- Mike Riedel
I think it's safe to say that 2020 has left most of us with a bad taste in our mouths. Between earthquakes, hurricane force winds, wildfires, elections and something called COVID-19, a good cleanse seems to be in order. I don't think it was done with any conscious purpose, but it seems as if craft breweries are looking to disassociate themselves with notions of the past, and concentrate more on the positive vibes that hopefully await us in the coming months and years. This week's beers are part of a fresh beginning—no game changers here, but you can tell the perspectives coming from these individual breweries are pointing towards a hard reset in tone and taste.
Proper - Thunder Mountain: To start us off, we have a beer that was designed to be to style, and the crew at Proper has succeeded quite well. It looks black at first glance, but closer introspection shows a perfectly transparent deeper-than-deep red, spot on for the style. Medium cocoa-colored head is retained well, leaving occasional lace inside my pilsner-style glassware. Aromas starts off slightly nutty, with light cocoa shavings over a smooth, bready core. The result is light in effect, but shining enough with the scents of what may be carafa malts.
The taste is beyond smooth, drinking at first like a line-drive moving fast to that signature Schwarzbier light roasted flavor. It opens to even more smooth lager malt with nutty, dirty and cocoa accents, but always centered on drinkability. There may be a smidgen of caramel, but for the most part, it's just a barely-black lager. Hops are low and herbal in the mouthfeel, though the carbonation is just about spot on.
Overall: Talk about session material. The super-soft roastiness builds on the palate toward the end of the pint, but never stops being smooth, easy and balanced. You get just enough character to do justice to the color, yet not enough to belie the style's name, a "Black Pils." It's nice to enjoy a lager with low hop flavor and bitterness.
Uinta - Two Tabs: This triple-dry-hopped New England style IPA poured a round apricot-hued body with a thick and creamy white cap, peaking at about a half inch high—good head retention and thick webs of lace instantly, with sheets down the glass below. Citrus hops are the biggest thing , with both the bittersweet and the fruity aspect of oranges and grapefruit. Hints of floral and pine hops emerge, as well as a bit of stone fruit. Mango comes to mind later, with hints of cracker and bready grains.
Hops run the show again with a moderate strength. Oranges, mango, grapefruit and apricot come first, followed by floral, pine, herbal and dank hints. The malts bring whispers of cereal, bread and cracker, with a medium overall sweetness bringing on some of that candied orange peel. A silky and smooth light-medium body with a high level of carbonation, it offers creamy softness on the palate, then ends with a zesty citrus oil bitterness lingering on the taste buds.
Overall: This NEIPA plays it kind of down the middle for the style. This is an IPA with citrus and hints of floral, pine and stone fruit from the hops, with a medium sweetness and some malt influence, clean and balanced. Only an effete snob would poo-poo the generous hop bill that's at play here.
Two Tabs is part of "small batch limited release" series. The 7.3 percent alcohol means you won't be seeing it at grocery stores; better off looking at a pub or better yet, Uinta Brewing Co. Though Thunder Mountain's 5.0 percent ABV puts it in the grocery store's alcohol range, this is a seasonal release that will last a few weeks in Proper's 16-ounce cans that can be found at their SLC brewery. As always, cheers!