Occasionally, we beer nerds crave something different. Beer is great, but sometimes too much of a good thing can wear a person down. When we have to stray from the familiar territory of fermented grain, there is no wrong answer, and we do our best to help fill the void. Your slump-buster is probably different from mine, but as long as it helps us get our potation groove back, it doesn't matter. When I'm all barley-ed out, I chase white wines, bloody beers or even the occasional spritzy hard seltzer. This week's selections set me right without straying too far from what I know.
Mountain West Hard Cider's Sweet Alice: I can usually count on a cider to fix my mojo. Craft ciders are a different beast altogether, and tend to reboot my system tout suite. This all-natural local beverage features apple, peach and turmeric; you probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste, and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters and cheeses. This slump-buster of a cider has a very clear, pale yellow color with bright fizzy bubbles. It smells of a blend of Granny Smith and McIntosh apples—a bit buttery and musty in the back. Sulfites are very hard to detect.
Tartness leads the way in the flavor, soft but with a bite. Light, earthen notes prevail, with apple skin and apple pulp middle to back. Sweet and sour apple flavors in the middle provide a nice jumping-off point for the spices, as light alcohol mellows everything out. The result is wet and refreshing—almost too drinkable. At 6.9 percent alcohol, any more than a few cans will give you that squishy grin your spouse hates.
Quarantine Desirability Rating: Very low. This cider screams, "Get me the fuck out of this house, pronto!" I listened, and it was a good call; getting out of the house was an excellent idea until my fellow liquor store shopper took off his mask so he could sneeze on the credit card machine. Oh well.
Toasted Barrel's Mango Milkshake: One of the fun things about beer is that you can still be drinking it and never know it. Some beer styles have taken on other culinary qualities, blurring the lines of what's actually in front of you. That's what I found with this new Milkshake double IPA from Toasted Barrel. I really wasn't craving a beer, but this gave me nothing but new directions.
In the glass, it looks thick, heavy, and viscous, like a melted mango creamsicle. The aroma immediately pops out of the glass with tons of vanilla and mango, like sticking your nose into a tub of mango vanilla bean ice cream. Hints of citrus—orange, grapefruit, tangerine—and sweet bready malt come out more as it warms.
Sweet, sticky mango coats the mouth up front. Rich vanilla bean closely follows along, with some contributions from the hops. The finish is really interesting, as the ultra-sweet, candy-like flavors completely succumb to a surprisingly enjoyable combination of lactose milkiness and spicy green mango. It's hard to believe this thing is 8.0 percent ABV; it feels closer to 5 percent. This is not vegan-friendly.
Quarantine Desirability Rating: This one rates a solid medium. Too much will have you cosplaying to Of Mice and Men, so consider yourselves warned. Speaking of John Steinbeck, he once wrote, "If a man ordered a beer milkshake, he thought, he'd better do it in a town where he wasn't known." Oh, Johnny, how times have changed!
Mountain West's Cidery & Biergarten is located at 425 N. 400 West in Salt Lake City. And to make things extra helpful, Toasted Barrel Brewing Co. is just a short skip around the block at 412 W. 600 North. As always, cheers!