There are plenty of reasons why people don’t like beer: the taste, the smell, the urine-like color — you name it. Plus, there are always better alcoholic options, like sangrias or tequila shots. Yet Urban Artifact blends the best qualities of wine and fruity cocktails to create sour, fruity beers.
Urban Artifact is a brewery and taproom in Northside. It’s the only brewery in Cincinnati that deals exclusively in sours, and one of only a few such breweries in the United States.
Urban Artifact brews a few variations of sour beer: Midwest fruit tart, gose and fruit beer.
The menu in the taproom at Urban Artifact is ever-changing, including seasonal drinks like Keypunch and Pickle. Sadly, both of those weren’t available when I visited. Bonus fact: Pickle will be available this summer and Keypunch comes out in fall.
What I did try was eight of the 14 beers being served on tap this week. I have compiled my thoughts on color, smell, flavor and mouthfeel to ease the decision-making process for those of you who aren’t familiar with sour beers.
Important items to note are the ABV and pH values. Alcohol by volume (ABV) is the measure of how much alcohol is within a given volume — the higher the percentage, the more wrecked you’ll get. The pH measures the sourness of the beer — the lower the number, the sourer it will be.
The average measure for beer is 4.5 percent ABV and 4-5 pH.
Many of these flavors can be bought in 4- or 6-packs for $11.99 to take home and drink later. You can also purchase a 32-ounce growler can that ranges from $9-21, with Victory Garden being the most expensive option.
All of the flavors listed below can currently be purchased in the taproom for $2-5 for a 4-ounce glass and $5-10 for a larger glass (sizes vary).
Sliderule — Chocolate Raspberry Gose
ABV: 4.9 percent; pH: 3.4
Ranking: First “meh,” then “no.”
I had high hopes for this one because chocolate always sounds good to me, but I was a bit disappointed.
Urban usually serves up the rainbow with its beers, but Sliderule was a dark brown. The smell reminded me of a mocha, which I don’t like. The taste didn’t offer much chocolate flavor, and overall, I found it pretty acidic.
Still, it pairs nicely with a sleeve of Thin Mints.
Pocket Watch — Midwest Fruit Tart with concord grapes, red plums and black currant
ABV: 8 percent; pH: 3.2
Ranking: Not bad at all.
Based on the ingredients for Pocket Watch, I assumed it was going to taste similar to wine, and I was not disappointed.
Pocket Watch has a nice purple (almost maroon) color, and it smells like a bottle of red wine. It wasn’t very sour, and the fruit flavors came through in just the right amount. There is a light tongue tingle.
If you want a glass that’s reminiscent of fizzy grape juice, I’d recommend this one.
Finn – Tart Pale Ale
ABV: 5.4 percent; pH: 3.7
Ranking: Cinderella story!
I had low expectations for Finn, because everything about the description sounds like a plain ol’ beer. Way to prove me wrong, Finn — you big, tall glass of magic.
Sure, it’s got that unappealing urine color, but it smells light and citrusy, with an aftertaste to match. I would definitely put Finn in my top three favorite beers.
Victory Garden – Brut Fruit Tart with Montmorency cherries and acerola
ABV: 10.5 percent; pH: 3.4
Ranking: That’s a no from me, dog.
This is a taproom-only beer, meaning you won’t be able to find it out in the wild. With two cherry ingredients, you might expect Victory Garden to be similar to wine, but you’d be wrong.
The brut (pronounced “broot”) element gives the beer a dry quality, like Champagne. Even with its orangish-peachy color and lack of scent, I wasn’t impressed. It was super sour and gave me lemon cheeks. Plus, the dryness gave me a cottonmouth feel.
Unless you’re an enthusiast for Champagne and cherries, I’d pass on this one.
The Gadget – Midwest Fruit Tart with blackberries, raspberries and vanilla bean
ABV: 8.3 percent; pH: 3.2
Ranking: Surprisingly “meh.”
I had high hopes for Gadget. I was expecting something almost identical to red wine. This flavor came highly recommended from Urban Artifact’s brewmaster, Bret Kollmann-Baker, but I just couldn’t get into it.
The color is deep purple and beautiful, and it smells like a sweet wine, but there’s an odd tang in the aftertaste that’s almost reminiscent of the scent of pickle juice.
Kaleidoscope – Fruit Beer with pineapple, orange and guava
ABV: 9.1 percent; pH: 3.3
Ranking: I love this. You’re coming with me!
It’s worth noting that I had high hopes for this flavor. Everything about this beer screams “summer.” The color is a sunshiny yellow, and it smells like what sunshine should smell like.
My first sip was like falling in love. Kaleidoscope is citrusy with the just the right amount of tang, and the mouthfeel is just fizzy enough to wake you up.
I highly recommend trying this one before it runs out.
Sesheshet – Plum & Fig Gose
ABV: 6 percent; pH: 3.4
Ranking: No. 1 favorite! Take me home!
This magically-delicious, spicy, orange heaven is my reason for living.
The deep-orange hue looked like fire in the middle with the light making the edges glow. It smelled like Christmas with scents of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.
If you like chai tea, this is the beer you need to go get now. It’s seasonal, and it’s not available in 4-packs.
Landline – Midwest Fruit Tart with bananas, raspberries and orange zest
ABV: 8.2 percent; pH: 3.45
Ranking: A bit of a letdown.
I lied — not all the beers are currently on tap. Landline was not available, but Urban Artifact still has cans for purchase. Since I like the flavor of bananas, I decided to buy a 4-pack to try at home.
I’m a bit disappointed that I did, because it didn’t live all the way up to expectation. It has a unique orange-soda color and smells like fruity applesauce. It was pretty bubbly and had a tingly mouthfeel. Instead of tasting like a daquiri, which is what I imagined, it tasted more like orange soda’s cousin, strawberry-banana.
Overall, the experience was a good one. I certainly think everyone should head to Urban Artifact, order a flight and try whatever sounds good to you. There were a few surprising winners (I’m looking at you, Finn) and a couple of letdowns, but I still ended up bringing three different flavors home with me.
I’ll be back soon, Urban Artifact.