Salt Lake City, Utah is not a location where you might expect to find a pocket of noteworthy brewing activity. While the Shoshone, Ute, and Paiute people may have been brilliant connoisseurs of the hoppy science (you never know), the arrival of Brigham Young and his abiding band of religious settlers put an abrupt end to the dream of a robust Utah craft culture. Upon arrival in that storied valley, the American Moses declared: “this is the right place.” Sadly for any beer lovers among the group, he was referring to the establishment of Deseret; not the establishment of a kick-ass community brewery. Pursuant to the Words of Wisdom, part of Doctrines and Covenants in the LDS scriptural cannon, consumption “strong drinks” is prohibited among members of the faith. This, it’s worth noting, is why LDS membership ranks only second in Aleheads reader demographic polls.
The last time I visited Salt Lake City, on business in 2003, I was required to acquire temporary membership to the “private clubs” that lined the downtown drag. The outstanding Market Street Grill was, at that time, bifurcated into two sections – private (beer served), and public (dry as a Havisham wedding cake).
Those heady days of postmodern prohibition-lite have since past, however, and, in their place, sprouted a surprising animal: Utah-brewed beer. Delicious Utah-brewed beer. Recently, your Baron tucked into a bottle of Uinta’s excellent Detour Double IPA (Crooked Line Series) and, with a haughty flourish, declared the Great Salt Lake a 3.5-hop worthy promised land.
To brew its Crooked Line series, Uinta constructed a modest, 100% wind-powered brewery adorned with the trappings of yore – wooden barrels, and a unique Italian bottling and corking line. Too cool. With a thorough appreciation for environmental sensitivity from even the reddest of red-states, I cracked the Italian cork and poured the ruddy copper libation into a tall pilsner where the eggshell head grabbed hold of the glass like cirrus on a sunset horizon. Attractive lacing gave way as I lifted the soup to my nose and inhaled the bitter pine notes of four hop varieties. The 9.5 ABV brew hit the palate boozy – a far cry from the infamous Utah “three-two beer,” but quickly mellowed as saccharine yet bitter flavors erupted from the deep. I relished every sip of the wonderful brew – a complex offering from a complex city.
As I tipped the final drops of nectar from my mug, I declared Mr. Young correct. Salt Lake City is the right place for many things. Now, delicious craft beer is one of them. Keep up the great work, Uinta!