Perhaps nothing makes brewers beam more than when one of their beer babies—and a lager at that—becomes a commercial success. For Jeff Bunk, director of operations for Proper Brewing Co., that’s the story of Whispers of the Primordial Sea.
He’d had his recipe for the smoked Helles with pineapple tucked away since his days working at a cidery in Oregon. Then, in late 2020, Proper put the beer on draft as a one-off. And in mid-2021 Whispers of the Primordial Sea hit the Utah market in 16-ounce cans. It became an instant hit.
“The opportunity came up, OK, I have this beer, let’s try it,” Bunk remembered. “I figured people were going to say, ‘oh, that’s an interesting thing’ and then it’s going to fall off. There are so many interesting beers that people put out…they don’t latch onto it. This one, people latched onto and I was very happy to see that.”
Listen to Jeff Bunk describe how Whispers of the Primordial Sea came to be.
Whispers of the Primordial Sea is a 5% crisp and slightly smoky lager. It pours a pale yellow with a smooth cap of white foam. Aromas and flavors include notes of wood-fired pizza dough and hints of pineapple. But it doesn’t scream fruity campfire. The brilliance of Whispers lies in its subtlety.
“We wanted something that was a point of difference but wasn’t going to be so intense or so out there that the general market wouldn’t be open to trying it,” said Rebecca Cardaccio, Proper’s sales director. “(Bunk) suggested that beer but he didn’t know if anyone was going to like it. Immediately (Proper co-founder Andrew Tendick) and I said, ‘that’s it.’ The lightbulb went off and said, that’s the beer.”
‘Whispers’ Makes Noise
Proper Brewing is known to dial in a base beer before experimenting with specialty malts or adjuncts. For Whispers, the “hero” is Proper’s base Helles that includes added flavors to “enhance the drinking experience,” Cardaccio said.
Whispers features applewood and plumwood smoked malt, Hallertau hops and pineapple purée. Once a seasonal, the beer is now a full-time offering and is readily available throughout Utah.
In addition to commercial success, Whispers of the Primordial Sea also has earned critical recognition. It won silver at the 2021 International Beer Awards.
This article originally appeared on PorchDrinking.com on March 31, 2022.