Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock while trapped in a sea chest and thrown to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, you know that Utah beer makers are kickin’ some serious ass, and throwin’ down some wicked clever names at national and international brewer’s competitions. Recently, 60 lucky folks attended the 2nd annual Utah Craft Beer Dinner, slurping up some award-winning suds alongside a table of impressively mustachioed brew masters representing four of Utah’s top breweries: Wasatch Beers, Red Rock Brewery, Uinta Brewing, and Epic Brewing. All hosted at the ever-lovely and luscious Finca restaurant. I was lucky enough to sit with my buddy IPA (aka Hoss on Hops), who actually knows A LOT about beer. Hoss wrote a terrific blog review of all of the beers at the dinner, and you can read all about what a real beer aficionado thinks over there. I thought they were all super tasty, and wonderful with the pairing menu. Yup, that just tapped out my beer knowledge (badap-bap-pssshhh).
Finca (and Pago) owner Scott Evans, along with executive chef Phelix Gardner pulled out the big guns for this celebration of all things hops and yeast. Oysters on the half shell with a playful coriander mignonette, grilled citrus salad, a rich Verduras y Castillas—that would be fall veggies in sherry cream with house-smoked bacon and pull-apart-with-butterfly-wings-succulent braised short ribs. Duck confit Empanadas were delicious with Uinta’s Sea Legs Smoked Porter, my vote for sexiest label. (I don’t know if they have that category at the Brewers competition, but they should).
We’d heard rumors that Finca’s massive paella pan would be pulled out for the event and weren’t disappointed. How big is it? Well, let’s just say we are tempted to sneak into Finca and pull it off the wall some snowy morning so we can take our whole family sledding on it, dogs included. Or, put to it’s intended use (feckingkilljoys) you make one bangin’ maldito Paella with house-smoked chicken, roasted local-foraged mushrooms and black garlic for six dozen of your closest friends.
Confirming that these guys take their final salvos seriously, Epic Brewing rounded out the meal with Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, a respectably shitface inducing 10.5% alcohol beer brewed with cocoa nibs and coffee beans and aged in High West Distillery barrels. It’s terrific on its own, but paired with Finca’s delicate churros snuggled alongside a chocolate-stout beer dipping sauce it put us over the top. Happily so. I’ll be sending The Macallan with my beer shopping list to Epic’s Brewery Cold Case (at 825 South State Street – OPEN Sundays!) to go with all those holiday cookies I’ve told myself I wouldn’t eat this year.