The Beer Purity Law be damned!
Enacted in 1516, the so-called German “Reinheitsgebot” mandated that beer could only be brewed with three ingredients: water, barley and hops. But it turns out “purity” can also be pretty boring.
Lucky for beer consumers, craft brewers around the world for decades have chosen to break that rule.
Experimentation is truly a hallmark of the craft brewing movement as brewmasters turn to new ingredients and brewing processes to differentiate themselves from other companies – as well as to push the envelope of what’s possible with fermented beverages.
But sometimes rules and parameters are needed to reign in unbridled creative license – even with beer. Here are some examples of brewers pushing the boundaries of craft beer to strange new limits.
Rogue Ales, Newport, Ore.
5.6% ABV | Wild Ale
When Rogue Ales went out in search of a new experimental yeast variety, they ended up not having to go far. They found the perfect strain in the brewmaster’s gnarly old-growth beard. Having hung around at many thousands of brewing operations since it was first grown in 1978, the beard apparently provided the perfect habitat for natural yeast – conditioned, no doubt, by years worth of food scraps. What’s not to love about traces of barbecue sauce circa 1987?
Dock Street Walker Ale
Dock Street Brewing Co., West Philadelphia, Penn.
7.2% ABV | Pale Stout
It’s been said that beer feeds your brain, but some crazy brewers from West Philly have found a way to make beer with BRAINS – specifically, smoked goat brains. Dock Street Walker Ale pays homage to the brewers’ favorite zombie drama, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Along with brain matter, the beer includes wheat, oats and flaked barley, while organic cranberries give the brew a so-called bloody hue. There’s no word on whether drinking four or five of them leads to a killer hangover.
Fenrir Nr. 26
Brewery Börg, Reykjavík, Iceland
6.0% ABV | Smoked Beer
Iceland only legalized brewing beer in 1989, but rather than explore endless themes on glaciers, Vikings and snow, the eager Norsemen jumped straight to the other item they have in spades: sheep s**t. While this nugget of a beer is similar to the company’s West Coast-style IPA, the malt used in Fenrir is smoked using sheep droppings, one of the island nation’s key energy sources. Be sure to check out the cheeky YouTube video in which the brewmasters scour the Icelandic countryside for the perfect poo for their brew.
Mangalista Pig Porter
Right Brain Brewing Co., Traverse City, Mich.
6.6% ABV | Porter
Like bakers, brewers have started to explore incorporating bacon into their beers, particularly ones that have chocolaty flavors. But Right Brain doesn’t screw around with a few scraps of pork belly: They use the whole pig’s head and a collection of bones, all of which are smoked before being added to the brewing process. So if you’re looking for a beer that tastes like a soft pretzel wrapped in ham and dipped in chocolate – and really, who isn’t? – this one’s for you.
Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
Flying Dog Ales, Frederick, Md.
5.5% ABV | Stout
Stout beers and oysters have long been a favorite food pairing on the East Coast, but Flying Dog decided to combine the two mainstays in its Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. The brewery – known for its beer names guaranteed to push the envelope of good taste – ferments Rappahannock oysters with the beer, and the reported result is subtle notes of oyster shell on the finish. At least the proceeds from the sale of the beer benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit working to restore oyster populations in Chesapeake Bay.