- Mike Riedel
The RoHa Brewing Project has been working hard to push the concept of non-gimmicky beers to Utah's craft-beer lovers. This isn't easy in a climate that craves weird beer. While RoHa's owners aren't opposed to a little crazy in your mug now and then, they know that once you get your fill of açai berry barley wines, you'll want your tastes readjusted with a few tried-and-true brews. I got a chance to sample two of RoHa's newest offerings.
Maltese Cross: This beer has a crystal-clear orange-brown color with deep ruby highlights on the edges. Surprisingly, I get cake aromas as soon as I raise my glass. Were it not for the toastiness on the nose, it would come off like red velvet cake—lots of cereal, caramel, brown sugar and a hint of coconut. The hops start to pull you away from the confection side of the spectrum with herbaceous and pine notes, with a low level of fruit scents as well. Flavor-wise, we're in the same ballpark: Toasty grains and sweet caramel are immediately noticeable, with a bit of vanilla-bean sweetness backing it up. You might also detect some faint berry notes coming from the beer's barley base. Before this begins to become overly cloying, hop bitterness slides in with pine and a slight herbal bite. The finish is semi-malty and ghostly fruity—light-bodied, fluffy and with a moderately carbonated mouth feel. The 4 percent ABV is light, and allows for another round.
Overall: This beer is true neutral: If you order an ale, without any qualifiers, this is what the barman should hand you. Maltese Cross shines in its simplicity. Its strong malt backbone and the simple/subtle hop aromas and flavors keep it from getting overly complex. It's also worth noting that it's made in cooperation with Salt Lake City's Local 81 Firefighters. Proceeds from the sale of Maltese Cross go to benefit charities supported by the Utah chapter of the International Association of Firefighters.
Nights Out: This brand-new stout is a Belgian style that pours a mostly clear dark brown and yields three fingers of light tan head. The aroma is roasty, just as you'd expect, but there's also the addition of spicy yeast notes, along with a touch of chocolate. Normally, I'd like more of a punch in the nose, but in this case, too much phenolic yeast combined with the char from the malt would be heavily medicinal and off-putting. The taste here has lightly roasted flavors and some spicy yeast up front—definitely Belgian in style. Some caramel and roasted notes come next, with touches of milk chocolate on the back of the tongue. Hints of bitter chocolate are in the finish, as well. The 8 percent ABV adds body without much heat.
Overall: A solid beer, but Belgian stouts seem to exist in that realm between roasted chocolate and spicy/fruity flavors. They're kind of caught in the middle somewhere. This one is interesting and flavorful enough, but doesn't really come out boldly and make a statement. Check it out if you're a fan of the style (or stouts in general), but not if you're craving a Belgian dark ale.
RoHa currently offers seven packaged beers (high and low point) and a half-dozen or so draft options. One of my favorite features of their Salt Lake City brewhouse pub is their "buy a drink" board. Look it over, because someone might have anonymously bought you a beer. Conversely, you can also pay it forward and share the beer love. As always, cheers!