There’s going to be no better place than Boston this weekend to illustrate how “weird” has become the new “normal” in the beer world. At Beer Advocate’s 12th annual Extreme Beer Fest, there’ll be more than enough coffee-chocolate pale ales, chili stouts, and blueberry Berliner Weisses to shake a stick at.
It’s sort of the whole point of the fest. Some of the ingredients that go into these beers are so bananas… that we’re getting to the point where most craft beer drinkers wouldn’t be surprised if bananas were actually in the beer they’re drinking.
While there’s nothing wrong with a nice, clean pilsner or saison, there’s something to be said for brewers being weird for the sake of being weird. With that in mind we combed through the nearly 300 beers pouring at this weekend’s festival and took a closer look at 10 of the weirder ones out there.
Carton Irish Coffee
Cream ale with coffee, aged on Irish wood and peppermint
At last year’s EBF, Carton’s Regular Coffee wowed. The beer tasted exactly as billed, like a coffee, sweetened with milk and two sugars. Then there was the whole alcohol thing—let me tell you that beer did not taste like 12% ABV. The golden imperial coffee cream ale was canned this January and quickly sold out. For this year’s EBF, the New Jersey brewery is bringing a few kegs of Irish Coffee, a timely beer that’s a riff on Regular Coffee: The beer is aged on Irish wood and peppermint.
Dogfish Head Brewing Beer for Breakfast
Milk stout brewed with coffee, maple syrup, lactose, and Scrapple
An amped up version of Dogfish Head’s now 20-year-old (!) Chicory Stout, Beer For Breakfast boasts smoked barley malt, roasted Minnesota coffee, and maple syrup from the Northfield Mount Hermon school in Western Massachusetts. Oh… and 25 pounds of Rapa Scrapple, perhaps Delaware’s most iconic dish: Excess congealed fried bits of pork, combined with cornmeal and wheat flour. Are tiny pork bits in a beer not weird enough for you? Try Choc Lobster, a porter they brewed with – surprise – six pounds of dark cocoa and live lobsters.
Short’s Pistachio Cream Ale
Cream ale with pistachios
Alongside Dogfish Head, Michigan’s Short’s is one of the most dependable, weird breweries that almost always shows up at EBF. Short’s will have a handful of quirky beers on tap this weekend: A brown ale with coconut, almonds, and chocolate… a wintry IPA with blue spruce tips, juniper berries and cranberries… But it’s the brewery’s Pistachio Cream Ale, a toasty, golden ale brewed with – you guessed it: Pistachios, that has hung around the longest. The beer, brewed on and off again at the brewery’s pub in Bellaire, MI, has been kicking around in some incarnation since 2010.
Trophy Brewing The King
Dubbel with peanut butter and peanuts
The Raleigh, North Carolina-based brewery pulled out this beer, an ode to Elvis Presley, at the 2013 Extreme Beer Fest. The beer, a dubbel brewed with peanuts and peanut butter, returns this year. To fully round out the “peanut butter and banana sandwich in a glass” taste, drinkers may detect a hint of cloves and banana esters.
Hidden Cove Brewing Jali
Wild ale with apricots, grilled jalapenos, Brettanomyces, aged in Tequila barrels
Wells, Maine’s Hidden Cove Brewing underwent a much-needed rebranding a few months back, deep sixing the name Captain Dick’s, along with the several ho-hum beers they brewed under the name in 2013. The brewery is still in flux, as they work towards the town’s usual summer hustle and bustle — they brought in Maine Beer Company’s head brewer Kevin Glessing last month. Hidden Cove’s beers made it to Massachusetts a few weeks back and one of its more bizarre ones, Jali, a beer that’s spent time in tequila barrels along with agave nectar, apricots, grilled jalapenos, and brettanomyces is on our shortlist of beers to try.
7venth Sun Hand At The End Of My Arm
Sour IPA with cactus pear and dragon fruit It’s easy to get caught up in the all of EBF’s heavy beers – the barleywines, the imperial stouts, the bacon porters! Take a break from the intense 10% ABV beers and seek out some beers from 7eventh Sun, a Florida brewery churning out bright and effervescent fruit-forward sour beers. The Hand At The End of My Arm, a neon-red sour IPA the 7eventh Sun, made in collaboration with Evil Twin, is brewed with cactus pear and dragon fruit.
Otter Creek Rainbow Licker
Over Easy aged on Starburst candy, double dry-hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo
In the minds of a lot of beer drinkers the brewers at Otter Creek have to fight an uphill battle everyday. Keeping up with fellow Vermonters Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist and Fiddlehead Brewery isn’t easy but they’ve managed to stay ahead of the game, at least on the commercial front, by cranking out six-packs of solid, hoppy beers under the watchful eye of head brewer Mike Gerhart. Over Easy is the latest beer in Otter Creek’s arsenal, a “chronically crushable” ale. They’re pouring it this weekend but only after – and get this – it’s been aged on Starburst candies and double dry-hopped with the hop du jour, Mosaic, and Amarillo. “After dry-hopping, we aged the brew on a bed of Starburst for about two weeks,” said Drew Vetere, Otter Creek’s Media Specialist. “Rumor around the brewhouse is that an undisclosed member of the crew has a habit of dosing their boxed wine with the candies, which reveal some seriously sweet, fruity notes. All that, added with the double-dry–hopped dosage, creates one juicy bomb of a brew. ”
Cigar City Brewing El Murciélago
Double cream ale with cumin, lime, aged in tequila barrels
One of the Tampa brewery’s more divisive beers, El Murciélago, is brewed with cumin and lime peel. Like Hidden Cove’s Jali, this double cream ale also saw time in tequila barrels. Clocking in at almost 10% ABV, this beer is going to have a little bit of a bite to it, but considering the spice (when was the last time you had anything with cumin in it, let alone a beer?) maybe it’s a good thing you’re only getting 4 oz. of this beer.
Throwback Brewery The Grape Beyond
Berliner Weisse brewed with grapes
New Hampshire’s Throwback Brewery is debuting their latest beer The Grape Beyond, a light and pleasantly tart Berliner weisse brewed with NH grapes at its brewery tonight. Thankfully the brewery should have some of it on hand at this weekend’s festival. Co-founders Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier added a few quarts of grape juice during secondary fermentation to bring out the sourness of the grape, and added a touch of chocolate malt to add a nice mahogany tint to the beer. Like 7eventh Sun’s beers, we’re thinking the beer would make for a refreshing change of pace between the fest’s seemingly endless array of stouts and barleywines.
Right Brain Brewery Thai Peanut
Brown ale with peanut butter, coconut, Thai chili peppers
“Spicy peanuts galore,” writes one Beer Advocate user when it comes to Thai Peanut, a beer that Right Brain, a tiny Michigan brewery, will pour this weekend. Right Braincalls Traverse City, a city of 15,000 that straddles a peninsula in the northern half of the state, home. While it’s unclear whether the peanut butter or the chili peppers take center stage here, Right Brain says to think “Pad Thai in a pint.” Whether beer fans at EBF will be eager to cross streams and mix their Asian noodle dishes with their beer remains to be seen. “We try to make it drinkable, obviously. But it has a bit of heat,” Russell Springsteen, RIght Brain’s founder and owner said of the beer via email Thursday. “We get all sorts of responses. My favorites are from people who don’t like spice. Why would you even drink it then, I wonder?”