Associating Utah with good beer might seem a little like equating our current president with humility. But, thanks to a foundation laid by Utah's first two brewpubs, Wasatch and Squatters, the quality of local craft brews has risen to world-class heights in the two decades I've lived here. Don't believe me? Just take a look at all the Beehive State winners from the Great American Beer Festival. It's impressive and much deserved. Here are eight that might just change how you think about local suds.
Uinta Brewing Co.'s new golden ale can designs celebrate our National Park system, with the initial set depicting Arches, Yosemite, Acadia and five others. You should also get your mitts around a bottle of Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine ($2.25/355 ml), which has been going strong for more than 24 years. You'll want to savor this one—which boasts 10.4 percent alcohol by volume—slowly.
I'm a fan of many Proper Brewing Co. beers, but none is better than their flagship Proper Beer ($2.09/355 ml). It's a classic English golden ale made with English Maris Otter pale malt, English hops, German pilsener malt and American yeast—a perfect Brit-style session ale.
An interesting high-wire act of balancing bitter and floral aromas and flavors with Nugget and Cascade hops makes Roosters Hellevation IPA ($2.95/500 ml) a somewhat unusual IPA, but a delightful one.
Established in 1986 by Greg Schirf, Wasatch Brewery has perfected the art of craft brewing. To wit, try a glass of rich, malty and complex Wasatch Devastator Double Bock ($1.95/355 ml). As Schirf says about Devastator, "If you are going to sin, sin big." At 8 percent ABV, this is a big beer with toasty malts, nutty flavors and a hint of chocolate. Make a meal of it.
There are lots of Red Rock Brewing beers to love, but I have a particular passion for Red Rock Elephino ($3.95/500 ml). This is an 8-percent-ABV American-style IPA that is double dry-hopped using whole leaf Amarillo hops. Bold tropical fruit and resin aromas, along with sweet malt flavors, unite in Elephino to create a beautifully balanced brew.
The first Beehive beer I ever tasted was from Squatters. I was impressed back then, and I still am. With so many Squatters beers to sample, it's hard to know where to begin, but I suggest trying 2014 GABF Gold Medal-winning Squatters Hell's Keep ($9.99/750 ml). The Belgian strong pale ale brims with banana and clove flavors from Belgian yeast—a deceptively light-bodied beer given its not-so-light 7.75-percent ABV.
Bohemian Brewery is nirvana for lager lovers, and their recreation of the Bohemian 1842 Czech Pilsener Lager ($1.50/354 ml) is spot-on. Not that I was around to taste the original version, but this is a perfect tribute to world-class Czech-style pilseners, made with Czech Saaz hops and pale pilsener malt. It's crisp, clean, well-balanced and eminently easy to sip.
Once you crawl into the Epic Brewing Co. labyrinth of beers, you may never crawl out. I lost count somewhere around brew number 75. So, narrowing it down to a single recommendation is daunting, and I certainly haven't tasted them all. But I'll go with the whopping 12.8-percent-ABV Epic Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout ($12.49/651 ml). You certainly won't forget it.