Summertime means new summer beers. Coolers full of ice, hot feet dangling in a cold creek, and the feeling of a frosty beer can sweating in your palm – all are evocative of summer, and it takes just the right kind of ale to make those moments happen. Utah’s breweries have us covered with new releases this season that are ideal for cracking open after a sweltering day recreating outdoors.
The latest rage in microbrewing are “session beers,” which is just a fancy way of saying 3.2 or low-point beer. But whatever you call it, the stuff available at grocery or convenience stores are best for summer day-drinking, because they’re refreshing, yet won’t get you hammered while mowing the lawn or enjoying a backcountry picnic on a mountain lakeshore. Plus, Utah’s breweries are damn good at creating a tasty, low-point beer. So I scoured Utah’s cold aisles in search of the latest releases and brought home new brews from Roosters, Wasatch, Squatters, Uinta, and Moab. I then paired them with outdoor adventures or simply enjoyed them at home. Here are my favorites:
Roosters Patio Pilsner paired with grilling on the deck
Okay, so I don’t have a patio, which, obviously, is where one is meant to quaff a Patio Pilsner from Roosters Brewing Company. But I do have a wood deck, so I will dub it “Back Deck Pilsner,” even though that moniker loses all sense of alliteration. I absolutely love to grill in the back yard during the summer months, and in my book, it’s pretty much against the law to stand at a barbeque and not have a beer in hand. Devouring a grilled dinner is especially divine after mountain biking all day. So on this occasion, I was cooking up some halibut steaks that I caught in Alaska, along with grilled vegetables. To compliment the moment, I popped the cap off a large bottle of Roosters Patio Pilsner.
Pilsners are generally light and crisp, but this version seems a lot more malty and heavy-bodied than expected. After pouring it into a Pilsner glass, I found it has a medium, gold color below a good amount of carbonation and a foamy head that dissolves quickly. Drinking it, there’s a real noticeable grainy flavor that is very up front. There is very little bitterness and a mellow aftertaste. Overall, Roosters Patio Pilsner paired excellent with my grilled halibut, and when the food was finished, I kicked my feet up onto the table and had another glass.
I know that Patio Pilsner has been in the Roosters lineup, on tap, for years at their restaurant in Ogden, but this summer is the first time I’ve seen in it available in bottles at the grocer. So it may not be new to you, but it sure is new to me.
Squatters Squasatch Hoppy Pils paired with ghetto camping at a KOA
“Squasatch” isn’t the name of the strange, bearded beast on the label that looks like a Sasquatch, but is actually the combination of the words Squatters and Wasatch, celebrating the two breweries’ joint venture as the Utah Brewer’s Cooperative. And that wizard-looking dude? That’s Douglass Styer, AKA “Chopper,” who is a legendary employee at the UBC. According to Squatters, this beer is brewed in the Bavarian tradition using Pilsner malt and three different types of German hops. It is then lagered for “supreme drinkability.”
I had my first taste of the ‘Satch while lounging alongside my ghetto popup camper amongst the strange, ‘Merican carnival show that is the Bear Lake KOA. Staying the night in such a place really can’t be called “camping,” but feels more like squatting in a refugee camp filled with hobos who all own small dogs… except there’s mini golf and waterslides. So the Squasatch seemed a fitting pairing to this time and place.
Squasatch Hoppy Pils tastes like America, dammit, unlike a certain major brewer that literally changed its name to “America” this summer. Squasatch is almost a throwback to classic lagers like Olympia or PBR, only it’s better. From my first sip, I was thrust back into my childhood to a time when my mom let me taste her Coors after I mowed the lawn on a hot Colorado day. In essence, this beer is crisp, clean and has that nostalgic lager finish. I’m going to put this out there – Squasatch is the perfect campfire beer. That, or it’s something you’ll want to sip on as you watch America himself walk through a sea of RVs wearing nothing but a bathrobe and flip flops, while two small, yippy dogs lead the way.
