Damn I’m ready for winter. That was the thought that bubbled up to my grey matter as I hiked up the slopes of Mount Millicent above Brighton Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was August, temperatures had been in the upper 90’s for weeks in the Salt Lake Valley, and escaping to the high elevations provided little relief. It was all made worse by the fact that I was hiking on ski slopes, where in a few months (not few enough) skiers and snowboarders would soon be shredding on lovely, frozen goodness. The only saving grace of this hike filled with summer’s torment was the cold bottle of Rogue Juniper Pale Ale waiting in my pack.
Mount Millicent and the hike to her summit started innocently enough. I thought going to her 10,452-foot summit would wrap me in cool mountain air, where I could spin with arms outstretched in a “the hills are alive with the sound beer in my pack” sort of way. But as soon as I meandered on the jeep road that switchbacks up the Millicent area of Brighton, I soaked myself in my own sweat. Ah well, “the summit awaits,” I thought, so I soldiered on in the hope that the higher I go, the cooler the air would get.
From the Brighton parking lot, the hike to the summit of Milly is pretty straightforward. One simply has to follow said jeep road until it reaches the base of Twin Lakes Dam. Today, it was more like “Twin Lakes Damn” as I really wanted to cool off in the lake’s water, but a sign on the trailside explicitly screamed, “no swimming.”
Oh was I tempted to cannonball naked into the lake’s clear surface, watershed restrictions be damned. But, like a good boy, I stayed fully clothed and headed left up a steep section of road until I reached the top of the new Millicent high-speed quad. A ski patrol shack off to the side was a good spot to take a breather and eat some energy gels to replenish all that lost salt currently filling my shirt and pack straps like a sponge.
From here, the real fun of the hike began as I followed the ridge directly to the peak. Not so simple though, was the fact that the ridge is covered in a huge jumble of boulders. While scree slopes and rock hopping often conjures images of granite slabs dislodging onto delicate, breakable body parts, the scramble up Millicent was actually pretty easy.
Most of the rocks stayed put (except for a few heart-stopping wigglers) which made jumping and crawling on all fours a rollickin’ good time. I even forget about the heat as my attention focused on balance and traction. Soon, there was no more up to ascend, so I found myself a nice place to sprawl among the scattered boulders, took in the view of Catherine Lakes, Brighton, the Wasatch Crest and Wolverine Cirque, and popped the top off my Rogue Juniper Pale Ale.
Rogue Juniper Pale Ale
When I saw a six pack of Rogue Juniper Pale Ale in a Colorado liquor store, I had to buy it and try it, mainly for the fact that I home-brewed my own juniper rye pale ale made from fresh juniper berries I hand picked on Gooseberry Mesa in Southeastern Utah on a recent mountain biking trip. I simply had to compare the two. Call it research and development for my homebrew ventures.
In any case, Rogue’s version did not disappoint, especially on a hot day atop a Wasatch Mountain peak. Also, this Newport, Oregon-based brewery had been a college-era favorite thanks to their Dead Guy Ale, so I was keen to try one of their more obscure offerings.
Rogue says this about their Juniper Pale: “A pale ale, saffron in color with a smooth malt balance, floral aroma with a dry spicy finish from whole juniper berries.” Sounds about right. Drinking one on a mountain was damn refreshing, even if it was cooking in my pack for over an hour. As far as pales ales go, this one is a bit less hoppy than I would like, with very little aroma on the head, and a somewhat thin flavor overall.
What bitterness that can be found is well balanced with the malts up front, but most of the zing happens when the beer is swallowed. Those juniper berries, while hard to detect on the tongue, are certainly present in the throat as a refreshing zing hits the palate like a cold gin and tonic.
In the glass, Rogue Juniper Pale Ale pours a light yellow color that looks more like a pilsner or lager. The effect is a very drinkable pale ale that’s ideal for hot summer days when one is dreaming of powder snow. Overall, I wish there was a more juniper taste up front as spice/herbal beer would require, but as it stands, it’s still a decent brew.
For more, visit www.rogue.com