Big Mountain paired with New Belgium Red Hoptober

Big Mountain. The name suggests a massive massif, when it’s really just a small peak (8,472 feet) among much larger high points of the Wasatch. But while the mountain doesn’t quite live up to its name, the history of the place makes this sub-standard summit more than worthy of a quick morning hike, especially with a beer in tow, like New Belgium’s Red Hoptober.

“This is the place.” It’s a quote made famous by Brigham Young when he stood upon a high point near Emigration Canyon in 1847 and declared the Salt Lake Valley to be the place where Mormon pioneers would settle. But those pioneers really got their first glimpse of their future home from Big Mountain Pass. From there, a short hike up to the summit was all scouts needed to spy the valley far below, and figure out a way for their handcart brethren to get there.

Today, Big Mountain is a pleasant hike that is short, but provides for the same sweeping views these early pioneers saw long ago. On this SummitBrew trip, it was a warm, autumn day, when the leaves were just beginning to change, hinting at the inevitable coming of winter snows. After driving up Parley’s Canyon and turning north on the East Canyon exit, I drove 8 miles and parked my car at the dirt lot atop Big Mountain Pass. After gearing up, I crossed the road to the west where the trail begins.

A few steep switchbacks lead to low-angle hiking that traversed the north side of the ridge, where excellent scenery fell below my feet toward Emigration Canyon. A vast view of the central Wasatch Range dominated the horizon as the trail curved around and eventually topped out on the ridge where I got my first view of Big Mountain’s summit.

The trail meandered here through scrub oak and bushes, but soon emerged just below the peak. It seemed an easy task to just clamber up the side of the mountain from here, but the trail did curve around to the north before an easy, less steep option revealed itself that went directly to the top.

The summit of Big Mountain was a barren plot of land with a few flat rocks and an old campfire ring where broken glass and bottle caps were littered among the lichens and moss that inhabit these above-treeline spots. About a million flying ants also seemed to dwell here, but didn’t mind my presence.

It was a sweet spot to scope out future summits to climb, like Grandview and Lookout Peak toward City Creek Canyon and Bountiful. With that, I opened my brew and toasted those hearty Mormon pioneers, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be living in this awesome place full of mountains, skiing and immense amounts of powder snow, for which I prayed to Ullr with beer in hand.

New Belgium Red Hoptober

The hunt for Red Hoptober is over! Ever since my uncle (who works for a beer distributor in California) gave me an awesome t-shirt promoting New Belgium’s current fall seasonal, Red Hoptober, I’ve been dying to get my hands on a sixer. Well, a trip to Colorado took care of that search, and the wait was well worth it.

Red Hoptober boils down to one word: roasty. This tasty brew is covered from head to toe in roasted malts that evoke flavors like toast, caramel, and sweet chocolate. It’s a delicately balanced beer that really lets the roasted malts stand up front. Definitely a fall-type flavor, this beer makes me think of dead leaves crackling underfoot, corn mazes, and chilly evenings spent in the backyard at a barbecue.

In the glass, Red Hoptober pours a deep red color, a perfect compliment to all those haunted houses that pop up all over the place this time of year. Like a vampire, you can pretend you’re drinking hoppy blood… or not. Up front the beer has a moderate bitterness with a very subdued hop flavor that just hints at citrus and pine. Aroma-wise, there’s not much hop smell on the head, nor do hops overpower when swallowed. There is a very nice amount of thick head after pouring, with lacing on the sides of the glass that sticks like a damn Victorian curtain.

Overall, New Belgium’s Red Hoptober is a full bodied, almost bready brew with caramel notes. The style is very much a heavy red or amber ale, and honestly, preferable in my opinion to New Belgium’s most famous flagship amber, Fat Tire. What a great beer to drink atop a summit while looking at the red leaves on the mountain trees!

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