Living in Utah and loving beer has always been a bit of challenge when it comes to that fermented grain. It gets virtually no respect from a government that is tasked to control and distribute it, who treats it like a cheap, bottomshelf vodka that will remain virtually unchanged for years. Beer is not liquor, and it’s generally a fragile beverage that requires proper temperature control and has a limited shelf life. Now add on the fact that preservative alcohol quantities in your basic 4.0-percent-ABV beer is woefully substandard. That shelf life is diminished even more. Somehow, our local brewers have found a way to make sturdy, quality-tasting beers that have plenty of tongue-tickling enjoyment. Our local phenomena haven’t gone unnoticed outside of Utah. Many breweries out of the state are finding out what we have known for decades: it is possible to make flavorful, low-alcohol beers that have an audience (even outside of Utah). Our beers this month are all low alcohol offerings from breweries outside of Utah that have taken on the task of getting into the session beer game. Here are some examples to try—and let us know how you think they compare to our local favorites.
Hoptah Session IPA
Brewery/Brand: Black Diamond Brewing Co. ABV: 3.9%
Serving Style: 22 oz. bottle
Description: This brewery hails from Concord, California, and has been making beers for over 20 years. This session beer pours a very clear, lightamber color with a decent two fingers of foam. The nose is mostly of pine and a bit of citrus rind underneath—not much malt to speak of. The taste starts somewhat malty and grainy. Caramel notes seem to be more pronounced as it warms. Citrusy hops and resin bitterness come next to round out the beer, giving it a dry finish.
Overview: Not a bad attempt, but a little more malt base would help it greatly. Look for it at Harmon’s Grocery.
Hop Odyssey Citra
Session IPA Brewery/Brand: Green Flash Brewing Co. ABV: 4.5%
Serving Style: 22 oz. bottle
Description: This one is barely over the 4.0-percent barrier, so it’s going to be found at liquor stores. It pours a slightly hazy, golden-amber color with a ruddy cap of foam. The nose explodes with grapefruit orange and lemon peel. The taste starts a little bready but bright with grapefruit notes soon chiming in. Orange-peel notes come next on the sides of the tongue, adding a bit of sweetness. The end has some wheat-cracker flavors with some spicy hops—nice, lingering finish.
Overview: Green Flash practically re-invented the American IPA. This is a great session IPA that is worth your time. Look for it at The Bayou, Beer Bar and Beerhive.
Easy Rye’der Pale Ale
Brewery/Brand: Alameda Brewing Co. ABV: 4.0%
Serving Style: Draft
Description: Made for the Utah market, this original brew pours a very clear gold with a small, off-white head. The nose is grapefruit with a hint of dank rye. The flavor starts with a punch of citrus and pine hops. Next comes a bit of caramel malt and some spicy rye notes that balance out the strong hop profile. It finishes moderately dry and spicy.
Overview: This Portland, Oregon brewery has been enthusiastic about making beers tailor-made for our market. Venues are limited right now. Your best bets to try them are Beer Bar in SLC and The Barrelhouse in Ogden.