25 March 2008

Beer Diary - Jim | 4.0 is not just a grade point average in Utah

21 March 2008 - University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

22 March 2008 - Sawadee Thai Restaurant, Salt Lake City, Utah

I'm in the city that is home to Mike's favorite Major League Soccer team at a conference at the University of Utah. It's been almost 25 years since I set foot in Salt Lake, and I've forgotten how beautiful this city is, nestled right up next to the Wasatch Mountain Range. And no, I'm not going to tell any Mormon or polygamy jokes here because (a) that would be way too easy, and (b) I happen to really like SLC.

Day One of the conference is over. I'm at a reception for conference presenters and attendees. Free beer awaits at the bar. I see three bottles of what looks to be local stuff. It is, from Uinta Brewing Company. The selection: Uinta's Gelande Amber Lager, Solstice Kölsch Style Ale, and Cutthroat Pale Ale. I have a feeling that I'll be disappointed by the Gelande, and I'm not into Kölsch-style beers, so I ask the bartender for a Cutthroat.

Before I go any further, I have to note that Utah has some pretty restrictive laws when it comes to the alcohol content of beers made and sold in the state. I'm not going to relate those laws in detail (I'll leave that to the Utah Beer blog). Suffice it to say that most beers you can order at a bar in Utah max out at 4.0% ABV. As a beer lover, you might balk at this limitation in anticipation of weak flavor and a minuscule buzz. If you're a brewer, I suppose you might view this restriction as a challenge. After all, how can a brewer really do an IPA justice when you can't go beyond 4.0% ABV? I'm sure that some are able to make a hearty-tasting beer despite the limitation.

I take the Cutthroat from the bartender and am pleased to feel that it's moderately cold, not ice cold. But unfortunately, the bartender has no glass to give me, so I'm forced to drink out of the bottle. I smell a moderate hop presence in this American Pale Ale, but cannot get a good enough whiff of the bouquet through the bottle opening. The first sip yields a caramel-like malty front and a mild, piney hop flavor. This beer is quite dry, mellow, and finishes very cleanly. It's a little fizzy, but doesn't have as much carbonation as I expected. Pleasant, but not fantastic.

The next night, I and some colleagues go for Thai food at a restaurant called Sawadee (also spelled "Sawasdee," which means "hello" in Thai and is also the name of my favorite Thai restaurant in Indy). The restaurant serves the full range of Uinta beers, so I decide to go for another Cutthroat to pair with my fantastic dish of Pad Thai with tofu. This time, I get the beer in a glass. It pours with a nice amber hue and an off-white, finger-thick head that dissipates slowly. This time, I get a nice nose of spicy pine. The glass, however, does not change the flavor at all.

This is a good mellow beer that would serve well as a gateway beer for craft beer newbies. It has also piqued my interest in trying other Utah beers just to see how Utah brewers deal with the hand they've been dealt by the Utah legislature.



    Did that seem genuine? I'm only still rooting for RSL because St. Louis doesn't have a team yet.

    Then again, I know more players on the current Fire roster than I do of the current RSL roster.

  2. Utah's beers don't max out at 4.0% The resturant you went to may not have been licenced to sell anything stronger than 4.0%

  3. Anonymous--

    Yes, I realize that. That's why I referred readers to the Utah Beer blog post for a more detailed explanation of the liquor laws. I was simply too lazy to explain it myself.

    The short answer--Go to a "private club" and you're likely to find stronger beer (at least that's my understanding).