Choosing a name for a brew can sometimes be as important as concocting the recipe (just ask the folks at New Belgium if they think the name “Fat Tire” hasn’t added to the marketability of their beer to cyclists). So Uinta Brewing struck a resounding note… or should I say “crash”, when they named their winter lager “Yard Sale”.
I don’t recall where I first tasted their gently spiced seasonal beer, but I know that no sooner had the title been uttered by my server, that I had made up my mind to try it.
Yard Sale accompanied me on a mid-February backcountry marathon that saw BrewSki and me spend over 7 hours touring an area between Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek Canyons in the Wasatch Mountains. We parked at the Spruces Campground, a common launch point for many skiers, and joined Mill D North Fork via a skin track that starts on the other side of the highway. I find this trail one of the more monotonous approaches in the Wasatch. It is mostly flat and my thoughts are dominated by the horror of skiing out on the icy track, but it does lead to a great variety of terrain. After you skin past the cabins, the vegetation becomes a mix of brush and mini-aspen, not the majestic groves of trees you get on a trail like Beartrap Fork, however, looking ahead you will see numerous uptracks leading to Tom’s Hill to the left or Short Swing on the right. Straight ahead is the patchy south face of Little Water Peak.
A mile and a half from the trailhead, we arrived at a junction where a trail heads northwest to Dog Lake and another journeys northeast to Lake Desolation. We headed left to Dog Lake and the path slowly gained elevation as it narrowed in between the north slopes of Tom’s Hill and the western flanks of Little Water Peak. At 8,700′, we reached Dog Lake and saw the almost entirely bare slopes of Reynolds Peak.
At 9,422′, Reynolds, while not a giant of the Wasatch, should not be taken lightly. We could see tracks on it’s beautiful east bowl but all agreed that skiing a line like that given the current avalanche conditions was a risky endeavor.
It took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to make Dog Lake, but with the whole day to ski, we were just beginning. Skinning up the steep, treed north ridge or Reynolds that points right at the lake, we reached our first summit of the day by 11am.
Our plan was to traverse west of the summit and ski down one of the gentle gullies that head down the peaks north aspect and into the upper reaches of Butler Fork. But first a summit brew.
There can be a lot of caution in my tongue when I first drink a winter seasonal. For many beers, that means lots of nutmeg, cinnamon or other spice notes. While those flavors do have their place, Yard Sale’s appeal is in its simple, hearty flavor that doesn’t overpower you with any single note. A little scrutiny reveals some caramel and light vanilla, but what I get most from this lager is a sweeter note that stays dry and has a slight hint of hops. The malt seems well rounded. Overall, the impression I have of this beer is, “not heavy”. Yard Sale keeps you drinking while having just enough winter character to feel unique.
After digging a snowpit and feeling pretty good about the snowpack on this aspect of the mountain, we skied about a thousand feet down through sparse pine and medium sized aspen on well-tracked but soft, north facing snow. As the pines gave way to more aspens, the bottom flattened out and a ridge on the northeast side of the drainage separated us from the Big Water Gulch in Mill Creek Canyon. We put the skins back on and continued with our tour with the first Yard Sale already out of the way.