When I first encountered Kererū’s ‘Karengose’, back in February at the 2014 X-Ale beer-geekathon, I remarked that I’d love to try this salty, tangy beer again on a summer’s day. Fortunately, we’re all now able to (distribution and supply pending), as Kererū have now produced more of this unusual beer, which was brewed initially just for X-Ale. And it’s becoming readily more available, in 500ml bottles and, maybe, off tap? I’m not sure, but fingers crossed, because the reappearance of this beer is perfectly timed for the onset of summer.
The Karengose is worthy of a second post on this blog, with a whole bottle giving me a chance to fully explore the flavours, far more than the small tasting at X-Ale allowed me. And so, on a sunny late-November day, I opened a bottle of this ale and went out to the deck.
A Gose, the internet tells me, is a style of wheat beer from central Germany, brewed with salted water and and spiced for flavour, often with a bit of lactic acid bacteria inoculation for sourness. With the Karengose, Chris Mills from Kererū has added in karengo, an edible deep red / purple seaweed from the Kaikoura coast, as well as some other spices (coriander would be one, I suspect).
It’s the scent of the sea that wafts aloft from the glass as the pale and very cloudy wheat beer pours thickly into the glass. The air fills with the tangy aroma of brine, and maybe a little pungent sweat and seashore decay – but not unpleasantly, just the merest hint (as you might smell on the beach on a dry summer’s day). It’s almost sticky, settling slowly to a level in the glass, hinting at a glutinous element to the beer, maybe from the seaweed, the thick salted water, or both.
Taking the first sip, it’s striking how light and fluffy the beer feels in the mouth compared to how thick it looked in the glass. A flavour of sweet lemon is the first sensation coating the tongue. Gently the sweetness fades to a more tart, tangy lemon flavour, the carbonation escaping the beer in the mouth to leave a smooth velvety sensation, leaving the entire inside of the mouth coated with a refreshing sour, slightly-salted finish.
Enjoying a full bottle of the Karengose out on the deck in the sunshine reinforced to me that the notion I had in the crowded, dark, sweaty basement of Hashigo Zake on a rainy February day was spot on. This beer is a superb summer drink. Through the magic of brewing, the combination of salted water, malted wheat and barely, hops, seaweed, spices and yeast, Kererū have managed to bottle the scent and taste of a summer’s afternoon at the beach.
It’s all there – the brine and sunshine, the sour tang of the sea air, a little touch of the funky aroma of decaying seaweed, and a smooth, easy drinking, fulsome beer. And, at just 4% abv, it won’t knock you on your arse and send you to sleep as the sun beats down. And, with the lemony, fruity flavour carried by the hops and spices, it’ll be a perfect match with some battered and fried fish and a salad (or chips, of course), with a splash of tartare sauce.
Don’t forget your sunscreen!