Femintation American Ale Roosters Brewing Co.

Femintation American Ale

Brewery/Brand: Roosters Brewing Co.
ABV: 7.5%
Serving Style: 500-mL bottle

Back in May of 2010, I was approached by the keen minds at SLUG Magazine to be a contributing writer in their visionary Beer Issue. At that time, no other publication in our market had the foresight to dedicate an entire issue to Utah’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Now, most print and online publications have followed suit. In January 2013, I was given the honor of writing the monthly beer profiles, which in my opinion, is the best gig at SLUG. Sadly, this will be my last beer profile for SLUG. It has been my honor to work alongside such a talented group of forward-thinking, young journalists and artists. They have definitely made me better at what I do, and I can’t wait to see what they create in the future. Cheers to you all! Now, let’s talk beer.

Last March, on International Women’s Day, Roosters Brewing Company committed to brewing a special beer to celebrate women in the craft beer industry. Roosters’ own Jacquie King Wright was the obvious choice to create this beer. Wright runs Roosters’ Ogden brewhouse and is one of only three women brewing beer in the state of Utah. Wright chose an American Strong Ale as her inspiration, fortifying it with all of the traits that make our “sisters in suds” such an important part of Utah’s beer culture.

Description: From one of Roosters’ unique-looking 500-milliliter bottles, this beer pours a somewhat viscous, pitch-black color with a solid two fingers of dense, brassy foam that manages to retain its position on top of its liquid-obsidian base, which is due to the good amount of streaming carbonation retaining the head. After a minute or so, the head reduces down to a thin cap that rests until the bottom of the glass. Soapy trails of foam lacing clings down the shaker glass. The nose has cocoa and dark chocolate with notes of coffee and roasted malt. At the back end of the aroma, light pine and floral grasses tickle the nostrils. It’s a complex smell reminiscent of chicory coffee. The taste begins with an appropriate dose of dark pumpernickel bread, cocoa and coffee. Hints of molasses and coffee-soaked biscotti come next with a trace of light vanilla and earthy, roasted barley. The end has an aggressive amount of pine and spicy, herbal hops that complement the malt sweetness from the beginning of the sip. The finish ends up being fairly dry and lingering as the hops and roasty character duke it out for supremacy.

Overview: The balance here is quite nice. The robust flavors and complexity of dark/roasted malt flavors work well together. The carbonation gives the body a pleasantly smooth and somewhat slick, creamy feel. The alcohol is well hidden with minimal warming effects on the back of the throat. Overall, this is a very good American Style Stout. It does lack most of the malt-forward attributes that an American Strong Ale normally possesses, so if you’re looking for a malty beer, this may disappoint. But if hoppy and robust are a must in your wheelhouse, this complex dark beer will fit in well in your cellar.

Cheers!

SaltFire Brewing Co. Owner and Founder Ryan Miller cultivated the four-head, manual, counter-pressure bottle-filling machine to start SaltFire in the black. Photo: Andy Fitzgerrell.

When starting a brewery, the tanks and fermenter are generally the first things one ought to acquire. Ryan Miller, Owner and Founder of the up-and-coming SaltFire Brewing Co., probably would have gone in that direction as well, but sometimes life has a way of giving you lemonade long before you have need for the lemons.

Ryan Miller has found his niche with this bottle-filling machine. Photo courtesy of Micro Filling Systems.
Ryan Miller has found his niche with this bottle-filling machine. Photo courtesy of Micro Filling Systems.

Miller, an avid home-brewer for most of his adult life, is building his brewery from the bottle up. “I started home-brewing back in the early ’90s while attending Westminster College,” Miller says with a grin, but his passion for craft beer didn’t end there. “Once I hit grad school in Arizona, I was fortunate enough to find myself living near Four Peaks Brewing, in Tempe, Arizona.” This is where Miller started to develop a more personal relationship with beer culture—not just with the beer. “It wasn’t until I moved back to Salt Lake to work as a software project developer—that’s when the wheels started turning.” To me, beer and software are from two different worlds. For Miller, there was more cause and effect from being on the road. “There was a lot of travel involved,” Miller says. “While on the road, I’d seek out craft breweries, and after a few years of doing this, I decided this is what I should be doing.” He was beginning to find his focus but was still a long way from creating SaltFire.  “I still needed to know the realities of what was really needed to get off the ground,” says Miller. “I started picking the brains of local breweries, and that was very helpful.”

