Written by Zachary Fowle
More than 500 years ago, German Beer Purity Law decreed that the world’s favorite fermented beverage was to be made with only four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. In recent years, however, the definition of a permissible beer ingredient has expanded somewhat, and brewers worldwide have branched out, throwing stuff in their beers ranging from the mildly unusual to the downright bizarre. From chilies to spices to sea life, these are the top ten beers that make you say, “Huh?”
Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel
This imperial stout is brewed with Vietnamese caphe cut chon coffee beans, made from the droppings of weasel-like civet cats, which purportedly eat only the best and ripest coffee berries. After enzymes in the cats’ digestive systems break down the beans, workers scour the ground to collect the droppings for use in your morning Joe. Despite these inauspicious origins, the resulting beer is a creamy, pungent coffee stout that’s good to the last dropping.
Porterhouse Oyster Stout
This beer’s an Irish dry stout, a la Guinness, with the added aspect of having been brewed with fresh oysters. It’s a smooth, aromatic stout with the discernable yet hard-to-identify flavor of bivalves that must be enticing to some, as it won a gold medal in Belfast 1997.It is, however, not suitable for vegetarians.
Saison du BUFF
A virtual spice rack of a beer. A collaboration between Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware), Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, CA) and Victory Brewing Company (Downington, PA), the idea for Saison du BUFF formed in 2003 when the three owners of the breweries formed the BUFF Alliance (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) with the noble ideal of highlighting the camaraderie of American craft brewing. Seven years later, the taste of teamwork emerges in a beer with aromas and flavors of coriander, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, basil and white pepper. Spicy and complex yet crisp and refreshing, it’s the perfect pre-dinner beverage.
Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer
Browerij Smisje Wostyntje Mustard Ale
Hard to pronounce and even harder to describe, Wostyntje is a funky Belgian strong pale ale brewed using mustard seeds. Musky, spicy, sweet and sour, it’s a beer custom-made for pairing with hot dogs.
Sprecher Mbege Ale
Popular in Eastern Africa, Mbege-style beers are brewed from bananas. Sprecher’s iteration — the result of an effort to provide a traditional African style beer for Milwaukee’s African World Festival — is brewed with sorghum, millet and banana juice. It’s unfiltered, gluten-free, and tastes like liquid banana Runts.
Three Floyds Rabbid Rabbit
This Franco-Belgian style Farmhouse Ale from the freaks over at Indiana’s Three Floyds Brewing Co. is a complex, frothy beverage with a devious 7.4 percent alcohol content. With a taste akin to flower petals, Rabbid Rabbit makes use of coriander, lavender, chamomile, rose hips and rock candy during the brewing process. Its sweet, perfume-like taste clashes a bit with the hulk-green Easter bunny assaulting an elf on the label, but we’ll allow it.
Nectar Ales Humboldt Brown
Humboldt is an American brown ale made with toasted hemp, a fiber collected from plants in the cannabis family — the same family to which both hops and marijuana belong. This dank brew has flavors of pine, cocoa and peanuts, and won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup. Since hemp has only about 0.3% THC compared to marijuana’s 6-20%, it won’t get you high, but its resin-laced nuttiness is perfect for a 4/20 celebration.
Brasserie Morbraz Mor Braz
Pop open a bottle of Morbraz’s “beer of the open sea” and you’ll notice a scent evoking ocean air –appropriate, since this French-made Belgian pale ale’s brewed with salted water. Although altogether odd, the saline quality plays nicely off the beer’s other flavors, like honey, coriander and ginger. Just don’t feed it to your pet slug.
Pizza Beer Company Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer
Pizza and beer is one of the oldest and most popular food pairings. But who has time to run out and buy both pizza AND beer? The brewers of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer combine the flavors of two of America’s favorite edibles by taking a whole Margherita pizza and steeping it in the beer mash like a teabag. The resulting brew smells and tastes like a real deal pizza and pairs perfectly with neighborhood football-viewing parties.