Moab Brewing Company serves up perfect end to day of hiking in Utah
Beer blogger Eric Strader traveled to Moab, Utah, where a hike alongside geological wonders was followed by a beer tasting at Moab Brewing Company.
Posted on June 17, 2014 at 11:54 a.m.
Eric Strader writes about the craft beer scene in Indiana and Michigan. He's a dad, husband, potter, soccer coach and special education paraprofessional who likes to read, bike, hike and canoe. You can read more from him in his community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Hop Notes.
Beer tourism is becoming a big industry. In fact, last week while at Bell’s Brewery, I ran into John Liberty (a former contributor to Kalamabrew.com) and Daniel Harper (beer specialist at Tiffany’s Wine and Spirit Shoppe) with West Michigan Beer Tours. They had a bus load of 50 people from all over the country that began in Grand Rapids, Mich., where they would be attending the National Home Brewer’s Conference, which took place this past weekend. The bus trip took participants to Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Mich., where owner/brewer Ron Jeffries gave them a tour. Dark Horse Brewing was next on the itinerary, with a final stop at Bell’s Brewery.
I have not really traveled just for the sake of beer, but when I travel, I do seek out beer destinations. One of the exciting aspects of traveling is finding beer that is not available in Michiana.
Earlier this month we flew to Salt Lake City for a family wedding. One of the challenges about traveling is determining a different state’s liquor laws. For example, Pennsylvania requires you purchase a full case of particular beers, some states only sell beer at state-owned stores and each state has different laws about how old you have to be to enter a beer store.
As a Michigander who had recently moved to Indiana, I remember entering Bobby Jo’s (a Goshen liquor store that’s no longer in business) with my few month old daughter in my arms. In Michigan, this is not a problem; however, being in Indiana, I was told that my daughter could not be in the store with me. What problems could my few month old daughter cause in a bottle shop, I thought? I guess that discussion is for another time.
So before heading west, I did a bit of research and found that in Utah, draft beer must not exceed 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (many of us have heard the term 3.2 beer). This translates into about 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), which is how most of us refer to the alcohol content of beer. Beer at higher than 4 percent ABV can be sold in bottles and then consumed either on site or carried out.
Shortly after arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport, we picked up our rental car and headed south to Moab, Utah, just a few miles from the entrance to Arches National Park. After going to the park’s visitor center, checking into our motel and taking a beautiful sunset hike up to Natural Arch, it was time to check out the Moab Brewing Company.
I took the last seat at the bar, which happened to be next to a guy from Ohio who we had met on our hike back in the park. We had a good talk about Midwest brews, then I dove right into the Moab beer. Many bars and breweries I’m familiar with offer flights (several 3-4 oz. samples of their beer served together at one time, usually on some type of creative board or tray). However, in Utah, a customer is only able to purchase two samples at a time. This made it impossible for me to do any side-by-side comparisons.
The menu contained 10 beers on tap, all with an IBU (international bittering unit) rating listed, but no ABV. It was confirmed from the bar tender that, yes, all tap beers are 4 percent ABV, so there was no reason to list this. Wanting to taste all 10 beers, this session level ABV was not such a bad thing. So I went right down the list in order.
Porcupine Pilsener – IBUs 13. Lightly hopped with Saaz. Lagers often get overlooked amongst craft beer drinkers, but a well-brewed lager is always quite enjoyable. This was my favorite beer on the menu.
Moab Especial – IBUs 20. The menu referred to this a classic wheat ale. However, I didn’t get much wheat in the flavor. I did get a light hoppiness.
Over the Top Hefeweizen – IBUs 20. This is an unfiltered American wheat ale, and I did get a good wheat flavor this time.
Squeaky Bike Nut Brown – IBUs 35. English mild with caramel and roasted malt. It had a medium body with some nutty and bready notes, hopped with Noble hops. This was my third most favorite.
Rocket Bike Lager – IBUs 28. This beer is a steam beer style meaning lager yeast was used in the fermentation, but it was brewed at warmer temperatures than normally associated with lagers.
Johnny’s American IPA – IBUs 60. Since most of the bar staff was wearing shirts with this beer's logo, I assumed this might be the brewery’s flagship beer. It was also the first beer I was able to sense a good amount of aroma in. It was lightly hopped, with some peach and other fruitiness.
Red Rye IPA – IBUs 75. This name has a familiar ring for us here in the Midwest (Founders Red's Rye). Medium body, very nice detectable spiciness from the rye malt.
Derailleur Ale – IBUs 34. Brewed with six malts and four hops. Bitter rich toffee, a bit more complex with some fruit and nut flavors.
Black Raven Stout – IBUs 50. Oatmeal stout, nice aroma of dark roasted malt, with nice creaminess from the oats and a good bitter finish. I really enjoy a good oatmeal stout, and this was my second favorite beer on the menu.
Overall, I think that the low ABV imposed by the state restricts Utah breweries’ creativity. A good session ale is a wonderful thing, but the ability to have a wider range of ABV can provide a much more diverse beer experience. The Moab Brewery did offer five additional beers with higher ABV in 22 oz. bombers – a Trippel (8.59 percent ABV, IBUs 32), Scotch Ale (8.59 percent ABV, IB Us 20), Hopped Rye (8.59 percent, IBUs 50), Black Imperial IPA (8.59 percent ABV, IBUs 100+) and Export Stout (8 percent ABV, IBUs 30).
I grabbed a bottle of the Black Imperial IPA and Scotch Ale, and although it seems like another pattern of very similar ABV in these beers, there was more complexity in the flavors. The Black Imperial IPA had some rich roasted malt character similar to a stout, but more medium bodied, with both pine and citrus notes.
I enjoyed the atmosphere quite a bit. The local flavor of outdoor activities was represented by bikes, rafts, kayaks and other items hanging from the ceiling and walls. It seemed to be a good mix of locals and travelers, with a good selection of food on the menu. Toward the front of the seating area, there was what I would refer to as a three season room with large screened windows, open to allow the cool evening air in after a hot day. The brew house was off to the side of the bar behind glass window for viewing.
If you enjoy dry dessert climate with beautiful rock formations, I highly recommend Moab as a destination. It is also near Canyonlands National Park, and with several outfitters on Main Street, your outdoor options are numerous. Our motel was very clean and comfortable, and The Moab Brewing Company made the perfect ending to a grand day.