The “German Beer Purity Law” (Reinheitsgebot) of 1516 codified that beer could only be made with barley, hops, and water (updated to include yeast a few hundred years later, when French microbiologist Louis Pasteur discovered what had been responsible for fermentation all along).
There’s no such dogma in the contemporary world of craft brewing, however, where producers have been perversely pushing the envelope with adjunct ingredients into the infinite.
Here are seven delicious examples of uniquely bizarre beers that incorporate unorthodox ingredients into the fermentation process, including bacon, tobacco, frozen pizza, and even money.
Stay Puft | Barreled Souls Brewing Co. / Slab Sicilian Street FoodBarreled Souls in Saco, Maine, is one of the more exciting microbreweries in the country, exclusively utilizing oak barrels with its impossibly small-batch Burton Union fermentation system (an antique method developed in the 1830s, where yeast is harvested as it bubbles to the top of the barrel). The brewery has collaborated with the terrific restaurant Slab in nearby Portland to create a chocolaty imperial stout, brewed with graham crackers and marshmallow to achieve the effect of liquid s’mores. For heightened decadence, some is aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, which adds a wonderful whiskey-strong component.
Xyauyù Kentucky | Le BaladinItaly’s head-in-the-clouds Le Baladin Brewery is responsible for creating one of the world’s most unique beers with Xyauyù, a barley wine it intentionally allowed to oxidize. The result is more reminiscent in flavor and strength to port or sherry. Of all the experimental Xyauyù versions produced over the years (Le Baladin has aged the liquid in Scotch barrels at times, or steeped it with Lapsang souchong tea) the most unique is the one where they actually infuse the drink with tobacco during the aging in bourbon barrels. Like sipping on a dram in an old humidor, the oxidative dark fruitiness of the beer works beautifully with the added whiskey aroma and leathery cigar flavor.
Reposé | Jester King BreweryFarmhouse brewing outfit Jester King, out of Austin, boasts an authentic rusticity in its style. (Think beers with foraged flowers, obscure fruit, native fungi, and even local kombucha.) Reposé is quite possibly the brewery’s “farmiest” offering to date, drawing inspiration from the stone barns of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France—birthplace of the traditional bière de garde (“beer for keeping”) style of ales. Hay was used in the mash for this winter-brewed beer, which was laid to rest in former brandy barrels for almost a year before bottling. Unfiltered and unpasteurized, this creation is essentially a barn in liquid form—earthy, sour, and mustily straw-laden.
Lucky Charms Lager | Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.The eccentric outsider artists of craft beer—the Kuhnhenn gang of Warren, Mich.—has a charming brewing sensibility; the father, at what was originally a family-run hardware store, let his sons sell homebrew equipment out of the shop when big-box chains such as Home Depot Inc. began to encroach on other parts of the business. Fast-forward a few years, and the brothers had fully transformed the place into a brewery. One of their most popular annual traditions is a Breakfast of Champions celebration, which they host on St. Patrick’s Day morning, serving a miscellany of breakfast-inspired beers. One of the perennial favorites is their Lucky Charms Lager, brewed with the cereal itself—which comes through surprisingly neatly in aroma and taste.
Big Ass Money Stout | Lervig Aktiebryggeri/Evil Twin BrewingThese two Scandinavian craft beer cult heroes appear to have jumped the shark with this particular oddity. To create Big Ass Money Stout, Danish gypsy-brewing label Evil Twin collaborated with the great Norwegian brewery Lervig and aimed to go “really stupid.” Brewed with frozen Grandiosa-brand ham-and-peppers pizza (popular in Norway) and actual money (Norwegian kroner bank notes), the beer finished with a staggering 17.5 percent alcohol by volume. While the gimmicky adjuncts lent a minimal contribution in the final product, the beer is otherwise delicious—huge notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and bitter licorice.
Magnus Opus | OmnipolloPerusing Omnipollo’s playful portfolio of beer can feel like taking a drunken stumble through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory—most of the Swedish brewery’s recipes recall the obsessions of a sweet-toothed youth. With decadent beers modeled after blueberry cheesecake, mango lassis, and soft-serve ice cream, Omnipollo’s Magnus Opus is perhaps its biggest pantry-raid to date. A Heaven Hill bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout clocking in at almost 15 percent ABV, it was brewed with cassia cinnamon, toasted poppy seeds, charcoal, and cold-smoked bacon. Dark, thick, and redolent of a 7-Eleven, the beer showcases all the adjuncts at points.
Saison dell’Aragosta | Oxbow Brewing Co. / Birrificio del Ducato The brewers at rural Newcastle’s in-the-woods farmhouse producer Oxbow crafts beer that beautifully articulates the coastal area’s terroir—and what screams Maine more than lobster? They teamed up with their friends at Italy’s Birrificio del Ducato to create this rustic seaside saison. Vegans beware: The two breweries utilized fresh, live Maine lobsters—as well as local sea salt—in the process. The result is an incredibly evocative liquid that recalls the state’s famed coastline with stunning fidelity—dry, tart, and crisply oceanic.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland