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Shakparo (fire-brewed African-style ale)
Probably one of the most unique and intriguing ales to have crossed our palates is this one, brewed by Sprecher Brewing Companys brewmaster, Craig Burge, during an exploration of African brewing styles and traditions. Initially, it was a West African Shakparo-style beer brewed from sorghum; however, due to an increasing demand for gluten-free beers (that is, with no wheat or barley) and months of consumer inquiries as to whether traditional Shakparo was indeed gluten-free, Burge decided to reformulate the recipe. He created a new gluten-free version of the beer made with just sorghum and milletwhich actually turned out to be pretty authentic, as traditional Shakparo doesnt contain any wheat or malted products.
The 16-ounce brown bottle pours a turbid, dirty-blonde color, but thats expected as this is unfiltered. Head is a thin white wispy lace that offers little eye candy. The aroma is akin to a traditional Bavarian Hefeweizenwith banana and a soft spiciness, but its far earthier, with burnt sugars at the end, taking on a cidery homebrew/bakers yeast smell as it warms that is none too pleasant. The body is rounded and smooth, but with a tingly carbonation on the palate and an aggressive tartness that breaks things up. Juicy raw apple flavors dominate, along with a sharp Granny Smith bite and rough banana pith. Little sweetness, but fruity at times, and no discerning hop character. Underlying soft and powdery spices. Quite dry overall, and especially in the finish.
Were on the fence with this one. While not the tastiest beerresembling a Hefeweizen, Sahti, Lambic and cider train wreckits another option for (gluten-dreading) celiacs, and one that goes well beyond the typical offerings that are currently available. Its unique, authentic and opens our eyes to a new brewing culture, and it will no doubt pave the way for more creative gluten-free beer options. For that, we give Sprecher a big thumbs-upand we definitely have an urge to learn more about African brewing now.
Sprecher recommends pairing this with lighter fare like sandwiches, salads, chicken and fish, as well as with spicier foods. We agree, and would also throw in fruit-infused dishes or fruit pies.
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