Uinta: Straight-Up Crooked

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Uinta Brewing Company's new Crooked Line, spearheaded by Will Hamill, boasts unique flavors and high potency. Photo: Jesse Anderson

Releasing thoroughly unique, high alcohol craft brews in big, celebration-style bottles, Uinta Brewing Co. has gone to great lengths for their labor of love: a new line of beers dubbed The Crooked Line.  When it comes to brewing the delicious cornucopia of mass-produced Utah beers, consistency is paramount.  But with a Crooked beer, bending the rules is more acceptable, and creativity takes center stage.  The Crooked line will be, quite literally, the biggest and strongest beer ever produced in our fair state.  The first four beers hit liquor stores last month. 

The Crooked line is the pet project of Will Hamill, hands-on President of Uinta Brewing.  This man is responsible for Cutthroat (probably my favorite Utah beer, and I know I’m not alone) and he personally created the recipes for each of the Crooked beers, so set your expectations accordingly.  The initial four brews, a Black Ale, a pilsner, a barley wine and an IPA, have that one very important thing in common – potency.  9% abv is the bare minimum, while the Labyrinth Black Ale weighs in at a corpulent 13.2%.  The alcohol content and unique bottling would be enough to warrant Uinta creating a whole new line of beers, but the real motive behind the Crooked line is creative freedom.

Beyond the initial four Crooked beers, Hamill intends to brew a variety of small, 250-case batches of high alcohol craft beers to add to the line for years to come.  “There’ll be a lot of beers that we’re only going to make once,” he says, “ What those are I don’t [yet] know.  But I‘ve got an idea for the next one: it’s gonna be a Belgian double whit beer.”  Double, naturally.  To store all the bourbon and rye barrels and the schmancy new bottling machine for Crooked’s fifth-size cork and cage finished bottles, Hamill built a second, smaller brewery attached to the south side of Uinta’s existing facility. 

Although future beers in the Crooked line will be limited-release, the line itself is here to stay.  “I just spent a million bucks,” Hamill says, “this isn’t a temporary deal.”  The new, 100% wind-powered brewery will provide the perfect home for Hamill’s mad-scientist-like beer alchemy.  “We love the tact of making a consistent Cutthroat Pale Ale like we’ve been doing for seventeen years,” he says,  “but this allows me to push the envelope and . . . play with a lot of different ingredients.” 

Since I’m no Tyler Makmell, I’m not even going to try to put words to the intense flavors of these brews (seriously: I’d blow it).  The Labyrinth black ale is “dark as tar.  You can’t see through it,” Hamill says.  “It’s very strong and complex . . . probably the most complex beer that we’ve made.” 

On the other hand, the Tilted Smile imperial pilsner has only two raw ingredients: saaz hops and an imported German pilsner malt.  “It’s a very simple recipe,” says Hamill, “but . . . it’s a pretty intense beer, even though it’s bright and clear.  It’s 9% alcohol, which is pretty unusual.” 

The Detour double IPA will slap you upside the head with Apollo and Bravo hops.  “A lot of the alpha acids of our hops are 11%,” says Hamill, “[but Detour] is 18.9% alpha acid, so it’s a very pungent hop.” 
Rounding out the quartet of deliciousness is the Cockeyed Cooper bourbon barrel barley wine.  Beer lovers will be happy to learn Cockeyed Cooper is the new, more permanent name for the much loved bourbon barrel-aged barley wine Uinta released last year. 

Even the labels on these bad boys are special.  Uinta reached out to local artists Trent Call, Leia Bell and Travis Bone to wrap their stylish interpretations of the beers’ names around every bottle.  Expect more local art talents gracing the labels of Crooked line beers in the future.  So this is all good news, right? I like beer, I’m safe in assuming you like beer, and now we have some potent new Utah beers to try.  Neat-o.  But probably the best news in all this good news is that the Uinta brewery on 1722 South Fremont Drive (2375 West) should have received its type 5 liquor license on the 25th of last month if all went smoothly.  That’s right, we now have not one but two places in the valley to go for full point beer that doesn’t need to be thrown in the freezer when you get home.  I’ll drink a (cold) 750ml barley wine to that!

Uinta Brewing Company's new Crooked Line, spearheaded by Will Hamill, boasts unique flavors and high potency. Photo: Jesse Anderson