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Out On a High Note 

We wrap up 2021 with two beers made for celebrating

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click to enlarge MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

Strap Tank/Bewilder- Wee Heavy: The boys and girls at both of these breweries gathered at Bewilder Brewing a few weeks ago to brew this special Scottish-style brew. To increase the caramel qualities of the beer, some of the wort (unfermented beer) was made at Strap Tank's Springville location, where they have a direct fire-brew system, to "amp up" the caramelization in this single-malt ale. It was then hauled up to SLC and combined into one brew.

The result is a ruby-colored ale that starts with a half-finger of light tan head that fades to a thin, uneven and just incomplete skim; body is fairly dark, but still has decent clarity, and shows strong carbonation. There's lots of big caramel, burnt and otherwise, in the aroma, along with a nice mulchy, grainy scent. A bit of a spicy/tobacco-like note is present, as well as some deep dark fruits. It's quite robust.

Wow, the taste is just amazing. It's more of a barleywiney with a treacle-like attack, including phenomenal, complex fig/plum/cherry fruit flavor. I am getting more of an English Old ale than a Scotch ale—no heather, no peat, no smoke, but very syrupy and fruity. It's a welcome surprise, but, you know, we're looking at Scotch ales here. The 10.4 percent alcohol is well-hidden (until it warms, that is). This would be fun to be cellared for a few years.

Overall: I'd drink the hell out of this one, and order at least one more; it makes me want to go back again and again. As a Scotch ale, though, it's not a prime example, but as an amazingly complex barleywine or real ale, Wee Heavy is a fantastic brew.

Epic - Big Boy Hoppy Brown: O.G. beer nerds will probably recall Epic's Santa Cruz. It was billed as a "brown IPA," and I very much loved it. Apparently, I was the only one, though, because it was mothballed. After years of pissing in Epic's ear in regards to bringing it back, the powers that be decided to shut me up and resurrect Santa Cruz as Big Boy Hoppy Brown. Well, probably not literally. It's not the same beer, as the malts bill has been altered along with hops.

This is a nice dark, molasses-brown brew, cloudy enough that I can't really see through it in my pint glass. A big fluffy tan head slowly settled to a thick layer of foamy goodness all about—big lace, and lasting head.

The aroma reveals a kick-butt hoppy brown ale with the hops falling squarely into that pine family we know and love. It's more like a porter than a brown ale, with loads of dark malt, some cloudiness and only a small off-white head. The nose here is really hop forward, like green pine cones, sappy and fresh.

The malt is less chocolate than expected, and much more towards that dark bitterness of unmalted roasted barley. The hops trump the malt bitterness with a unique bitterness of their own, very much sprucy and pine-forward. The full body may be a little filling for the style, as this is quite a hearty drink, but one that probably works well in three seasons and is nothing short of beautifully executed. We need more Indian brown ales on the market.

Overall: This is one hell of a good-tasting beer: perfect balance with malts, very bready, and only slightly sweet. Great roasted sugars, light toffee, pine and some citrus hops provide balance. This is just as solid as can be, and I love it.

If you're reading this, I imagine your new year's resolutions will likely include drinking better beer and enjoying more locally-made suds. If "Drynuary" is on your calendar, I'd advise checking out both of these above-mentioned breweries and trying out these fine ales to wrap up 2021. As always, cheers!

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