Beer Reviews – January 2011

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Another year down, and the prospect of palate-pleasing beer is already rearing its foamy head. Last year saw the rise of strong beer thanks to loopholes in the shaky Utah legislature regarding the brew, and a surprising increase in the demand for craft beer. With December’s issue covering the top-rated brews of the year, this will be a peek of what’s to come and who to look out for. There will be an Epic alteration of a regular classic, a brew with some funky herb and a beer with enough spice to make Paul Muad’Dib bust a chub.

Epic Brainless on Cherries
Brewery: Epic Brewing Company
ABV: 10.3%
Serving: 22 oz Bomber
Description: Off the hiss of the bomber, Cherry Brains pours ruby in color with a medium white head. The aroma is filled with sweet cherries, some dry yeasty goodness and a subtle backing of white wine. The flavor picked up quite a bit of barrel-aged wine and tons of cherry, and had some light characteristics of the original brew peeking through.
Overview: The original, Brainless on Peaches, was such a huge success that I am not surprised to see that they busted out a second variation. This particular batch was created by oak aging their Brainless Belgian in French Chardonnay casks with cherry fruit purée. I am stoked that Epic has kept me guessing what will come next.

Captain Cooker Manuka Beer
Brewery: Squatters
AVB: 6.25%
Serving: 22 oz Bomber
Description: Off the pour, this brew is copper in color with an auburn twinge and a solid off-white head. The nose is up front with caramel and a distinct herbal spice characteristic that smells like lemongrass blended with ginger and cooking herbs. The flavor is sweeter, with some of the sweet manuka peeking through by way of spicy ginger and dry herbal bitterness. The beer finishes with some sweet caramel malts—perfect for a winter lager.
Overview: I gotta hand it to Squatters for this one—it came out of left field with no warning at all and uses an herb I had no idea existed. Captain James Cook originally brewed Manuka beer in 1769 for sailors to avoid scurvy. Andrew and Jane Dixon, owners of the Mussle Inn in New Zealand, began re-brewing the beer in 1995. By special license of the Mussel Inn, the beer has made its way to Utah. Thanks Squatters, for breaking in the New Year.

It’s Griswald’s Big Holiday

Brewery: RedRock Brewery
ABV: 8.5%
Serving: 500 ml bottles
Description: Brilliantly clear with a tight head of white foam, this spiced ale pours a very pleasing amber or pale orange.  Light sweet malt and pumpkin spice aromas welcome the nose like the smell of department stores at Xmas—you know what I mean.  The flavor takes that theme and runs with it, hard.  Cookies! Specifically, gingersnaps and molasses spice cookies are all over the palate, but not so much that it’s off-putting.  It’s on the sweeter end of things, but the finish is pleasantly dry.  There’s not a ton of hop presence, but that’s okay because the bitterness might seem out of place next to the veritable cornucopia in this beer.  The cloves, ginger and cinnamon are the most prominent, with coriander and orange peel rounding out the body and providing that little hint of citrus tart.  An excellent spiced ale (at least they didn’t try to claim it as a pumpkin ale, like some others do).
Overview: This ramped-up version of RedRock’s seasonal Griswald’s Holiday Ale comes in a nifty-looking bottle complete with utterly terrifying art.  I’m serious—the snowman on the front looks like he’s being burned at the stake, and that he deserves it.  A row of razor-sharp teeth with a top hat and scarf will be in my alcohol-induced nightmares for the whole season.  After having two of these easy drinkers, I couldn’t believe that they were 8.5%!  The beer is like a smooth, slightly sweet amber ale that attacks you with spice, but the alcohol is hidden well.  This beer is guaranteed to warm you up on a winter’s night, and might be just what I start craving after a day spent getting face shots of fluffy pow. –Rio Connelly