A Brewer’s Take on Some Weird Beers

I’m a brewist! …brewster… brewing-er… brew…er… yes, that’s it.

I’m a brewer! My list of accomplishments so far includes things like cider made from every fruit I could get my hands on, mead, sweet potato wine, onion beer… even regular beer! I like to brew up experiments instead of following strict recipes – sometimes this works out great, and sometimes it ends in a mouthful of dirty sock water.

I’ve recently (mostly) finished assembling all of my brewing equipment, which means that I am now on a constant hunt for interesting beers to try and brew up. My first beer was a Munich/simcoe SMaSH.

SMaSH beers use simple Single Malt and Single Hop recipes. They’re an awesome way to get to know what your ingredients actually taste like in a beer, and if my first SMaSH was anything to go by, they’re frikkin delicious. I was very surprised by the complexity of the beer’s flavour, given that it was so very simple.

It even got an honorary mention at one of our brewers club meetings!

I’ve since done a few more beers, with my latest being done from the first recipe that I thumb sucked. It’s a simple pale ale, and it turned out pretty darn well! A little lacking on the hops, and could be a little clearer, but I’m rather chuffed with myself!

Naturally, with all the brewing going on every month, I’ve been reading up on interesting beers that I’d like to try out, and hopefully I can outline the styles properly!

California Common

A lot of beer drinkers have tasted a California Common without even knowing it – it goes under several different names and sometimes breweries forgo the common name altogether for their own variation. California Common, Steam Beer, Hybrid Lager – take your pick. This style is a spin on the traditional lager born out of necessity during the California gold rush of the mid 1800s. The brewers of the time didn’t have access to proper refrigeration, which is essential to brewing a modern lager – lagers need cold temperatures during both fermentation and conditioning. The lack of cold and a yearning for a good ol’ lager lead to the California Common. Over the years, it’s evolved from a cheap beer for the sake of beer, to a revered style of beer to home brewers around the world.

The style of a Steam Beer is pretty tricky to pin down. They have the maltiness, clarity, and crispness of a lager, but are full bodied and bittered like an ale. Each Steam I’ve had has been distinctly different from the last, and most are worth a second glass.

Lambic Beers

An open fermenting vat.

This style goes against the very grain of every homebrewer (haha, grain. Getit?).

A Lambic beer is fermented spontaneously using wild yeasts, like, from the air. The main difference in the process of brewing a lambic is that it’s cooled overnight in a large, flat pan that’s left exposed for the express reason of collecting yeasts and other bacteria from the surrounding air… Unlike common brewing practices, which are 70% cleaning and 100% sterile.

This isn’t a beer that I will ever brew, at least not any time soon. Lambic beer is a Belgian beer, and the yeasts that make a Lambic a Lambic are found in the area around Brussels, and are only viable between October and May when there isn’t the presence of the Summer bacteria that will spoil this funky beer.

Sadly, I can’t yet comment on the style, as I have yet to track down a Lambic that doesn’t cost the price of a small child in little ol’ South Africa.

Imperial Anything

This entry will be nice and short. In the words of an older brewer: “Imperial just means it’s high in alcohol.”

Not very exciting, huh? In truth, Imperial beers can be very good, or unpalatable. One of the best stouts I’ve tasted is Triggerfish’s Imperial Russian Stout which sits at a neat 9.9%. It’s incredibly thick and rich, with a very distinct licorice taste and a healthy alcohol warmth.

Imperial beers started with the Russian Imperial Stout – The English, who love them some dark beer, started brewing this beer for export to Russia. In an effort to impress the Russian Czars, English Stouts were brewed with a hefty alcohol content, but this made the beer very sweet. Horrendous amounts of hops were added to the sickly sweet drink to help balance the flavour and preserve the beer during the long trip to Russia.

In modern brewing circles, it’s common knowledge that any Imperial beer took a lot of care to make, and will most likely sit you down and give you a stern talking to.

Braggot

Ah…. beer and honey.

Braggot isn’t technically a beer, it’s actually a kind of mead (fermented honey) which has the addition of malts to add to the sugar and flavour of the drink. This is something pretty high on my to-brew list because it’s not something you see often and most brewers I know haven’t even heard of it.

Braggots can get anywhere from 25% to 50% of it’s sugar from malt, and are usually fermented and aged over a long period of time. The addition of hops as a bittering agent is not uncommon in modern Braggots, which means that there is a heck of a lot of room for experimentation!

The characteristics of Braggot can range from mead with a slight maltiness and pale colour, to a carbonated, strongly hopped dark mead with very evident malt flavours and plenty of foamy head.

Hopless Beer

This is an incredibly grey area for brewers of all kinds. Go and read online about hopless beers or alternative bittering methods and you see people shaming hopless beers all over the place. On top of that, the only alternatively bittered beer I’ve had was very underwhelming.

That being said, I’m convinced that like every other kind of fermented drink, there are wrong ways and right ways of doing it. Brewing up an ale, but excluding all hops, will obviously give you something less than stellar, but an extensively adapted recipe can lead to something even hard-core beer drinkers could appreciate.

Beer has been brewed for as long as most people are willing to admit, but hops have only been cultivated since the 1100’s, and that was only in Germany. Before hops were a thing, a whole array of herbs and junk were used as bittering and aroma agents. Mugwort, wormwood, yarrow, ivy, heather, juniper, aniseed, orange, to name a few. People just went around dumping whatever they had into their beers, trying to fill the void!

My Conclusion

Beer is weird, and as I’m sure some of you have guessed, these are only a few of the weird beers you find out there, never mind the incredibly high alcohol beers, the incredibly strong beer packaged in dead animals, or beer made with the yeast from a beard/belly button.

I’m sure I’ll also come up with some pretty strange concoctions in my time.

Show me some love and support my fledgling Niume page!

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