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Hop & Bop: Winter Now

By on Oct 17, 2010 in Featured, Food & Drink, Music | 0 comments

Hop Fall is in the air, but during the past week, it’s been winter in my pint glass. Last weekend, friends from Washington brought us a 24-pack of Deschutes Jubelale, one of my favorite Christmas beers. It’s pretty typical of the winter seasonals–in so much as it is Deschutes, one of the best microbreweries in the country–although less spicy than some of the bolder holiday recipes. Chocolate notes and roasted malts dominate the flavor pallet, with underlying hints of cloves, cinnamon and black licorice. All of the flavors are subtle, and the sweetness is not overwhelming. Yes, it’s a heavy beer, but during the winter months that’s what people like. This week, I’ve also sampled a couple of other winter beers. During a trip to the Bayou Monday, I ordered the McTarnahan’s porter without realizing it was the Hum’Bugr holiday porter. I’ve only had Mac’s brews a few times, and have generally been underwhelmed.  The Hum’Bugr is a good porter, with an upfront sweetness that is closer to a milk stout. It finishes smooth, with the roasted malt flavors and hints of coffee coating the tongue nicely. Overall, it’s not the best porter around, and as far as being a “holiday” beer, it’s really more of a cold-weather beer because it lacks the expected spiciness. Finally, at both The Beer Hive and Bayou the 2009 Anchor Christmas Ale is being sold at a reduced price ($3 and $4, respectively). This is also not overly spicy, although there are definite cinnamon and cloves flavor. It is a beer defined by deep, roasted malts, especially chocolate malts. It’s not especially sweet, although it does have a lingering sweetness in the finish. These beers are limited in stock, because both places are expecting a delivery of the 2010 Anchor Christmas Ale in the next couple of weeks. So get them while you can, especially at those prices. Bop The Yellowjackets, who played at the Sheraton Saturday night, is a quartet of two personalities. First, there is the smooth jazz side, heavy on the smooth, with sax, piano and keyboard. Then there is the funk-bop side, driven by the exceptional drumming and bouncing bass. Really, it’s the funk-bop side that made the show Saturday memorable. Drummer William Kennedy is a dervish who pounded out many insane rhythms when the songs seemed to be built for a steady back-beat. But in every case, those rhythms elevated the songs and kept the band safely out of Kenny G territory. And really, this band bordered on sappy-smooth a lot of the time. More than once, the songs had my mind crafting the opening scene of a 1980s/90s love story in New York City. You know, panoramic shots of Manhattan zooming into street shots, where crowds of people are going every direction. Music that tells the viewer that the movie is going to be a little bit heartbreaking, somewhat sad, but in the end, everything will be fine. Overall, this isn’t a band I will ever seek out, live or on CD. But if I happen to see them again, I certainly wouldn’t be...

Hop & Bop: Oktoberfest

By on Oct 9, 2010 in Food & Drink, Music | 0 comments

Hop Local breweries celebrate Oktoberfest, Utah-style and otherwise.— Two downtown breweries, Red Rock and Squatters, unveiled new beers this week to celebrate the arrival of fall and to commemorate the annual German beer festival. Both launched their Oktoberfest beers with food specials to match at the breweries. Squatters is having an Oktoberfest celebration this weekend, with food at the brewery to celebrate the release of their new Marzen. I haven’t tried it, so if anybody else has toss your thoughts in the comments. Red Rock is going Oktober-crazy, and actually has a half-dozen different lagers on tap that are all a variation on a traditional German beer. They also have Oktoberfest food specials through Sunday that I highly recommend. During lunch at the brewery Friday, I tried a about half of the Oktoberfest beers on tap. Overall, they’re good, not great — a problem I blame almost entirely on the 3.2 percent a.b.w. limitations for tap beer in Utah. The best of the bunch was the Traditional Laztenbier. It had sweet undertones and a nice, thick mouthfeel with a only minimal spiciness and hop bitterness. The lack of alcohol did not hamper this beer, and when paired with the bratwurst, it made for a great lunch. The other beers I tried, however, suffered from the lack of alcohol. Good lagers, especially the darker ones found during the fall, need the alcohol to provide the necessary mouthfeel. A dark lager sitting between 5 and 6 percent, to me, has enough body (because of the alcohol) to coat the tongue and gums and give the beer heft in your mouth. Anything less and the beer starts to taste thin. The Black Bier and the Munich Dunkel both had that “thin” taste. The Black Bier’s lack of alcohol was especially noticeable, because it’s dark color gave the visual impression that there would be more heft. Instead, the beer was thin with a very chocolately flavor, which makes me think that to stay below the 3.2 cap but get the beer dark enough, the brewers cut the overall malt bill but increased the dark/chocolate malt. That can become risky, because a little chocolate malt goes a long way. Okay, enough criticism, because those beers are still worth a trip to the brewery and they also have 3-5 others that I didn’t try. All are on tap, so you could also fill a couple of growlers (or buy one of their collectible growlers). Plus, kudos to every brewery that is embracing the changing seasons by unveiling limited editions of beer, whether it’s on tap or in a bottle. It’s a trend I really like. Bop Last week, Salt Lake-based Joshua Payne Orchestra released their latest album on vinyl. They are also streaming it (in random order) on their website. I heard about Joshua Payne Orchestra from one of our interns, and have been intrigued. After listening to their music on the website, I’m impressed and plan to track their album down (or even better, catch them live) as soon as I get a chance. The group includes Joshua Payne on guitar, Dan Thomas on drums, and Ron Harrel on bass. Overall, the music is a little more low-key than the hard bop I love, but it still has an edge. It’s not safe, by any means, which is a good thing. I never like safe jazz. At the same time, you could play this during a dinner party or while sipping coffee in the early morning without making people jittery. What makes the songs soar is Payne’s guitar work. He has that rare talent for making the guitar the star of the song without dominating the music. On “Boom Boom Wow” (embedded below), he pushes the band from a slow groove start to a raucous ending, all in the span of less than 3 minutes. Other songs that stood out for me were “Sex Yo,” “Huey Ought,” and “Primetime.” All of them had a pretty steady rhythm and good improvisation, and I suspect they are expanded on greatly when played live. More than anything, this album feels like the “framework” for their live shows. Each song seems to be more of a frame for some great improvisation. I’d be interested to know if that is the case, so again, anybody who has actually seen these guys live, feel free to chime in below. Also, hat tip to local jazz musicians. I lament the loss of various jazz clubs, especially when they haven’t been replaced elsewhere. So to hear from people that musicians like Payne are finding gigs at places like Rose Wagner, Manhattan Club or Grand America is encouraging. To that end, if you are a local jazz musician, drop me a line. I’d love to promote local jazz in this blog whenever possible. The Hop & Bop is published weekly on Saturdays. For a lengthier description of my goal with this feature, click here. Got a beer or jazz album to promote (especially local)? Send me an e-mail at...

