About- Colin Clancy
Last weekend was not a craft beer lover’s dream for me. I was charged with bringing liquor to the Burbot Bash, a nighttime ice fishing derby on Flaming Gorge, on the Utah/Wyoming border. My buddy and derby teammate brought the beer. He went with Coors Lite.
When I headed to my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan for Christmas, a town so steeped in its microbrew culture that it has a semi-pro baseball team called the Growlers, I’d planned to write a beer showcase from Bell’s Brewing’s Eccentric Café, my old college stomping ground. But then I got to Bell’s and saddled up to the bar with some old friends.
The Winnebago Adventurer that I call home is parked 15 minutes from North America’s largest ski resort. This is no coincidence.
Since I bought my “Dirtbag Dreamship” last summer and parked it here October 1, the winterizing projects have been non-stop—fixing a broken furnace, heat-taping water hoses, insulating shit-pipes, installing a wood stove. But now these projects are done. It’s time for a beer, and the beer I choose tonight is King’s Peak Porter from Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Company.
Utah’s September muzzleloader buck deer hunt yielded, for me, the viewing of several beautiful sunrises, tons of squirrels, birds of prey attacking those squirrels, other orange-clad hunters, lots of does and one tiny spike buck that I thought about shooting for only a moment before letting him walk away unscathed. What it didn’t yield was any buck sizable enough to fill the freezer.
Now I sit here, in October, drinking an Allosaurus Amber Ale from Utah’s Vernal Brewing Co. I drink this tasty, medium-bodied amber ale next to a campfire in the Book Cliffs of Utah, where I’ve spent the last two weekends trying to make up for a failed deer hunt by trying in vain to fill my spike elk tag for the winter’s meat. We’ve seen some elk, but so far the only spike among them was in our neighbor’s campsite, already dead and being prepared to fill their freezer.
Halfway through today’s 16-mile mountain bike ride in the 95 degree heat of the Moab desert, I looked down to check my water bottles; things were definitely half empty. I looked in vain for a tree or rock that might offer a bit of shade for a short rest, and I told my friends, Charlie and Stacia, “I $%&#ing hate mountain biking.”
There’s no feeling quite like hearing the whir of your fly reel while the brown trout you’ve hooked makes a run—except for the feeling of drinking a tasty cold one with the fresh memory of landing that lunker. This Ultimate 6er, River Beers, keeps your thirst quenched before, during, and after a day on the water.
The April snowstorm that blanketed the Salt Lake Valley last week is the biggest I’ve seen since moving here in September. Admittedly it hasn’t been a great winter. Luckily I was able to take advantage of my employer’s powder morning policy, getting up to Brighton Resort for first chair and making a few last-week-of-the-season powder turns. The hardest part is leaving to head to work while the late-comers are still arriving to make their own tracks in my snow.
There’s a common misconception that you can’t get strong beer in Utah. In reality, you can get strong beer in Utah; you just have to jump through a hoop or two to get it. So when you finally do drive the ten miles to the state owned liquor store, at a time that it’s actually open, when you’re willing to pay the ridiculous prices for room temperature beer, you know the secret handshake you have to give the clerk, and you walk out of the place with a couple of mix and match six packs of beers like Uinta Brewing Company‘s 10.4% ABV Anniversary Barley Wine Ale, you tend to want to save a bottle or two to enjoy on a random week night. Well, my friends, tonight is one of those nights.
When I stopped at the Utah state-owned liquor store last night after a day on the slopes, the label of Epic Brewing’s Pfeifferhorn Lager stood out, what with its powder-covered peak imagery. Named after the 11,326 foot Pfeifferhorn Peak, a.k.a Little Matterhorn, which overlooks the Salt Lake Valley, this beer’s label proclaims that its namesake’s “craggy summit lures hikers and skiers year round.”
Among the numerous reasons that I enjoy writing for PorchDrinking.com is that it allows me to drink beer at the laundromat. Now, I’d typically shy away from popping the top on some suds in a place such as this, and surely there’s some legality issues at play (or at least some questions of decorum, especially here in Salt Lake City). But I feel that writing for a reputable, national beer blog like PD brings to my drinking some professional perspective, thus justifying this laundromat imbibing; I have a beer showcase due tomorrow, and I’ve been going commando, as they say, for damned near a week now.
For this public showcase I went with a beer from Midvale, Utah’s Bohemian Brewery. I chose their 1842 Czech Pilsner. Why? Because I enjoy this light-bodied golden lager? Yes. But also because the silver can, in the right light, looks like it could be full of off-brand soda, or as we call it in my home state of Michigan, pop.
I love big dumps, and any other skier will tell you the same thing. When it’s pouring rain on a January day where I work in Salt Lake City, you can bet that up in the Cottonwood Canyons it’s dumping snow. And that’s why I’ve been craving all day to get up there and get in a little night riding at Brighton, where the falling snow will mean free refills.
