- Mike Riedel
As of this writing, the air outside is thick, acrid and a little sweet from the fires burning around the West. My insufferable inner beer nerd noticed that some beers in these smoky conditions seem to be tasting better, and that others are suffering greatly. Now, before you start thinking this dipshit is about to start pairing beers with the destructive wildfires, I'd like to reign you in a little. Think instead about the wonderful aromatics of innocent campfires. Your backyard fire pits are finding more use every day as the temperatures drop, and some of you might head to favorite hunting spots for real bonding time this season. As you sit around intentional fires in the coming weeks, I invite you to think about beers like these:
Moab Dead Horse Amber: It pours a very clear, light copper color, like a shiny new penny held against a smoky sunset. On top, there's two fingers of foamy light tan head that's full of bubbles and fades slowly, leaving good lacing and a thick creamy layer. Aromas of dark fruit, caramel, tea leaf, floral hops, caramel, toffee, candy and bread pudding abound; it's very sweet, with the malty and bready notes almost desert-like with caramel drizzled on top. The taste starts out sweet and malty overall, with a mix of caramel, toffee and muted dark fruit. Hints of plum and black tea come next, paving the way for the floral and piney hops. The result is very sweet, with the malty and bready notes mixing well with the hoppy bitterness and fruity aftertaste that almost balance it, but still let it lean on the malty side with a variety of lingering sweet flavors like graham cracker or molasses cookies. The finish has some lingering sweetness akin to pear or apple, and is semi-dry. In the mouth, it has a medium to light feel, with carbonation that is almost spritzy.
Overall: This malty treat is fruity, hoppy and pretty easy to drink if you are looking for the malt-forward qualities of an amber ale. The flavorful brew showcases malt, caramel and fruit-like qualities that can be coaxed from the grains, making for a very enjoyable 4-percent beer.
Bonneville Redline: This Irish red pours a slightly dark, but clear, ruby red color with a two-finger dense and rocky light khaki head with great retention. Grapefruit, tangerine and mango perfumes play off of toasted biscuit, presenting a light nuttiness and a slight earthiness. The taste starts off with some muted tangerine and peach flavors, which come courtesy of the caramel and toasted biscuit that push the hops flavors to the forefront. Moderate pine/citrus peel and grassy bitterness begin to build next creating a balance that keeps all of the flavors in check. There's a nice complexity and balance for a simple 4-percent beer that leaves minimal hop astringency after the finish. With medium carbonation and body, it has a very smooth, moderately creamy mouthfeel that's extremely satisfying.
Overall: This is an outstanding red ale, full of all-around awesome complexity, robustness and balance of citrus and pine with malt. A very smooth and easy-to-drink offering from our brothers and sisters in Tooele County.
You might be asking, why not pair beers that are smokier, or have more roasted qualities? These would be too overwhelming, like binge-eating cookies and cola. The malt character and the subtle hop bitterness in these beers provide just enough sweet to counter tendrils of smoke that will always follow you, no matter where you're sitting around the fire. As always, cheers!