigration Canyon. We chose this singletrack which soon widens as it switchbacks straight up the side and follows the ridge all the way to the top of Mount Van Cott.
Following the ridgeline was actually an awesome hike. The low angle slopes meant an easy stroll with good views looking down into Dry Creek to the north. On this day, a fresh dusting of snow covered the land, but left the trail dry. The city spread out below, but a thick fog shrouded it in white while it muffled all urban sounds. The effect felt like Mount Van Cott was remote, a mountain hidden among swirling clouds and frost.
As we neared the top, I decided that a Scottish style ale like the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter was very appropriate for the setting. I imagined I was on a walkabout in the Scottish Highlands, cutting through fog on ancient, crumbling mountains for the chance to drink a fine brew. And when Lucy and I topped out on Mount Van Cott with noting but a damp cloud as company, the Kilt Lifter may as well have been playing bagpipes.
Four Peaks Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale
As I drank my Kilt Lifter, I was amused by the contrast of foggy Scottish Highlands meeting the convection-oven Arizona desert by way of this Scottish Style Ale from Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe. It may seem an odd regional pairing, but the Kilt Lifter is actually the brewery’s flagship beer, and has the distinction of being the brew that made them famous. In fact, Four Peaks implies that Kilt Lifter may even have been brewed by men wearing kilts, which makes me wonder if hairnets are even available for… you know… down there.
Four Peak Brewing Company first brewed Kilt Lifter in the 1990s, in comparison to Scotland’s brewing history that dates back 5,000 years. The style is supposedly distinguished by its malty rather than hoppy flavors because of the Celtic tradition of using bittering herbs while everyone else in Europe was brewing with hops. However, this assumption is disputed by historians of the beer persuasion who claim the Scots imported many hop varieties from around the world, and brewed their libations with just as many hops as the Brits. Despite all that, modern American “Scottish Style Ale” is generally determined as an ale brewed with less hops to create a more malty flavor.
I’m going to let the experts haggle over the finer points of Scottish Style Ale history and instead focus on the Kilt Lifter itself. My intrigue over the beer was sparked by a mental image of thatched huts filled with bearded men pouring foamy grog into leather goblets to a soundtrack of dissonant bagpipes. So I decided to take a look under the hood, er… kilt to discover for myself if this Scottish Style Ale has an impressive constitution, or simply goes limp.
Turns out there aren’t many big surprises under this yeasty, plaid man-skirt. Upon pouring the brew into a pint glass, I first noticed the deep amber, almost copper color topped by about a finger of head. The foam disappeared quickly but left behind a clean, malty nose.
Taste-wise, the beer had a lively carbonation on the tongue coupled with a slightly sweet flavor. Toasty and somewhat nutty notes comprised an aftertaste that went down smooth with a clean finish, leaving just a touch of bitterness behind thanks to 21 IBUs. Ho! There’s hops in there after all!
The Kilt Lifter isn’t as full bodied as other Scottish style ales I’ve consumed over the years, but the beer makes up for that with its drinkability. After all, who wants to down a heavy beer while sweltering in the unbearable Arizona heat anyway? This session-like quality resulted in my research being moved to the backyard where three Kilt Lifters were downed in an afternoon. And with an ABV of 6.0%, the Kilt Lifter imparted a feeling of manliness (much to the chagrin of my neighbors) that would make a face painted, sword-wielding Mel Gibson proud. The only thing missing was a leather goblet in my gauntlet-clad hand.
Kilt Lifter is available in six-pack bottles all over Arizona, and can always be found on tap at the Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe, Arizona. For more, visit www.fourpeaks.com