Of course, no vacation would be complete without good beer, right? Luckily, I am happy to say, there is plenty of really good beer in and around the parks. We flew into Salt Lake City and hit the local Whole Foods to stock up before driving out to the parks. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a well-stocked section of local craft beer sold by the bottle, more so since it was a Sunday and I didn't think Utah allowed alcohol sales on Sundays. Uinta Brewing Co. and one from the Wasatch Brewery (as a biologist I couldn't resist their "Evolution Amber Ale"). From Uinta I grabbed one bottle each of their Hoodoo Kolsch, Wyld Extra Pale Ale, Cutthroat Pale Ale, Trader Session IPA, and Sum'r Blonde Ale. I don't have any detailed tasting notes from these beers, but they were all good. If anything, some of the Uinta beers may have been too malty and perhaps not quite dry enough. However, I would certainly not hesitate to have them all again. My one regret is not picking up a bottle of Wasatch's Polygamy Porter, which has a tagline of "Why have just one?". Brilliant.
I was also very impressed with the selection of beers available within the park. I had the opportunity to try a few beers that I had heard great things about but can't get at home. I was ecstatic to find Big Sky's Moose Drool and Deschutes' Black Butte Porter. Both were world-class and I wish I could find them around here. Red Lodge Brewery's Bent Nail IPA and Hefeweizen were also quite tasty.
Snake River Brewing and The Bird. We ate dinner at each place twice during our stay and everything we had - food and beer - were excellent. Of particular note was Snake River's Zonker's stout. Full of flavor - rich chocolate and coffee, without any harshness. Perfectly balanced. I've already sent them an email asking for info about brewing this beer. Not sure if I'll get a response, but if I do, this beer will jump to the top of my fall brewing. The Bird served incredible hamburgers and fries and their menu alone is worth reading (it was hysterical to hear my 11-year old daughter order the "Ghetto on a Good Day"). On top of the great food, this place served German beers on tap. I couldn't pass up the Reissdorf Kölsch, served in authentic 0.2L Kölsch glasses. Perfect way to wash down a juicy hamburger on a hot summer evening. If you're ever in Jackson, you have to check this place out (it's a locals joint, so you'll have to drive a bit out of downtown Jackson to find it).
Moulton Ranch is an old Mormon homestead, so I was surprised to find hops on the property. I spoke with the current owners and they weren't sure when or why the hops started growing there - they've "always been there" and they just let them grow up every year and don't do anything with them. The hops looked amazing and smelled wonderful. I thought about harvesting some (with permission, of course), but I wasn't sure if they were quite ready or if I really wanted to deal with it. Looking back, I now wish I had...how many people can say they've brewed beer with Mormon hops that were probably planted a generation or two ago? Guess I'm just going to have to go back someday!
<-- check out these hops!