These realities took Miller to places he was only vaguely aware of from a beer consumer’s perspective. “I knew that if I was going to be brewing in Utah, I’d have to plan on bottling because we, as brewers, want to brew our beer to style, which means above 4 percent,” he says. This is where the realities of starting a brewery become more apparent. “You need to keep cost down,” Miller says. “I started doing research on affordable bottle lines, and found that there are basically two options: You’re either spending a couple hundred dollars for a single-bottle filler, or you’re spending tens of thousands for a fully automated, two- or three-bottle filler.” That’s a pretty big gap for any entrepreneur to find themself in.

Staring down two unappealing options, Miller chose a different route. He says, “I decided to do my research and design my own four-head, manual, counter-pressure bottle-filling machine,” which could be tough for a guy with little engineering in his dossier. “Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have a friend that knows about these things and was able to manufacture my concept. It’s not too different from the original prototype.” With this concept, Miller has managed to fill this particular gap. “Yeah, I started looking at this thing saying, ‘This thing fits the bill for so many nano- and microbreweries that can’t afford to jump into those 10,000-plus packaging systems.’ So, we ironically found ourselves filling this little niche nobody had tapped into.”

Miller’s niche bottle filler not only solved his bottling problem but also filled a gaping hole in his budget. “Oh my god, it just took off,” Miller says joyfully. “We’ve sold a couple hundred of these machines all over the world over the last two years.”

“I started home-brewing back in the early ’90s while attending Westminster College,” Miller says with a grin, but his passion for craft beer didn’t end there. Photo: Andy Fitzgerrell.
“I started home-brewing back in the early ’90s while attending Westminster College,” Miller says with a grin, but his passion for craft beer didn’t end there. Photo: Andy Fitzgerrell.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, Miller proceeded to blow me away again. “This bottler has really paved the way. It’s paid the rent and funded all of our brewing equipment.” Miller gestures to the brand new Brewtech system that he purchased last year. “It’s been thrilling. Not a lot of breweries can say that they’re already in the black and they haven’t even brewed a single pint of beer. It makes me feel like we’re on the right path and doing the right thing.”

With the advent of so many new breweries hitting the market, you’ve got to wonder if there’s space for more new beer as much as there is a new bottle filler. “I’ve thought long and hard about that,” Miller says. “Salt Lake originally wasn’t my first choice for a brewery just because of the stringent alcohol laws, but as I delved deeper, I noticed that other larger markets like Denver and Portland were getting completely saturated with breweries. I haven’t seen that happen here yet.”

While Utahns are notorious for being on the bottom as far as beer consumption goes, Miller is optimistic about our future. “I think Utahns crave a vibrant craft beer scene with lots of options that many larger cities take for granted,” says Miller. “Look at Fisher Brewing. Those guys burnt through 11 barrels of beer on their opening weekend, trying to keep up with demand. That’s great to see.”

Miller would like to set his ABV goals high. “We’re going to focus on some nice, big ales like IPAs, stouts, porters—then we’ll move into some ‘Utah beers’ later, but since witnessing how well the Fisher guys are doing with their 4-percent beers, we’re moving up our timetable to get our taproom open with some draft options to go along with our bigger beers.”

There’s a nice community of breweries popping up in the south part of SLC. With the advent of the RoHa Brewing Project, Shades of Pale and soon SaltFire, there won’t be too many areas that don’t have fresh beer within minutes of your home. Look for SaltFire to open its doors near the beginning of fall 2017.

Proper Brewing Co. | Beckerman's Brew

Beckerman’s Brew
Brewery/Brand: Proper Brewing Co.

