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Utah brewers get a taste of success at beer festival

Entire Salt Lake Tribune story quoted below. I’ve added links to the breweries and restaurants in question, since the Trib doesn’t provide them in its stories.

Since most of the beer they make is sold in Utah, brewers Dan Burick and Jennifer Talley have gotten quite good at producing tasty “light” beers that meet the state’s over-the-counter limit of 4 percent alcohol content by volume.

That expertise was reflected by the awards they garnered last weekend at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver: Utah Brewers Cooperative, where Burick works, won a gold, silver and bronze for light beers; Squatters Pub Brewery, a companion business where Talley oversees the beer making, took home a gold and a bronze.

Noteworthy results, indeed, considering the competition attracted 2,016 entries from 398 breweries nationwide (as well as 35,000 visitors).

But the real capper was another gold awarded to the Utah Brewers Cooperative—for first place among English-style India Pale Ales, a category out of the Utah norm because the “heavy” beer contains enough alcohol to restrict its sales to state liquor stores.

“That was the feather in our cap,” Burick said. “Our forte is lighter styles of beer, but last year we won a bronze in this category and this year we kicked it up to a gold. [Medaling] two years in a row shows we make recognizable, high-quality, higher-alcohol beers.”

Added Greg Schirf, who owns Wasatch Brewery and half of the Cooperative (Squatters owns the other half): “It’s a family effort, if you will. To win six medals is pretty much unprecedented.

“With Utah’s reputation for being a weird state with lots of prohibitions and uneducated beer drinkers, it’s pretty cool to show up and compete that effectively with breweries from all over the country,” he said. “Just because we have some strange laws doesn’t mean we don’t have good beers.”

In fact, based on its overall medals total, Utah Brewers Cooperative tied with Widmer Brothers Brewing of Portland, Ore., for “Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year.” But Widmer took home the title, winning on the strength of three gold medals to Utah Brewing Cooperatives’ two.

That didn’t deter Schirf from exercising bragging rights.

“India Pale Ale is made by every brewer nationwide,” he said, noting that 26 versions were entered in the festival. “It’s a big category and every brew master takes special pride in his India Pale Ale. . . . It’s a beer lover’s beer.”

Utah Brewers Cooperative also won a gold with its Provo Girl Pilsner (in the German-style pilsner category), a silver for Chasing Tail Ale (English-style summer ale) and a bronze for Wasatch Hefeweizen (German-style wheat ale).

Talley brought home a gold for Squatters with her Black Forest Schwarzbier (Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Co. won silver in this German-style black beer category for its Kings Peak brand) and a bronze for her Vienna-style Lager.

“I want to drink great beer and want my customers to, so to be recognized for that amongst your peers is an achievement,” said Talley, who has worked closely with Burick in researching and designing new beers during her 13 years on the job.

“This competition is a good way to have a check and balance on your brewing and it keeps the quality of beer up in the United States so people can’t just open any mom-and-pop brew pub and say, ‘This is good beer,’” she said.

While the team’s gold medals in the 4-percent beer categories were gratifying for Burick—“to brew those lighter styles you have to have all the ingredients in proper balance”—he derives extra satisfaction from seeing how the judges’ decisions are mirrored by increased public sales.