Shakparo (fire-brewed African-style ale)

by: BeerAdvocate on 05-16-2007
Probably one of the most unique and intriguing ales to have crossed our palates is this one, brewed by Sprecher Brewing Company’s 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 millet—which actually turned out to be pretty authentic, as traditional Shakparo doesn’t contain any wheat or malted products.

Sprecher Brewing Shakparo (fire-brewed African-style ale) - now gluten-freeThe Taste
The 16-ounce brown bottle pours a turbid, dirty-blonde color, but that’s 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 Hefeweizen—with banana and a soft spiciness, but it’s far earthier, with burnt sugars at the end, taking on a cidery homebrew/baker’s 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.

Final Thoughts
We’re on the fence with this one. While not the tastiest beer—resembling a Hefeweizen, Sahti, Lambic and cider train wreck—it’s another option for (gluten-dreading) celiacs, and one that goes well beyond the typical offerings that are currently available. It’s 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-up—and 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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