Squasatch Hoppy Pils came out in the spring, just in time for the onset of the warmer months, but it’s no summer seasonal – this beer will be around full time.
Wasatch Snap Down India Pale Lager paired with flyfishing on Boulder Mountain
I’m not much of an angler. In fact, you couldn’t even call me a rookie – that’s how green I am at casting a fly rod. So I was definitely a fish out of water on Boulder Mountain in Southern Utah, throwing flies for Arctic grayling in a high-alpine lake. After spending a few hours kicking around in a float tube and catching nothing, we waded onto shore to try our luck there. Luck was on our side as we suddenly couldn’t reel fish in fast enough. I caught my first ever grayling that day, and the guys I was fishing with said that, at 14 inches long, it was a monster for a Utah grayling – not bad for a pre-rookie’s first.
To toast a successful day of angling for monster fish, I chose a beer with a monster on the label – Wasatch Snap Down India Pale Lager. The can is adorned with a serpent that looks like Godzilla, or maybe it’s a dragon. Whatever this reptilian beast may be, the liquid held inside is downright divine. The beer has a serious, tropical hop scent that hits you in the face as soon as you pop the top. Seriously, it made me think I was about to sip an IPA. But upon tasting, it’s clearly much closer to a lager, only with tons of hops. Between the hops, malt profile, and that unmistakable lager yeast (plus the crispness of cold fermentation,) Wasatch has created a monster beer that is refreshing, crisp and delicious. It’s good enough to make me forget that I am drinking a low-point brew.
Uinta Ready Set Gose paired with mountain biking in Park City
Summer is universally accepted as the best time of year to go mountain biking, but I counter that it’s pretty much the worst. When the mercury rises into the, God forbid, 100 degree range, it’s too damn hot to pedal uphill while wearing a chamois, which is effectively adult diapers under shorts. This is why summer mountain biking requires a little added motivation at the end of a sweltering ride.
Such was the case on a recent weekend in Park City, where I pedaled up the resort under a mid-day sun. Sure, the air in Park City is cooler than down in the Salt Lake Valley, but my truck thermometer still taunted me with a number in the low 90s when I pulled up in the lower lot. Cranking my pedals up Jenni’s Trail was a lesson in heat stroke prevention – the lesson: don’t mountain bike when it’s more than 90 degrees.
From Jenni’s, I connected to Tommy’s Two Step, then to the top where a rollicking descent down Mojave and Crescent Mine Grade at least provided some wind to cool down my slick and sticky front end. At the bottom, I thanked the bike gods for keeping me from crashing, considering that I was blinded by stinging sweat filtering through my lashes and drowning my eyeballs.
Sport drinks like Gatorade contain salt in order to replenish one’s depleted stores after a major workout. Well, a new beer from Uinta Brewing Company, Ready Set Gose, seemed to be a proper alternative when I opened the cooler on the tailgate of my truck. Gose is a German-style, low-alcohol wheat beer that has an addition of salt. At first, I was opposed to this idea, but came to accept it after thinking about a salty beer like drinking a margarita out of a salt-rimmed glass. To offset the salt, there’s a hint of coriander for added spice. In effect, Ready Set Gose is a damn refreshing, thirst-quenching beer post summer-ride. After downing one, I was ready for another lap, heat be damned.
Moab Pale Ale paired with Snowbird Brew Fest
Beers from the Moab Brewery have been my go-to for outdoor adventure for a while now. Firstly they’re located in Moab, and stopping in for a beer and burger after a weekend of desert play is tradition. But also their beers are outdoor friendly because they come in cans… tall boys at that. It’s been some time since a new brew has come out from Moab, but this summer we are in for a treat as the just-released Moab Pale Ale hit liquor stores in the beginning of July.