ABV: 4.0%
Serving Style: Draft, 22-oz. bottle

It’s no surprise that beer and sports go hand in hand. If you’re watching a sporting event—whether it’s live or on television—the odds are good that you have a beer nearby. The big breweries are keenly aware of this enduring phenomenon and poured well over a billion dollars into sports-driven advertising in 2015. Big beer often locks up arena and stadium contracts as well, making sure that when you need a beer, you have one of “their” beers first and foremost. This can make it hard for the little mom-and-pop-shop breweries to break into this lucrative area of beer and sports (outside of their normal operations) because of this. But it can be done with a little savvy and a bit of help from a devoted fanbase. Basically, you need to keep the team and the leagues off of the imagery and packaging. Well, what else is left, you may ask? The athletes. Unless he or she is already locked up in a contract, they’re good to go. Epic Brewing did it a few years ago with Rimando’s Wit, featuring Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando. Uinta Brewing inked a deal with RSL at the beginning of the Major League Soccer season to become the “Official Craft Beer of RSL.” Now Proper Brewing has entered the fray with a beer co-created by Real Salt Lake star Kyle Beckerman. This new beer reflects the attributes one would expect from an athletic soccer all-star: It’s light, crisp and perfect for watching or post-match hydration.

Description: This sampling of Beckerman’s Brew comes from the draft handles at Proper Brewing Company’s Brewhouse Pub. It pours a mostly crystal-clear, pale-straw color with a single finger of dense, white head. The head retention is strong, but eventually reduces down to a nice lingering cap of foam, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. As the beer recedes from the sides of the glass, ribbons of spotty, soapy lacing clings across the glass, creating web-like lattices. The nose starts with a bit of lemon, dry crackers and biscuit. Light pepper and herbal/grassy hops round out the aroma—pleasant but somewhat subtle for what should be quite aromatic foam. The taste starts similarly to the aroma. Lemonpeel, wheat cracker and biscuit come right out, signaling that this is a toasty pilsner. Next, a bit of honey-like sweetness comes in with some light, peppery hops stabbing at the tongue. Herbal notes along with earthy grasses come after, rounding out the flavor chain. The finish is lightly dry, fueled on by the herbal/spicy bitterness from the hops and the lack of cloying malts. The mouthfeel is on the light side for the style. It’s clean with minimal yeast notes, medium prickly carbonation and zero warming alcohol.

Overview: This beer is tailor-made for the cusp of summer. Overall, this is a very good American pale lager. It touts an all-around tasty combination of robust cereals and toast, combined with the twangy/earthy hop flavors that create a nice balance that is smooth, crisp, clean and refreshing. This is great for sporting, mowing the lawn or working on your TV tan while gaming. Look for Beckerman’s Brew at Proper Brewing Co., better beer bars with a Proper tap handle and Harmons Grocery Stores.

Prost!

Rocket Bike
Brewery/Brand: Moab Brewing Co.
ABV: 4.0%
Serving Style: Draft/16-oz. can

Back in the 1800s, when San Francisco was at the center of the California gold rush, breweries needed a method to ferment beer quickly to meet the high demand of the huge numbers of people arriving to seek their fortune. The process involved the method of training a cool-fermenting lager yeast to work at warmer ale temperatures. This reduced the amount of time the beer would spend in the tanks, thus getting into your mug more quickly. As with most beers that are made today, the processes of producing these styles of beer have been greatly improved. Formerly considered “cheap and low-quality,” these once second-rate beers are now much more refined and quenching. One such example of this style is currently being made by our own Moab Brewing Company, and it is one of the finer specimens of Steam/California Common you’ll find anywhere.

