Study Up on Urban Artifact’s Flagship Beers
By now, you’ve probably heard about Northside’s soon-to-open brewery, Urban Artifact. You probably assumed this was yet another new local brewery entering an increasingly crowded market. However, before you start trying to decide which new local IPA or stout you’ll be drinking next week – you need to educate yourself on what they are brewing.
This isn’t your average modern craft beer brewery. No, it’s something more, something a little wild.
Urban Artifact is the first local brewery to focus on wild, funky, and “sour” beer styles exclusively. Let’s also get this through our heads: sour doesn’t mean face-puckering, enamel-melting, heartburn-inducing super expensive beers made in Belgium. Rather, it is a general term used to describe beers that take advantage of different yeast strains other than everyday saccharomyces. In fact, they aim not to brew biting, lactic acid laced beers that can only be drank one per sitting.
Scott Hunter and Bret Kollmann Baker have developed a serious obsession with yeast, bacteria, and brewing techniques that add depth and character to beers without a barrage of hops and malt. In fact, they have used their chemical engineering backgrounds to develop brewing processes to better control perceived tartness and sourness in batches of beers that take only days longer than a standard ale to brew. Both pieces are key to the success of their operation. You need to be able to drink more than one beer and you can’t have vessels tied up for months on end to create the product.
I sat down with the duo on St. Patrick’s day to learn about their core lineup of beers that should launch by the end of April. Let’s take a deeper dive on what they are rolling out.
Finn – Berliner Pale Ale: Not exactly a BJCP recognized style, this hybrid brings together the characteristics of a tart Berliner Weisse and a well-hopped pale ale. However, there is no wheat used in the recipe and the hops are all late additions of Amarillo, Equinox, Mosaic, and others to enhance fruity aromas and flavors. I imagine this will be a “gateway” beer for traditional beer fans to get introduced to Urban Artifact.
Harrow – Gose: We’ve seen this style popping up much more frequently locally and nationally. Typically, it is a light wheat beer with some tartness balanced by a rich salt flavor. It’s a great thirst quencher for the dog days of Cincinnati summer. I was treated to a sample straight off the fermenter of an almost finished batch and it was a little different than what I’ve had in the past. There was a more pronounced bready malt characteristic with some nice salt and coriander that wasn’t overpowering. I’m looking forward to trying this once it’s carbonated and chilled.
Maize – Kentucky Common: This is an antiquated beer style that originated in Louisville that is essentially the inverse of a bourbon recipe. I only recall seeing this style one other time with Listermann’s Colonel Plug limited release back in 2013. Expect a fairly heavy corn base on top of typical malts to create an easy drinking beer with some tart flavors.
All three beers will clock in at or under 6% ABV making them pretty easy to drink in succession.
Once they officially open and get their flagship lineup rolling along they will begin to experiment with more bacteria and yeast as they dive headlong into wood and barrel treatments. They also plan on spontaneous fermentation and isolating naturally occurring Northside yeast strains (I’m told they will follow their nose like Tucan Sam to find the good ones).
What I Find Exciting
There is enthusiasm, passion, and a business plan that aims to expand the palates of local beer drinkers. They are making wild and sour ales accessible in terms of availability and affordability. Urban Artifact will begin with draft only distribution in the area for the first year or so with a price point that should allow retailers to sell $5 pints. You often don’t find that with sour beers since they generally command greater overhead expenses. After the program is established they will consider packaged options. Keep your eyes peeled for Urban Artifact as we roll into summer!
I also immediately think of this when I see W I L D spelled out across their tanks..