By James Laber
Brewing is a time-honored tradition and a noble profession, right up there with medicine and firefighting, as far as I’m concerned. Traditionally beer is brewed with four ingredients: yeast, hops, malt and water. With the explosion of microbreweries across America, and to a lesser extent overseas, brewers are experimenting and creating new beers using unusual ingredients. We are living in a golden age of strange brews. Here are ten of weirdest beers in the world that use bizarre ingredients.
Shenandoah Chocolate Donut Beer
If Homer Simpson had a favorite beer (besides Duff, of course) it would be Shenandoah Brewing Company’s Chocolate Donut Beer. This liquefied donut-in-a-bottle is brewed using chocolate, caramel and vanilla. I had the opportunity to drink this Yoo-Hoo of beers and can attest that it smells exactly like a fresh chocolate donut — perfect for breakfast. If you are looking for a nice dessert beer that is a little out of the ordinary, find this sweet indulgence.
Mama Mia! Pizza Beer
After finding themselves with a surplus of tomatoes from their garden, Tom and Athena Seefurth did the reasonable thing. They used them to brew beer. They added a bit of garlic and — presto! — Mama Mia! Pizza Beer was born. This beer has a strong tomato flavor and is certainly an acquired taste, but where Mama Mia! Pizza Beer really shines is in cooking. Italian sausage and brats cooked in this beer have a great herb flavor. The beer’s website offers bread and pizza crust mix to use in conjunction with the beer.
Sprecher Mbege (Bananas)
Mbege is a style of beer popular in East Africa that uses bananas in the brewing process. It also uses sorghum and millet because of the scarcity of barley and wheat in the region. This makes Mbege a good choice for those looking for a gluten-free beer. Sprecher Brewery designed this beer for Milwaukee’s African World Festival and takes special care to make sure the brew remains gluten-free so that those with Celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities can enjoy.
Humboldt Brown (Hemp seeds)
If you are reading this article while still wearing your “Vote Yes on Prop 19!” poncho, I have the perfect beer for you. Humboldt Brown, brewed using hemp seeds, is sure to cheer you up after Prop 19’s defeat at the voting booths. Lighting one up for non-medicinal reasons will remain illegal in California for now, but you can take solace in the fact that California is the only state where this beer is legal. Sorry, Idaho.
Good Juju Ginger Beer
No redheads were harmed in the making of this beer. This spring seasonal from Left-Hand Brewery uses ginger to create a spicy brew that has a somewhat overpowering smell. It pairs well with Asian dishes, seafood and redheaded women.
Stone Smoked Porter
Smoke is the main flavor of this unusual beer also brewed in California. Using a peat-smoked specialty malt, Stone Smoked Porter certainly lives up to its name, giving off both a lightly smoky smell and flavor. Stone Brewing Company is known for making some great beers, such as Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Another fine microbrewery, Rogue Ales has developed a beer with a kick. It dedicated Chipotle Ale to Juan de la Cueva, who in 1575 wrote of combining seedless chipotle peppers with beer to create a delicious Mexican dish. Brewed in a similar fashion to Rogue’s popular Oregon Golden Ale, but with chipotles, this ale will keep you warm in winter.
Wostyntje (Mustard seeds)
Don’t be thrown off by this funky pale ale’s ingredient of mustard seeds. Belgium is known for making some of the finest tasting (and hardest to pronounce) beers in the world. I can’t think a beer more perfect to pair with a hot dog on a hot afternoon while watching the ballgame.
Porterhouse Oyster Stout
Porterhouse Oyster Stout is brewed using, you guessed it, fresh oysters. An Irish dry stout, this brew has a very dark color, but a relatively mild 4.8 percent ABV. It pairs well with — wait for it — oysters.
Beer Geek Brunch (Civet droppings)
This is one crappy beer. Beer Geek Brunch is brewed with one of the world’s most expensive coffees, made from the droppings of civets. Civets are a fussy, weasel-like cat native to South Asia; they only eat the best and ripest coffee berries. Enzymes in their digestive systems help to break down the bean, but not completely. According to the beer’s label, workers “collect the bean-containing droppings for civet or weasel coffee. The exceedingly rare civet coffee has a strong, distinctive taste and an even stronger aroma.” No doubt. From these coffee beans Mikkeller makes Beer Geek Brunch, which is a highly-regarded and decidedly not-crappy-tasting beer.
(James Laber is a freelance writer in Montana. He recently wrote about the world’s strongest beers for Made Man.)