Long live IPA in cans. The style is easily my favorite to consume, and by having it available in cans, it’s all the more easy to transport in a pack when climbing to the top of lofty mountain summits. The beer gods must have smiled upon me when I joined my friends on a backcountry skiing yurt trip in the Tushar Mountains, and found that my Uncle Tim brought along a few cases of New Belgium Ranger IPA. With a can of this hoppy goodness firmly tucked away in my pack, Adam and I set out to climb and ski the Great White Whale.
The Great White Whale is actually an unnamed peak found on Topo maps as Point 11526. But local skiers dubbed it the Great White Whale, perhaps due to its broad summit that resembles the humped back of a giant whale. Rather than be obsessed by our personal Moby Dick, we decided to bag ‘er first before moving on to more prominent mountains like Delano and Shelly Baldy.
We started our tour from the Snorkeling Elk Yurt after a full morning of skinning to it under heavy packs. The Snorkeling Elk Yurt is one of two yurts run by Alec Hornstein of Tushar Mountain Tours, who met the six of us at the trail head on Big John Flat Road with his snowmobile (which we reserved exclusively to haul up cases of New Belgium and Sierra Nevada beer.) Loaded down with heavy packs, we slowly made our way up the low-angle road to the yurt. In just over two hours, we arrived and settled in.
Our group of 7 soon dwindled to 2, however, as Adam and I were the only ones willing to explore the Tushars after such a long slog to the snow shelter. Leaving the others behind (and hoping there would be any beer left when we returned) we set out, skinning up through a forest of old pines to a ridge that afforded us a sweeping view of Mount Holly, Delano Peak, and the Great White Whale sitting in the foreground between them. A short ski into the next valley over put us at the foot of the mountain where we headed up into a canyon between the south face of Delano and the north side of GWW. It was an efficient route that rose to the high alpine, affording us fantastic, above treeline views of the range. From the upper canyon, a short climb up to a saddle, then a bootpack south over grassy meadows put us on the top.
The vistas just about made taking photos mandatory, and awe filled our minds as we made imaginary turns on skiable lines spread out around us. We had three more days to explore it all, and got down to it by skiing the Great White Whale. But first we had to Summit Brew this white beast with that cold can of New Belgium’s Ranger IPA.
New Belgium Ranger IPA
Ranger IPA is probably the very first India Pale Ale I ever drank straight from a can. As a self-professed beer snob, I was skeptical at first, being sure that it would taste like crap if the brew couldn’t breathe. If there was no foam, how on earth could all those hoppy aromas tickle my nostrils? The very thought seemed wrong. But then I tried it… and was pleasantly surprised. All the hoppy goodness was in tact, and drinking from a can meant I could take an IPA wherever I went.
New Belgium’s version of an IPA is also ideal for that aluminum container because it seems lighter than most. Rather than a strong, malty backbone melded perfectly with a deep hop profile, I think Ranger is more thin with nothing but hops right off the bat. The effect makes this beer more easily drinkable and refreshing while not skimping on full flavors – just what this hop-head looks for in a warm-weather beer in a can.
The flavor is about what you would expect from an IPA – lots of citrus and pine tastes. It also tastes a bit sweeter than normal, as if they put honey or a bit of sucrose in it. It was hugely enjoyable atop the Great White Whale on a warmish day in the Tushar Mountains! Put me in such a good mood that I even let Adam take a few pulls from the can.
As for the ski down-post brew, Adam chose a steep line on a ribbon of snow while I set up across a small sub-peak to get a good photo. Dropping in, Adam made a series of short turns on hard-yet-edgeable spring corn, framed by a massive view of the Tushars behind. I soon followed, catching up with Adam at the bottom where we made fast turns back to our pine ridge and the yurt waiting below.