- Mike Riedel
Crisp mornings, comfortable days and soothing evenings. This is autumn, and it's perfect weather for beers that are slightly more than average. Both of this week's beers seem perfectly designed for our current climate, so you're kinda obligated to check them out.
Level Crossing - Astro Shake: IPAs are generally a very straightforward thing: simple pale malts and a good dose of a single hop varietal is all you really need to bring this staple to life. This is not that beer. Astro Shake takes you into the milkshake IPA realm—a place where the conventional IPA descriptors take a hard left turn. This limited-edition ale is not vegan-friendly.
Astro Shake pours a hazy goldenrod color with a bleached white head. The aroma is sort of what I expected, with a lot of citrus notes. I get orange, lemon, and a bit of tangerine, all on the sweeter side of citrus, with hints of grapefruit. I also get faint vanilla buried in the nose, which is good, as I was a little worried it would dominate front and center, and take over the nose.
The first sip reveals pineapple, mango, guava and loads of vanilla, maybe even some orange, as it had a creamsicle flavor. Tropical hops keep things dry, and the sweetness was cotton candy and bubble gummy, as the back end stayed dry with the huge vanilla and a creamy finish, where very little of the 7.7 percent alcohol is noticeable.
Overall: The more I have of these shake IPAs, the more I understand their appeal. I can see why folks chase these brews, as this is super easy to drink, creamy and sweet. I don't think I would make an evening of them, but I have been very much enjoying this 16-ounce can tonight. If the haze is an important part of this beer for you, don't forget to rouse the can.
Uinta - Sea Legs: If you're new to Utah's craft beer scene, you may not be aware that this beer already has a bit of history to it. Originally brewed back in December of 2012, it was part of a new direction that Uinta was undertaking. diversifying their mostly traditional beer offerings. This beer at its base is a Baltic Porter, which many are surprised to learn is actually a lager. It was laid down in bourbon casks, and then took a months-long nap.
I opted to drink this beer at a less-chilled 46 degrees. It is almost pitch black in color, with a few slight ruby hues in the light. An impressively frothy tan head is more lasting than you usually see in a barrel-aged beer. Tons of bourbon dominates the aroma; vanilla, charred oak, alcohol and even the mash bill jumps right out, followed by subtle chocolate and roasted malts in the background.
The opening salvo is big with oak and bourbon, but then there's a delicious dulce de leche sweet caramel flavor. The chocolate is much more prevalent at mid swig—gorgeous and lush with roasted malt and molasses. Some smoke, notes of licorice and a touch of leather appear at the end, as it finishes sweet and syrupy with the same aftertaste. The flavors are appropriate, and complement each other very well.
Overall: Looking over my notes from 2012, this beer hasn't lost much in the eight years it's been on hiatus. The body is slightly thinner, which takes it into a medium-full range. I will say the 12-ounce bottle makes this 9.5 percent beer much more approachable and fridge-ready. Get on this one.
Both beers are limited in availability. That being said, there should be enough to access them for a good week or two at their respective breweries. As always, cheers!