- Mike Riedel
Some of the journalists here at City Weekly embed themselves for weeks, if not months, to get you stories that affect the lives of all Utahns. The Beer Nerd beat is no different. Every week, I embed myself into pubs and breweries for hours at a time to bring you life-changing information about the suds that are important to you. Last week, I was dropped into the combat zone known as the Great American Beer Festival, where 9,497 beers from around the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were judged by an international panel of experts to find the best beers in each category.
Many breweries from the Beerhive State sent their beers to the festival's home in Denver, Colo., hoping their efforts would be found worthy of gold, silver and bronze in the massive competition. I invite you to seek out and try (or at the very least get reacquainted with) some of 2019's winning beers. Here's the list, along with the outstanding qualities.
Shades Brewing—Kveik Thai Tom Kha: Gold medal in the Herb and Spice Beer category. This seasonal beer has a subtle tart base that creates a nice platform for the coconut, ginger and lemongrass to build upon. A restrained amount of lactic sugar helps sweeten it up a bit, adding balance to the 6.3% ABV package.
T.F. Brewing—Rauch Bier a.k.a. Beechwood Rauchbier: Silver medal in the Smoke Beer category. Don't like smoke beers? This 4.0% ABV beer could change your mind. The base here has solid light vanilla flavors full of caramelized sugar with hints of cocoa. The smoke element, while strong in the aroma, is pretty subtle on the tongue and is more accent than star.
Red Rock Brewing Co.—White Rainbow: Silver medal in the American-Belgo-Style Ale category. After aromas of Belgian yeast, coriander and citrus, the taste initially pops with coriander, clove, slight juicy fruit and ends with a somewhat spicy and citrus finish. Herbs appear in the somewhat lingering after taste. 6.2% ABV.
Red Rock Brewing Co.—Marvella: Silver medal in the Belgian-Style Tripel category. Peach and bubblegum dominate this ale, along with notes of candied sugar and cloves. These flavors transition into toasted malt and banana. The 11% alcohol is warming and welcome.
Squatters Craft Beers—Hell's Keep: Silver medal in the Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale category. The taste starts with dry apricot and pear followed by spicy malty grains. The end is lemony with notes of straw and wheat. The finish is nice and dry with a light champagne-like carbonation. This beer is very crisp and refreshing at 7.7% ABV.
Level Crossing Brewing Co.—Suss it Out: Bronze in the Rye Beer category. For a brewery that has only been open for a few months, this is a pretty big deal. The rye malt in this beer adds a sharp and upfront spiciness that lingers throughout the entirety of the beer, while toasted biscuit and wheat bread crust backs up the still-present herbal and citrus hop blast. This is incredibly drinkable at 6.9% ABV.
All of these beers, except Shades Brewing Kveik Thai Tom Kha, are available for purchase at their respective breweries or various beer pubs around the Wasatch Front and Back. Shades Brewing tells me that the Thai Kveik might be making a special return to celebrate its win. Most are packaged in cans or bottles, though T.F. Brewing's is on draft only at the brewery. As always, cheers!