Desperate times in the Wasatch. If you are a skier living in Salt Lake this year, you know what I’m talking about. We are really jonesing for snow. The “day count” for BrewSki and I lags well behind last season as we frantically try to get our fix on any patch of white in the surrounding mountains. For those of you unaware, this has been the worst ski season since 1976. Considering my birth in April of that year post-dates the start of the ’75-76 ski season, saying this is the worst ski season I’ve experienced is warranted– and that includes 23 years in the icy purgatory of Wisconsin and New York.
While carving and scraping our way down the bulletproof, brown stained snow frustrates me to know end, I’m still trying to take this in stride. So what does one do? Well, you ski on… but you find other ways to make it worth your while. For BrewSki and I, that involved skinning up Grizzly Gulch in Little Cottonwood to “summit” Patsy Marley Ridge and have an Epic Hopulent IPA.
Epic stands as one of my favorite Utah breweries, but with all of their beers coming in 24 ounce bottles, it’s been rare that an Epic has joined me on a summit. Considering Hopulent’s 9% ABV, you can see why we reserved this beer for a joint venture.
Patsy Marley Ridge (and yes, I realize that calling this a “summit” might be stretching the standards of SummitBrew somewhat) lies at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon and can be approached by Grizzly Gulch. The ridge creates the eastern dividing line between Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons just beyond Alta. Alta normally grooms a trail on the boundary of their resort that you can skin up to avoid the narrow gulch at the bottom, but after you get above the homes on the side of the hill, follow the powerline into the trees. The skin track is fairly obvious. From there, we headed to Twin Lakes Pass, just above Brighton, and cut straight south on the ridgeline to approach the top of Patsy Marley.
The top of Patsy Marley is just over 10, 500′ with a few skiable lines, even in a good year. We commonly ski the north face that drains back into Grizzly and normally holds good snow. The west face is rocky and barely has enough snow to make it worthwhile. The east side of the ridge drains into the Wolverine Cirque and is also a little rocky.
However, like most summits in the Wasatch, the view struck me in a happy place no matter which direction I looked. And when we pulled an Epic beer out of my pack, it got even better.
The wind, usually a full blown gale, was calmer than normal and the smog in the valley below seemed so far away. Here we were touching the blue sky and sharing a beer with Ullr, the Norse god of snow and hoping he would grant us a few storms.
Hopulent pours out of it’s oversized brown bottle and tops the cloudy orange body with fairly thick head. The color of the beer is dense, almost milky and a deep inhale of the glass carries a little sweetness along with the bitter hop aroma. The creamy head rewards you and contrasts nicely with the consistent hop flavor. There is no receding or building in the sips. This beer brings a steady, bitter flavor all the way through. As I told Brewski while we were drinking, “This beer doesn’t leave any doubt that it means business, but it does it without slamming you in the face.” The hoppiness is not overwhelming. Notes of lemon are followed by a buttery finish that rounds the sip out nicely. There are many local brews featuring a higher than normal hop content, but this one has been my favorite so far because it seems to maintain a drinkable quality. Brewski and I completed our shares of the beer after pouring some out for Ullr and set down the mountain. The snow on the north face of Patsy Marley left a little to be desired, windblown and crusty, but the beautiful day and great beer made for a rewarding summitBrew none the less.