The Interesting and the Strange – Beer Flavors Gone Wild
Remember when beer tasted like, well, beer? Once upon a time, you could pop open a bottle and regardless of the brewery of origin, the contents were going to taste pretty similar. However, with the rise of the craft beer movement, beer doesn’t have to taste like beer anymore. There are some rather creative breweries out there doing some innovative, and sometimes downright strange, things with their brews. Here’s a quick rundown of the more uniquely flavored beers on the market.
You might say they’re trying to live up to their name. You might say they’re going for something uniquely creative. In either case, you are right. Rogue Brewery routinely serves up some of the most interesting beverages on the craft brew menu, and their Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale is certainly that. Before you pop the cap on this bright pink bottle, be warned that it’s not for everyone. It’s got plenty of salty, sweet and smoky overtones, but if you prefer your beer to be beer rather than breakfast, this might not be your thing.
Rogue has a few other offerings on the market that stand out from the crowd. Witness their Chipotle Ale. The company used real chilies in their recipe, and the result is dramatically spicy, but remarkably smooth. If you are hopping for something out of the ordinary and have a hankering for all things hot, give it a shot.
Experimentation is something encouraged in the craft brew world, as evidenced by the rise of milk stouts, oatmeal stouts, berry-flavored ales and more. However, Right Brain Brewery might have taken things one step too far in their research. The Franken-beer in question is the company’s Mangalitsa Pig Porter. Dark and robust, this porter is made with actual pig heads and bones, and features chocolate overtones (in addition to the smoke and pork flavors). Not for the faint of heart, Mangalitsa Pig Porter isn’t something you’ll find at your neighborhood bottle shop – the company only brews limited batches once per year (which might be a good thing).
Fruit flavored beer isn’t anything new. And beer has been used in bread recipes since time out of mind. But what about fruit and bread combined as flavorings for a beer? If you have not seen it yet at your preferred watering hole, it should be coming soon – Wells Young’s Brewing Company has introduced a banana bread flavored beer. It’s surprisingly tasty, and not at all overpowering. The banana flavor is pretty subtle, and the heavy use of hops is also nice. This might be a good choice if you are looking for a sweeter beer.
Flowers have played an integral role in the brewing of beer for a long time. Fruit has as well. Vegetables haven’t fared as well in their pairings, outside of peppers and pumpkins. Magic Hat is trying to bring something different to your barstool – the company’s HiCu (haiku) blends the flavors of hibiscus flowers with cucumbers (yes, cucumbers). The result is cool, clear and on the sweeter side. If you’re a malt lover, you might find this brew a little of a letdown, but if you’re in the market for something refreshing and redolent of cucumbers, it’s worth a try. The hibiscus plays a definite second fiddle to the cucumber, so if you’re not a fan of the vegetable, it’s safe to say you probably won’t care for the brew. On the other hand, it might be just the thing to cool down on a hot summer afternoon.
Perhaps the most famous succulent used in the making of alcohol is the agave plant (tequila). However, agave isn’t the only succulent capable of being fermented, as Tex Mex Beer points out with its new offering, Siesta Prickly Pear Lager. A hazy golden brew, it uses prickly pear right from the company’s home state of Texas, and the result is surprisingly drinkable. It’s highly carbonated and comes across refreshing – the perfect thing for cooling down after a day riding the range?
Southern Tier is quickly becoming known for the quality of their brews with things like their Double Stout and Double IPA. However, they’re no stranger to the ‘stranger’ side of flavored beer. Take their Crème Brulee Stout as an example. The brew uses real vanilla beans and results in a sweet dessert beer. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you might think twice before trying it, but for those with a hankering for something different but who don’t want to go the pig head/bones route offered by Right Brain, this might be a good entry point into the more creative side of craft beers.
With a name like Mamma Mia, the resulting brew shouldn’t really surprise many craft beer lovers. It’s pizza flavored. What’s more, it’s not just flavored with pizza. According to Mamma Mia’s website, the company actually uses a real pizza (made in-house) in the beer-making process. Their ‘za is actually steeped in the mash. If you’re looking for a brew with hints of tomato, oregano, garlic and basil, this is just what the doctor ordered.
Bilk (Beer + Milk)
Coming to you from Japan, Bilk is something a bit different. Chances are good you’ve at least heard of milk stout – stout brewed using milk sugars (lactose). Bilk is different. It combines the actual milk with beer (not just the sugars). One-third of the liquid is actually milk, but the overall flavor is that of beer. If you’re lactose intolerant, this definitely isn’t an option for you.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative (sometimes frighteningly so) creations in the craft beer world. There are some even stranger ones out there (think coffee beans passed through a civet cat’s digestive tract). It’s certainly an industry that encourages experimentation on the part of brewers and exploration on the part of beer lovers.