Founders is known for its stouts and IPAs. But for this year's ArtPrize beer, the brewers went in a different direction with Green Zebra, a watermelon gose available beginning today in beer stores everywhere.

"No, we're not really known for goses. This is the first time we've ever released one," said Justin Smith, Founders' sales representative for the brewery's home region of Grand Rapids. Smith and Founders were sampling Green Zebra Saturday at Beerfest on the Bridge, a third-year beer festival in Portland, northwest of Lansing.

Smith said the brewery experimented with the beer for more than a year, running test batches through the Grand Rapids taproom last fall and winter before hitting the right flavor.

"It's a mild tartness. It's fruit forward, but not overly sweet. There's a hint of salinity on the back end," Smith said.

And it works. A gose is a style of beer with roots in Leipzig, Germany, traditionally brewed with sea salt and coriander. It's an unfiltered, lightly hopped beer, and tends to be, all at once, sweet, tart and somewhat salty. The trend with American brewers is to add fruit flavors like lemon, lime or tart cherries to amplify the contrast between the sweet the tart and the salty.

Green Zebra achieves that with its namesake watermelon variety: the green zebra.

We found the result to be a sweet, juicy watermelon flavor up front -- real watermelon, not Jolly Rancher watermelon -- and a tart, slightly salty finish. At 4.6% ABV and 10 IBUs, it's a crisp, easy drinking beer for late summer -- if you've got a taste for the tartness of a gose. Not all beer drinkers do.

Green Zebra is the fifth beer Founders has brewed in conjunction with ArtPrize, the annual street art festival in Grand Rapids. Previous entries included Inspired Artist Black IPA, Mosaic Promise, Spectra Trifecta Kolsch, and Pale Joe, a pale ale brewed with coffee. Each one has been brewed to be sessionable, meaning the beers have a relatively low alcohol content.

The beer's label, an intense green zebra against a watermelon-red background, was designed by taproom employee Jacob Wiseheart.

Smith said Green Zebra hit Meijer shelves on Sunday, and is out in 6-packs of cans -- no bottles this year -- across Founders' entire 46-state sales footprint starting today. It will also be available on tap in some bars and restaurants. It's also on tap at the Founders taproom in Grand Rapids.


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