When you pour this beer out of its package, a delightfully pink color leaps out of the can and into the glass. Persistent effervescence presents a beer with a pale, fluffy head, which dissipates while I wait for my corn chowder to heat. I taste the chowder: too bland. So I add some rosemary garlic sea salt and smoked paprika. By the time I am done seasoning the soup, the lights are dimmer than when I started and my glass of Back Home Beer Sumac Gose has gone from a high amaranth color to a not-quite-rosewood hue. It is clear a magical alchemy is transpiring in my snifter as the Turkish-cured sumac and tart cherries waft out of the glass.
The aroma is an interesting blend of earthy and floral scents. The earthy nature in the nose is perhaps reminiscent of the soil the sumac grows in, but the light lemony berry-like aromas, perhaps closer to the flowers and cured sumac, reminds me of the interplay between malt and hops one might find in a balanced pale lager. The cherries appear present in the nose as well, lending a slight tannic, though not oaky, character that is reminiscent of the ways in which some Chardonnays and other white wines bring forth a luxurious buttery character.
The barely-sweet hint of barley at the front of the palate gives way to the substantive Persian blue salt, reminding me of all the wonderful dishes made brighter with salt. It is perhaps impossible to suss out the salty differences between the cured sumac and the Persian blue salt, but it adds a wonderful component to the gose. The mid palate seems to introduce the not-quite-sour sumac before spreading to the back of the throat and the cherries do their thing, reminding you that this is indeed a fruit beer, though so much more complex than simply a style with fruit added.
This beer, 4.6% alcohol by volume, makes clear that a significant amount of time was spent in its creation. Between the cured sumac, grown on a farm in Gaziantep, Turkey, and salt and cherries from Iran, this beer possesses a sum that is much greater than its parts–though these parts are incredibly significant throughout many countries around the world. The salinity cuts through the sourness and the natural acidity from the cherries lend a complex touch to this beer. Despite the complexity, it is also an accessible beer. And there is a taste in this beer that feels like it’s coming at the right time.
It’s tart, but not too sour. It’s salty, but not intrusively. It’s fruity, but only as a component lending proficiency to the blend of the ingredients; the cherries are humming along with the other players in the band. The melody is complex, yet one cannot help but remember that there have been tart and sour beers before, but not one quite like this.
There is no question that owner and founder of Back Home Beer, Zahra Tabatabai, brings what American beer is missing: women-owned breweries and the under-acknowledged influence of immigrants (who are not British or German) in modern craft beer. In this case, Tabatabai has parents who immigrated from Iran during the revolution, and her grandfather made beer and wine in Shiraz, Iran. By bringing these stories to modern American foodways, and embracing cultural components that have for too long been left out of craft brewing, we strengthen our collective beer culture.
Back Home Beer produces beer inspired and influenced by the delicious flavors of the Middle East – the birthplace of beer. Tabatabai heard countless stories about her grandfather, who often malted his own barley, dried the grain in the sun, and worked hard to perfect his craft. Playing music within their walled garden, dancing and sharing his beer with neighbors, Baba Joon–“grandpa”–was magic in the community. She longed to bring some of his fabled recipes to life, thus, Back Home Beer was born.
At Domestique, a can will run you $5. Back Home Beer six packs will run you between $16.99 and $18.99 at ANXO Brightwood Bottle Shop, Churchkey Bottle Shop, Craft Beer Cellar, Calvert Woodley, Odd Provisions, and other fine purveyors of better beer.