The Beer Nut: Uinta beers from Utah now on Bay State shelves
The Uinta Brewing Company is not the most well-known brewery in the country.
This Utah brewery just celebrated its 16th anniversary and I had never heard of it. Heck, I didn't think there were any breweries in Utah.
But, brewery President Steve Kuftinec, said they are OK with their relative anonymity.
"We don't have a huge presence," said Kuftinec. "We're kind of the quiet company that tries to go about our business...trying to make great beer."
Even though they may not be the highest profile brewer, Uinta (named for the only stretch of the Rocky Mountains that runs east to west rather than north to south) has earned 75 national and international brewing awards.
Their 16th anniversary ale was recently named the best American barley wine by the Ale Street News.
"We don't do it for the awards and accolades, but it's really nice to get them," Kuftinec said. "I think, for us, it's always been about our commitment to quality and, above all else, to make world-class beer. You've got to believe in what you're doing. You've got to have passion in what you're doing and to make it great."
Uinta was the first production brewery in Salt Lake City when it first opened up its doors in 1993, and in 1996 they began selling bottles of beer.
Over the past couple of years, Uinta has expanded its distribution to the East Coast, and last week hit the shelves in Massachusetts for the first time.
If you are into environmentally concerned breweries, Uinta is the brewery for you.
They are 100 percent wind-powered. They estimate they save 444 tons of carbon dioxide by being wind-powered, which is equivalent to planting 174 acres of trees.
In addition, the brewery re-uses six-pack carriers whenever possible, and all of the spent grain is donated to local ranchers.
"We are firm believers that the decisions you make today affect, downstream, what will happen to our children and our children's children," said Kuftinec. "We certainly don't do it as a money saving device."
As I've said numerous times before, a brewery being energy-efficient or organic or anything like that is fine, but they need quality beer to pull it off. I wouldn't buy a beer I'm not a fan of just because they're environmentally responsible.
I would buy Uinta's beers again, well at least three of the four that are available here.
The one exception is the Blue Sky Pilsner.
There's nothing wrong with the beer. It's exactly what a Czech-style, or Bohemian-style pilsner is supposed to be. It's just one of my least favorite styles. I prefer German-style pilsners. It's just a matter of taste, I guess.
"It should make for a clean, easy-drinking experience," Kuftinec said.
The best is the XVI (16 for those who don't know Roman numerals) Anniversary Barley Wine. It weighs in at a hefty 11 percent alcohol by volume.
I love barley wines, but it is so easy to screw one up. Load it with hops without the proper balance, and you'll get something more reminiscent of a double India pale ale. Too much sweet malts, and it can be cloyingly sweet.
The key is balance, and Uinta's version of the style has that balance.
The Anglers Pale Ale is a classic West Coast version of the American pale ale more bitter than the traditional East Coast counterparts. It's definitely an easy-drinking beer. It would be perfect for a cookout.
"I think there's plenty of a malt backbone to balance those hops," said Kuftinec. "Our beers finish really dry. They don't leave that cloying aftertaste on your tongue. You want to go back because it entices you to have more than one."
The final Uinta beer available is the Golden Spike Hefeweizen, which is an American-style wheat ale. Although this is a year-round beer, this is the type of beer you want to drink during the hot weather. It's crisp and refreshing. The hops provide a slightly citrusy flavor, and Kuftinec recommended putting a lemon wedge on the side of the glass to accentuate those flavors.
Uinta will consider adding more beers after they get a foothold in the Bay State.
"It's a marathon for us, not a sprint," said Kuftinec. "We truly believe you build brands that way. You go out there with your flagships and get people hooked on them, and then people start asking, 'What else do you do?"'
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog athttp://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.