Cincinnati-based brewer Urban Artifact is no stranger to fruit in beer. But even for a brewery so well-versed in fruit and sours, it went way out on a limb with The Gadget, a “Midwest Fruit Tart Ale” featuring a literal ton of fresh berries per batch. At nearly 1,300 pounds of raspberries and blackberries each, The Gadget may be the most fruit-packed beer I’ve ever had. The result of in-house experimentation by the brewery’s taproom staff is a fresh fruited sour that is heavy on berry flavor and tartness.
Obviously a beer with a volume that’s roughly half berries (don’t check my math) is going to have a not-so-beery hue. That’s definitely the case with The Gadget, as its deep purple and scarlet color makes this pint of beer look more like a solid pour of sangria. A rosy pink head forms right off the pour, but if you blink you’ll miss it. The head fades away to nothing and leaves behind a very still beer, which adds to the sangria-like appearance.
The Gadget’s aroma won’t fill a room, but get close enough to the glass and a wave of berry will overwhelm you. Its potent tartness and pungent fruitiness makes my jaws tingle and mouth water. Hiding underneath all the raspberry and blackberry aroma is supposed to be a hefty dose of vanilla, though I don’t pick up much of it. The Gadget smells less like a beer and more like very fresh berry juice, like the fruit went straight from bush to glass.
I enjoyed every moment of the blow-your-head-off tartness because it came with big flavor.”
The aroma tipped my sense off, but no amount of forewarning would prepare me for the hammer of berry tartness in each sip of The Gadget. Each taste begins with pleasing ripe berry flavor that gives way to light and floral vanilla. The yeast and carbonation have a brief moment before the all-out assault of mouth-puckering sour grabs the wheel for good. Just when I find myself wondering when the tartness will relent, it dies away, leaving only a reminder of its potency. Yet somehow it makes me want to go in for more.
A beer you have to endure is hard to enjoy, but that’s simply not the case with The Gadget. I enjoyed every moment of the blow-your-head-off tartness because it came with big flavor: fresh berry, sweet vanilla, and a touch of booze from the deceptive 8.3% ABV. The enamel-stripping sourness was more like sucking on a lemon than downing a glass of vinegar—citric and lightly sweet rather than acidic and bitter. Sure, my face is sweating, but I’m happy about it.