Beer is kind of like Madonna. In her long and storied career she’s evolved from pop starlet to sexual provocateur to a stone-faced roid-mummy. Yet every stage along the way was undeniably her.
Pictured above: Two singers and the sworn enemy of the Thundercats
Beer is similarly the beverage world’s greatest chameleon. It can be bright as a haystack or as dark and black as my editor’s heart for not getting me an invite to the Playboy Mansion without splintering into a separate category. Even sour ales, which are more accurately characterized as “an abomination” by me, are still technically beers.
Good brewers understand and appreciate this. It allows them to embrace a palette of flavors and colors so broad that the only limitation is their mind. And that’s a problem.
Brewers are artists and, therefore, insane. Sure, there’s a little math and science mixed in what they do, but imagining recipes is very much a right-brain activity. If you give an artist that kind of latitude they start thinking outside the box. Nothing good can come of that.
I took a year of art theory just so I could make a joke this unfunny
When brewing prohibitions are cast to the wind, things can get hinky pretty quickly. After all, there is no reason you technically can’t make beer with ferns and crab meat, other than it likely tasting like shit. But if all the top brewers start doing it, sheeple like me will be forced to exalt their efforts. It should be obvious I don’t have the self-esteem to do otherwise.
This article is my warning shot across the bow of free-thinking brewers. It is time to take a stand against unbridled creativity.
Trade Winds (8.1% ABV) – The Bruery
WTF Ingredient: Thai Basil
This is less weird than it would ordinarily be given it’s the second basil beer I’ve had this month. However it deserves some special mention since I wasn’t even aware that Thai basil existed. As it turns out there are somewhere between 50 to 150 species (all within the Ocimum genus) of basil plants. The number of basil cultivars probably numbers closer to 40 or so, each characterized by varying levels of cineol, linalool and methyl cinnamate.
(Hey, I need your help. As an experienced comedy writer, I know what my audience wants and that is clearly more of the HILARIOUS history of basil cultivation. My editor disagreed, culling my original 6 paragraphs on the topic with the same callous disdain of a man hurling a sack of puppies into the river. By taking just a few moments out of your day to leave a pro-basil comment below, you can assure that Adam will never dare to come between us and pursuing a richer understanding of our friends in the herb garden.)
Let this be our rallying cry!
This take on the Belgian trippel has a honey-colored body and thick sea foam head. The nose is heady with basil, lemongrass, and candy sugar.
This is incredibly tart, with a strong green apple and lemon note that is somewhat softened by its rice-like sweetness. That tartness carries through the whole swallow, playing up an herbal finish that is much more striking than I’d expect a basil note to produce.
I’ve learned not to be surprised by anything The Bruery churns out and, in truth, this is way less oddball than I expected. It takes full advantage of the equally freewheelin’ trippel style to produce something unusually tasty.
Mateveza Yerba Mate IPA (7% ABV) – Mateveza Brewing Company
WTF Ingredient: organic Yerba Mate tea
Yerba Mate is a South American tea product that is purported to have the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea and produce the euphoria of chocolate. It came to favor among the natives when they found that it left them less shaky than their traditional breakfast:
That ain’t creamer
This muddy amber brew has an aroma of herbal tea and citrus hops. Though I am usually a strong believer in beverage segregation, this filthy half-breed is actually looking promising.
Lovers of tea rejoice: there is now a beer custom tailored for you. Lovers of beer: I hope you really, really like tea as well. Though there is a pretty respectable initial blast of citrus hops in the flavor, the experience and finish is dominated by tones of an unsweetened iced tea. It reminds me of Samahan, an herbal remedy for colds and illnesses common to Sri Lanka.
What? I can’t know things?
Some may enjoy the experience of this beer, but it just wasn’t quite my cup of …well, you know.
Theobroma (9% ABV) – Dogfish Head Brewing Company
WTF Ingredients: ancho chiles, aztec cocoa powder and annatto
Theobroma is patterned after the recipe for an ancient Honduran alcoholic chocolate beverage. Its discovery reset the date of human’s first chocolate consumption back by 500 years. It was a watershed moment in the chocolate archaeology world. Sadly it also eclipsed the efforts of the archaeology team stationed in Puerto Lempira who only days before uncovered chocolate-related findings of equal magnitude:
The Nestle Quik Bunny transcends space and time
This has a lacquered orange color that seems a bit out of place for a chocolate brew. It pours with little or no head and has a nutty, earthy aroma.
The flavor notes are just as unexpected as the look and feel of this brew. I get ginger, honey and red peppers out of it. Still, despite the flavors coming out of left field, this is unique, crazy approachable, and, ultimately, fun to drink.