Description: I picked up this 16-ounce can at my local Harmons grocery. I love the look of a tallboy can—it’s an impressive sight. I poured its contents into an appropriately sized English ale glass and began to take in the show. The beer is a pale-amber color that has some brassy/gold highlights. It almost has a shimmer as the evening’s sunset shines through the brilliantly clear liquid. Above the lightshow, as the rising pinheads of carbonation work their way up through the body, are two fingers of bleached white foam. The head begins to normalize after a few moments and comes to rest as a simple, sudsy cap. As the foam begins to settle, my sniffer gets down on top of the foam and finds lightly toasted bread that reminds me of browned crust. Cracker-like malts come in next, with pine and the slightest whiff of fruited hops rounding out the edges of the aroma. As Rocket Bike hits my tongue, I get more of those toasty notes from the nose. Big cracker and biscuit punch out immediately with a slight fruity sweetness suggesting toffee, and burnt sugars are present as well. The yeast contributes a slight apple-like twang that complements the fruity sweetness from the barley. This segues into a spicy kick of hops that begins with some drying pine flavors that are on the edge of resinous. Some earthy herbal bitterness pops in, briefly springboarding the subtle dry citrus and rind bitterness that round it all out. The finish is mostly drying, with remnants of the fruity malts lingering in the background. For a 4-percent beer, the body is at near-medium levels with ample carbonation and some residual sweetness.

Overview: Rocket Bike has a quenching, classic lager feel that is well complemented by the great use of toasted grains. Its simple but well-layered approach provides an easy-drinking experience that is satisfying but not overly complex. This is a great example of style, and Rocket Bike has the awards to back it up—boasting three gold medals from the North American Brewers Association and a bronze medal from the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Rocket Bike is available year-round in Utah.

Cheers!

Fröhlich Pils

Fröhlich Pils
Brewery/Brand: Red Rock Brewing Co.
ABV: 5.5%
Serving Style: 500-mL bottle

Description: The glassware One of the great things about having a gig like this is that I get to meet a lot of beer enthusiasts from every walk of life. Whether it’s social, political, religious or a lack thereof, there’s always one unifying factor: the origin story. As these yarns are shared over a pint (or four), our beer biographies are inevitably exchanged, and we reflect on how our lives became entangled around a simple beverage that can be as diverse as the cultures from which they hail. The theme on how we began and how we arrived are almost comically the same. It all starts out in our youth, with beers that are widely available, light, inexpensive and far away from the black-diamond territory on the flavor scale. There’s nothing wrong with beers like these. They are the most popular beers in the world. Because they are so common and similar, it’s easy for the adventurous tongue to look elsewhere and find the beers that can challenge us and broaden our minds. Once those light lagers are left behind, they’re rarely revisited, like Sting is to The Police. That’s most likely because of experience—the big industrial lagers are generally filled with flavorless starches and adjuncts that make them more cost-effective to produce while retaining some of their traditional flavors. These natural substitutes are fine to a certain point—until you have a true lager made the way they were meant to be made (hundreds of years ago). I found my path back to the pilsner many moons ago. I had experimented with all of the basic beer styles and was left with one nagging gap in my beer wheel. I discovered—upon revisiting what I thought was an old-world, fizzy, yellow beer—a flavor powerhouse that made it obvious why this had become the most popular beer style in the world. If you are looking to be reinvigorated by the pilsner, I have a locally made option that will make it all clear to you.

Description: The glassware is important. It should be horn-shaped—narrow at the base, wide at the rim. Fröhlich pours a near-crystal-clear, bright-pale-golden color with a single, dense finger of sudsy white foam that is at near meringue in consistency. The stamina of the head is strong, and it retains its dominance on top with ease as angelic bubbles ascend from the etchings at the bottom of my glass feeding the foam. Nice, soapy lacing clings down the glass as I swill away. The nose has perfumes of herbal lemon, dry cracker, biscuit and earthy white pepper. It’s well-balanced, as the competing malts and the spicy hops dance around my sniffer. The taste starts out similarly to the nose with a hint of lemon peel, toasted crackers, dry biscuit and some good, complementary sweet malt. At this point, the old-world European hops begin to assert themselves, providing herbal bitterness, vague grasses, light pepper, earthy florals and a tiny smack of yeast sulphur. The finish is moderately dry with herbal/spicy bitterness pushing back a lingering malt sweetness and pretzel notes.

