- Mike Riedel
Most hops found in American craft beers have a citrus quality to them. This simply comes from market demand and the overall quality of flavor. So, it's not much of a stretch to go from citrus-y hops to actual citrus. That's what this week's beers have going for them—bright, fruity citrus that takes you in different directions.
Level Crossing - White Salamander: Besides Cara Cara orange, this also features passionfruit and guava. This Mormon-themed beer has a body that is a hazy, bright, light orange color with very low clarity; any light showing through the glass is completely distorted. A soapy, off-white head that stands one finger tall gives way to a creamy ring around the glass with lots of creamy patching in the center. On the nose, I get blood orange and passionfruit, along with some sweet breaded malts that transition to a nice dose of piney hop notes. The orange definitely takes the lead, however; it almost smells like an orange cream liqueur, only much more pleasant and with much less of an alcohol presence.
On the palate I get juicy orange, guava and passionfruit, in that order. Piney hops take hold in the middle, and help keep the fruit flavors from getting too sweet, while the back end offers up sweet biscuit flavored malts with some orange creme blended in. This is a pretty good-tasting 8.2 percent ABV beer that works quite well with the fruits used.
Overall: I can understand why hop-heads or IPA purists may not like this beer; luckily, I'm not in either of those camps. I think this is a very nice beer—sweet, juicy characteristics on the nose and palate, with a thick chewy body and a great presentation. It's definitely one of the best fruit-infused IPAs that I've had in quite a while. It could use a little less bready malt flavors on the back end, but I am not going to nitpick. I would definitely drink this one again.
Strap Tank - Orange Hopsicle: This is a smoothie IPA, which are all the rage at the moment, as every brewery seems frantic to one-up all others with aspects of creaminess, fruitiness, succulence and richness. The brewers of Strap Tank in Lehi up the ante with an orange-flavored hop bomb that also includes a measured use of lactose, vanilla and orange peel. Orange Hopsicle pours with a turbid and visually dense matte finish. A frothy meringue greets the rim, while aromas of citrus and cream tease the senses with exactly those thoughts of orange creamsicle, but with a curiously herbal back note.
Sweet and pastry-like on the front of the tongue, its fruity sweetness teases the taste buds with sherbet, pulled candy and a richness reminiscent of angel food cake. The flavors continue to blossom across the middle palate as its sweetness slowly recedes and the citrus flavor continues to expand. Radiant and ripe flavors of tangerine and blood 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 the hops get the opportunity to develop a chive, hemp and overall grassy tone late in the taste. It's medium-bodied at 5.0 percent, as the beer's creamy texture is unwavering.
Overall: Where IPAs normally trend dry, crisp and refreshing, Orange Hopsicle 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. A brief aftertaste of vanilla and citronella in the vein of orange cream soda is quite welcome.
As of this writing, Orange Hopsicle is only available at Strap Tank in Lehi, on draft, while White Salamander is offered in 16-ounce cans at Level Crossing to enjoy in or take home. As always, cheers!