I got my first taste of Moab Pale Ale at the Snowbird Brew Fest. Amidst all the beer tents filled with ice-cooled cans, bottles, and kegs beneath the peaks of Little Cottonwood Canyon, my primary objective was to seek out this elusive, full-strength beer. Moab’s old low-point pale, Scorpion Pale Ale, is one favorite remembered from my infant craft-beer years in Utah, so I was keenly interested in what this new pale had to offer my taste buds.
Tokens and brew-fest glass in hand, I sauntered up to the Moab Brewery booth and got my 4-ounce pour. I was not disappointed. Piney, resinous, malty – all are appropriate descriptors of this brew. It’s boozy, yet light in body and well balanced.
Moab Pale Ale is available in Utah liquor stores and comes in 16oz cans. You can be sure I’ll have a few cans of this one in my garage beer-fridge for the remainder of summer.
Tailgate Taste Test: A Sampling of Utah’s Newest Breweries
Utah’s beer scene is growing, with new breweries opening up in the last few years. So in addition to the new summer beers from Utah’s old guard, I thought it was high time to do a little “research.” So I visited each new brewery, bought some from each, and took my bounty to Moab with friends for a “tailgate taste test.” Here the results:
TALISMAN BREWING COMPANY
The newest brewery in the test is Talisman Brewing Company in Ogden. Dusty and Joann Williams are the founders of Talisman. They started off as avid homebrewers, and with the encouragement of friends, took the plunge into commercial brewing in 2014. They now have six beers available with rotating seasonals mixed in. For our test, I grabbed two.
The Kreation Kristallweizen
Sean Zimmerman-Wall: This beer is very clean and clear, with a different bouquet than taste. It’s very simple, with no aftertaste. In fact, I forgot about it after I drank it. Reminds me of my frat days around the beer pong table, and I wasn’t even in a frat.
Mason Diedrich: On a hot day, maybe if I have to do an afternoon mow, this would be a great choice. It’s not nailing me in the tongue with a bundle of wheat like some wheat beers do. Instead, it has a clean and clear taste, but also lacks some texture. The smell was a little non-distinct as well. The bouquet really didn’t carry much of the flavor forward. Instead it smelled like stale beer in a frat keg.
Jared Hargrave: Very refreshing! This is a good summer beer and is perfect for enjoying after outdoor activity like mountain biking on a hot day. Easy drinking with a crisp aftertaste. This beer almost reminds me of a cider in a strange way. I wish it was available in cans instead of a 22oz bottle, because it would be a great river beer.
Uplifted Scottish Ale
SZ-W: The smell is like the underside of a kilt on a Friday night. The roasty taste could pair well with certain stews.
MD: The nose on this is deep and it definitely had a little burn on the tongue, but the standard for scotch ales is pretty high in my book and I felt like this was an impersonation of a scotch ale.
JH: I’m with Mason on this. The beer is not as malty as some Scottish style ales I’ve had. It’s actually a bit funky. I’d want to drink this beer during a chill, foggy day hiking Mount Van Cott, which is the closest thing we have to Scottish highlands in Salt Lake City. The aftertaste is a bit like burnt toast.
PROPER BREWING COMPANY
If you’ve been to Avenues Proper in Salt Lake City, then you already know about their excellent beers on tap. Well, the brewmasters in the Avenues have expanded with a new brewery downtown called, Proper Brewing Company, where you can now take home 12 varieties in 22oz bottles of their low ABV classics, as well as new high-point beers.
Recommend Rye Saison
SZ-W: This beer has a crisp, funk flavor like an apple. It’s somewhat fruit- forward and fills the palate with a thickness that’s beyond description. I also taste a strong, yeast backing, with something extra.
MD: Fizzy and sour with a crisp taste.
JH: It’s a bit thick for a Saison. The mouthfeel is heavy and full bodied. There is an unusual mixture of flavors going on here that I’m not too sure about.
Faultline Red IPA
SZ-W: Complex, soft, and buttery. And it smells like weed… but I don’t feel bad about it.
