Dining | Beer: Utah brewers win big at the World Beer Cup | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Dining | Beer: Utah brewers win big at the World Beer Cup

When the e-mails began rolling in from publicists and marketing folks informing me of Utah’s winners at last month’s World Beer Cup in San Diego, my initial reaction was, “Been there, done that.” It’s not really surprising, or even news anymore, when Utah brewers take medals and trophies at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Festival, et al. Utah brews have come to be respected by the experts even as we here in Zion still tend to whine and moan about their low-alcohol content. At any rate, the news of Utah’s World Beer Cup winners didn’t strike me as having enough import to devote a Grapevine column to the topic.

But then I ran into Kevin Ely—Uinta Brewing Company’s production manager—at a party, and the subject of the World Beer Cup came up. Ely was especially proud of the recognition Uinta received at the Beer Cup (where Uinta Cutthroat was one of only six beers featured at the gala awards dinner), so I probed a bit to find out why.

It turns out that among professional brewers, the World Beer Cup is a prestigious affair like no other. Sponsored by the Brewers Association, an organization whose mission is to “promote and protect American craft beer and American craft brewers and the community of brewing enthusiasts,” the 2008 World Beer Cup featured nearly 3,000 beers from 644 breweries in 58 countries. But here’s what made a win at the World Beer Cup, often called the “Olympics of Beer Competitions,” so special to Kevin Ely: No other beer competition convenes as many professional judges from as many countries. At this year’s World Beer Cup, 21 different countries were represented by 129 judges. The high quality of the judges alone separates this event from all others.

Interestingly, Kevin informed me that although there are gold, silver and bronze medals potentially available in each beer category, sometimes judges simply decide that none of the beers were worthy of receiving a gold or a bronze or whatever. This means that even in a category with very few competitors, it’s not guaranteed that anyone will walk away with a medal.

A case in point: Uinta won the gold in the Ordinary Bitter beer category with its Cutthroat Pale Ale. A Portland brewery won silver, but the judges deemed that none of the other entries were worthy of a bronze, so none was given. When all was said and done, Uinta’s Cutthroat topped bitters from around the world! Beer from places as diverse as Belgium, Japan, Germany, Finland, England, Singapore, Czech Republic, Bolivia, Iceland, and Australia were all in head-to-head competition at the World Beer Cup.

In addition to Uinta, Salt Lake City’s Red Rock Brewing Company claimed a prestigious silver medal in the American-Style Brown Ale category for its Nut Brown Ale. Says the understated Red Rock brewer Kevin Templin of the Beer Cup medal, “You are up against the best brewers in the world, so bringing home a medal is definitely an honor.”

Locally, the biggest World Beer Cup winners were Utah Brewers Cooperative’s Squatters and Wasatch, winning a total of four medals: Gold for Squatters’ Alt and In the Way in the German-Style Brown Ale/D%uFFFDsseldorf-Style Altbier category and silver for Wasatch’s Bobsled Brown Ale in the same category. And in the Other Low Strength Ale or Lager category, Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter won silver and Squatters’ Provo Girl Pilsner took the bronze.

Congratulations to all of Utah’s brewers on their great showing at the 2008 World Beer Cup.