Water, barley, hops…goat brains? Casting aside constraints imposed by the centuries-old German Purity Laws, these beers test the limits of chemistry, imagination, and beer drinkers’ famously adventurous palates.
Dogfish Head Midas Touch | Saffron
Okay, so saffron’s not going to scare off too many craft beer fans. You’ve probably spotted a few threads of this red wonder in your foodie friend’s spice cabinet or perched atop a paella. But consider this: a single pound of this delicate, grassy spice, a key ingredient in Dogfish’s flagship Ancient Ale, costs upwards of 1500 dollars! Wipe those dollar signs from your eyes—the best way to get a return on this golden delight is to drink it.
Green Flash Cosmic Ristretto | Espresso
A year-round Baltic Porter hailing from the land of hop bombs, San Diego brewery Green Flash’s Cosmic Ristretto already stands out from the pack. But this brew goes even further, upping the ante on coffee and beer combos with an ingredient that shines in both quality and quantity. Infused with nearly two shots of espresso per 12-ounce pour, this smooth, chocolatey delight has enough kick to give even caffeine junkies a solid jolt.
Jack’s Abby Fire in the Ham | Vegan meat beer
A credit to the power of skillful brewing and oxymorons alike, this lager builds on the German rauchbier tradition, using malts smoked over beechwood. The final product sparks with flavors that certainly seem porcine— reviewers swear they can taste bacon, pulled pork, and the titular Christmas favorite. Alas, this beer will make your tongue a liar: not an ounce of meat finds its way to the bottle, all meaty flavors generated by that well-smoked wood. For now, Fire in the Ham is available just one month a year at the brewery in Framingham, MA, so those looking to prank their animal-loving friends should time their hijinks accordingly.
Twisted Pine Brewing Ghost Face Killah | Many chiles
Anaheim, Fresno, Jalapeño, Serrano, Habañero. No, these aren’t towns in California or part of a recipe for tongue-numbing hot sauce: they’re ingredients in Ghost Face Killah, a beer that becomes even more intimidating when you throw in the mother of them all, ghost chiles. With apologies to Wu Tang and the many-faced villain from the Scream series, I can think of nothing more frightening than the Ghost Pepper Beer Challenge, which calls for participants to down 5 bottles of this haunting liquid in 5 minutes.
Dad and Dudes Sativa IPA and Indica Double IPA | Cannabis extract
US drug laws grow more progressive by the day, but as one Reddit poster noted, selling beer with actual marijuana in it remains “some felony class s..t.” Colorado-based brewers Dad and Dudes hit the conundrum head-on: how to capture stoner America’s favorite pastime in a beer without actually getting Americans stoned? The answer was CBD (short for cannabidiol), a hemp extract that retains some of the plant’s medicinal benefits without altering the mind. It’s unclear whether CBD contributes much to the beer’s flavor —the hops in Dad and Dudes’ IPAs have a reputation for being pretty dank on their own—but the chemical certainly earned the brewery its share of attention at last year’s Great American Beer Festival.
Dock Street Brewing Walker | Goat brains
An unofficial ode to The Walking Dead, this limited-edition stout incorporated oatmeal, organic cranberries, and yes, roasted goat brains. Reviewers emphasized the pale red hue and tartness from the berries, credited the Fuggle hops for a floral, slightly earthy note, and found a hint of smoke permeating the whole brew. Most attributed that smokiness to the brains, but who’s going to eat the source ingredient to find out for sure?
Rogue Beard Beer | Beard yeast
How to pick just one weird beer ingredient from a mainstay that regularly brews with marionberries, sriracha, bacon, marshmallows, and something called “purple corn nectar?” A brewery that has a whole line (Voodoo) devoted to making beers that taste like doughnuts? Turns out the decision is easy: Rogue’s Beard Beer is a wild ale that uses yeast cultivated exclusively from the brewmaster’s beard. While fear might be one’s first response, pause a moment and consider that this beer won gold at the 2015 World Beer Championships. If the number one beer on our list can accrue such accolades, don’t be surprised if the next brew to hit your pint glass offers a bit more than water, barley, and hops.
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