Clean – Caracosa: If you drank beer hundreds or even thousands of years ago, it would be unrecognizable to beer lovers today. Centuries ago, beer was life. It was made with everything on hand, to make it interesting and nutritious. Our contemporary ales and lagers are more of a luxury drink than a way of life.
However, Proper Brewing Company gives you an accurate idea of what an old timer might have looked like, by making this mixed fermentation Gruit. Gruits are bitter with herbs and spices rather than hops – usually anything palatable. Other herbs, spices and berries can also be used to create interesting and pleasant aromas and flavors. This beer features many indigenous ingredients, as well as a mixed fermentation of tamed and wild yeast to give it a fruity acidity.
The aroma brings notes of pale soft wheat and pilsner malts with moderate sweetness, moderate tart fruitiness of apricot and raisin and a mild yeast profile. A delicate herbaceous, pine and lemon bitterness creeps in from the herbal additions.
The flavor does a little better to showcase the flavor of the herbs used to bitter this beer. The pale, cracking malts are outstanding, with a touch of unmalted wheat body and flavor with moderate sweetness. Persistent notes of tangy fruit, reminiscent of peach, pear and grape, a nod to a Belgian yeast style. The bitter spice arrangement creates noticeable bitterness with flavors of grass, herbal tea, sweet citrus, and delicate sage and yarrow. The finish is slightly puckered, with lovely fruity tones from the yeast and wine barrel. The 9.8 alcohol is pretty well hidden.
Globally: This beer was much more approachable than I ever imagined, as many of the flavors of the bitter herbs used in place of hops generated very hop-like flavor profiles, and a decent bitterness to pair as well . As the old herbal beer only surfaces occasionally, I would recommend anyone interested in old style beers or mixed fermented beers to try a beer like this for sure.
UTOG – Snapdragon: Japanese lagers are quite similar to pilsners, but they manage to use the region’s most abundant beans to get the job done. In the case of Japan, it would be rice. Japanese rice lagers have that typical round malt profile, but with a much drier finish than their European cousins. This new lager from UTOG enhances the Japanese experience by adding ginger and lime.
Spicy ginger is the main aromatic quality, and it is almost the only aroma that exists. It smells of spicy ginger ale, but there’s also fresh, aromatic lime zest.
The taste manages to bring more to the table, with a gorgeous bready, almost cracker-like malt, plus the lemony, floral complexities of real ginger (not just the familiar aroma and warmth of cleaning products). Lime is still there, albeit in a cameo role, lingering here and there in the background. Pepper also appears, blending almost perfectly with the ginger and a slight spicy hop bitterness on the finish (although there is no hops otherwise present). Of course, the lingering nature of these flavor components ruins the expected quick finish of a lager, but the refreshing nature of the spicy flavors makes this somewhat of a non-issue.
Globally: As many who have followed my review philosophy will surely know, I am a big proponent of reviewing a beer based on what that beer is trying to be. This philosophy is illustrated here. In this case, I think UTOG set out to create a nuanced, yet refreshing beer complex – and they completely succeeded.
Snapdragon’s 16-ounce cans pair deliciously with sushi or barbecue, while Caracosa would kick things up a notch with a nice buttery pasta dish. As always, well done!