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—including beers brewed with fruit, coffee and even peanut butter.
With GAYOT’s Top 10 Weird Beers, presented in alphabetical order, we explore some of the strange but delightful brews made with wacky add-ins such as bacon, caramel, chili peppers and even yeast cultivated from a brewmaster’s beard!
1. Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter
Origin: San Diego, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Porter, Imperial Porter
Price: $8 for 22 oz.
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.
2. Brenner Bacon Bomb Rauchbier
Origin: Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A.
Beer type: Smoked
Price: $10 for four-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Brenner Brewing Co.
We all know that everything tastes better with bacon, but what about beer?
Brenner Brewing Co. confirms our suspicions with its Bacon Bomb Rauchbier, a smoky German-style brew. With your first whiff, your olfactory nerves are alerted that bacon is on the way, but there’s no actual pork in this completely vegan beer.
A blend of German beechwood- and Wisconsin cherrywood-smoked malts contributes to the blast of bacon flavor, making this brew an excellent companion for barbecue. Unlike some rauchbiers, which can be overwhelming in taste and aroma, this one goes down easy thanks to a yeast strain that helps to keep the body light.
3. Elgood’s Coolship Sour Mango Ale
Origin: Wisbech, U.K.
Beer type: American Wild Ale
Price: $6 for 500 ml
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.
4. Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
Origin: Frederick, MD, U.S.A.
Beer type: Stout, English Stout
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Flying Dog Brewing Co.
The English tradition of pairing beer and oysters has been Americanized by the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland, who put the oysters right into the beer itself.
Rappahannock River oysters harvested in the region are used, which add a very subtle, salty flavor in the aftertaste. This stout is richly flavored due to additions of roasted barley and chocolate rye malts, with notes of chocolate, roast and coffee. The brewery is known for its dog-themed names and artwork; this beer’s logo features a dog wearing a dress, pearl necklace and lipstick.
Originally released as a limited edition beer in 2011, it’s now produced and sold year-round. Here’s to drinking to a good cause: proceeds from the sale of this beer benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership of the Chesapeake Bay, proving that it feels good to give back.
5. Rogue Ales Beard Beer
Origin: Newport, OR, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Wild Ale
Price: $6.49 for 22 oz.
Brewed by: Rogue Ales
Rogue Ales has produced brews featuring maple, bacon, peanut butter, banana, chipotle peppers, juniper and hazelnuts, but this one with actual human beard yeast tops them all.
The idea for this beer (which was released on April Fools Day 2013) began as a joke, as nine hairs were plucked from brewmaster John Maier’s beard and sent to San Diego’s White Labs for evaluation. Lo and behold, the specimens were found to contain a natural yeast suitable for brewing, which was then isolated, cultivated and used to ferment this golden ale.
Once you manage to get over the major “ick” factor, you’ll find it reminiscent of a Belgian saison, with a hazy orangish hue and flavors of bready malt, spicy peppercorn, tropical mango, passion fruit and pineapple.
6. Saturday Morning Cartoons Breakfast Cereal Milk Stout
Origin: San Bernardino, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Milk/Sweet Stout
Price: $12 for 22 oz
Brewed by: Brew Rebellion
The adventurous brewers at Brew Rebellion in San Bernardino, California are known for making unusual concoctions and this brew highlights none other than Fruity Pebbles cereal.
Beer for breakfast? Why didn’t we think of that! The easy-drinking stout begins with flavors of roasted malt and chocolate before finishing with a mélange of fruity flakes. The use of lactose adds a sweet and milky creaminess that isn’t unlike a bowl of sweet cereal.
Adding yet another element of playfulness, bits of the breakfast cereal are embedded in the white wax of the bottle cap and neck.
Want more? You’ll find additional adult-style takes on childhood nostalgia with the brewery’s Cinnamon Breakfast Cereal Milk Stout, Chocolaty Cereal Milk Stout and Apple Cinnamon Cereal Milk Stout.
7. Southern Tier Brewing Co. Thick Mint
Origin: Lakewood, NY, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Double, Imperial Stout
Price: $19 for 4-pack 12 oz
Brewed by: Southern Tier Brewing Co.
While not sanctioned by the Girl Scouts for obvious reasons, this latest creation is inspired by one of the organization’s most popular cookies: Thin Mint.
This brewery out of Lakewood, New York is renowned for its Blackwater Series of beers that mimic popular desserts—Creme Brûlée, Choklat Oranj, Salted Caramel and Choklat.
The brew balances mint and chocolate as roasty malts blend with notes of dark chocolate, sweet mint and caramel. Brewed with additions of cocoa nibs and mint, it’s not overly sweet but will still give you the impression of drinking a cookie.
Enjoy it as an after-dinner drink and pair it with vanilla ice cream or shortbread cookies.
8. Stone Crime Chili Beer
Origin: Escondido, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Chili
Price: $20 for 500 ml.
Brewed by: Stone Brewing Company
This beer is indeed a smooth criminal not for the faint of heart.
Stone Crime Chili Beer is a tribute to the excessive but effective use of fiery hot peppers. To make this spicy beer, Stone infuses its special Lukcy Basartd Ale (sic) with copious amounts of freshly harvested red and green jalapeños, ultra-hot black nagas, Caribbean red hots, Moruga scorpions and fatalii peppers.
Upon pouring, an aroma of full-on pepper spice greets the nose. The initial sip brings a flavor blast so intense that your tongue is left numb and tingly. Interestingly, after a while, your palate adjusts to the heat, and the pepper can be appreciated alongside nuanced notes of oak. Hot stuff!
9. Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale
Origin: Bedford, U.K.
Beer type: Ale
Price: $10 for four-pack 11.2 oz.
Brewed by: Wells Brewery
The English Wells Brewery is known for out-of-the-box recipes, such as its flagship Banana Bread Beer. Now with Wells 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.
10. White Russian Imperial Coffee Stout
Origin: Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Double, Imperial Stout
Price: $14 for 4-pack 12 oz
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.