Epic Brewing 

Epic, Ballast Point Brewing & Aztec Brewing have surprises in store for Utah

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The renewed interest in craft beers means not a day goes by without some new innovation in suds. Here's a look at what's new in Utah's beer scene:

Epic Brewing Company's Brainless line of beers has been a proven success for Utah's so-called "maverick brewery." The Brainless line started out with a Belgian Style Golden Ale, then morphed into various fruity/barrel-aged incarnations including Brainless on Peaches and Brainless on Cherries. A Brainless IPA came, too, along with a non-barrel-aged Brainless on Raspberries. The raspberry version from this series has become quite popular, but its 22-ounce bottle and high alcohol content (9.7 percent) limited the audience that fruit beers normally can reach. This got the kids at Epic thinking that a less boozy, more portable version of Brainless on Raspberries would be even more popular and approachable.

The result is the new Lil' Brainless Raspberries. Like all of the other Brainless beers, it has that rich, spicy Belgian yeast funk backing it up. The raspberry is subtle and tart, with some dry and puckering tannin notes. You get some floral bitterness on the back of the tongue. With a finish that is semi-tart and dry, this beer has a nice complex character that is very pleasing and drinkable. The alcohol by volume is a pleasant 5.2 percent, and the packaging for "Lil' B-Razz" is a handy and portable 12-ounce can. Look for it at state liquor stores in early April.

San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing Company has become one of the most popular craft breweries in the country due to its innovative take on American IPAs. Its beers are highly sought after and praised around the country—and now, due in part to a special trend in low-alcohol "session beers," Ballast Point is looking to satisfy Salt Lake City's beer drinkers.

Even Keel, Ballast Point's newest IPA, will hit the market in the coming weeks. It's described as having a silky malt backbone, with herbal and citrus hops. It has a whopping by-volume alcohol content of 3.8 percent, and will be available in cans and on draft. Ballast Point also announced that other beers in its portfolio will be coming as well, including the brewery's flagship Sculpin IPA.

Another San Diego brewery is bringing its suds to the Beehive State as well. Originally conceived in Mexico during Prohibition, the Aztec Brewing Company flourished by bootlegging beer to the Southwestern United States. After Prohibition ended, the brewery was moved to San Diego, where it operated for decades before being bought out and shut down by a competitor. In 2008, the brand was resurrected and relocated in Vista, Calif., where it has thrived in San Diego's competitive craft-beer scene.

Aztec's unique take on South of the Border beers should be a refreshing change to Utah's market of standard and lighter beers. Look for Noche de los Muertos Imperial Stout, with a hint of cinnamon spice. In the Chipotle India Pale Ale, the chipotles add a smoky kick without excessive heat, giving this beer a complex, lingering, slightly spicy finish. The Hop Serpent Imperial IPA is a deliciously drinkable brew with plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hibiscus Wheat Beer is inspired by the Mexican hibiscus tea "Jamaic," brewed with hibiscus petals, ginger and allspice.

Mike Riedel blogs about beer at UtahBeer.blogspot.com.

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