In 2012, we were blessed with the arrival of Founders and Goose Island; their year-round beers were a more-than-welcome addition to local shelves and taps. In recent weeks we had our first chance to indulge in the likes of the former's Backwoods Bastard and Imperial Stout and the latter's Bourbon County Brand Stout (yeah, it's $26 or so for a four-pack, but it's an insanely delicious concoction; there are still a few bottles out there), the BCBS Cherry and Coffee variants, and Madame Rose (a Belgian Style Ale made with cherries). The new year has brought another esteemed new line of beers to the state, from UINTA BREWING CO. in Salt Lake City, Utah. Uinta (you-in-tah) has been making beer since 1993; though not as celebrated as Founders and Goose Island, their offerings are wide-ranging and of exceedingly high quality.
Let's run through the selections from the year-round lineup that are available here:
• WYLD EXTRA PALE ALE (4% ABV): The most benign brew in this batch — solid and very sessionable.
•BABA BLACK LAGER (4%): This beer grabbed the Silver Medal in the Schwarzbier category at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. It's an intriguing blend, with rich, dark, roasted malts in a light, easy-drinking body.
•HOP NOTCH IPA (7.3% ABV): A delightfully well-balanced IPA, redolent with citrus and loads of hop zing. A new favorite.
•DUBHE IMPERIAL BLACK IPA (9.2%): Pronounced "doo-bee" and brewed with hemp seed (the tagline is "Finally, a Dubhe you don't have to roll to enjoy"). A flavor bomb, with the sweetness of chocolate and caramel and coffee collaborating with the massive hop bitterness (in four-packs). It doesn't surpass the likes of Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale or Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack, but it's a tasty contender.
•ANNIVERSARY BARLEY WINE (10.4%): A hoppier take on the formidable style — a great, complex sipper, and a rare year-round offering in 12-ounce bottles (in four-packs).
Uinta also has its big bottle Crooked Line series. Four of them are on shelves now: LABYRINTH BLACK (13.2%), DETOUR DOUBLE IPA (9.5%), TILTED SMILE, an imperial pilsner (9%), and COCKEYED COOPER, a bourbon barrel barley wine ale (11.1%); they also have the seasonal OAK JACKED IMPERIAL PUMPKIN (10.31%, geddit?). The Labyrinth does challenge the likes of Sublimely and Wookey, and the Cockeyed Cooper is a big, bracing beer.
Get to know Uinta by mixing a six of their 12-ouncers (get two Dubhes or Hop Notches, depending on your palate) and raise a toast to the best of the Beehive State.
It's been a while since our last outing, and we had a slew of great beers over the holidays: SIERRA NEVADA's hearty and beautifully layered Narwhal Imperial Stout; more than a few Goose Island Bourbon Countys (see above; then buy some more while you can); SHMALTZ's HE'BREW JEWBELATION SWEET 16 ANNIVERSARY ALE (a fantastic beer with 16 malts, 16 hops, and registering a dangerously well-hidden 16% ABV; grab a bottle and toast their "16 sweet years of delicious beer and delicious shtick"); and IPSWICH's Winter Mix 12-pack, featuring a very rewarding RYE PORTER.