- Mike Riedel
As 2018 winds down, I'd like to send out a heartfelt thanks to all of Utah's incredible breweries for keeping the tongues and bellies of local beer nerds happy and satisfied. Not since before Prohibition has Utah seen such an incursion of breweries and craft beer lovers. This year, we welcomed Toasted Barrel Brewery, SaltFire Brewing Co., Policy Kings Brewery, Cerveza Zólopez Beer Co., T.F. Brewing, Roosters' B Street Brewery and St. George's Silver Reef Brewing Co.; Sugar House's brand new Hopkins Brewing Co. is scheduled to open on Dec. 31. If all goes as planned, you can expect to see another five or six breweries open in 2019. Until then, I'll leave you with a couple of 2018's latest beers. Enjoy.
Kiitos Holiday Ale: This brand new seasonal beer pours a nearly clear dark ruby color, with a single finger of dense, eggshell-colored head that reduces to a thin lingering cap. Aromas of ginger root, cinnamon, biscuit and nutmeg dominate; there's some solid complexity and good strength, but way too much cinnamon and ginger going on. The taste picks up where the aroma leaves off, with big cinnamon and ginger plus subtle caramel. Once you've adjusted to that, you get hints of toast, biscuit and nutmeg. There's minimal bitterness in the finish, with lingering notes of ginger, cinnamon and earthy herbal hops. Not too much in the way of balance here, with minimal cloying sugars, robust spices and tame malt flavors. Carbonation level is moderate, with a body that is medium-light—a creamy, slick and lightly zippy mouthfeel. The alcohol is very well-hidden, with minimal warming present after the finish.
Overall: This is an unapologetic holiday beer. It takes its cues from the season's spices and is a pretty good example of a gingersnap cookie in beer form. Once it warmed up, I started to get some of that toasted malt base with some light nutty flavors. This beer doesn't have the best drinkability. It isn't the smoothest, it's a little boozy and the taste only did an OK job of holding my attention, so one would probably be my limit; I think it would start to wear on me if I drank multiples. This makes for a great holiday beer, and it's perfect for late fall and winter.
Shades Brewing O.J. Simcoe IPA: This beer pours a hazy copper brownish color with two fingers of white head. The nose hits hard and fast with grapefruit, pineapple, orange peel, piney hops, light caramel, sweet citrus hops and biscuit; the hop aroma is fresh and strong, with some mild grains and earthy notes managing to balance it out. The first swig starts off fresh and juicy, with grapefruit, orange peel, citrus, pineapple and caramel coating the tongue at first, followed by piney hops, leafy tea and guava. The 5.5 percent ABV is on the light side for this style and is completely hidden. There is a complexity that seems odd since this is a single hop IPA, but it gives off so many fruit flavors that they all seem to blend together. It's very tasty, with solid balance and more sweetness than bitterness.
Overall: This is a well-balanced, excellent IPA from Shades Brewing, and a beer that I highly recommend trying. It was a shame I couldn't stay for another, so I hope Shades manages to put it into the rotation more often than not. There's a limited supply of this one, so don't wait too long in getting to know it.
Both of these beers are exclusive to their respective breweries, and like all seasonal beers, are in limited supply. Stay close, as 2019 is shaping up to be an incredible beer year. As always, cheers!