Mash Gang are a nanobrewery crew based in London, formed by a few brewing mates who needed something to do during the UK lockdown of 2020/2021. Experimenting with different nolo brews and sending each other bottles of what they had produced, the team put their various experiments up on Instagram around the same time I started this blog, and I began following their account. They produced some great ‘gram content, with properly ‘out-there’ concepts such as marmalade toast kvass and watermelon sour beer doing the rounds along with some really great label artwork and promotional material. Eventually one of their experiments came to fruition and their ‘California Uncommon’ brew began to crop up on many other AF beer Instagram feeds.
California Uncommon is described by the gang as the world’s first non-alcoholic malt liquor. A mainstay of urban American life, especially if 1990s punk rock and rap is to believed, malt liquor is a high ABV lager or ale with minimal hop usage, and most probably imbibed mainly for it’s alcohol content rather than it’s taste. I don’t think an equivalent has really been available in the UK (strong lagers such as Special Brew or Tennents Super are very different beasts), so I’m doubly intrigued by this; a non-alcoholic version of a traditionally high alcohol beer of a variety I’ve never tried before – quick, to the drinking cave! Or as I know it, the lounge/kitchen…
Pouring from the can (not quite a 40oz) we get a pale amber coloured liquid with good clarity and slight visible carbonation. A white frothy head is produced but this soon recedes to a thin spattering of foam here and there on the surface of the beer. On the nose there is a slight malt sweetness, along with a note of dark roasted coffee and some leafy mint.
On tasting we get some mild caramel/honey sweetness from the malt, with some earthy/rustic background notes. Initially it feels rather thin, but the body seems to build up as you drink, giving a great mouth feel. And then a point of genius – the chilli pepper featured in the beer’s ingredients. This is completely indiscernible for most of the drinking session, but as you’re maybe two thirds into the drink you notice a pleasing warmth beginning to creep up in your mouth and throat. I could be wrong, but to me this does a great job of emulating the warming effect of drinking alcohol, and is the first time I’ve come across anything like this in a non-alcoholic beer. We get a short slightly bitter finish to the drink.
I’m very impressed with Mash Gang’s debut on the AF beer scene, it’s completely unlike anything else out there. Having not actually tried malt liquor before, to me this brings back memories of drinking a malty local cask ale in the comfort of an old man’s pub somewhere in the depths of the Lake District. A world away from California, but I could drink California Uncommon anywhere. Plus the use of chilli pepper here is inspired. A brewer to watch!
Buy Mash Gang California Uncommon
If you’re in London, Mash Gang California Uncommon is sometimes available on tap at the Brewdog AF bar on Old Street, or you can get it direct from the gang:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the can)|
|Water, Barley, Wheat, Oats, Hops, Yeast, Pepper|
|Country of Production||United Kingdom|
|Brewer||Mash Gang – https://www.mashgang.beer/|
Mash Gang California Uncommon Nolo Malt Liquor Review
Unique in the AF world, this is a great sessionable beer wherever in the world you may be.