Weird beer flavors and what it takes to make them
I despise trying new things, but when it comes to innovation in the culinary world, most things begin in the category of strange, and only through preaching, teaching, and eating do they become well known. How else do we discover our favorite foods but try them?
Over the years, home brewing and new beer types and flavors have been created. These creations, known now as pale ales, IPAs, ledgers, and many others have long been made using local ingredients and corn. Nowadays, it’s not about brew style, but ingredients for many brewers. One inventor has found a new variety in carrots.
In an interview with beer author Joe Stange, Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon explain that by adding an absurd amount of carrot juice, they found that the finished beer looks like a glistening Oregon Sunstone. Stange digs deeper into the method and the madness of carrot beer. “For their carrot-ginger Saison, they add about two pounds of roasted carrots per five gallons (or one kilogram per 20 liters) after primary fermentation. They’ve also been known to add carrots to the boil—either early for a mild bitterness, or later (say, at 20 minutes remaining) for more flavor.”1 In the end, the beer is like an average IPA, it’s light, somewhat bitter, and has a final touch that's earthy and has a tang to it.
There's more than carrot beer out there. What if I told you pie-flavored beer existed? Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon detail their clever tricks for making a begrudging consumer bow to their curiosity. “Who doesn’t love a good carrot cake?” Davis says. “The ‘cake’ descriptor, in our made-up nomenclature, means we’ve added cinnamon, vanilla beans, and dark brown sugar to replicate that dessert carrot-cake flavor profile. We’ve maintained some other variants, like pie, cobbler, crumble, cheesecake, French toast, lemon bar, etcetera.”2
Weird beer flavors are a double-edged sword. While they exist to make, drink, and advertise, sometimes the excitement isn’t enough to get shelf space or bring in a crowd, meaning all that money and effort was for naught.
So, what do brewers utilize to make existing flavors without losing their sales? One such tool is a story. One brewery, Jonny Fullpint, accentuates the weird craft beers made to show consumers the process of making the beer. “Fermented with 100% fresh-pressed organic carrot juice and 'dry-hopped' with elderflower, King of Carrot Flowers represents the complete journey from the fields of the farm to the streets of the city and into the beer drinker’s glass.”3 Using the power of story and culture, this beer appeals to anyone who enjoys an adventure or an intriguing tale of woe. Humans will eat up anything curious or entertaining and the King of Carrot Flowers checks both of those boxes.
Juliet Tierney is one such person who collected a cornucopia of odd and cringe-inducing beer flavors: Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout, Coconut Curry Hefeweizen, Breakfast Stout, Oyster Stout, and Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter.4 Some brewers love to experiment, but they have to ensure they aren't doing so at their company's expense; all the best marketing and clever tricks can’t make something like chocolate milk beer appeal to the masses. It doesn't matter how good of a story the beer produces or how interesting the concept may seem, it’s still going to make many repulsed.
Yet brewers keep brewing. Their talent for making beer out of the woodwork is their skill.
For the Love of Brewing
Ben Stange goes into detail on how brewers can refine their craft and manage to replicate their recipes to a tee. “At first, growing as a brewer simply requires practice. Refining your processes, taking vigorous notes, and making sure you have your system down is the first step to brewing consistent beer.”5 Truly crafty brewers view their work as art. It takes years of learning and skill, and this has everything to do with their undertakings for repulsive unique beers.
Replication ability requires someone to know every in and out of their creation. This means these factors can be changed. When someone tries their odd beer and recommends altering the aftertaste or messing with the cloudiness of the drink, chances are the brewer will know how to conform to those requests. Their drink gets better. They can replicate that new recipe. Ben Stange is pointing out that it isn’t set in stone once a beer is made. They are unafraid to explore and adopt an efficient and fluent brewer mold.
The Reality of Strange Beer Flavors
Their beers aren't experimental and temperamental, but influential and exceptional. Stange emphasizes the risk and rewards of strange beer flavors. “This one doesn’t sound like much of a risk on the surface, but adding fruit to your beer is a scary concept when you consider that wild yeast live, grow, and thrive on the skin of all fruit.”6 There are risks with adding anything new to beer, the unforeseen consequences or alterations that can ruin a batch are always daunting. But without error, how can we learn?
These brewer’s choices to spice up their lives and beer is coming from a well-intentioned ideal of learning and growing. Like all good beer, mistakes breed knowledge and bravery. So I encourage you to try something that should be banned from all mouths and money; the payoff could be as sweet as cheesecake.
1. Stange J. (2022, Feb, 8). Special Brewing Ingredient: Carrots. Craft Beer and Brewing. https://beerandbrewing.com/special-ingredient-carrots/
3. Fullpint J. (2019, Aug, 28). Ratio Beerworks King Of Carrot Flowers Carrot & Elderflower Saison. The Full Pint Craft Beer News. https://thefullpint.com/breweries-archive/ratio-beerworks/ratio-beerworks-king-of-carrot-flowers-carrot-elderflower-saison/
4. Tierney J. (2013, Oct, 8). 21 Weirdest Beer Flavors Slideshow. The Daily Meal All Things Food And Drink. https://www.thedailymeal.com/drink/21-weirdest-beer-flavors-slideshow/slide-4
5. Stange B. (2015, July, 8). Don’t Fear the Beer: 7 Risks That Will Make You A Better Brewer. Kegerator.com. https://learn.kegerator.com/brewing-risks/