- Mike Riedel
I've always said that I have the best gig at City Weekly. Enjoying all that Utah's craft beer scene has to offer is, well, intoxicating to say the least. The beer selections are generally mine, and my familiarity with the market's players is always being challenged. To get me outside of my comfort zone, I'd like to give you beer nerds the opportunity to submit local suds to review. Is there something you're interested in, but don't want to waste your hard-earned coin experimenting with? Use my stunt tongue to do the good deed (or dirty work). Send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @utahbeer. Now let's get on with this week's selections.
Level Crossing Brewing Co. Das Lehrling Pilsner: This new Pilsner from South Salt Lake City's newest brewery pours a fairly standard transparent straw color. I'm getting some serious noble hop aroma—herbal, lemon and apple. Pilsner malt is on display as well in the form of a characteristic that's more biscuit-like than cracker-y. As this was the first beer of the day, the initial swig was deep and filling. Das Lehrling jumps out with a fairly big hop bitterness that is full of grape, apple skin and an herbal zap that takes a turn to the astringent before the wave of malts intercepts and softens things, giving it a nice firm foundation from which to play. The malt falls off toward the end and the refreshing bitterness finishes strong. The body is light, though it might be slightly too round for the style. The carbonation plays upon the malt and keeps this thing from being too flabby.
Overall: While not as straight hop-forward as some of Utah's other Pilsners, this 4% Pilsner doesn't hold back on the IBUs. However, unlike some, it's got a robust malt profile. This is a good brew, and I will likely have another.
Shades Brewing Hogshead Reserve (Gin Barrel-Aged Belgian Strong Ale): Gin barrel-aged beers are enjoying a quiet reign as the barrel-aged beers for summer, mainly due to the availability of locally-made Beehive Jack Rabbit gin. Without this resource, we probably wouldn't have this wonderful toolbox of flavors to pull from. This new beer has a hazy golden turbulence that seems Belgian-esque upon first pour. The nose is greeted with the spicy floral fragrance of juniper—very cocktail-like. These Belgian notes really begin to take hold in the mouth as the sprucey tang of juniper and gin float just above the soft, sweet taste of Pilsner malt. Honeysuckle, bubble gum and light bread emerge as the barrel influence fades.
Once the sweetness dissolves effortlessly on the tongue, an herbal and tea-like presence takes hold of the middle palate, teasing with prickling peppery goodness of ginger and the tangy berry-like tartness from juniper. Sprucey, sappy and minty, the beer rounds into a lightly bitter lemon-lime refreshing taste. Winey and malty in finish, this full bodied Belgian strong ale is thick with soft wood tannins, berry tartness and the pungent evergreen perfume of gin.
Overall: Although the barrel elements are quite potent, the base beer's bubble gum and honey sweetness are up to the task of reining in the gin profile, keeping it from drifting too far into cocktail territory. There is no ABV listed on the bottle for this beer; rest assured that it's big, falling somewhere in the 10% range.
Although it's a seasonal lager, Das Lehrling has the luxury of being a large batch offering and should be around for a few weeks. However, the same cannot be said for Shades' newest Hogshead release. Barrel-aged beers are often limited in availability and should be jumped on sooner rather than later. Both are available at their respective breweries. As always, cheers!