- Mike Riedel
It's interesting how beers evolve. Take the classic English ale, for example: It has a simple caramel malt profile, with a balancing level of bittering hops. This week's selections both come from the family tree of this basic style, but go off in completely different directions—one being super malty, and the other is a hop bomb. Let's see which one sounds better to you.
Level Crossing Cosmic Saunter: This hazy IPA has a golden-yellow color, similar to that of honey. The whiff factor brings some earthy grass and hints of dank pine, along with an impressive amount of citrus aroma. Some pineapple sweetness swirls around as well; it's a fun beer to sniff at, for sure.
There's a citrus flavor emerging upon first swig, along with some mango and pineapple. The hops are present, with a lemongrass/earthy flavor, as well as some pine. There is also some sticky dankness to the flavor, which isn't typical in most hazy IPAs. The malt presence is prominent, lending a biscuit/bready flavor to the beer, which could account for the additional sweetness I was smelling.
Overall: Huge amounts of citrus and tropical fruit, with slight pine and dankness, create a very enjoyable drinking experience that leaves the mouth watering for more. I probably enjoyed my second can more than the first, which is rarely the case. Try this one.
Uinta/Kiitos Barley Wine: Both Uinta and Kiitos have had their hands in the barley wine sorcerer's book, and created some fine stuff. Uinta has been making them since the mid-'90s, and Kiitos' stole the show when theirs debuted in early 2018.
The beer they collaborated on is deep ruby, almost mahogany-colored. I wasn't sure what to expect from this relatively fresh ale, but damn, it smells awesome. Tons of sweet, syrupy, fruity aromas dominate: date, fig and raisin everywhere. Deep into the aroma, there are cake notes, with a bit of toffee and some leafy pipe weed, as well. I bet I have been sniffing this one for 10 minutes, and I keep getting more layers—and not one single indication that this beer clocks in at 9.1 percent ABV.
The taste is so unique, with loads of those sweet dates, figs, and raisins just washing over the palate. The taste is in the same ballpark as a nice Belgian quad, but without the monster yeast taste. Around the mid palate, the ale takes a shallow dive into hop territory, lending a nice bitterness that keeps things interesting and prevents it from getting too cloying. The mouthfeel is oily and coats the palate like velvet, but never feels heavy. Some alcohol comes through as it comes up to temperature, but nothing overt or unpleasant. About 20 minutes in, vanilla notes and a toffee caramel richness have presented themselves. I keep getting a constantly rotating series of flavors with each sip. One drink is all about the dark fruits, while the next is very vanilla-forward, and the third brings to mind a pecan pie.
Overall: This barley wine (though light in body) is almost absurdly complex—and for a beer that has such fine lineage, it certainly lives up to its its predecessors' reputations. I think I will grab some of these to cellar for a year or two, but no longer.
Due to some DABC bullshit, Kiitos will not be able to sell this beer at their brewery; it can only be found at Uinta, so give the boys and girls at Kiitos some praise when you see them for their fine work. Cosmic Saunter can be found at Level Crossing in 16-oz. cans, which are about the perfect size for this 8.0 percent IPA. As always, cheers!