NOTE: This is the second of a series on microbreweries that won medals at this year’s Great American Beer Festival and that are along the routes  that many Western Canadian snowbirds take to reach warmer climates. In our last post, we followed Interstate 25 from Billings, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This post features Interstate 15 from the Canadian border to San Diego, and our next post will follow Interstate 5 from Bellingham to San Diego.

After you cross the border at Coutts-Sweetgrass, you’ll find breweries in Great Falls, Helena, and Butte, Montana; Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Idaho; and Ogden, Utah. But you won’t hit a place with a 2012 GABF medal-winning brewery until you reach Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY: People outside Utah became aware of that state’s beer scene a decade or so ago when a newcomer from Milwaukee began to brew and market “Polygamy Porter,” which had as its slogan: “When one is not enough.” It didn’t go down well — the slogan that is. Now Salt Lake City has six microbreweries, with a couple more in the planning stages. This year’s medal winners are: EPIC BREWING: Utah Sage Saison — bronze (Herb and spice beer). REDROCK BREWING: Redrock Nut Brown Ale — bronze (American-style brown ale), Redrock Paardelbloem — gold (Experimental beer), Organic Zwickel Bier — silver (Kellerbier/Zwickel bier); UINTA BREWING: Bristlecone — gold (English-style mild ale), Sum’r — silver (English-style summer ale), Baha — silver (German-style schwarzbier).

MIDVALE, UTAH: A southern suburb of Salt Lake City. This year’s winner is: HOPPERS GRILL & BREWING: This is the Pilsner — bronze (Bohemian-style pilsner).

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: What a contrast — from the home of the Church of the Latter Day Saints to Sin City.  But both places have really good beer. They say that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas — but if you can, take some award winning beer out of town. There’s a lot of desert to drive through. This year’s winners are: BIG DOG’S BREWING: Red Hydrant Ale — silver (English-style brown ale); CHICAGO BREWING COMPANY: Cocoa for Coconuts — gold (Chocolate beer).

There are breweries in Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore, but as you get closer to San Diego you start entering one of the best beer territories in the western United States. If you spend your winters in San Diego County, you can have a different beer every day and there will still be a lot left over for next year and the next.

SAN MARCOS, CALIFORNIA:  just off Interstate 15 (and a little further from Interstate 5) is just one of the many smaller cities in the area with multiple and very good microbreweries. This year’s winners are: THE LOST ABBEY: Red Poppy — silver(American-style sour ale), Track # 8 — bronze (Experimental beer), Saint’s Devotion — gold ( Belgian- and French-style ale); PORT BREWING: Hot Rocks Lager — bronze (Indigenous beer).

SAN DIEGO: If you like a great beer city, but you don’t like the rain and fog of Seattle or Portland or the snowstorms of Denver, this is the place for you. It’s sunny, it has wonderful beaches, great cultural attractions and close to 40 microbreweries and brewpubs. And that’s just in San Diego itself. Drive an hour north, northeast, and east and you’ll find even more. This year’s winers are: ALESMITH BREWING: AleSmith Grand Cru — bronze ( Belgian-style strong specialty ale), Decadence 10 Old Ale — bronze (Old ale or strong ale); THE BEER COMPANY: The Manhattan Project – gold (Wood- and barrel-aged strong beer); GREEN FLASH BREWING: La Freak — gold (American Belgo-style ale), Silva Stout — silver (Wood- and barrel-aged strong beer); Green Flash Trippel — gold (Belgian-style abbey ale).

For a complete list of Great American Beer Festival winners go to www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com/the-competition/winners) and click on “GABF Winners”. For guidelines for the various styles, click on “Beer Styles”. For a directory of breweries, with addresses, phone numbers, and websites, go to www.craftbeer.com and click on “Find a Brewery.”

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