Bacon, sea salt, cucumber, oyster, chilli: beer without limits....
One of the things we at Saveur Bière and HOPT love about Craft Beer is that it is endlessly reinventing itself. Sure, there are trends in Artisanal Brewing – 2018 was all about Milkshake IPAs, Sour Ales and beers brewed with mango, while 2019 looks likely to be remembered as the year of the Brut IPA – but for there to be trends, there have to be trendsetters. So join us as we take a look at some of the more outlandish flavours in the world of Artisan Ale…
Smoked beer, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen by Brauerei Heller
Created by one of Germany's oldest breweries, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is a unique beer that is not brewed with bacon as it might suggest, but with smoked malts that give it that truly unique taste. Described by some as ‘like drinking the inside of a chimney’, when you take your first sip, you’d be forgiven for being unsure whether it’s your cup of tea or not because, with the possible exception of smoky bacon or smoked salmon, it’s quite unlike anything you may have tasted before.
"They say you should try everything once (with two notable exceptions – one of which is folk-dancing), and the same is true of craft beer."
Taking this traditional Bavarian recipe as their inspiration, some breweries have even gone one step further and brewed with actual sides of smoked bacon for a full-on smokehouse taste. It’s an acquired taste, and it might take more than one glass to get you hooked, but one thing’s for sure: smoking is addictive!
Summer Oddity by La Débauche: cool as a cucumber
La Débauche from Angouleme in the south of France are well-known for their slightly eccentric approach to brewing, but you might be wondering what was going through their minds the day they decided to put cucumber in their beer. Like many ideas, it might sound crazy, but it’s actually pretty darn good!
Light, delicate and ultra-refreshing, it’s more than a little leftfield as a beer ingredient, but cucumber is beginning to gain a following with Craft Brewers around the world. And it probably) even counts as one of your 5-a-day!
Salted beer, Highway 128 Blood Orange Gose from Anderson Valley
The Gose style is another acquired taste. Tracing its roots back to the German city of Goselaar, the style features a sharp lactic acid tang as well as a characteristic saltiness thanks originally to the sodium content of the water in its hometown.
Brewed with oranges, coriander and sea salt, Blood Orange Gose by American Craft Brewery Anderson Valley is a meeting point between beer, OJ and seltzer with just a dash of lemon yoghurt sharpness.
If you pull a face and cock your head to one side when you take your first sip, don’t worry, everyone does! But, as the old song has it, “All we are saying, is give Gose a chance”.
What really sets this style apart from the rest of its Sour sisters is the saltiness that really lifts the flavour experience. Trust us on this one, it’s worth it!
Oyster Stout: a taste of the sea...
One Craft Beer trend to have caught on in a big way recently is Oyster Stout. If you were worried about straining bits of fermented oyster through your teeth, don’t be. The shucked oysters are added during the boiling stage of the brew to give a iodine salt-spray taste of the sea, then fished out (pun intended) before the fermentation stage.
The result is a classic stout that, with a subtle mineral quality that conjures up a taste of the sea that, added to well-balanced dark malts and bitter chocolate notes, is greater than the sum of its parts!
Chilli pepper: giving your beer a fiery character
Chilli pepper is quite a versatile ingredient in beer, used in fiery IPAs like Habanero-infused Fever Dream from America’s Flying Dog, to the kick-ass hot Chilli Imperial Stout from Spain’s Nomada, or the gently warming Mexican Cake by Tempest. While Scotland isn’t traditionally associated with spicy chilli pepper, the mix of vanilla, cinnamon and hot peppers makes for a deliciously warming blend that’s just sublime with ice-cream.
They say you should try everything once (with two notable exceptions – one of which is folk-dancing), and the same is true of craft beer. You won’t like everything, but try to surprise yourself every now and then. You might be surprised by the results, but you certainly won’t regret it! Go on, be a little daring…