- Mike Riedel
When Schirf Brewing (Wasatch) re-invented Utah's beer scene in 1986, all of the state's beer innovations were coming from the top of main street in Park City. Over the years, much of Wasatch's beer production was moved to the Utah Brewers Cooperative, but beer has always continued to flow from the Park City brewery. A few years ago, the brewery that Greg Schirf built recommitted itself to producing innovative high-point beers that are still keeping the 34-year-old brewery relevant. Oh, and by the way: I have a couple of fine examples of their newest offerings this week.
Wasatch - Top of Main Series (Belgian Dubbel aged in Brandy Barrels): This beer combined with barrel selection is quite the harmonious match. The mahogany liquid has an almost cordial-like appearance; the foam is minimal, but quite perfume-y. The aroma was simply amazing: Dried fruits, including figs, raisins and prunes, came through strong. Oxidative notes, along with an oaky, aged quality, gave the beer an intense port- or sherry-like character, really grape-y and vinous. Loads of maple and brown sugar sweetness follow, while toffee was also noticeable. That scent is super-boozy, but in a pleasant and warming sort of way—fantastically interesting and complex.
Rich, boozy, port-like notes came through big time in the flavor as well. The hints of oxidation added some interesting complexities. Raisins, figs and plums were apparent, plus loads of toffee, sticky pudding and a touch of maple, leaving quite a sweet impression overall. The finish wasn't too boozy, although 9.6 percent alcohol will tend to make you exhale slightly harder. As the beer warmed, the alcohol became more prominent, especially on the finish.
Overall: This brandy barrel-aged version of the classic Belgian Dubbel style transformed the base beer into something magical. I look forward to this beer making a return. I don't know if that's in the cards, but I can hope.
Wasatch - Landbier: The brew is light yellow and mostly translucent. Lots of white lace is left on the sides of the glass, and the head is built up a bit by swirling. A fluffy two finger head eventually reduces to a collar and haze but gets really rocky on its way down, and it leaves behind a shload of dry white lace on the glass—an attractive pilsner. Melon and hints of green berries ride a wave of saltine cracker malt notes upon first whiff. I smell crisp and hard baguette with some forcefully spicy saaz hops notes that many pilsners have. This is very lively and fresh with additional salt air aromas. I would like my laundry to smell this fresh!
As damn good as it smells, the flavor is amazing as well. I taste vague melon, green grapes and some buttery diacetyl notes. All of these fresh, sweet and light summer fruits are supported by a fresh bread malt flavor, with a big cereal/cracker component as well.
Lively carbonation tingles the tongue before dancing away and leaving a fuzzy feeling in my mouth. Medium bodied for the style, but still pretty light.
Overall: This is a great beer for these intensely warm days—fruity, toasty, fresh and complex, yet light enough to keep it quenchable. Keep in mind that the 6.0 percent alcohol is slightly higher than your typical lager.
It used to be that the beers made in Park City could only be purchased there. This is not the case now. Though these are small batch beers, you can find them at most Wasatch and Squatters locations, including the Utah Brewers Cooperatives's Beer Store. Search these out; they're very different from each other, and well worth your time. As always, cheers!