Overview: I think that if you’ve been away from the pilsner for a while, you will find that there’s an ease of drinkability here that you’ve missed from your previous forays with macro-lagers. It’s enhanced by minimal yeast notes, zero warming alcohol and a pleasant malt profile that screams fresh New York bagel. The medium body is also boosted by medium-to-high carbonation, which makes the hops more crisp-tasting. This is a damn-nice-all-around German-style pilsner. The great balance and drinkability makes it perfect for anytime of year, especially now with spring on our doorstep. Enjoy chilled at 38–42 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prost!

Saint Blackout
Brewery/Brand: Shades of Pale Brewing
ABV: 8.6%
Serving Style: 12-oz. bottle.

Belgian beers are, without a doubt, the most unique of all the beers that are made around the globe. Their infamous yeast strains not only create alcohol and carbonation but also impart fruity, spicy and funky flavors that are not normally present in beers from outside its Western European walls. The Belgian-style tripel ale is one of the more complex ales that people either cherish or loathe. Its high alcohol content, sugary sweetness and spicy yeast profile make it a hot topic for beer geeks and noobs alike. While there are a few locally made Belgian-style tripels floating around the Utah market, there are not many that are available year-round and fewer still that have the high level of drinkability that is commonly associated with big, boozy beers of this style. I came across the Saint Blackout Tripel Belgian Style Ale from Shades of Pale Brewing. Tripels are typical for this particular brewery, so I was curious to see if this local Belgian interpretation has that year-round enjoyability factor.

Description: At first glance, as I work my eyes around the bottle, I’m trying to verify that I am about to delve into a Belgian-style tripel and not an imperial stout. The label does suggest a dark and foreboding beer. As it leaves the bottle into my glass, I’m happy to see a brassy banana color that is cloudy and barely translucent. The carbonation reveals itself as two fingers’ worth of foam begins to build around the narrow rim of my bowl-shaped chalice. It begins to subside quickly to a cap of foam protecting the liquid below.

As I get my nose in the somewhat narrow opening, there are yeasty spices with some bright tree fruits. I was expecting a whiff of alcohol and more potent phenolic clove aromas, as is common with this style of beer—I was happily surprised to find a light nose with little to no burn and pleasant, candy-like spices. Wheat dough is barely perceivable but present, adding to the subtle aromas.

As I wash the bright-yellow beverage across the tongue, I find that malts are more assertive than my nose had led me to believe. Chewy Euro-style breads lay down a foundation that begins a quick transition to a barrage of flavors that pull the tongue in multiple directions. Candied-sugar sweetness asserts itself right off the bat, bringing with it bread pudding, fig and banana. Big orchard peaches come in next to dominate the palate. I’m used to a little peach flavor in a tripel ale, but this example takes it to a much fruitier level. Bubblegum and citrus peel round out the back of the palate, creating a smooth, mild and somewhat refreshing end. The finish leaves the tongue a bit dry and cool, even though the ABV is upward of 8.6 percent. The carbonation is just below the prickly side of the effervescence, which adds to the body of the beer, as it seems slightly thin for the style.

Overview: This was the first real Belgian-style ale to come out of Shades of Pale. It’s easy to see how a brewer unaccustomed to brewing Belgian-style beers could play it safe and not let the beer turn into a flavor bomb. The natural-tasting peach flavors that are present here make this a highly drinkable, juicy and approachable ale for those who may not be accustomed to—or like—Belgian tripels. I’d like to see what a year in the bottle does for this beer. While it may not be 100-percent true to style, this is a tasty ale and one that I would gladly drink again. You can find this Belgian tripel at Shades of Pale’s bottle shop, or enjoy it at their full-service brewhouse taproom located at 2160 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City.

Cheers!

Sir Malcom's Stout | Bonneville Brewing

Sir Malcom’s Stout
Brewery/Brand: Bonneville Brewing
ABV: 4.0%
Serving Style: Draft

As we enter the month of January, I’m sure that you’ve noticed beer options undergoing a proper plumpenin’. What I mean is that you may start seeing more big, full-bodied beers that are maxed out with flavor and fat with alcohol. Since these winter warmers only come around once a year, I would recommend that you should take full advantage of them—they will likely be some of the more interesting beers you’ll ever try. That being said, these big beers can make it difficult to be a proper and functioning member of society. A lot of us will have some difficulty balancing our drinking responsibly with wintertime cheer. One way to walk the line between those two worlds is to seek out flavorful options that don’t have that hammering blow. I think I’ve found just the thing.

