I had the privilege of enjoying a smorgasbord of Uinta Brewing beers at a very enjoyable mountainside beer dinner at Snowbasin Resort’s Earl’s Lodge in January. It turned out to be a fun and informative expedition of food and brews hosted by Uinta’s John Minahan, who guided us through the varied beer flavors and styles poured that evening. It gave me an opportunity to sip a number of Uinta brews that I hadn’t tasted before, as well as to get reacquainted with some old favorites.
The Snowbasin food and beverage team did a magnificent job of transforming a ski lodge—albeit a very upscale ski lodge—into a comfortable full-service restaurant with top-notch service. The evening began with hors d’oeuvres of crudités and zippy meatballs bathed in chipotle barbecue sauce. Setting up what would become a theme through the night—complimentary food and beer pairings—the meatballs, spicy with a smoky flavor from the chipotle peppers, were partnered with a limited release beer: Uinta Tinder Rauchbier. Part of Uinta’s Crooked Line of elevated-alcohol, large-format (750 ml) bottled beers, this was a classic Rauchbier: smoky, sans hop aromas, with a thick and creamy head, slightly sweet-tasting malt and good balance. It was a slam-dunk with the meatballs, and would pair well with smoked meat and fish.
Chèvre is often paired at wine dinners with Sauvignon Blanc, since a crisp wine with strong acidity and a bit of bitterness helps cut through the tangy goat cheese. The same principle applied to a breaded goat cheese appetizer over sautéed kale, bacon and onions with a pomegranate reduction. Uinta chose its Hop Nosh IPA (definitely an IPA for hopheads) to pair with the dish; its citrus flavors and crisp hoppy zing make the award-winning beer a clear winner with goat cheese.
One of the bolder pairings of the night was beer & butternut-squash soup with crisp pancetta, fried leeks and smoked oil. What the hell do you partner with that? Well, Uinta chose a beer from its Classic Line: Dubhe Imperial Black IPA. It’s a high-alcohol brew (9.2 percent alcohol by volume) with, as the brewers put it, “an astronomical amount of hops” balanced with chocolaty, toasted malt. It was a surprisingly good foil for the slightly sweet butternut squash soup.
Wine lovers know how difficult it is to pair wine with salads, especially those with vinaigrettes. So, a butter-leaf wedge salad with Maytag blue cheese, golden beets, sweet-pea puree and buttermilk dressing was bound to be problematic. I can’t say I was crazy about the beer and food partnership, but I very much liked Uinta’s Hazel Amber Wheat Ale all by itself. It’s a seasonal beer sold in winter, very subtle on the palate with an interesting combination of sweet and sour flavors highlighted by coriander notes (sour), but not as wheaty as you might expect.
An entree of slow-braised beef short rib with black-truffle mashed potatoes and au jus was rich enough, so I was glad that Uinta paired this one with the 4 percent alcohol Bristlecone Brown Ale instead of something bigger. It’s a nutty ale in the English nut-brown style, although not as sweet and more drinkable than many I’ve encountered.
Beer and dessert? Sure, why not. The Snowbasin beer dinner wrapped up with molten chocolate cake and Uinta Baba Black Lager from the Organic Line. To be honest, my taste buds were pretty blown out by the time dessert rolled around, but I loved the cake and thoroughly enjoyed Uinta’s dark, mocha-flavored homage to Schwarzbier.
Stay tuned here for upcoming beer dinners.