- Mike Riedel
Artificial flavorings have their place in the world, I guess—though generally, I don't like them in beer. I have had some artificially-flavored beers that taste fantastic, while others taste nothing like the intended fruit they're mimicking. Artificial strawberry and cucumber are some of the worst chemical offenders; to me, they're interchangeable in flavor. Luckily, this week's ingredients are 100 percent real, and there's no damn mingling going on ... except in my belly.
Proper - Strawberry Hibiscus Sour Ranger: This pours a deep ruby red that has jewel-like clarity. There's zero head retention, which is fine due to the high PH of the beer. The aroma starts off with a high degree of jam sweetness, with the strawberry being the first to show up. Medium to high amounts of tartness round out the nose.
The taste seems to be similar to the aroma, and it starts off with that high-to-medium sweetness with the strawberry still being the first to show up. It imparts the same aspects that it did in the aroma, followed by a solid dose of medium tartness. Up next come the malts, which are just a little more pronounced than they were in the aroma, while imparting the same aspects. On the finish, there's a little more lingering tartness, along with a strawberry flavor showing up in the aftertaste along with just a slightly medicinal flavor. This is a pretty nice-tasting beer, but you'll notice that I didn't mention much about the hibiscus part—and that's because the tartness from this particular botanical was completely buried by the lactic sourness from the base beer.
Overall: I thought this was a solid beer and a pretty good example of the style; it had all the aspects that I was looking for, and it has nice drinkability. This one is a lip-smacker for sure.
Epic - Señor Pepino: Theody is a mostly-clear pale yellow, with an enormous amount of fizz; there are bubbles everywhere. The bright white head that appears is thin and fizzy, but remains at a half-inch for the duration, supported by the rising carbonation. A mellow, inviting cucumber aroma makes up the majority of the nose, so that it smells like you're walking into a sandwich shop. Thanks to the lightness of the character, what's left is a clean lager scent of white bread, soft grain husk and some floral hops, which add notes of strawberry and mint. Think summer in a glass.
Focusing on mild cucumber and fruity hop tones, this flavor is as crisp and refreshing as a lightly-dressed salad. There's a ghostly berry taste that comes across as strawberry—not intrusive and barely noticeable, but worth noting. It finishes like raw greens, leafy and a tad sweet, but with an unmistakable crispness. Carbonation is medium soft, barely there save for a bit of sizzle across the tongue as it goes down. Light, light body, but that matches well with refreshing, watery cucumber.
Overall: This beer is great in two ways: It's easy to get intrigued by, and even easier to enjoy. The flavors represented here are almost never taken advantage of in beer, and in the brewing world, you always get points for originality—as long as the end product is tasty, that is.
Señor Pepino is available in 16-ounce cans at the brewery, and can also be found at select grocery stores. Strawberry Sour Ranger is also in 16-ounce cans. Because of its 5.0 percent ABV you'd expect to see it on draft at the brewery; alas, Proper has opted for cans only for this one. I understand these beers are selling well, so don't wait too long. As always, cheers!