Goat brains, pizza and other odd additives show off creative beer brewing
A micro-brewery in Iceland uses whale testicles smoked with sheep dung.
A company in Newport, Ore. makes a beer fermented with yeast grown in the brewmaster's beard.
Craft breweries around the globe are demonstrating a passion for ingredients unique to their respective corners of the world, and they're using them to create experimental and delicious beers.
Adam Smith is the co-founder of one such brewery. Malty National Brewing Corp. in Regina, Sask. is just over a year old, but they've already created more than 70 unique beers.
"It's important for me to take on ambitious flavours, because that's the beer I want to drink," Smith says.
He and Malty National co-creator Kelsey Beach get inspiration from foods they love and flavours from their childhood. For Smith that's chocolate, raspberries, rhubarb, and a few idiosyncratic choices.
"We had an IPA that tasted like peach fountain drink, which was a favourite of mine when I was a kid," he says. "There's literally no limit to what you can make, which is exciting."
Connecting with community
Malty National's white stout stands as an example of their creativity. Smith credits Beach with tweaking a traditional recipe that resulted in a beer with dark, rich flavours but a light, clear appearance.
Last fall, they also crowdsourced ingredients from their community.
"We put a call out for people growing hops in Regina. If they brought some into the brewery, we'd give them a gift certificate to buy the beer when it was made," he says.
Mike Murphy, brewmaster at Lervig Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger, Norway, sees brewing as a form of expression.
Lervig partnered with Evil Twin Brewing to make a beer with a Norwegian twist. When Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, the founder of Evil Twin and Murphy's long-time friend, asked for ideas, Murphy suggested frozen pizza and money.
"He said 'No, no, no, what do they have a lot?' and I said they have a lot of money."
That was enough for Jarnit-Bjergsø. Mike admits he was only half joking. Norwegians have a penchant for frozen pizza, specifically Griandiosa, which sells 50 million pies to a nation of just five million people.
Their collaboration led to the Big Ass Money Stout, a bold 17.5% ABV beer that stands out for its story and its flavours. A frozen pizza and sanitized Norwegian kroners were literally added to the mash.
"For me it's important that a craft brewer has a 'wow' beer that gets the attention of the consumer. We're making a lot of everyday beers but you need a beer that turns the head of a person," he says.
"Especially at a beer festival."
Bring da ruckus
Dock Street Brewery's Aleksandr Certo-Ware says beer shouldn't be taken too seriously. It's this thinking that led the west Philadelphia brewery to create two highly experimental brands.
"It was a pale stout brewed with cranberries and we added roasted goat brains into the mash," he says.
As one would imagine, the beer went viral. Certo-Ware says they reached 19 million people without spending a dime on advertising.
He says it's part of a larger trend in which experienced brewers are working to infuse their personality in their product.
Certo-Ware turned his love of zombie programming into Dock Street Walker and used his love of of hip hop to create Dock Street Beer Ain't Nothing To Funk With.
He and a former Dock Street brewer filled two Chardonnay barrels with identical versions of a saison. They designated one barrel as the control and made no alterations. They hooked up two speakers to the second barrel and played a six-month, non-stop loop of Wu Tang Clan.
"Our thought was that the vibrations would affect the way the yeast metabolized sugar, create different flavour profiles and create a constant sense of stimulation," he says.
44,000 7th Chambers later, they got their answer. Certo-Ware says the beer with the music was drier and more tart.
"At the end of the day, anything that gets people interested in beer — and more, importantly, gets people interested in craft beer — is a giant win for the industry."
"Our voice is beer, and it's kind of nice when people respond to that."
To hear Adam Smith, Aleksandr Certo-Ware and Mike Murphy talk about strange brews, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.