First, a disclaimer: I am not a beer expert. I am not enlightened enough to be able to explain what the brewing differences are between such beers as an India Pale Ale, Pilsner, Bock or Stout.

However, this lack of knowledge does not immediately mean that I do not have a refined palate. Indeed, I never drink beer with an intent to get drunk; rather, to enjoy a little Christian liberty found within the frothy contents of a mug or bottle with a good book or conversation.

Like any reviewer, I believe that it’s important to acknowledge one’s biases. I am not fond of light beers, and by that I mean just about any beer I can easily see through. In my opinion, the darker the beer is, the more I’m apt to enjoy it because there is a greater complexity of flavor and full body to it. This is not to disparage those who enjoy lighter beers, simply to state that I am not a fan. As such, don’t expect to see reviews from me regarding Budweiser, Coors, Old Milwaukee’s Best, etc. which are essentially tinted water designed to be drunk in bulk.

With that, let’s examine four beers that I had the privilege of trying recently.

Ghost Rider

This was the first offering I have had from Wasatch Brewery. As such, I made sure to look them up. The brewery itself is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. That’s right, the very heart of Mormon country. In a way, one could think of its existence there as a cold sore on the lip of Moroni, given Mormon attitudes towards alcohol. Despite its seemingly bold location, the more important factor to consider is whether or not the brew stands up to a taste test!

For the taste test, I drank straight from the bottle (as I often do) because for this particular tasting I was having lunch out and about with family and a friend. It paired well with the roast chicken and mashed potatoes, all things considered.

I first noted that this particular White IPA was somewhat fizzy, but did not have a strong head. The nose hinted of what I thought was citrus, but turned out to be coriander according to the label. After these considerations, I dove in to the taste test.

Though it was served straight from the fridge, it did have a warmth about it on the way down. The initial taste was rather disappointing – it reminded me of a slightly stronger Coors Banquet beer with deeper notes of hops. However, the flavor was very neat. What I mean by that is after the first blush, the flavor disappeared completely from the palate. Now here is where I believe “Ghost Rider” got its name – the after-taste came back (ex nihilo, if you will) about 15 to 20 seconds later tasting of coriander and citrus. This really surprised me! It may be a gimmick in a way, but it’s an impressive one.

Verdict: All in all, there was not much of the initial flavor that made this beer stand out. It was the subtle reappearance of other flavors later that actually made the experience enjoyable. I would recommend this little 6% ABV brew, but it wouldn’t be my first recommendation by a long shot. Still, try it at least once. C+

Goose Island Urban Wheat Ale (312)

Goose Island is a brewery from Chicago. Knowing of the German, Czech, and Scandanavian roots that settled in that area, I was excited to try this particular wheat ale. The wheat ale, for those unfamiliar, is what I would consider a “light” beer, but I try to let myself be taken by surprise. There’s no harm in trying. At least, that’s what I thought when I slipped a bottle into my “make a 6 pack” at the store.

Where to begin with this one? There was medium head, and the nose was akin to KRAFT American cheese slices. The initial taste was crisp and refreshing, but descended immediately after to Budweiser taste levels. The meager 4.2% ABV was disappointing. While I was drinking this beer, I had the distinct impression I was drinking dirty water. The actual after taste was slightly tart, which was a nice apology after tricking me into drinking a Bud equivalent. Overall, this beer was very disappointing, and I’m not sure I’m willing to try any more offerings from Goose Island.

Verdict: D-

Celebrator Doppelbock

This Doublebock comes from Ayinger Brewry in Bavaria. For those unfamiliar, Bavaria is a region in Germany that is considered to be the “gold standard” in both breweries and beers. It is the mecca of many beer aficionados, and if I ever visit the region and sample its wares I will die a happy man. The label itself impressed me – twin goats flanking a full beer glass like a medieval coat of arms.

This beer is quite dark, and gives one that impression even from the nose. There was little foam to speak of, so that noting may get between your palate and the nutty flavor. This beer is clean and smooth with but a bare hint of after taste. The flavor is quite rich, with notes of coffee and what I assume are almonds. The taste was pure with ingredients – in accordance with German brewing laws set out in the 1500s that are still in effect. Good water, grain, and other flavors were quite evidently poured into this brew. With its 6.7% ABV, this fine gem sneaks up on you if you’re not careful.

Verdict: A

Devastator Doublebock

This brew also comes from the Wasatch Brewery. While I was not overly impressed with the Ghost Rider, I thought it would only be fair to give a darker beer a shot.

The Devastator holds a quite respectable 8% ABV, and boasts a quite hoppy nose. It also had very little head. The end result of this, again, being nothing getting between the drinker and the flavor contained therein. Its flavor is quite strong on the front, but mellows smoothly. There was a noticeably stronger “buzz effect” from the first sip compared to the Celebrator. I like the boldness to the flavor – it makes you sit up and take notice of it!

Devastator has a thickness to it, and has complimentary tastes of oats or brown bread in addition to the hops. This oaty flavor is good, and allows this beer to distinguish itself from the Celebrator rather well. This beer manages to be strong without being overwhelming, unless you try to drink it quickly!

Verdict: A

You may be wondering which of these two double bocks I’d give the nod to. That depends on the situation. I loved the nutty flavors of the Celebrator, but appreciated the stronger touch of the Devastator. I would say that the Celebrator is a much better introduction to double bocks than the Devastator, as it would be an easier introduction into the world of dark beers. That being said, I personally prefer the Devastator over the Celebrator due to its thicker feel and stronger punch. So take a bow, Wasatch, you out-did Bavaria on this one!

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