Sunday, August 3, 2008

Desert oases

The mouse is back in the house, y'all! Thanks eversomuch for your patience: Mr. Mouse and I just had to get away for a bit. And what's the exact opposite of the humid Maine coastline? The arid Utah desert ... so that's where we went. Temperatures were higher than normal (mid-90s to low-100s in the deserts and the valleys; high 70s to mid-80s in the mountains) but since the humdity was around the 18% range, it truly wasn't that bad. I mean, 100+ is definitely hot but any sweat evaporates immediately, keeping you cool(-ish) and dry. Dehydration is an issue at those temperatures but we were careful and I think I drank more water than I ever have in my life. I also drank a really lot of beer, and have some new places to tell you about!

Moab Brewery, Moab, Utah. Moab is a small mellow town in the southeast of the state. It's full of outdoors outfitters as it's a jumping-off place for mountain-biking, hiking, rafting, OHVing (off-highway vehicles, a/k/a ATVs, dirt bikes and 4x4s), etc. We hiked in Arches National Park and along the Slickrock mountain bike trail, and took our rental Ford Fusion off-road in the La Sal National Forest ... ultimately getting lost and finding ourselves in the John Brown Canyon in Gateway, Colorado. Since Moab is a tourist-destination there are a ton of restaurants and bars, including the Moab Brewery which we went to twice. Mr. Mouse liked the Scorpion Pale Ale (not too hoppy); I tried the Deadhorse Ale (a traditional English mild ale) and the Derailleur Ale (amber). I do wish I'd tried the stout as it looked excellent, but it was just too damn hot outside to consider. The food is pretty good too: a typical brewpub menu with strong Tex-Mex tendencies.

Porcupine Pub & Grille, Salt Lake City. After hiking at the Albion campground above the Alta ski resort - up to a gorgeous little mountain lake surrounded by incredible wildflowers - we were exceedingly parched and had to stop at the Porcupine to recover. While not in fact a brewpub, they have 24 beers on tap and specialize in Utah's local suds, featuring brews from Moab, Squatter's, Red Rock, Rooster's, Wasatch, Park City and Uinta breweries. I had more Deadhorse ale (Moab) while Mr. Mouse quaffed some Uinta Cutthroat Pale Ale; we weren't terribly hungry but did try a cup of gazpacho and a bowl of chorizo and black bean soup, both of which were quite good but less spicy than we had hoped. The Porcupine is a great space, located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon (the road to Brighton and Solitude ski areas) and well-attended by both locals and tourists.

Desert Edge Brewery at the Pub, Salt Lake City. Located in funky Trolley Square, the upscale shopping center and national historical register site, this brewpub/restaurant has exceedingly uncomfortable barstools (designed so that you don't linger too too long, I presume) but good beer and food. We had fresh and tasty burritos and washed them down with pale and amber ales, respectively. The barstaff's t-shirts read "3.2 and proud of it" which is a reference to the low alcohol content of Utah beers; for those of us visiting from out of town, 3.2 means you can drink more before the buzz kicks in - which is not necessarily a bad thing when you're sipping tasty micros.

Note: the last picture is "Owachomo," the oldest bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument. Check out that blue sky.

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