Sometimes we just need a beer. Not the beer, but a beer. A good beer.
I often find myself picking up last minute groceries at my local market and remembering that I need to re-stock my fridge. Carrying my toddler, I pass the dairy section to stand before a beer cooler that is twenty yards long with hundreds of craft beer options. Beautiful colorful packaging grabs my eye, and large-format specialty beers distract me from my goal. It frequently feels all so overwhelming as I stand there, taking it in.
I have taught classes on how best to approach a complex beer selection, but here I become frozen as time slows and I scan the cooler. At this moment, around me all other shoppers move in slow motion, and my daughter is yelling for my attention, grabbing at bottles behind me. I can feel the anticipation of my hungry wife at home wondering why it’s taking me so long to do a simple task. Perhaps you’ve been there too.
I quickly scan the options – maybe something new from a brewery I already know is great? But indecision forces me to put it back. I pick up something with beautiful branding design from a new brewery I do not know. But then I hesitate because I don’t know which offering of theirs I should choose. Time ticks by and I begin to panic a little knowing I’ve now stared at this cooler, pacing up and down, for entirely too long.
Then, as if by an instinct that finally kicked in, I grab North Coast Brewing Company’s Pranqster (again) and happily walk to the checkout, feeling as confident as ever. I did it, as I brush my shoulders off, I am proud that I succeeded in weeding through the noise to find a good beer that has no trendy story to behold, beyond being from a high-quality brewery that has been making great beer since 1988.
Flavors from the fermentation are apparent quickly, tasting of pears on the front palate with a peppery spice hitting the sides of the tongue.”
When we choose Pranqster, we are grabbing a beer that packs a lot of balance and flavor into a simple style that we overlook too much in American craft beer, the Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale, or Belgian Strong Pale Ale on BeerGraphs. These ales are modeled after the originator of the style, the world famous Duvel, arguably one of the best beers from Belgium.
Even if you’ve had Pranqster before, after you crack it and pour it into a glass, pause for a moment to reacquaint yourself. Dig your nose into the glass and get that balance of fruity pear and spiciness. You might find a perfume aroma and an orange zest like I did, with a touch of sweet malt character to look forward to.
As a bright, medium-gold colored beer with a light foggy clarity, this beer isn’t quite as beautiful as Duvel, nor does the head stay around as long, but its flavors work together to create a great beer. As you tip it back, flavors from the fermentation are apparent quickly, tasting of pears on the front palate with a peppery spice hitting the sides of the tongue. The malt character is as sweet as it was in the aroma, but it’s respectable. There is quite a bit of hop bitterness in Pranqster, combined with the bitterness that comes from a byproduct of the fermentation – phenols.
With a beer in this style, brewed in the United States, I’m always looking for more effervescence. The body should be lighter and dryer, even with that higher alcohol level than your typical Belgian blond ale. With Belgian beers brewed in the U.S. compared to Belgium, we can often miss this mark a bit. Perhaps that’s what makes it American?
Overall, however, Pranqster is a bright and spicy ale with a pleasant bitterness and fruity yeast characteristic that makes it very flavorful, and a great go-to.