The bottle stood out on the shelf — it was bright pink and a 750 ml. You really couldn't miss it. It was the Rogue Ales Voodoo Donut Bacon Maple Ale. I’d heard of it. No one really seemed to like it much. But I felt an urge to try it. Sure, it was $15, but bacon makes everything better, right?
The bottle stood out on the shelf — it was bright pink and a 750 ml. You really couldn't miss it.
It was the Rogue Ales Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. I’d heard of it. No one really seemed to like it much. But I felt an urge to try it. Sure, it was $15, but bacon makes everything better, right?
To make a long story short, it wasn't a good beer. The mix of flavors — maple flavoring, real bacon and a bunch of smoked malts — just didn't work.
But I appreciated the effort. I’d rather a brewery take a chance to brew a fantastic beer than a brewery that never takes a chance and plays it safe, brewing some decent beers, but nothing that ever blows your mind.
The one thing that the Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale did do right was to inspire me to take a look at beers that sometimes use strange ingredients in an effort to create something beer geeks have never had before. And hopefully make something beer geeks, and those who just like to drink a good beer, will really enjoy.
Some of them worked, and others, well, others did not. But you have to appreciate the effort. Here's a look at some of the better creations.
Bacon is a growing popular ingredient in beer. Rogue's is just one of the latest, there have been others. Brooklyn Brewery has brewed one, and Uncommon Brewers has the Bacon Brown Ale in stores right now (it's ... unique tasting).
But no one has jumped on the bacon bandwagon more than the Watch City Brewing Company in Waltham, Mass. Last year, they made 14 different versions of a bacon beer. Actually, bacon was one of their more tame ingredients. Each beer was made with something different: lemongrass, Thai chilis, chocolate, coconut. Some were spicy, some were smoky, some were sweet and some were really good. Others, they were not really for me.
But I can’t write about strange ingredients in beer without including Dogfish Head.
Dogfish Head is not afraid to try something unusual in hopes of creating a unique flavor. Chateau Jiahau has ingredients like brown rice syrup, muscat grape and hawthorn berry. Sah'tea is brewed with juniper berries, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper.
And don't forget Theobroma, made with Aztec cocoa powder and honey, chilies and annatto. The great thing is, most of Dogfish Head's beers with odd ingredients are pretty good. They work, although they’re expensive (usually double digits).
Dogfish Head also collaborated with the Stone Brewing Company and Victory Brewing Company to brew Saison du BUFF, made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. When you smell it, it reminds you of a Thanksgiving meal. Oh, yeah, it also tasted pretty good.
Page 2 of 2 - Odd ingredients are not limited to the United States. Belgian brewer Brouwerij Smisje brews a beer called Wostyntje, which is made with mustard. Yeah, it sounds kind of gross, but it is really good.
Japan's Baird Brewing Company brews a beer with natsumikans, a citrus fruit native to Japan. The Shizuoka Natsumikan Ale is fabulously refreshing, and I recommend picking up a bottle if you see it.
Epic Beer, an excellent New Zealand brewery, worked with Dogfish Head to brew a beer called Portamarillo made with tamarillos, which are tree tomatoes, native to New Zealand. This is kind of a cult beer. It's not bad at all, but try Epic Beer's lager and IPA, because they are the standouts.
And, for some reason, if none of these ingredients do anything for you, you can always drink beers with traditional ingredients like oysters and milk sugar.
For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email email@example.com. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.