HOP: A lot of things herald the arrival of autumn, be it the cool nights of late September, shorter days, the start of football season or a yearning for soup. Over the last couple of years, especially, another indicator of autumn is the arrival of fresh-hopped beers.---
These beers are made using hops picked within the last few days, as opposed to the dried hops used for most beers. The fresh hops typically have a more refined, subtle aroma and flavors than dried, just like fresh spices compared to dried. That's not to say fresh-hopped beers cannot be hop bombs. Last year, for example, the Harvest Ale from Sierra Nevada was a big blast of hop flavors and aromas.
This week, two local breweries have put their own fresh-hopped beers on tap. At Desert Edge Brewery, they actually went even further than just fresh hopping and made a beer using ingredients sourced within 100 miles of Salt Lake City. The beer is appropriately called "Radius." It's a very refreshing pale ale, with a subtle sweetness and light, hoppy aroma—my semi-refined palate is picking up a Centennial hop in there, nothing too strong but still a nice bitterness. The flavor is actually low on the hop scale, especially for a pale ale, but still very refreshing.
At The Beer Store, Wasatch Brewery has put their Hop Bandit on tap. This is also a fresh-hopped beer, with all of the hops picked from wild plants by Wasatch staff and volunteers. I haven't had it this year, but last year's batch was very good, with a decent amount of hoppy flavor and a wonderful aroma. I plan on filling a growler this afternoon, and will update this post accordingly.
Both beers are 3.2 percent, so they are great session beers for a long afternoon of football. Also, both beers are a limited run, so I'd highly recommend getting to the breweries this weekend to make sure you can taste them. They both go quickly.
BOP: Another challenging jazz record is my choice this week, from the Mary Halvorson Quartet. The record, Saturn Sings, is available Tuesday, but currently streaming on NPR's First Listen. The NPR descriptions says that the songs are inspired by composers like Thelonious Monk but have the soul of Marvin Gaye. But what grabbed me is that these songs are constantly shifting and moving, like a kaleidoscope, often evolving from a relatively soft and straight-forward jazz improv to a crumbling noise experiments.
The whole thing is held together by the guitar playing of Halvorson, although this is not guitar jazz that will ever be played in a dentist's office. Often, it seems as if Halvorson's fingers decide to go way off the beaten path, and the other players willingly follow.
The first song of the record, "Leak Over Six Five (No. 14)," is as indicative of the overall sound as any other, so it's a great way to decide if this is music for you. It starts with a pretty direct guitar solo, with the horns slowly coming in from the background and the drum providing more an undercoating of sound. But right around the three-minute mark, things start to go haywire. The guitar takes a backseat, the horns step forward and the drums wander off, drunkenly, into their own experiment. Then, the guitar returns, but this time its a rapid-fire shot of slides and picks, none of them clean but all of them brilliant. And it just gets weirder from there. The Hop & Bop is a weekly feature, published on Saturdays, focusing on beer and jazz. For a more in-depth explanation, click here.