MD: Probably not fair to drink a beer like this with session IPAs on the tailgate. They might go home crying. There is a smooth flavor that hits me on the sides of the tongue which disperses the bitterness and helps the medicine go down. It warms me on the way down, and even after the swallow is finished, the aftertaste still warms me.
JH: Dank! This IPA smacks me upside the tastebuds. There’s a lot going on with this beer. It’s hard to describe really. I would be over the moon if this came in a can. Damn. Great lingering aftertaste. The malt profile is phenomenal!
2 ROW BREWING COMPANY
2 Row Brewing, located in Midvale, opened in June, 2015. Like many who go into the beer business, owners Brian and DeDe Coleman were homebrewers who won several awards at contest around the country. Brian is also a nationally-certified beer judge. You can purchase their brews from their bottle shop.
Dangereux American Farmhouse Ale
SZ-W: This beer tastes like juicy fruit in a bottle. It hits you in the nostrils like someone threw an ‘effing grapefruit at your face. Drinking this beer gets me thinking about a different kind of citrus.
MD: This is a beer that has such a complex fruit flavor; almost grapefruit without being buried in hoppiness. There’s no bitterness. It’s smooth, extremely fragrant and reminds me of one of my favorite beers called Bedlam from Ale Asylum. My favorite.
JH: Absolutely delicious! There is a very hoppy smell right off the top that is packed full of citrus fruit flavors. Drinking it, I’m surprised that the beer is not very sour considering that it’s a farmhouse ale. In fact, it’s very drinkable. I agree that it has a nice effervescence. Damn, this is really complex with pungent, multi-layered tastes. Dangereux is definitely a group favorite so far.
SZ-W: This IPA reminds me of a fruit patch on a long weekend, where you can find everything you need. When I drink is, it’s like the Kool-Aid guy bustin’ through a wall of beer bottles. “Oh Yea!” Overall, this has a citrus blend of hoppy notes that pleases the entire palette.
MD: A much fruitier IPA than Proper Brewing’s Faultline. Accelerator has a rounded flavor with a very present bitterness. There are berries, cherries, and pineapple all mixed together in this.
JH: I find this to be a very typical IPA, but it’s quite good. I’m picking up a lot of fruity, hop flavor, but it’s not overpowering. I can’t quite place my fingers on the flavor profile. I say strawberry, Mason says pineapple, Sean says Kool-Aid. Let’s just call it fruity.
PARK CITY BREWERY
The guys from the Park City Brewery started making beer in a garage, and ended up making even more beer… in a garage. Located just off I-80 in an old body shop with huge roll-up doors, the brewery opened in early 2015 with a line of low-point, canned beers.
Breaking Trail Pale Ale
SZ-W: This beer totally has something for the outdoorsman with a bit of extra flavor. A taste for the discerning skier.
MD: The bitterness is well balanced throughout and the hoppiness is muted. It has the character of a session ale without feeling like you are drinking a sessionable ale.
JH: The name is apt. This is a very solid pale ale, and is surprisingly good for a low point beer. There’s a backcountry skier on the label that’s skinning into the mountains, so that’s cool. A great choice for taking outdoors because it’s in a can. Compared to other pale ales, this is more on the malty side of the flavor profile.
Last Pitch IPA
SZ-W: I really can’t say that this is your traditional IPA. It’s a session beer, and they’ve done a fine job. The hops are muted but tolerable. It has a bitter aftertaste that is not overwhelming.
MD: The format of a session beer doesn’t seem to work for me with an IPA. Once again, there’s a muted bitterness, which I don’t always mind, but I think I would prefer their pale ale if I was going for a session beer.
JH: For at low-point IPA, it’s pretty good. The mouth-feel is really light bodied. I could drink 12 of these in a day and be happy. However, I can tell that it doesn’t have any punch in the alcohol department, which makes it taste thin compared to full-strength IPAs. But the hop flavors are all there, and then some. I think of it as “hop juice.”