If you look at the December 28-29, 1996 issue of The Capital Times you will see me mentioned briefly. I was innocently enjoying the Badgers beating Utah in the Copper Bowl at Babe's sports bar with some friends. One of them, Dan, disappeared at some point and returned a short while later saying that he had been approached by a local representative of the Fourth Estate and had chatted with the gentleman for a spell. The next day I got namechecked while Dan was quoted in the paper as saying, "It wasn't much of a game. You know, it's Utah. Mormons. They can't put a football team together."
That is not a bad analogy to how I've felt about Utah with regards to brewing for quite some time. "Mormons don't drink. They either don't have microbreweries or, if they do, they can't be any good." And then word trickled in from out west that there was a beer from out in the land of Mormons called "Polygamy Porter"
. "Well I'll be. There was microbrew out there. And they had a sense of humor too."
But that brewery, Wasatch, was out in Park City which is chock full of Richard Florida's vaunted creative class types who hang out and do things like attend the Sundance Film Festival. Of course you'd have craft brews out in a tourist trap like that. But then in 2014 Epic Brewing
came to Wisconsin store shelves. They are out of Salt Lake City, the heart of Mormon country. The blasphemers even specialize in strong brews. No doubt Joseph Smith and his wives are still rolling in their graves. And then last year Uinta Brewing
, also in Salt Lake City, began appearing at my local bottle shops.
, a rauchbier, caught my eye as did Baba
, a black lager brewed with organic barley and hops. Although the brewery lists Baba as a year-round beer, it is rather elusive in Madison. Or at least at the joints I frequent, anyway. Perhaps the Jenifer Street Market carries it ex gratia
for us dark lager lovers.
Baba is a dark bier. Very dark. I think it's about as dark as copper can get before becoming pitch. I held the glass up to a quintet of light bulbs and even their 4,000 lumens struggled to penetrate the gloom, the likes of which I hadn't seen since April
. But they did enough for me to see the color. I could also see that Baba was clear and that there was a gaggle of bubbles moving on up to a generous light tan head. The foam was firm and lasted a good long time.
Dark chocolate was the first thing that my nose caught with coffee and highly roasted grain trailing right behind. They smelled slightly bitter but were mostly delectable bursts of Maillard reactiony goodness.
Baba has a nice clean malt flavor and it was dark chocolate hit my tongue immediately as I took my first sip. It was joined by that dark roast grain flavor just as with the smell but coffee was fainter here and there was just a touch of smokiness too. These dark grain flavors had a mild bitterness which was complemented by some grassy hops but, overall, the bitterness was restrained. Joining in on the fun was a slight sweetness which was like plum or cherry. I think that latter is the result of me savoring the chocolate flavor here and having a chocolate malt suddenly appear in my mind's eye. The carbonation was like the drummer in this group, keeping all of the flavors in check and in balance.
For the finish – and I know this is going to be difficult to believe – that dark/bitter chocolate flavor stuck around as it was joined by some of those organic Hallertau hops which gave a tasty bit of spiciness and also a goodly dose of bitterness for a dry finale. I was left with some fine Schaumhaftvermoegen
on my glass with rather thick streaks all around.
For a bier that is only 4% A.B.V., Baba will not leave you wanting for taste. Someone described Led Zeppelin's music as being "tight but loose" and I'd opine that Baba is light but full. It has a fairly light body but all of those dark malts with their chocolate and coffee goodness lend the bier fullness of flavor. As someone who thoroughly enjoys everything that darker malts bring to a beer, Baba hit all the right buttons for me. However, there's more going on here than simply chocolate malt. In addition to the roasted grain tastes, some low-level sweetness along with a dash of hops add to the circus of flavors all being kept in harmonious order by the carbonation.
Baba puts the lie to the common misconceptions that low alcohol beers are low in flavor and that dark beers are heavy. This should be in everyone's arsenal of summer brews.
Junk food pairing: Baba pairs well with complementary foods such as Hostess Ho Hos and Dark Chocolate Crunch Pretzel Crisps.
Labels: Beer, Dunkles, Schwarzbier, Uinta Brewing