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Persistent Decadence 

No apologies from these ales to your wussy summer palette

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

Level Crossing - VII XXV XVII Wheatwine Ale: Wheat wine ales are not derived from grapes, as its name might suggest. They're made with at least 50 percent wheat malt, and feature bready and candy-like flavors, with a great deal of malt sweetness.

This is an unfiltered apple cider-looking beer, the color of dark apricot with a very strong orange glow to the tint. The day was humid, and attractive sweat beaded on the glass as a half-finger of white head formed on top. Some fairly thick sheets are left on the glass as it drinks down. A perfumy aroma with subtle spices and wheat malt emerges, as well as an apparent bubblegum sweetness; alcohol is also prevalent in the nose. The strong yeast presence imparts fruity esters suggesting apple and pear, as well as peach or nectarine. Additionally, a waft of sugary sweetness develops, plus a hint of citrus hops.

Its firm wheat flavors mingle with barley malt for a bready-sweet taste that saturates the palate like dense pound cake. The hoppy tastes of pineapple, grapefruit, key lime, tangerine, apricot, papaya and honeydew entice the palate with a lush exotic fruit medley, and then trails with the bitterness of dried citrus peel, fresh grass clippings and muddled botanicals. The finish is balanced, but certainly not hop-forward. Its piquant bitterness is redolent with fresh pine shavings, hints of cannabis and a long aftertaste of citrus pith and rind.

Overall: In this day and age, a wheat wine is a rare treat. This is exotic indeed, and a sipper, for sure, but is not cloying, much to my surprise and pleasure. I love wheat beers, and this is no exception: big and burly, albeit decadent and complex.

Bewilder - Nouveaux Houblons: The name translates to "new hops," which this beer is full of. This Belgian-style IPA features Barbe Rouge, Mistral and Triskel hops, all derivatives of a French varietal that haven't been used much in the states.

This pours with about two fingers of cream-colored foam capping a rich, amber-colored body with deep orange highlights. The head doesn't stick around all that long, but retains a nice collar on the surface throughout. As it dies off, it leaves just small amounts of very thin splotches here and there. A moderate amount of nice hop aroma is clear right out of the gate, with some piney and citrusy sweet orange scents. Malt and yeast esters meld nicely, blending nutty, toasted bread with a little toffee, herbal spice, and mellow stone fruits.

A bit more grandiose than the nose, the flavor is immediately dominated by tangy berries, followed by herbal spice and grassy bitterness. Underneath all of this, there's warm spice, biscuits and rustic multi-grain bread, straw, starchy plantains, apples and small amounts of clove, pepper and coriander. Some slightly medicinal phenols and herbaceousness blend to characterize the finish, which offers a lasting bitterness shifting from grapefruit zest to grassy hops. No booze present, as the boundary between the yeast character and the malt and hops (in turn, not in tandem) is seamless.

Overall: This is more like an amber-ish Belgian pale ale with hops that mimic a mix of American and classic noble hops. That's how it comes off to me, anyway. It's solid in almost every way for its style, definitely worth trying if you're into the "Belgian IPA" thing.

Breweries tend to bring out a select sampling of their heavy hitters for the Utah Beer Festival. If you find these floating around, I highly recommend that you punch your passport at their respective booths, and try the 10.5 percent wheat wine or the 7.3 percent Belgo-IPA. As always, cheers!

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