Those who need gluten-free food have few choices in beer. And if you are looking for gluten-free beer that's locally made, you are even more limited. However, Sprecher Brewing is attempting to fill that void with Shakparo. For the gluten-challenged, or for anyone looking for a different taste in beer, this is one to try. But for me, once was enough.
What is it? Skakparo Ale from Sprecher Brewing Company of Glendale, Wis.
Style: Fits into a general category of beers described as traditional ales. Shakparo as an ale style originated in Africa, where it was made by Idasha women, with sorghum and millet replacing today's more common wheat or barley as fermentable sugars. This creates a lighter bodied beer, with crisp and fruity character.
Background: This beer was introduced by Sprecher in 2006, for Milwaukee's African World Festival. You'll find this beer in Sprecher's distinctive four-packs for around $8. Being brewed with sorghum and millet, it's one of only a handful of beers marketed as gluten free. In the 2007 Great American Beer Festival, this beer received a bronze medal in the gluten-free category.
Shakparo is one of two African beers made by Sprecher. The Mbege Ale showcases banana tones in its aroma and background flavors.
- Aroma: Grainy, earthy.
- Appearance: Hazy, golden color with a thin bubbly head.
- Texture: Bubbly and crisp, almost champagne like.
- Taste: Grainy beginning, but crisp fruity, cider-like tones dominate.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Sour and fruity with a lingering spiciness.
Glassware: Traditionally this beer was probably drunk from clay pots or gourds. My recommendation is a flute or wine glass to appreciate its effervescent qualities.
Pairs well with: Light sandwiches, chicken and fish. Fresh vegetable salads, especially cold salads will go with the fruity tones of the Shakparo.
Rating: One Bottle Opener.
(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)
The Verdict: I hate to second guess the Great American Beer Festival or Beer Advocate, but this is like a failed attempt at cider with its sour, even vinegary background. If you're adventurous enough to try this beer, find a store that allows mixing you own six-pack so you can try a bottle before investing in an entire four-pack.