Top 5 Weirdest Things in Beers
With the release of A Local Beer and Burnley Brewing’s new Banana Bread Brown Ale from the ‘Fruits of our Labour’ range some of our friends and family were surprised to see that over 100 kilograms of hand torched banana were put in the boil during brewing to extract a unique and delicious toffee banana flavour. The idea of adding additional ingredients, particularly fruit and spices to the brewing process may seem odd to the typical lager drinker and those not too familiar with the world of craft beer but the practice is probably as old as brewing itself. More recently brewers have been getting even more experimental with atypical substances and flavours in their creations so today we thought we'd take a look at some of the five weirdest ingredients to have been put in beer.
The thought of seafood in beer is enough to make some want to vomit before they smell, let alone taste an oyster stout. For lovers of both beer and seafood however, an oyster stout may just be a match made in heaven. This unique and obscure beer style originated around a hundred years ago is kept alive by a few breweries around the world. The rich, malty, brew is counterbalanced by the briny notes of the ocean with the added hit of umami flavour that makes this beer style sought out by some and heavily avoided by others. Having had a few in my time I can say it’s one of those beers you contemplate over and find yourself really analysing the flavours instead of just pouring it down your throat as I’ve otherwise been guilty of. For those curious in Australia, I would recommend checking out Sailors Grave Brewing on the Gippsland Coast. They make a great ‘Law of the Tongue’ oyster stout that may just turn you into a fan of this unique style (or have you never touching it again for the rest of your life).
The Crown Jewels:
From oysters of the sea to oysters of another kind. Rocky Mountain ‘oysters aka bull testicles have been used in a brew by Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Colorado, USA. The beer supposedly started as a bit of an April Fool’s Day gag but the feedback was surprisingly positive and so now has become an annual limited release. Apparently fans of the beer enjoy the ‘meaty’ flavour of this 7.2% stout.
And if that doesn’t testickle your curiosity, (sorry couldn’t help myself) how about Icelandic brewery’s Stedji and their natural Hvalur beer. The beer is brewed annually for the Thorri winter festival in January and February where such delicacies served include rotten/(fermented) shark, sour whale fat and ram’s testicles. The beer itself uses one whale’s testicles, which is around 7 kilograms of testicle if you were wondering (I know you were). I should also note the testicle itself has smoked in sheep excrement (Iceland are you okay?) The sweet, smokey porter-like beer is apparently more palatable than it sounds but I still think you’d have to be pretty ballsy to give it a try.
There have been a number of breweries, particularly in recent times, who have been experimenting with native Australian flavours and ingredients. Adam Betts from Edge is one to follow - his new Wattleseed Nitro Stout is certainly for a truly modern Australian beer. But some have pushed the boundaries even further, Sweet Amber Brewing Co. last year took arguably Australia’s most loved product, Vegemite, and heroed it in their ‘Vegemight’ gose. A gose is meant to have a salty flavour profile and Vegemite is principally made from fermented yeast from the CUB brewery so the concept makes sense, on paper at least. The verdict for that beer though, along with other breweries which have sought to incorporate Vegemite into a beer seems to be that the iconic spread works best on toast and not in beer. Rare Bird Brewing made headlines last year when they created a red wheat beer with native pepperberry and kangaroo. I mean Australia is, after all, a country famous for eating the animals on its Coat of Arms so why not drink them? Reviews were generally positive with some saying however the kangaroo didn’t come through enough. Subsequent brews will hopefully address this by adding a bit more of ‘Skippy’ to the boil. After all, we know people always want hoppier beers!
What’s better than ingesting one relaxant? Ingesting another at the same time! Putting marijuana in beer really isn’t that weird really as we already put hops into our beer and hops come from the Cannabacae family of plants, the same as marijuana. It’s important to note that not that all cannabis beers will get you drunk and stoned though. Cannabis-infused beers (as opposed to non-alcoholic beer brewed with the stems and roots of the cannabis plant) are flavoured with marjuana extracts that may or may not include the psychoactive compound THC. The flavour imparted by cannabis can be broad but is generally ‘danker’ and nuttier than those without. They have become increasingly popular in parts of the United States where they are legal and it hasn't escaped the notice of some of the biggest food and beverage corporations who are currently collectively pouring millions of dollars of research and development into cannabis beverages. Legitimately, there are concerns about the effects of irresponsible consumption of beers with THC. I mean we all know at least one mate who will regularly have more than one too many beers, are these the characters we want with free access to beers which include some sweet Mary Jane as well? It’s a moot point for the moment anyway because according to our government marijuana is always bad, in any form 100% of the time so we are definitely a long way off any legal form of cannabis beer here.
I know what you’re thinking ‘Umm Hugo, Yeast is in all beer you must have run out of weird things for the article.’ In fact, I have not. Yeast as an ingredient is, of course, necessary for any fermentation in beer, and it really is a remarkable thing as we literally would have no alcohol without it. Today with the obsession around malty, sweet stouts and hop bombs, yeast doesn't’ get the credit it deserves from many. Most brewers will use an isolated yeast strain from a packet or reuse some of the healthy fungi from a previous brew but some beers like lambics require spontaneous fermentation from wild yeasts in the air around us to create their unique flavours profile. Some breweries have looked at other ways to get the required yeast from unconventional places. Rogue Brewing has created a ‘Beard Ale’. It is brewed using yeast originally cultured from nine beard hairs belonging to their head brewmaster. And if that wasn’t weird enough, in 2016 a company called The Order of Yoni created a limited release beer using the yeast extracted from a model’s vagina. Czech model Alexandra Brendlova was the chosen source of the yeast starter as according to the beer company she apparently had “all the desired instincts we wanted to frame”, whatever degrading sexist drivel that means. Reviews for the beer are few and far between and there are far more clickbait articles than legitimate reviews for it which probably tells us all we need to know about the product.
We admire all those in the brewing world pushing boundaries and taking craft beer to new and exciting horizons. It seems we are in a golden period for breweries as it seems consumers are happy to pretty much give anything a try! The above examples might suggest that perhaps you really can put anything into a beer but sometimes just because you can doesn’t mean you should.