Tom’s Hill may not be on the radar for hikers in the summer months, but come winter, this little mound in the center of Big Cottonwood Canyon’s Mill D South Fork is a popular backcountry ski area. Open spaces, glades, and low-angle slopes are the main features of this little knob amongst larger brothers like Reynolds and Little Water Peaks. But its diminutive size (9,040 feet) is what sets Tom’s Hill apart and makes it especially appealing during those high avalance danger days. Tom’s Hill is also an excellent location to bang out a quick Summit Brew with a local beer like the Moab Brewery’s Rocket Bike American Lager, which recently hit store shelves in tall-boy cans.
So it came to pass that Brewddah and I, along with our friend, Jake, parked in the Spruces campground parking lot and skinned up Mill D with Tom’s Hill in our sights. The avalanche danger was considerable that day, so it was prudent for us to ascend a mountain covered in low-angle, protected tree shots that anchor the snowpack.
The trail begins on the north side of the highway, across from the campground. From there, it winds its way up through a collection of summer cabins and A-frames. But before long, the path enters more pristine terrain filled with aspen groves, a small, frozen creek, and the southeast face of Tom’s Hill covered in scrub brush and small trees.
After about a mile and a half, we came to a fork at a sign that had seen better days. From past experience, I knew that it told travelers that the right fork continues on to Desolation Lake, while the left ascends to Dog Lake in Mill Creek Canyon. However, those directions changed to “Life” on the left and “Death” on the right. Lucky for us, Tom’s Hill was on the left, so we chose Life and continued on.
Soon after making our high-consequences decision, we found the correct skin track that disappeared into the pines enroute to Tom’s Hill. From there, the going was tough as the terrible snowpack our winter of 2011/12 had given us meant wallowing in sugary facets that our climbing skins found little purchase on. So we struggled up and cut new paths where it was easier for our skis to stick as we climbed up an open space of snow that leads directly to the summit.
Along with the faceted snow, we also dealt with bitter cold as Brewddah’s thermometer read 0-degrees – not exactly the kind of temperature that cries out for consumption of ice-cold beer atop a windblown peak. Nonetheless, we reached the top and took in the view of Mill D from on high and (with gloved hands) I pulled out my beer.
Moab Brewery Rocket Bike American Lager
I’ve long been a fan of the beers churned out from the Moab Brewery, and was especially fond of the Scorpion Pale Ale. But my favorite has always been their Steamer Lager, which wasn’t distributed to stores, and was difficult to find on tap unless you went to the brewery itself. Well, imagine my joy when I heard that the Moab Brewery changed their production line from bottles to cans, and are now stocking store shelves with their excellent steamer-style beer.
Labeled as the Rocket Bike American Lager, this steamer beer harkens back to the 1880s, before refrigeration was commonplace. Of course lager beers have to ferment at colder temperatures, so a special yeast strain was used in California that allowed a lager to ferment in warm temperatures. The result is known as a California Steamer, made popular by the Anchor Steam Brewing Company. Well, Moab’s version of the steamer lager is true to style as it’s malty, highly quaffable, very smooth and has no dank aftertaste. This is no ordinary yellow lager.
In the glass, the Rocket Bike pours a light amber color, made possible from the use of roasted barley. Ample lacing on sides of glass convey a beer that lasts with a semi-thick head oozing with a nice, Cascade hop aroma. The taste is very unusual as steamer beers have a distinct flavor which is far more yummy than a typical lager. In fact, I’d say Moab’s Rocket Bike is a rare species that tastes just as good in the can as it does in the glass. It’s the perfect post-skiing brew to enjoy while sitting on a tailgate in the sun.
So if you’re a fan of Anchor Steam, you’re likely to love the Moab Rocket Bike Lager as well. It comes in 4 packs of 16-ounce cans and is 4% ABV.
For more from the Moab Brewery, check them out at www.themoabbrewery.com