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Ending on a High Note 

2020's dismal start, finishes with strong with hope and hops

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

As we bid adieu to the infamously shitty 2020, I'd like to reflect on some of the more positive developments that came about in our craft beer scene this year. When mid-March passed, we had undergone the biggest craft beer boom in the state's history, with breweries popping up at an obscene rate. Thankfully, no brewery/brewpub has (so far) succumbed to the economic woes that has befallen us all. Our pals over at Grid City Brew Works were scheduled to have their grand opening days after the shutdown, and have managed to stay afloat during a less than ideal year.

So, it seems appropriate that 2020's last beer nerd column would feature a brand-new beer from Grid City, as a testament to the brewers and their customers who are keeping our thriving beer culture alive.

Grid City "The Big Fruit Cake": This is a barleywine at its base, made with maple syrup, Balaton cherry juice, dried mission figs and Deglet Noor Dates. It pours a beautifully deep, clear burnt orange-amber body, with a slight, frothy off-white head. Adequate retention quickly yields a lasting frothy collar, paper-thin islands of cap and sparse strands of medium lacing around the glass. The nose opens in a weightless vacuum of vanilla-tinged tree sap, serving as a soft prelude to a dominant caramel malt with rounded honey accents. Sticky evergreen with touches of ginger and orange zest develops over time; trending towards syrupy sweet, but with a snappy crispness, evening the bouquet out nicely.

Taste shows semi-sweet caramel malt with a burnt pine backing upfront, steadily allowing charred toffee, dark fruits, grapefruit zest, spicy ginger, honey and citrus fruit esters to assert in spots across the profile into the finish. At 10.3 percent ABV, the mouthfeel brings a crisp, easy, medium body supported with moderate carbonation—lightly syrupy in the mid-palate, transitioning into a dry finish with a creamy edge and minor bitterness developing into the swallow.

Overall: While at times this can feel like a multitude of disparate elements struggling to find their place, everything eventually comes together with a harmony all its own. Malty and bitter, piney and sweet, honeyed and fruity—they all find their way together in a winter warmer that remains perfectly unfocused and consistently intriguing. It's the kind of eclectic nature I enjoy in a holiday ale.

Wasatch Snow Bank: Pouring an amber hue, the beer shows bright clarity and a faltering head character. Through building a frothy white head to start, the foam dissipates without lace as quickly as it forms. First aromas are malty with notes of freshly-baked breads and bread crust, but with a grainy note here and there. The nose is mostly sweet, and with a soft herbal and floral hop blend.

Flavor is equally as simple, leading with a mostly malt, but partly grain sweetness of light caramel, French breads and the savory crust flavor of breads most of all. No esters or phenols, the clean lager taste comes through in quite a refreshing attitude. Tea-like herbal flavor turns to earthy bitterness as the beer approaches finish, for a slightly bitter and fleeting malt taste late. Medium bodied, the beer's mild maltiness and ample carbonation keeps things lightly creamy through mid- palate, before turning herbal and slightly warm in finish.

Overall: A less complicated brew that's more of an apres-ski beer due to its toasty mixture of grainy bread and biscuit tops, with a lightly sweet touch of caramel. Pile on the earthy, spicy hops and a restrained level of balancing bitterness, and this 5.0 percent beer will give you no complaints.

Snow Bank is widely available and currently in cans as well as draft handles around northern Utah. The Big Fruit Cake is less available; only in 16-oz cans from Grid City's pub and retail shop. Here's hoping for a much kinder 2021!

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