Local breweries celebrate Oktoberfest, Utah-style and otherwise.---
Two downtown breweries, Red Rock and Squatters, unveiled new beers this week to celebrate the arrival of fall and to commemorate the annual German beer festival. Both launched their Oktoberfest beers with food specials to match at the breweries.
Squatters is having an Oktoberfest celebration this weekend, with food at the brewery to celebrate the release of their new Marzen. I haven't tried it, so if anybody else has toss your thoughts in the comments.
Red Rock is going Oktober-crazy, and actually has a half-dozen different lagers on tap that are all a variation on a traditional German beer. They also have Oktoberfest food specials through Sunday that I highly recommend.
During lunch at the brewery Friday, I tried a about half of the Oktoberfest beers on tap. Overall, they're good, not great -- a problem I blame almost entirely on the 3.2 percent a.b.w. limitations for tap beer in Utah.
The best of the bunch was the Traditional Laztenbier. It had sweet undertones and a nice, thick mouthfeel with a only minimal spiciness and hop bitterness. The lack of alcohol did not hamper this beer, and when paired with the bratwurst, it made for a great lunch.
The other beers I tried, however, suffered from the lack of alcohol. Good lagers, especially the darker ones found during the fall, need the alcohol to provide the necessary mouthfeel. A dark lager sitting between 5 and 6 percent, to me, has enough body (because of the alcohol) to coat the tongue and gums and give the beer heft in your mouth. Anything less and the beer starts to taste thin.
The Black Bier and the Munich Dunkel both had that "thin" taste. The Black Bier's lack of alcohol was especially noticeable, because it's dark color gave the visual impression that there would be more heft. Instead, the beer was thin with a very chocolately flavor, which makes me think that to stay below the 3.2 cap but get the beer dark enough, the brewers cut the overall malt bill but increased the dark/chocolate malt. That can become risky, because a little chocolate malt goes a long way.
Okay, enough criticism, because those beers are still worth a trip to the brewery and they also have 3-5 others that I didn't try. All are on tap, so you could also fill a couple of growlers (or buy one of their collectible growlers). Plus, kudos to every brewery that is embracing the changing seasons by unveiling limited editions of beer, whether it's on tap or in a bottle. It's a trend I really like.
Last week, Salt Lake-based Joshua Payne Orchestra released their latest album on vinyl. They are also streaming it (in random order) on their website.
I heard about Joshua Payne Orchestra from one of our interns, and have been intrigued. After listening to their music on the website, I'm impressed and plan to track their album down (or even better, catch them live) as soon as I get a chance. The group includes Joshua Payne on guitar, Dan Thomas on drums, and Ron Harrel on bass.
Overall, the music is a little more low-key than the hard bop I love, but it still has an edge. It's not safe, by any means, which is a good thing. I never like safe jazz. At the same time, you could play this during a dinner party or while sipping coffee in the early morning without making people jittery.
What makes the songs soar is Payne's guitar work. He has that rare talent for making the guitar the star of the song without dominating the music. On "Boom Boom Wow" (embedded below), he pushes the band from a slow groove start to a raucous ending, all in the span of less than 3 minutes.
Other songs that stood out for me were "Sex Yo," "Huey Ought," and "Primetime." All of them had a pretty steady rhythm and good improvisation, and I suspect they are expanded on greatly when played live.
More than anything, this album feels like the "framework" for their live shows. Each song seems to be more of a frame for some great improvisation. I'd be interested to know if that is the case, so again, anybody who has actually seen these guys live, feel free to chime in below.
Also, hat tip to local jazz musicians. I lament the loss of various jazz clubs, especially when they haven't been replaced elsewhere. So to hear from people that musicians like Payne are finding gigs at places like Rose Wagner, Manhattan Club or Grand America is encouraging. To that end, if you are a local jazz musician, drop me a line. I'd love to promote local jazz in this blog whenever possible.The Hop & Bop is published weekly on Saturdays. For a lengthier description of my goal with this feature, click here. Got a beer or jazz album to promote (especially local)? Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.