Thursday, January 05, 2017

Best of Utah Beer Awards

2016 was without a doubt, a tumultuous year. No matter where you fit on the political/social/cultural spectrum, your world got rocked in major ways. Thankfully the little craft beer hobby that many of us share has kept our minds and bodies happy and satisfied. Our friends, relatives and neighbors in Utah's Craft Beer industry have been keeping us stocked with great locally made ales and lagers designed for all pallets. There's a lot out there and I thought it might be nice to highlight some of the brightest moments from Utah's brew houses. So for the the first time ever, I'd like to present to you the Best Of Utah's Beer Awards.

These are just some of my personal favorites beers from 2016. Just to be clear, I'm just one asshole with an opinion. Your experiences will obviously differ and I invite you to share your locally made 2016 highlights as well.

1. Standard Pilsner - RedRock Fröhlich: Clean, toasty and hoppy. Low on sulfur this traditional German lager begs to be enjoyed over and over.

2. India Pale Lager - Mikey's Citra IPL: I have a horse in this race so I asked a five unbiased beer nerds to choose which IPL they found to particularly excellent in 2016. Their consensus was that 2 Row's Mikey's IPL was their favorite with RedRock's CoHOPeration a close second.  

3. Amber Lager - Hoppers Stein Knocker Marzen: The nose is of vanilla, earthiness, caramel, and a slight fruitiness. The taste begins on a caramel malty note, evolving to a vanilla/malt note, and then finishing with a clean and edgy orange peel dryness that cleanses the palate just as the malt elements start to compound and sticks around. Crisp and clean.

4. Dark Lager - Squatters Black Forest Schwartzbier: The nose is of roasted malt, ash, and semi-sweet chocolate. The taste follows the aroma with nice roasted malt, followed by coffee and chocolate flavors with a slight metallic dryness. The finish has a light malt bitterness.

5. Strong Lager - Bohemian Czechulator Dopple Bock: The nose is nutty, chocolate, clean notes of malty sweetness. Some toffee and caramel in there as well. The flavor starts off similarly with some notes of traditional chocolatey, nutty, and toffee malts. As the flavor develops on the palate, though, I get some berry sweetness towards the end. Easy drinking and enjoyable.

6. German Wheat - Proper Mabon Wwizenbock: The aroma is sweet and malty with some spices (clove), banana, and yeast. There is no sign of alcohol in the nose whatsoever. The taste is equally as good as the aroma. The taste starts out with a lot of sweetness with some wheat and banana. The clove flavors come in next along with some yeast and a touch of warmth from the alcohol in the finish.

7. American Wheat - Talisman The Kreation Krystalweizen: Bready and toasty nose. The taste follows with bread and crackers. There is a bit of raw grain in back as well along with a bit of doughy yeast. Light and refreshing.

8. English Bitter - Bonneville Railton Special Bitter: A sweet nose of floral hops and caramel, somewhat dusty. A nice quaffable flavor with distinct sweet and somewhat bitter hops, dry caramel malts, light fruit. Highly crushable.

9. Brown Ale - Strap Tank Dirty Politician: This has a toasty and nutty nose. The taste has notes of cocoa with toasted pecans semi-sweet malts and pumpernickel. Damn delicious!

10. Pale Ale - Desert Edge Citra Rye Pale: This is quite a nice pale ale, Citra hops give it a tropical fruit nose that is full of passion fruit, peaches and mangoes with a malt profile that has that nice spicy, rye kick.

11. Red Ale - 2 Row Random Red Rye: Look for citrus and pine in the nose. The taste follows with a semi dry malt sweetness and more citrus peel and pine. The rye comes through in the end adding a nice spiciness. Tasting notes can change for this beer - it is Random after all.

12. IPA - 2 Row Random IPA: Yep. Another nod for 2 Row. These guys are killing it in the IPA Department. The winning version of Random featured Falconers Flight Hops. This is a proprietary hop blend of various NW hops. It's very fruity with great citrus bitterness. There were many winners of similar hop profiles, but this one was exceptional.

