The first Friday of the month means it’s time once again for another rousing edition of The Session—group beer blogging! Each month a different host selects a theme or topic to blog about, we all write about it, and the host compiles a list of all the participants. Simple! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join, you just need to be able to write somewhere online about the selected topic.
With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.” We’ve even seen some novelty beers in our top-sellers. But beer traditionalists sometimes frown on these new and bizarre concoctions. And I can’t help but wonder if Martyn Cornell will participate, sharing bizarre but notable historic brews.
What novelty beer comes to mind when you think: Is this beer just too strange to stay around? Why in the world would they choose ingredients most beer drinkers have never heard of …what the heck is a qatar fruit? If it’s okay for beer to taste like tea or coffee, why not pizza? If wild yeasts are allowed to ferment beer, then why not beard yeast? If oysters, why not bacon? If pumpkin’s good enough for pie, why not beer? Since hops are flowers, why not brew with actual flowers?
I say “this time of year” because really, fall is the time when I’m consumed with consuming pumpkin beers—surely still a “novelty” to many people. And let’s not forget fresh hop beers—even 20 years ago adding fresh, non-kilned hops to a beer was surely a novelty!
But why not novelty? I’ve been brewing beer with all sorts of non-standard ingredients for years—pumpkin, spices, coconut, apples, cherries, dried fruit, chamomile, salt, various other fruits and probably stranger things. I love traditional beer as much as anybody, but I’m all for the strange and new as well: who knows, the next great idea in beer might come from these strange, novel ideas! As long as the beer itself is good, of course.
When it comes down to it, there’s not too many novelties that could go into a beer that I personally would call “too strange”—though I admit the Rogue “beard beer” is just a squicky notion for me, less “novelty” and more just “gross,” which makes me pause. And just this week, I saw on Facebook that Wynkoop Brewing is brewing a “Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout” (yes… with actual bull testicles) that I have to admit just seems complete unnecessary—as would any beer inspired by an April Fool’s joke, in my opinion. Ridiculous? Yes. Too far—too strange, or too much “novelty”? Probably, but if people really like it, then more power to them.
But then again, you just never know. In fact just today I picked up a bottle of Cucumber Berliner Weisse from Flat Tail Brewing because—well, I just have to know what it’s like. (If any brewery is doing novel beers on a regular basis these days, it’s Flat Tail in Corvallis, Oregon.) Let that sink in for a minute or two: Cucumber Berliner Weisse.
If that’s not a novelty, I don’t know what is. And I can’t wait to try it.