- Mike Riedel
Even though IPAs are a huge part of the craft beer scene, there's still a sizable demographic that couldn't care less about hop-driven ales. In recent years, the New England (hazy) IPAs have opened up markets to those who prefer a less bitter option. However, this week's selections are all traditional bitter IPAs, with a bit of creative muscle-flexing to augment the flavors.
Saltfire - Jeniver: The pour here reveals a typical looking IPA, full of honey and grain hues with a moderate amount of head that fades slowly. The nose is greeted with a big dose of juniper berry, spruce and citrus. It's not the usual IPA aroma, but the fruity and boozy perfume is pleasing.
As the sprucy tang of juniper and gin float just above a fluffy white cap, what waits below are the soft malty sweet taste of toasty malt, laced with honeysuckle and light bread. Juniper berry is the star of the show here, as the berry sweetness dissolves effortlessly on the tongue. An herbal and tea-like presence takes hold of the middle palate, teasing with zesty citrus goodness similar to orange peel and a tangier berry-like tartness from juniper. Sprucy, sappy and minty, the beer rounds into a lightly refreshing bitter lemon lime taste. Blurring the line between beer and cocktail, this 8.0 percent beer offers soft wood tannins as a dry finish begins to take hold.
Overall: The Saltfire crew managed to maintain fresh beer qualities in this one while allowing its time in the gin barrels to shine. Flavors like these tend to be suited towards bigger Belgian styles; here, the selection of Beehive Distillery's Jack Rabbit Gin, Alpine Distilling Gin and Hammer Springs' Gin provides a tasty dose of spruce and juniper that works better than I could have imagined with the hops used.
Epic - Creamsicle: The smoothie IPA is all the rage, and every brewery seems to be frantically trying to one-up the others with aspects of creaminess, fruitiness, succulence and richness. The brewers at Epic up the ante with an orange-flavored hop bomb with subtle use of lactose, vanilla and orange. Creamsicle IPA pours a mostly clear body with a frothy meringue top that greets the rim, while aromas of citrus and cream tease the senses with exactly those thoughts of orange creamsicle, though with a curiously herbal back note.
Juicy and ice cream-like on the front of the tongue, its fruity sweetness teases the taste buds with sherbet, pulled and white. The flavors continue to blossom across the middle palate as its sweetness slowly recedes and its citrus flavor continues to expand. Radiant and ripe flavors of tangerine and orange fuse with secondary flavors of lemon, papaya and mango. As the malts continue to back away, it takes the sweetness away from the fruit impressions and the herbal complement from hops get the opportunity to develop a hemp and overall grassy tone late in the taste.
Overall: This 8.5 percent beer's texture is unwavering. Where IPA normally trends dry, crisp and refreshing, Epic's Creamsicle continues to bring a creamy fruitiness with green tea and a gin-like spice for a full complement of smoothie taste from front to finish.
Though these may not sound very IPA-like, they both manage to retain their base beer's hoppy qualities. Both of these are making their way into the open markets. Epic's Creamsicle is popping-up in some DABC locations and, of course, their SLC brewery (825 S. State). Your best bet for Satfire's Jeniver is at the source, at the brewery in South Salt Lake (2199 W. Temple). As always, cheers!