13. DIPA - Epic Imperial IPA Single Hop Mosaic: 2 Row isn't the only place killing it with IPAs. This special version of Imperial IPA has a nose that is sharp with citrus zest and big, bold pine. The taste is fruit salad. With orange, lemon, and grapefruit - all fresh and in your face. Some floral hops flesh things out, until the unassuming caramel malt supporting act kicks in. Whoa!

14. Barley Wine - Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine: I've been drinking this beer since Uinta has been making it. I enjoy a good, hoppy barley wine and this one still fits the bill. The nose is of burnt oranges, warm caramel malts, heavy toasted breads with pungent hops that produce pine and citrusy overtones. Earthy notes cinder behind most of the hop twinge in the nose. The taste started with hops up front, bittering with pine and dark citrusy stuff of orange and highly ripe peaches, malts play second fiddle with burnt caramel and toffee, crispy biscuit toasty edging, touches of chocolate, brown sugar, and then turns back to a hoppy finish of pine and citrus orange.

15. Common/Steam - Moab Rocket Bike: The nose is dry with bready malts and a bit of floral hops. The taste is quite nice. Starting with a great balance of malts with a short sweet bread notion, hops mildly enter with grasses and dull floralness, a bit earthy. Feel stays wet and loose with a light creamy dryness. This is an interesting take on a steam beer. Most breweries let the lager yeast and Northern Brewer hops meld to create the main flavor characteristics. Moab has brought out a smidge more malt character in this steam beer. Exellent!

16. Porter - Epic Galloway Porter: The nose is huge with roasted malt and coffee, a light toffee sweetness is also notable . Taste starts with a good dose of roasted malts. Dark cocoa notes come next providing a minor sweetness. The end is cappachino-esque. The finish is similar, with some residual hop bitterness. This is a nice, medium-bodied porter. Sadly, I hear this beer is going bye-bye for 2017. No! 

17. Stout - Talisman Iron Age: The nose has coffee, roasted malts. Taste has some coffee-esque flavors up front, some oats are present, a touch of chocolate. There's a slight sourness in the finish which is typical for the style. Nice, straight-up stout.

18. Imperial/Specialty Stout - Vernal Not Your Mama's Milk Stout: The nose is sweet with light chocolate and coffee notes - like a rich coffee drink. The taste with huge sweet lactose and chocolate followed by some balancing roasted malts. After you get past the lactic sweetness the coffee notes become more assertive. The end has some bitter cocoa and hint of black malts. Damn! I was really taken aback by how damn drinkable this 8.5% beer is. It's so drinkable and smooth on the palate, you'd swear it was in the 6% range. Highly recommended.

19. Kettle Sour/Sour Mash - Uinta Flamingose: Again, a very hard category for me to choose. The flavors in this beer kept me coming back to it, every time it was available. The pineapple sweetness works too well with the lemony base of the Gose. The added salt provides a nice balance. My lips are smacking already!

20. Wild Ale - Brett Sea Legs: We have a lot of great wild ales made locally, and I enjoy them all. This one slipped right in, under the wire and was a huge surprise, just edging out the others. This starts as a dry roasty beer with a tiny bit of earthy char that quickly transitions into a complex blend of malt and vanilla. This all combines nicely with the brett's tart plumb, cherry and lemon finish. Wow, wow and wow. 

21. Belgian Ale - RedRock Gineva: This category is very broad, but Gineva has a broad drinkabilty that made it stand out. A lot of juniper berries in the nose. The taste starts with coriander with a bit of tart juniper. The end moves to the yeasty side a big phenolic flavors take over. Would have liked to had a little more of the berry present, but all and all a really tasty ale..

22. Strong Belgian - Shades of Pale Saint Blackout Tripel Ale: It has a wonderfully peachy and pear fruitiness with banana and clove backing it up. Spicy Bubblegum rounds out the finish. Nice tree fruit flavors with none present in the brew.

