A unique morning calls for a unique beer, and I found both atop Sugarloaf Peak with a Great Divide Rumble in my hand. Actually, this hike to the summit of Sugarloaf overlooking Alta’s Albion Basin was a downright strange trip, and made for a memorable Summit Brew.
The hike started out normal enough as I pulled my car into the Albion Basin parking lot at the trailhead. But as I was lacing up my hiking boots, a high pitched scream like a mountain lion being tortured, followed by a deep, grumbling roar echoed through the pine trees and off the cliffs of Devil’s Castle. I knew that moose frequent the campground in the summer, and figured they were just welcoming the rising sun, perhaps vocalizing their hunger as they grazed for breakfast. But as I began to hike up the trail, the roars and screams became more frequent, as if the moose were being attacked by a large cat. I gripped my trekking poles tighter, ready to defend myself lest an angry, antlered beast came to run me down.
But as I got higher into the basin, the sounds receded behind me. I could focus on the task at hand, which rose high above the wildflowers and meadows of this elevated alpine scene. Sugarloaf Peak revealed herself through a break in the trees, and I could see her summit clear in the blue morning sky.
As I ascended the switchbacks that lead to the crystal waters of Cecret Lake, the sounds of beasts in battle far below changed pitch, and the echoes revealed what they truly were – construction workers drilling at a home site above the campground. I felt silly thinking it was animal noises, but the sounds warped by trees, rocks and mountains before reaching my ear holes really did seem ominous and unleashed my imagination. Assured that the rest of my hike would go as normal, of course something even more weird soon occurred.
It happened as I was circling the lake in search of a faint trail that goes to the saddle between Sugarloaf Peak and Devil’s Castle. But as I searched, I noticed a black hump moving in the water. My heart raced. I imagined that it must be some ancient lake creature surfacing in the dawn hours when no humans are there to witness it. But as I sat on a boulder about 100 yards above the lake, I saw the hump was wearing goggles and an oxygen tank. “Seriously, am I living in a Fellini movie?” I thought. Was there actually a man scuba diving at 9,000 feet in the mountains? Indeed there was. Amused, and perplexed, I watched the wet-suited figure as he neared shore and started talking to a man I couldn’t see. Must have been a diving course, or perhaps a S&R diver looking for a missing person. But rather then investigate further, or continue back down to take a picture for proof of this hallucination, I left the brain-snapping vision behind and continued climbing. There was a beer in my pack, after all, and it was getting warm.
The faint trail was soon located after a bit of scrambling over rock fields and bushwhacking, and I was soon humping up a very steep and somewhat loose switchback section that rises up the north face of Sugarloaf Peak. Highly eroded sections of trail required some light-footed maneuvering, but before long I crested the saddle, which provided a good view into the backside of American Fork Canyon and Mineral Basin across the way. From there, a short jaunt up the rock-strewn ridge put me on top of Sugarloaf Peak at an elevation of 11,051 feet.
As I sat on some flat rocks on the summit, I could see Cecret Lake way down below, with a faint, barely moving black dot on the surface. The scuba man was still at it as I sat on top of a mountain. I couldn’t shake the contrast, and decided it was high time to drink, for beer ought to make my head orient straight. But still, this mighty brew called Rumble from the Great Divide Brewery in Denver Colorado, did little to normalize my already off-the-charts strange day.
Great Divide Rumble Oak Aged India Pale Ale
Like the rumble of my imaginary moose at the trailhead, Rumble from Great Divide also was not what I perceived. As soon as I popped the top, I expected to smell the usual aroma of a damn hoppy IPA. But instead, I got nothing. So I drank, and wow was the taste unusual! The Fellini movie was continuing to screen in my mind as this supposed IPA tasted unlike anything I drank before.
Reading the label, it’s clear that the beer is aged in oak barrels, but nothing could prepare me for this intense experience on the tongue. So I drank more, gave Ullr his share, and reveled in this plot with so many twists.
In the glass, Great Divide Rumble has an aroma that is easier to detect than in the bottle, but it’s still not strong. However, what notes that do come off the head are of light hops and oak, with the woody smells are far more prominent.
The beer pours a deep gold color that’s very clear with no haze. A good head disappears in little time but the beer continues to have nice carbonation long after it is poured.
But boy does Rumble live up to its name when quaffed, with a unique flavor that is very oak forward. When I think of oak beers, I usually imagine smokey flavors, but this oak is not smokey at all. Instead, it’s clean tasting, with an almost white wine and whiskey essence swirling around inside an American-style IPA. The effect is delicious, even though the oak seems to subdue any hop characteristics and bitterness, creating a smooth, balanced beer.
In the mouth, Rumble is quite bubbly, which makes me taste white wine even more. Maybe it’s simply the suggestion playing with my head as the beer is aged in French casks, but I swear the taste is there.
Overall, Rumble Oak Aged IPA from Great Divide Brewing is a unique take on an IPA that is soooooo tasty, and even fun to drink while trying to decipher all the complex aromas and flavors going on here. This seasonal brew is highly recommended if you can find it!
For more, check out Great Divide Brewing at www.greatdivide.com