Fearful Symmetries

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22 December, 2015

My Date With a Rauchbier: Tinder by Uinta Brewing

Utah's Uinta Brewing began distributing their wares here in Wisconsin earlier this year to, as near as I can tell, relatively little fanfare. Apparently their Hop Nosh IPA enjoys neither widespread adoration nor whale status. I believe that Uinta beer hit store shelves not long after Ballast Point's did so perhaps they suffered from being in the wake of the IPA leviathan.

I must admit that I haven't exactly jumped head-first into the Uinta line-up but I did try their Baba Black Lager over the summer and thought that it was quite tasty. Around the same time I noticed bottles of Tinder on store shelves. A rauchbier? A rauchbier lager?! In addition to be a coveted style, it came in trendy 750ml bottles whose corks were lovingly secured with muselets. Of course I had to try it.

I brought the first bottle I purchased with me to Stevens Point where it was the prelude to a night in which two friends and I polished off a case of Point Especial and then went out to Ella's to drink more Point and play hammerschlagen. From what I can recall of that brief encounter with Tinder, I enjoyed it but wished that it was a bit smokier. Still, it was a nice beer to be drinking on the patio with two old friends on a nice spring evening.

I bought a second bottle with the intention of giving it my strict attention and doing a review. And I have finally gotten around to doing so.

The bottle I emptied (with help from my frau) was filled on 22 January of this year. Fresh this stuff wasn't. Still, I don't feel that it was over the hill and think that it is fair game.

Tinder pours a light amber hue. The bier was turbid, something I don't recall from my first encounter but there are a few things that I do no remember from that day. My pour generated about ¼" of frothy light tan head that dissipated rather quickly. For reasons I cannot explain my notes do not say a word about any effervescence inside the glass.

Upon taking a whiff my nose was hit by a blast of fuliginous fumes that carried the style's trademark bouquet of bacon. Most beers smell good. They have aromas that arouse our Dionysian sides and heighten our anticipation of liquid refreshment. For me, however, rauchbiers take these visceral reactions even further and induce salivation. It's is probably partly the bacon-like scent and partly some Pavlovian conditioning that happened in my past that I don't want to talk about. The upshot here is that I loved Tinder's aroma and I have not yet mentioned the sweet apricot-like scent and the faint grassy hop smell in there as well.

Upon taking a taste my tongue was hit by a wave of hearty smokiness – the promise of bacony goodness fulfilled. This was joined by some malt sweetness that kept the stone fruit theme going with a peachy flavor as well as a more subtle and more toffee-like one. The smoke was most prominent at first. As the bier warmed it and the malt sweetness came in roughly equal doses. And finally the sweetness overtook the smoke as the end the bottle came in sight. The bier never became cloying, however, as there was always a good dose of carbonation to be had.

Malty sweetness lingered on the finish but was joined by some grassy/peppery hop flavor that added dryness but little bitterness. Alas and alack, there was no Schaumhaftvermoegen on my glass.

Uinta notes that the inspiration for this bier came when the owner and the brewmaster were in Germany. This sounded quite familiar and then I recalled that this was also the genesis of Surly's NEIN, a rauch weizen. This being the case I must implore more brewers to visit Germany.

Tinder is a fine bier. It has a fairly light body yet is full of clean malt flavor. The smoke and sweet tastes are very well-balanced here although I must admit that I'd prefer a little less sweetness. If you're familiar with Schlenkerla's Märzen or Urbock then know that Tinder is not as smoky tasting as those biers. However, the smoke is not just used to accent other malt flavors as it is in something like Karben4's NightCall porter. I also really liked how the hops added a little peppery zest and some dryness at the finish to contrast with the big festival of malt. Tinder clocks in at 6.5% A.B.V. and is one of those Goldilocks beers – not too big yet not too light. It has enough malt flavor and booze in it to be hearty yet its light body and dry finish keep it from being cloying or filling. A bier for all seasons.

Junk food pairing: Try some Jay's Hot Stuff potato chips with Tinder. The big paprika taste will complement the rauch perfectly.

Epilogue: I see that there are still bottles of Tinder in Madison. Uinta's website no longer lists it so I assume that the bier has been retired. Not surprising if the large numbers of bottles at Woodman's East and Jenifer Street Market are any indication. Rauchbier fans should get it now and drink as soon as possible.

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|| Palmer, 2:19 PM


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