23. Historical Beer -Proper Gruit: As you suck down this Belgo-fruited/herbal tea ale you can actually picture yourself centuries ago, swilling from your beer horn as Jebus trots by on his pet Velociraptor, Kenny. Gleefully gallivanting across the Franco-Roman hillsides.  

24. Fruit Beer - Tangerine Hop Nosh: Normally this beer would have been either a Wheat Beer or Belgian. Not this year, it's all about fruity pale ales and this one is a tasty winner. The best part about this beer is that you get all of the IPA with complimenting (real) tangerine fruit. Another nice thing about this beer is that when the hops start to turn, the citrus picks up the slack.  

25. Spiced Beer - Roosters Rosemary Porter: When I first tried this beer many, many moons ago I wasn't too sure about the combo. I was pleasantly surprised. The rosemary is a natural compliment for the roasted and caramel notes found in the porter. It especially excels during the holiday months. It's also nice to see it in the grocery stores.

26. Field Beer - Epic Pumpkin Porter: There were quite a few pumpkin options this year, but the best by far was Epic's revamped Pumpkin Porter (formerly Fermentation without Representation). The nose is huge with pumpkin, squash, ginger, cinnamon, chocolate, roasted malt, clove and caramel. The taste of big with chocolate, roasted malt, pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon, ginger, light coffee, clove, and spices. Fair amount of bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of pumpkin, chocolate, caramel, roasted malt, clove, and spices on the finish for a bit. Medium carbonation and body; with a nice creamy mouthfeel

27. Smoked Beer - RedRock Franconian Rauchbier: These are tough beers to make and even tougher to sell to uneducated beer consumers. There are only a handful of local breweries producing them, RedRock has two. RedRock's Beer Yogi, Kevin Templin has produced an hommage to Bamburg, Germany's signature beer. It's smokey - but not too much so, with a complimenting malt base that creates a ghostly warming effect. It's worth your time. 

28. Barrel Aged - Epic Big Bad Baptista: Think "Horchata Beer" and you'll begin to get a sense of what this beer is all about. Pours black with a tan head. The nose has big cinnamon with vanilla and dark caramel in the back. The taste starts lightly sweet with cinnamon, vague spices and dark cocoa. Coffee comes next with vanilla adding some cappuccino qualities. Subtle barrel notes round out the back end. Full bodied with a smooth, creamy feel. Complex and tasty. An honorable mention goes to Shades of Pale's Gin Barrel Aged Pale Ale. The juniper and spruce notes from the barrel really made for a remarkable barrel aged beer.

29. Experimental Beer -Uinta 801 Coffee Pilsner: It's no easy feat to take two complete opposites and turn them into a cohesive flavor combination. Uinta managed to pull it off with their Coffee Pilsner. It retains the golden clarity of the base 801 Pils and adds the sweet roasted character of a cappuccino. 

30. Cider - Mountain West Hard Cider's Ruby: There are only two places in the market that make hard ciders - The Hive Winery and Mountain West Hard Cider. Between the two they've produced about a dozen ciders, but only one really stood out to me. Ruby. It pours a brilliantly clear golden color with a nose of dry apple. The taste follows the nose with subtle apple sweetness combined with some minor green apple tartness. Finishes nicely dry. This is my kind of cider. Brilliant!

These are my picks, I had to combine too many subcategories into one to get this list of thirty beers. What were some of your favorite local standouts from 2016? I'd really love to know!  

Cheers!

2 comments:

Shane in SLC said...

The Proper Mabon gets my vote for best new beer in any category from a Utah brewer in 2016. These are all good choices; I've got to make a greater effort to try the offerings from the non-Wasatch Front breweries like Bonneville, Vernal, etc.

kent said...

Great list. There were so many standout beers this year. I'm sure it was brutal narrowing them down. If I was to pick my overall favorite beer for the year, it was the Brett Sea Legs. I'm not the biggest fan or porters normally as I find them too sweet. The Brett smoothed Sea Legs out just perfectly for me.

Thanks for all you do Mikey