Description: Sir Malcom’s Stout pours from a nitro tap at Tooele’s Bonneville Brewing Company. As the bartender pours it, the cascading nitrogen bubbles fall hard toward the bottom of the glass. The curtain of bubbles slowly fades away, leaving behind a deep-brown canvas with maroon highlights. On top, two fingers of dense foam coalesce, creating a strong cap that remains until the bottom of the glass. This leaves thick patterns and rings of lacing around the glass, marking my every swig. As I give it a good whiff, semi-sweet chocolate and faint caramel malts push back. Beneath these, there’s a vague berry fruitiness, some husky grains and a bit of roast and smokiness round out the aroma. Upon first sip, there are nice, robust flavors with a pleasant amount of char, blended lightly enough with some malt sweetness to create a nice, milky texture. As I dig deeper, roasted coffee, brown toasty malts and subtle vanilla bean emerge, creating a nice balance. Bitterness from the roast and char begin to become evident, creating a ghostly smokiness. The end provides a bit of medicinal spices with a sweet vegetal quality that works with the caramel and chocolaty sweetness from the top of the sip. The aftertaste leaves a bit of char, faint metallic notes and some slightly acidic black-coffee flavors. The body is medium/light, and the nitrogen feel is medium. The beer leaves a soft, easy coating around the mouth, keeping it wet and satiated. This leads to an eventual mild astringency that became a bit dusty and warm with time. The ABV is sessionable, and the beer is quite easy drinking.

Overview: I think that most people will find that there’s an ease of drinkability here that’s enhanced by the beautifully creamy feel. The dryness of the style is definitely complemented by the nitro, but the great marriage of char, roastiness and caramel malts creates a depth of enjoyability that is satisfying on the tongue as well as in the belly. This eases you back in again and again—which contributes to drinkability and sessionability. This stout is simple, flavorful and just damn satisfying, a perfect substitute for those boozy beasts.

Cheers!

Big Bad Baptist - Imperial Stout | Epic Brewing

Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

Brewery/Brand: Epic Brewing
ABV:12.3%
Serving Style: 22-oz. bottle

Every state has that special beer that they are known for. Our neighbors in Idaho claim Double Vision Doppelbock from Grand Teton Brewing as their best, while Vermont’s favorite is an IPA called Heady Topper from The Alchemist Brewery. To be fair, these are not unanimous choices—they are compiled from beer-geek databases and averaged out. The local champion that the beer-geek citizens of Utah have chosen as the mostest-bestest in Zion is Epic Brewing Company’s Big Bad Baptist Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Stout. If you think that name’s a mouthful, wait until you try the beer.

Description: This beast of a beer pours a viscous, pitch-black color with about one finger of thick, brass-colored foam on top. One of the signs of well-made beer is its head retention. This head is very slow in dissipating, which, in turn, leaves curtains of tan lace on the sides of the glass. Swirling the brew in the tulip-shaped glass shows a thickness to the brew, with some of the foamy lace clinging to the sides of the glass and slowly descending to the base.

The nose is a massive punch of coffee mixed with char and roasted malts. Before these aromas get too astringent, sweeter caramel and chocolate come to mingle, creating wonderful smells of a more woody nature as well as some boozy bourbon notes. The overall aromas are very rich and dark as they swirl around the brain.

The taste begins with huge roasted malts combined with a big wave of strong coffee more intense than was present in the nose. There is a lighter sweetness as well that plays to the strength of the massive amounts of malts used. This unleashes silky caramel and vanilla notes, which grow stronger and stronger as the taste moves on further to the end. While the sweetness asserts itself, the roasted malt flavors seem to dwindle but are replaced by more and more roasted coffee. As the end of the taste approaches, smooth bourbon and oak come mid-tongue, bringing a bit of alcohol burn and a minor amount of astringency. This sets up the tongue for a very pleasing finish of toffee and cocoa in the end. The Big Bad Baptist finishes semi-dry with a massively rich and boozy—but quite enjoyable—flavor that lingers on the tongue.

