The X-Factor | Drink | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

The X-Factor 

Exploring the qualities that make for unique beers.

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click to enlarge MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

If you're looking for some real "outside the box" beers, this week's selections exhibit just enough craziness to make them stand out from the rest. It doesn't take much to turn a simple beer into a style bending work of art. However, these two beers managed to find an odd tweak that morphed them into something completely new. Let's see if you can spot the individual X-factors here.

Squatters 30th Anniversary Rum Barrel Doppelbock: This special doppelbock was aged in barrels that had previously housed gin, and was specifically created to celebrate Squatters 30th Anniversary. It pours a dark amber, almost brown color, with a smallish fluffy, khaki-colored head. The aroma begins with a decent amount of boozy juniper character, including berries, dates and figs. Then you get the dark toffee and caramelized sugar, typical of this style of lager. As it warms, you get some lighter, boozier gin-soaked raisins.

The flavors follow the nose, beginning with dark caramel, toffee and gin-soaked dark fruits. The barrel blends well with the toffee and vanilla base of the beer, and adds complexity to the assertive alcohol character. It was readily noticeable at the time of this sampling; though the beer is relatively fresh, it does have a cellared or aged feel to it. After the 12.3% brew came up to almost room temperature, there was a bit of a twang about it that had me thinking it was juniper berries. Perhaps it was just another of the somewhat strange vinous contributions from the barrels.

Overall: Squatters doesn't do a whole lot of barrel-aged beers, though I should point out that when they do produce them, they are top-notch. This is a very high quality barrel-aged doppelbock that shows Squatters' more adventurous side.

Level Crossing Brewing Co. Jazz Loon: This new lager is named for the infamous NorthSound jazz album of the early 1990s. It pours a light, hazy honey-orange color with a bubbly half finger of head. The nose is quite unique and interesting: There's an unusual grassiness to it that is mildly earthy, with a nice, fresh hop character. Mild melon and clementine become prominent as it warms.

The taste starts with a grassy hop character, almost noble-like and full of floral and spicy herbal hops. Those are the old-school German hop flavors; the new German hops used provide a bit of spicy melon and citrus peel, but no real fruit or melon. Mildly sweet and toasty malt comes next—not really sweet, just enough to prop up the hops. Eventually, the hops in this 5.3% beer get a little citrusy, with a touch of fruity, mild clementine. The finish is again grassy, herbal and floral.

Overall: I love Pilsners, but I especially love it when brewers get away from the traditional hop selections and utilize some of the newer, more unique hop varieties out there. I should point out that all of the hops used in this beer are German in origin, but it hardly comes off as a true German Pilsner.

Squatters moved through quite a bit of those gin barrel doppelbocks during their party last week, but there should still be some available to purchase at Squatters and at the Beer Store at 1763 S. 300 West packaged in 750 milliliter bottles. Jazz Loon hit last weekend, and is packaged in 16-ounce cans. You can find this one in Level Crossing's cold case to go, or to enjoy at the brewery's pub. As always, cheers!

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