Ale Talk | Drink | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Ale Talk 

Two new offerings tell uniquely flavorful stories.

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click to enlarge MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

This was a good week of discovery and rediscovery. I got acquainted with an old pal I thought I'd lost, all while getting to know a new friend that I have a lot in common with. These of course aren't actual people I'm talking about, but local craft ales. They speak just as clearly as any of you, and have stories all their own.

Level Crossing Brewing Co. Soul Rex: Pours a densely hazy golden amber body, with heavy sediment in tow and light carbonation. Humble hop aromas of tropical fruit, apricots, citrus peel, peppery spice and a touch of grass drift atop a light pale malt body, with a touch of biscuit malt for enhanced body. The hop bitterness and flavor are very mild-mannered for a Double IPA, but the overall aroma is well-balanced and clean. While the bitterness of the hop profile is stronger in the flavor, the hop selection is slightly more familiar and less trendy than the aroma gives off, showing off pithy grapefruit, zesty lemon, spice and grass with a bold bitterness. The malt profile is fairly simple—pale and biscuit malt with a modest but appreciated level of sweetness, finishing on a note of herbs and pepper with a subtle grainy undertone.

The texture in this 8.4% ale is silky soft, fairly clean and moderately dry. The carbonation is mild, generating a mellow frothiness and a light crispness on the finish, and the body is shy of medium for the style. The balance is moderately bitter and slightly grainy as opposed to sweet, and the alcohol presence is modest. There are no significant off characteristics otherwise.

Overall: This is a West Coast Double IPA done right—super fresh and abundantly hopped with the malts kept dry and light. I'm looking forward to tasting the rest of Level Crossing's high point portfolio.

Epic Brewing Co. Santa Cruz: The beer pours a deep, dark, candied brown, almost like maple sap. It sits in the glass as nearly black, with a fat head of medium sized, nearly khaki coloring. Pine and roast are the two main players on the nose, with aromas of dank pine and soft lemon-grapefruit. You really get a sense that this is going to take you on a robust ride. On the tongue, the beer delivers much of what the aroma promised. Prickly, citric and pine bitters smooth into soft roasted bitters with touches of caramel malt sweetness that provide a great balance, though still allowing the bitters and 6.8% alcohol to shine. Acidity is light, providing just a soft zap alongside the bitters and the malt. It's almost like Nutella on pumpernickel bread. After the beer leaves, the mouth is left sticky with hop resin and saliva.

Overall, this beer has great flavor and balance. There's an ample amount of girth that comes with its malt- and toast-driven base. Santa Cruz in no way drags you into the traditional IPA territories, but it does explode with hops, reminding you that this is more than your typical brown ale.

Santa Cruz has been absent from Epic's cold case for the last three years; this is a real treat that harkens back to the brewery's older days as a Utah-only beer maker. Take advantage of this one while it's around. Soul Rex is brand new, and will likely be a staple at Level Crossing for years to come. Still, you absolutely want some of this first batch, so you can say, "I was there when." As always, cheers!

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