The Uinta (pronounced “you-in-tah”) Brewing Company takes its name from a mountain range running east-west across northeastern Utah, located in the Rocky Mountains. The name “Uinta” is derived from the Ute Indian tribe, from which “Utah” also took its name. The Uinta B.C. began in 1993 to bring fresh, high quality, craft beer to Utah in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. When founder Will Hamill established Uinta, he succeeded in merging his love of brewing and his passion for the outdoors. He became an avid homebrewer after moving from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon in 1988, a place that was already way ahead of the curve in terms of brewing and beer culture. He knew that he wanted to start his own brewery, but the Portland market already had its fair share of breweries. Having always enjoyed an outdoorsy lifestyle of kayaking, skiing, and biking in beautiful country terrain, he searched for a mountain town that would afford him the same opportunities, but with less market saturation. Salt Lake City was his pick, and while he could now ski and brew in the same day, the decision may have seemed a bit unusual, given the state’s restrictive alcohol laws and local resistance to consumption of alcohol.
Utah’s state alcohol laws restrict the sale of beers stronger than 4% ABV to a state run liquor store distribution network. What this means is that your everyday Utah beer is going to top out at 4% alcohol by volume. These days, that may sound a bit pathetic, but we must say, we’ve not yet had a less than flavorful brew from a Utah brewer. Brewing at or below the 8 proof level means you have got to know your stuff, and only truly adept brewers can reliably make beers at this low ABV that remain full flavored and interesting. So the alcohol levels may be muted, but the game is elevated, and these brewers reliably demonstrate that beer can be loaded with flavor, and satisfying to the craft beer drinking culture, without going wild on the booze levels.
That mainstay of producing tasty beers with no room to hide in high alcohol levels has resulted in a culture of balanced session style beers, and even when Uinta dials things up for their bigger beers, the same aesthetic applies. Bigger is not always better, but in fact, it is possible to make bigger better, which is exactly what Uinta has done with their Crooked Line of big and experimental beers.
They’ve also experimented with green technology, with great success. Their brewery has been completely wind-powered since 2001, becoming the first business in Utah to achieve that milestone. But, Uinta’s commitment to the environment doesn’t end there; they established a recycling location for brown glass, donate their used grain to local ranchers to use as feed, purchase recycled paper, use natural lighting in the brewery as well as energy-efficient electric fixtures, and, their delivery trucks run on biodiesel.
All this responsibility and environmental awareness—does Will Hamill have any fun? All the time, he’s doing what he loves, and with a clear conscience. Check out the January 2011 cover of BeerAdvocate magazine—looks like a man who is enjoying himself indeed, doing exactly what he wants to do: http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/3409910
You see that beer he’s holding? That’s the one we’ve selected for you. What’s good enough for our members? Why, only the beer that the brewery owner takes to the top of the mountain with him, that’s what. Hey, just a reminder if you’re tempted to do the same thing: Don’t eat the yellow snow. The barleywine-stained stuff, however, you damn well better! And while warmer weather is already upon us, you could certainly stash away some of this big beer for your next ski trip, as it will age nicely and by all accounts, will be absolutely righteous come winter!