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—including beers brewed with fruit, coffee and even peanut butter.

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

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout

Origin: Frederick, MD, U.S.A.
Beer type: Stout, English Stout
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5.5%
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.

4. Saturday Morning Cartoons Breakfast Cereal Milk Stout

Saturday Morning Cartoons Breakfast Cereal Milk Stout

Origin: Banning, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Milk/Sweet Stout
Price: $12 for 22 oz
ABV: 5.76%
Brewed by: Brew Rebellion

The adventurous brewers at Brew Rebellion in Banning, 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.

They’ve also produced additional adult-style takes on childhood nostalgia with Cinnamon Breakfast Cereal Milk Stout, Chocolaty Cereal Milk Stout and Apple Cinnamon Cereal Milk Stout.

5. Southern Tier Brewing Co. Thick Mint

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
ABV: 10%
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.

6. Stone Crime Chili Beer

Stone Crime Chili Beer

Origin: Escondido, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Chili
Price: $15 for 500 ml.
ABV: 9.6%
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!

7. 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.

8. 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.