Overview: While this beer appears to be thick and crude, the body of the beer is actually in the medium to full range. If it were too thick, it’d taste muddled and overly rich. The big coffee and bourbon flavors of the beer seem natural and appropriate for what the base beer is offering. This made for a wonderful, slightly easy drinking beer (as easy as 12.3 percent can be). In the great realm of interweb bragging rights, Utahns can be proud that they’re represented by a beer that crushes the perceived Utah stereotypes while providing a rarely achieved orgasm for the tongue.

Cheers!

2x4 Double IPA – 22-oz can

Brewery/Brand: Thai Me Up / Melvin Brewing
ABV: 9.9%
Serving Style: 12-oz. can

About five years ago while attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, I came upon a small, unaffiliated beer competition that was all about IPAs—the hoppiest of all IPAs, to be exact. It was called the Alpha King Challenge. Its main purpose was to find and crown the biggest and baddest India Pale Ale in the country. The winner of this monster beer competition turned out to be from a tiny brewpub in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which also had a Thai kitchen attached to it called Thai Me Up. The DIPA was simply called 2×4, and after hearing of this incredible DIPA, I shuffled my ass over to the festival to seek out this beast. What I found was not beastly, but was in fact a miraculous blending of malt and hops. When I found out that this beer was making its way south to Utah, I had to snag a fresh can and write it up for y’all. By the way, Thai Me Up/Melvin Brewing retained their crown the following year.

Description: Melvin’s 2×4 pours a somewhat hazy golden-amber color. Initially, there are about three fingers of frothy and sudsy off-white head. It slowly recedes to one finger over the course of a minute, leaving behind a thick, somewhat dense curtain of sticky foam that encircles the glass with a curtain of lace. As the head settles into a more permanent thin layer on top of the beer, you begin to get a sense of the beautiful aromatic nose. Off the top, there’s a pleasant mélange of tropical fruit and piney hops, full of juicy papaya, peach and mango. There is no fruit here, but the hops trick my nostrils with each sniff.  Alongside the fruit are complementary notes of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and dank pine resin, all resting upon a bed of mild caramelized sugar sweetness. When a beer has the ability to grip your attention like this without so much as a sip, you know you’re in for a sensory ride.

The taste follows the nose. With the foundation already laid down, you can now get a sense of the beer’s architecture. First, there is some doughy, bready malt, heavy with caramel sweetness. The fruit from the aroma makes itself known next—now, it’s accompanied by a healthy dose of hop bitterness. I’m surprised to find a bit of pineapple and cantaloupe along with the papaya and grapefruit from the nose. As I get toward the end, peachy malt flavors round out the bitterness before the dank resiny pine reasserts itself, drying the back of the throat. The finish is earthy and has a very persistent drying effect, mingling with the slick fruit flavors that are left over from the tip of the tongue. It has a medium- to full-body feel as it sits in the mouth. The moderate carbonation levels feel more creamy than prickly on the tongue, keeping the senses from being overwhelmed as the beer comfortably slides down the hatch.

Overview: This DIPA is undeniably an impressive force of nature in a beer world that’s dominated more and more by resiny hop bombs. It’s a classic example of the West Coast IPA style. Though the tropical fruitiness can be somewhat overwhelming at times, I still find that the balance of super-drying hops complement the perceived slickness. This is one of those beers that reminds me of why I got into craft beer to begin with. To create such a symphony of flavors with just barley, hops, water and yeast must be the work of witches and wizards. The 2×4 DIPA is available at certain beer bars around the Wasatch Front, but it can only be purchased through special orders from DABC stores. I’m told this is being done so that these tasty beers don’t end up dying on the warm shelves of many of our local liquor outlets. The order form can be found at abc.utah.gov.

Cheers!