Traditionally, beer is brewed with four main ingredients—water, hops, barley, and yeast. But the craft beer scene is evolving, and the styles and ingredients have followed suit. The result? An array of beers, some great, some average, and some . . . interesting. Non-traditional beer ingredients are split into four categories of their own: fruits, herbs/spices, wood, and yeast.
These specialty beers aren’t always readily available because their components can change seasonally, or have limited freshness. Study up before you drink up and capitalize on websites, books, and apps that offer quality information about specialty beers, when their available, and where to locate them in real-time at bars/restaurants near you.
BeerAdvocate.com hosts a craft beer community where users can rate, and study up on just about every craft beer out there. CraftBeer.com offers a similar platform for the craft beer community. Craft beer apps like Pintley suggest new beers based on users’ personal beer ratings, and favorites. TapHunter’s mobile app gives the option to “follow” your favorite beers, and locate them at bars/restaurants nearby in real time. It’s easy to use, and keeps users up to date on unique, limited-release craft beers, at the click of a button.
Finding beer is made easy with these “right in the palm of your hand” resources, but once you have found your beer, and taken that first refreshing sip, you might wonder, “How did these suds get all that flavor?”
Let’s let the suds speak for themselves as we take a look at 4 defining examples of the greatness that can be achieved by using non-traditional beer ingredients.
Some of the market’s most tasty concoctions owe their flavor to fruit. Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, and Upland Brewing Company’s Raspberry Lambic are just a couple noteworthy beers that have won over craft beer lovers worldwide.
Fruit/vegetable beer can be made with real fruit or vegetables but the use of syrup, processed flavor, or extract is a more common practice.
Bramble Rye Bourbon County Stout by Goose Island is one such beer that has won the favor of the craft beer community. Scoring 96 on BeerAdvocate.com, this beer uses both raspberries & blackberries, and hits the palate with a flavorful punch.
TIP: For our readers who also brew, former Dogfish Head Brewmaster Bryan Selders’ recommends that brewers use a mixture of real fruit and extract for great flavor.
There is a lot of range in this category and as a result, a range of interesting beers. Dogfish Head’s Rosabi, an IPA brewed with wasabi, is an inspired example of the possibilities that herbs/spices lend to beer.
Saison du BUFF, a collaboration brew between Dogfish Head, Victory Brewing, and Stone Brewing Co. scores 85 on BeerAdvocate.com. Brewed with parsley, sage, estate rosemary, and thyme, this beer has strong spice notes and a notable herby aroma.
TIP: If you brew, Selders suggests dry-spicing because of spices’ notoriety for interacting with yeast and oxygen.
Barrel-aged beers have a recognizable flavor. They age in barrels that have absorbed the flavor of what was previously aging in them. This provides beer with a unique flavor, because no two barrels are the same.
TIP: Look towards aromatic woods for flavor.
Experimenting with different strains of indigenous yeasts has resulted in some tasty beers. In addition to the well-known Allagash Brewing Co., Mystic Brewery in Massachusetts is pioneering this type of wild yeast inspired beer. In a NPR article, the brewery sports the motto, “We’re not scared of no stinkin’ microbes.” And apparently their fans aren’t either.
TIP: Bryan Selders offers this valuable piece of advice: “Always keep in mind that yeast has the ability to absorb lots of flavor components and then fall out of solution.”