Hop & Bop: Fresh Hops

By on Oct 2, 2010 in Food & Drink, Music | 0 comments

HOP: A lot of things herald the arrival of autumn, be it the cool nights of late September, shorter days, the start of football season or a yearning for soup. Over the last couple of years, especially, another indicator of autumn is the arrival of fresh-hopped beers. These beers are made using hops picked within the last few days, as opposed to the dried hops used for most beers. The fresh hops typically have a more refined, subtle aroma and flavors than dried, just like fresh spices compared to dried. That’s not to say fresh-hopped beers cannot be hop bombs. Last year, for example, the Harvest Ale from Sierra Nevada was a big blast of hop flavors and aromas. This week, two local breweries have put their own fresh-hopped beers on tap. At Desert Edge Brewery, they actually went even further than just fresh hopping and made a beer using ingredients sourced within 100 miles of Salt Lake City. The beer is appropriately called “Radius.” It’s a very refreshing pale ale, with a subtle sweetness and light, hoppy aroma—my semi-refined palate is picking up a Centennial hop in there, nothing too strong but still a nice bitterness. The flavor is actually low on the hop scale, especially for a pale ale, but still very refreshing. At The Beer Store, Wasatch Brewery has put their Hop Bandit on tap. This is also a fresh-hopped beer, with all of the hops picked from wild plants by Wasatch staff and volunteers. I haven’t had it this year, but last year’s batch was very good, with a decent amount of hoppy flavor and a wonderful aroma. I plan on filling a growler this afternoon, and will update this post accordingly. Both beers are 3.2 percent, so they are great session beers for a long afternoon of football. Also, both beers are a limited run, so I’d highly recommend getting to the breweries this weekend to make sure you can taste them. They both go quickly. BOP: Another challenging jazz record is my choice this week, from the Mary Halvorson Quartet. The record, Saturn Sings, is available Tuesday, but currently streaming on NPR’s First Listen. The NPR descriptions says that the songs are inspired by composers like Thelonious Monk but have the soul of Marvin Gaye. But what grabbed me is that these songs are constantly shifting and moving, like a kaleidoscope, often evolving from a relatively soft and straight-forward jazz improv to a crumbling noise experiments. The whole thing is held together by the guitar playing of Halvorson, although this is not guitar jazz that will ever be played in a dentist’s office. Often, it seems as if Halvorson’s fingers decide to go way off the beaten path, and the other players willingly follow. The first song of the record, “Leak Over Six Five (No. 14),” is as indicative of the overall sound as any other, so it’s a great way to decide if this is music for you. It starts with a pretty direct guitar solo, with the horns slowly coming in from the background and the drum providing more an undercoating of sound. But right around the three-minute mark, things start to go haywire. The guitar takes a backseat, the horns step forward and the drums wander off, drunkenly, into their own experiment. Then, the guitar returns, but this time its a rapid-fire shot of slides and picks, none of them clean but all of them brilliant. And it just gets weirder from there. The Hop & Bop is a weekly feature, published on Saturdays, focusing on beer and jazz. For a more in-depth explanation, click...