Top Weird Beers

By Bob Barnes

Strange & Delicious Beers You Haven’t Tried Yet

Up until the latter part of the 20th century, brewers followed the rules and adhered to traditional beer styles. It was considered taboo to brew with anything other than water, hops, malt and yeast. In fact, this was the law of the land according to Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law of 1516. When the American craft brewing renaissance finally sprouted in the 1990s, imbibers were ready for more weird, adventurous beers.

Today, breweries continue to take beer in exciting new directions, experimenting with ingredients never used before.

With GAYOT’s Top Weird Beers, presented in alphabetical order, we explore some of the strange but delightful brews made with wacky add-ins.

1. Able Baker Zombie Aduckalypse

Able Baker Zombie Aduckalypse

Origin: Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.
Beer type: Imperial/Double Black IPA
Price: $17 for 4-pack 16 oz. cans
ABV: 8.5%
Brewed by: Able Baker Brewing
 
A beer frighteningly dark in color that maintains a balance between moderate mouthfeel and hop forward flavor.

The Las Vegas-based Able Baker Brewing, named for the historic first two above ground atomic bombs tested at the Nevada Test Site in the early 1950s, adopted a duck as its mascot with a backstory that a duck was the only animal to survive the blasts. As if that wasn’t weird enough, they’ve released a beer with a logo depicting the beloved duck appearing to have been turned into a zombie with brain matter scattered throughout the can.

As for the beer, it’s the brewery’s take on the weirdly disappearing black IPA style, and is a beer frighteningly dark in color that maintains a balance between moderate mouthfeel and hop forward flavor. This unique black ale avoids the conflict between roasted dark malts and bitter hops that “plague” most beers of this style, bringing the black IPA back from the dead by infusing a West Coast style IPA with an aggressive dry-hop of Chinook joined with the darker coloration and roasted malt flavors. While the flavor of this beer may not be scary, the graphics of the logo and name make this beer a good fit for the Halloween season.

2. Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter

Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter

Origin: San Diego, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Porter, Imperial Porter
Price: $8 for 22 oz.
ABV: 10%
Brewed by: Ballast Point Brewing Co.

Ever have to decide whether to perk up with some coffee or chill out with a beer? Enjoy both in a Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter.

Freshly brewed Caffe Calabria coffee from San Diego is added to this hybrid after a 24-hour cold extraction process is employed to coax out the java’s finest flavors. Don’t be scared off by its label, which sports a skeleton manning the steering wheel of a ship during a squall, or its hefty amount of alcohol. (The imagery conjures up Day of the Dead celebrations, doesn’t it?)

Although this porter weighs in at 10 percent, the alcohol is well hidden. It’s easy to drink, and the addition of pure vanilla extract adds a pleasant complement to the dark roasted goodness, with caramel characteristics from the dark grain thrown into the mix of flavors.

3. Big Storm Category 5 Belgian Quintupel

Big Storm Category 5 Belgian Quintupel

Origin: Clearwater, FL, U.S.A.
Beer type: Belgian Strong Golden Ale
Price: $25 for 375 ml
ABV: 16.3%
Brewed by: Big Storm Brewing

This beer is the fifth offering of the Florida-based Big Storm Brewing Company’s Belgian-style Hurricane Series, released in conjunction with the Atlantic hurricane season, each named for the different storm levels based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.

As hurricanes grow stronger with each category, so does the ABV in the series, and this one weighs in at a whopping 16.3% ABV. This Belgian-style strong ale is co-fermented with Belgian and Champagne yeasts while aging for eight months in French oak Chardonnay barrels. It pours a deep golden copper with flavors of honey and brown sugar sweetness balances with notes of vanilla, Chardonnay and tropical fruit and a noticeable note of alcohol in the finish reminiscent of a sweet liquor.

Due to the high alcohol content, the brewery suggests it “Pairs well with a designated driver.” Don’t just take our word for the excellence of this weirdly potent beer, it was a gold medal winner at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival in the Experimental Wood-Aged Beer category.

4. Elgood’s Coolship Sour Mango Ale

Elgood’s Coolship Sour Mango Ale

Origin: Wisbech, U.K.
Beer type: American Wild Ale
Price: £3.49 for 330 ml
ABV: 5%
Brewed by: Elgood’s Brewery

The first thing that qualifies this beer as strange is that it’s a sour brew from a traditional brewery in England, a country certainly not known for sour brews or tropical fruit such as mango.

Formerly known as Original Sour, this beer is brewed using copper coolships (fermentation vessels dating from the 1920s), which are used to cool the wort overnight and inoculate it with a healthy mix of microbes. Fermentation and maturation then occurs for the next nine to 12 months in stainless steel tanks to which oak and chestnut chips have been added. This enables the naturally occurring wild yeasts and mango concentrate to bring forth a bright tartness offset by sweet, tropical fruity flavor along with depth and complexity.

Fun fact: Elgood’s Brewery is family-owned and situated in the heart of Fen country in Cambridgeshire, England. Established in 1795, it is one of the first classic Georgian breweries to be built outside London.

5. Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale

Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale

Origin: Bedford, U.K.
Beer type: Ale
Price: $10 for four-pack 11.2 oz.
ABV: 5%
Brewed by: Eagle Brewery

This English brewery is known for out-of-the-box recipes, such as its flagship Banana Bread Beer. Now with Sticky Toffee Pudding, the brewery is paying homage to Britain’s famed dessert.

The use of darker malts give it a light brown hue, and the flavor is not nearly as sugary as the actual dessert—the sweetness is tempered by English Fuggles and Goldings hops. The use of molasses allows for rich flavors of toffee and caramel to come through without being cloyingly sweet. After drinking, you’re rewarded with hints of butterscotch and hazelnut.

6. White Russian Imperial Coffee Stout

White Russian Imperial Coffee Stout

Origin: Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Double, Imperial Stout
Price: $14 for 4-pack 12 oz
ABV: 9.3%
Brewed by: Sunup Brewing Company

An imperial stout with coffee is not so unusual these days, but one with the flavor of the classic White Russian cocktail is indeed a strange brew.

Along with huge notes of cream and coffee (the result of whole coffee beans being steeped in the beer for 5-7 days), bittersweet chocolate and dark caramel, this beer offers subtle notes of dark stone fruits and raisin. Despite the name and flavor notes, there is no cream in this White Russian. Plus, the big 9.3% ABV creates a nice alcohol warmth combined with a rich, chewy mouthfeel.

This beer qualifies as dessert, but it will also pair well with big-flavored foods like duck, venison, aged cheeses, dark chocolate truffles or chocolate raspberry mousse cake.