When I got to the mouth of the canyon, though, I wished the dumping had kept itself in check a bit, as the road leading up into Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed and packed with stopped traffic —no doubt an accident plugging up the tiny, winding mountain road leading to my goods. As much of a kick to the nuts a thwarted powder night is, I take consolation that my favorite SLC bar, the Hog Wallow, is right at the base of the canyon. It especially makes me happy that the Wallow serves my favorite Utah beer, Cutthroat Pale Ale from Uinta Brewing Company.
Owning a mountaintop cabin would be sweet, but having friends who own a mountaintop cabin is a whole lot cheaper. My friends who share their cabin also share their beer, and I’m happy that brew happens to be Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Porter. Nah, I’ll pass on multiple wives, but I could definitely enjoy a few of these beers. Brewed in Salt Lake City, Polygamy Porter is exceptionally smooth, with a nice malty bite, and a roasty, toasty finish.
Yeah, a nice craft beer sipped from a fancy glass is great, but sometimes a little neoprene sleeve around a classic can of suds is even better. The koozie keeps your beer from getting warm and your hand from getting cold. More importantly though, it gets you out of the house, out of the bar, just drinking good beer with good friends with a fun bit of squishy love between your hand and the can. I give you my Ultimate 6er, the beers and the best places to drink them, Koozie Doozies:
Wasatch Brewery’s Provo Girl Pilsner is a beer showcase that I do not want to write. Why? Because I just spent the day shooting grouse with my good buddy Charlie, who moved to Utah a year before I did to fight fires and occasionally dress up as Smokey the Bear at rodeos. We had some wild nights together as members of Northern Michigan University’s Moosemen Rugby Football Club, and we just spent a day shooting birds and wandering around the Ashley National Forest in Utah’s Uinta Mountains (we didn’t get lost —we just didn’t quite know how to get back to camp). Sitting here by the campfire under some amazing stars with our tired pooches at our feet, writing in a notebook might ruin it.
The best part about sitting in the bleachers of a minor league ballpark in the rain, watching the grounds crew mess with the giant tarp is the fact that the delay makes more time for beer drinking. Luckily, as messed up as a lot of Utah’s beer distribution laws are, the Salt Lake Bees serve good craft beer in addition to the 3.2% Bud Lite piss-water that is more appropriate for sprinkling the outfield grass than it is for human consumption. I’m really glad that the Bees serve Evolution Amber Ale from Wasatch Brewery, giving me the opportunity to try it for the first time.
Uinta Brewing Company – Detour Double IPA
As I celebrate my 30th birthday in a rented trailer on the banks of Utah’s Weber River, drinking a Detour Double IPA from Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Company, I find it hard to believe that nine years have passed since my 21st. I’m glad tonight that I’m not drinking countless car bombs and tequila/tabasco shots at the Bayview and then barfing them out the window of my own Jeep as my friends drive me home, though beers at the Bay on Michigan’s Gull Lake do sound pretty nice.
I stopped at the nonsensically-regulated state of Utah-owned liquor store on my lunch break for some celebratory beer and chose a four pack of the 9.5% Detour Double IPA. Why? Because I like hops? Maybe. Because the label features a sweet, stylized Airstream trailer, and I live in a less-sweet, but still kind of cool trailer? Probably.
In preparing for my recent move from Michigan to Utah I had grand plans of bringing along cases and cases of hand selected Michigan microbrews. But then as I looked at my piles of stuff and the tiny little trailer that was supposed to carry it all, I had to reason with myself a little bit and cut back. As I put the Great Lakes in my rearview I did make one stop. I allowed myself one little six pack, and Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale was the easy choice.
Wedged between the three Greatest of the Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, and Huron and Wisconsin and Canada lies a strange and mystic land called the Upper Peninsula. Many people don’t know that the Upper Peninsula, the U.P, even exists. It’s a beautiful place full of waterfalls, dense forests, and miles and miles of rugged shoreline, but it’s not for everyone. Harsh winters and a definite remoteness make Yoopers a special breed of people. Yoopers are tough, prideful, and stubborn, sometimes to the point of idiocy. Having moved from the U.P. a few weeks ago, I’m getting settled into my new Utah home, but I miss the Yoop every day.
I’m sitting here in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, sipping on a Pick Axe Blonde Ale from Keweenaw Brewing Company. There’s snow on the ground, and I just hacked down a tree with a hatchet for the bonfire. I’ve got some good friends with me, and our dogs are chasing each other in circles.I’m counting on my pooch’s body heat to keep the tent warm tonight.
This camping trip is a going away party of sorts.
Blackrocks Brewery, in Marquette, Michigan, named themselves after the cliffs just north of town that people hurl themselves off into icy Lake Superior. They opened a few years ago in a two-story house with their brewing setup in the kitchen and live music just about every night.